Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Not Your Grampaw's Yo-Yo ...



I might have mentioned along the way that my one innate talent, discovered when I was eight years old, was that I had a knack for the Duncan return top, aka, the Yo-Yo.

Those of you with no clue as what this is, go look it up.

I have stuck this into a book or two, and the basic story is simple: My mother sent me to William's five-and-dime store to buy something and I came upon a yo-yo contest in progress. These were held in the late spring, the Duncan Y0-Yo guy came to town, and you showed up and did tricks. You got two tries for each trick, the last one to miss was the winner, and the reward was a yo-yo with rhinestones embedded in the sides, and a qualification to enter the city championships at the end of the season. Place in the top three there, you went to the state finals. Win there, and it was worth a trip to this brand-new theme park in California, Disneyland, and the winner of the Nationals got a $5000 college scholarship, which back then, was a full-ride at the local U …

So I parked my Huffy bike and went into the store, got what I was sent to get, and on the way back to my bike, stopped to watch.

Hey, the yo-yo man said, Come on, you can do this, too.

Can't, I said. I don't have a yo-yo, and I have never used one before.

No problem, I'll lend you one, and show you what to do.

Okay. Why not?

There were eight or ten kids, and to make a long story short, I won the contest.

Never held one before, but the guy would show me the trick, and I was able to do it well enough to beat the other kids.

Might have been my peak athletic moment, that. 

Back then, there were a dozen or so basic tricks, with names like "Sleeper," "Walk the Dog," "Over the Falls," "Rock the Baby," "Skin the Cat," "Creeper," "Around the Corner," "Loop the Loop," "Around the World, "Barrel Roll," "Man on the Flying Trapeze," etc., none of them particularly hard, and having tasted victory, I was hooked.

From eight until fifteen, I was there every season. I always won at least one local contest, and then went to the city finals, where I lost. Last season I was eligible–fifteen was the cut-off–I placed second in the city, then fourth in the state championship. Won a radio.

I might have done better, but having discovered girls, my practice suffered. 

Well, along the way, I got fairly good. Could do some complex string tricks, though I wasn't ever able to do it with both hands at the same time, which is what you needed to get hired by Duncan. 

Fast forward fifty-odd years:

The old wooden yo-yo, with its fixed wooden axle evolved. There came the Butterfly, then weighted things with centrifugal this or that that would spin a little longer. I got a metal one a few years back and it spun longer than any I'd ever used.

But, wait! There came another generation of improvements, ball-bearing axles, yo-yos that spin but don't come back unless you do a special binding maneuver with the string, and Geez Louise, these things are to my yo-yo as the starship Enterprise is to a Model T.

I haven't been keeping up. How I know is, my nephew sent me a link to a video with a six-year-old kid at an international contest, and you would not believe what Yo-YoBaby can do. And I mean, you really won't believe what you are seeing if you are of my generation and you used to wait for the Duncan Yo-Yo guy to arrive.

I kept saying, "Holy shit! Holy shit!"



My mouth just hung open as I stared and drooled …

So I got one of the moderate-range yo-yos, (it's upgradable) and it spins, O how it spins! I can do just about every string trick I know, one after another, and of course, this six-year-old makes me look like the mummy's grampaw, but if I'd had one of these back in the day? I would have ruled!

My life would have taken another path, I am sure ...

5 comments:

Mike Byers said...

Kid is amazing, no doubt about it. And I suppose the profession of Yo-you Man is no longer practiced: too bad, as it sounds like a great job.

AnnieB said...

Sure glad you're on the path you're on (you're high on my "favorite authors" list), but also glad that you've reconnected with a childhood joy - and I'm sure it's a lot less expensive than your uke habit!

Steve Perry said...

Yep, Yo-Yo is somewhat cheaper than an ook. Well, some of them …

Mike Byers said...

Ah, but if you could do both at once...

tomdup said...

I waited for the Duncan Yo-Yo Man every year too. Sleepin and Walkin the Dog were my only specialties. This kid is his own CGI.