National Toy Hall of Fame Reveals its 2015 Inductees

Playtime isn’t supposed to be serious business, but occasionally the world turns a serious eye toward playtime. Such was the case this morning, when the National Toy Hall of Fame announced its 2015 inductees: the puppet, the game of Twister, and the Super Soaker.

The three winners beat out a group of formidable finalists including Battleship, American Girl dolls, the spinning top, the coloring book, Wiffle Ball, Jenga, PLAYMOBIL, the scooter, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The winners were chosen by a panel of expert judges.

The puppet is one of the most classic toys in the history of humankind. It first appeared thousands of years ago, and exists in some form in nearly every culture.

Twister, on the other hand, started as a shoe polish promotion in 1964 when inventor Reyn Guyer had the idea of a game on a colored mat with people as the playing pieces. It was initially called “Pretzel,” but Milton Bradley Co. tweaked the name before almost nixing the game entirely. In 1966, Sears Roebuck refused to include Twister in its catalog, deeming it too racy—it was derided as "sex in a box." Milton Bradley canceled production, but thankfully, the game was already slotted for inclusion in a segment on The Tonight Show. A game between Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor resurrected Twister and more than 3 million copies were sold the following year.

Super Soakers came onto the scene in 1990 and were the brainchild of Dr. Lonnie Johnson, a mechanical and nuclear engineer who was at work designing a pressurized heat pump for NASA’s Galileo Mission to Jupiter. He replaced Freon with water vapor, and while toying around with the design at home, hooked up the nozzle to a bathroom faucet. The eureka moment led to the first high-powered water gun, made from PVC pipe and an empty soda bottle.

Anyone can nominate a toy for the National Toy Hall of Fame, but inductees must meet a particular set of criteria: Icon-status, longevity, discovery (it fosters learning and creativity), and most importantly, innovation. Before you start prepping your nominations for next year, head over to The Strong Museum’s website to see the complete list of inductees.

Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Pop Culture
The Cult of Prince Philip
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images

For seven decades, Prince Philip has been one of the more colorful figures in Britain's Royal Family, prone to jarring remarks and quips about women, the deaf, and overweight children.

"You're too fat to be an astronaut," he once told a boy sharing his dream of space travel.

British media who delighted in quoting him are still lamenting the 96-year-old's recent retirement from public duties. But the people of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu are likely to be optimistic he'll now have the time to join them: They worship him as a god and have based a religion on him.

Followers of the Prince Philip Movement, which started in the 1960s, believe that the prince was born to fulfill an ancient prophecy: that the son of an ancient mountain spirit would one day take the form of a pale-skinned man, travel abroad, marry a powerful lady, and eventually return to the island. When villagers saw the prince’s portrait, they felt the spirit in it, and when he visited Vanuatu in 1974, they were convinced.

Chief Jack Naiva, a respected warrior in the culture, greeted the royal yacht and caught sight of Philip on board. "I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform," Naiva once said. "I knew then that he was the true messiah."

True believers assign large world movements to the machinations of Philip. They once claimed his powers had enabled a black man to become president of the United States and that his "magic" had assisted in helping locate Osama bin Laden. The community has corresponded with Buckingham Palace and even sent Philip a nal-nal, a traditional club for killing pigs, as a token of its appreciation. In return, he sent a portrait in which he’s holding the gift.

Sikor Natuan, the son of the local chief, holds two official portraits of Britain's Prince Philip in front of the chief's hut in the remote village of Yaohnanen on Tanna in Vanuatu.

The picture is now part of a shrine set up in Yaohnanen in Vanuatu that includes other photos and a Union flag. In May 2017, shortly after the Prince announced his retirement, a cyclone threatened the island—and its shrine. But according to Matthew Baylis, an author who has lived with the tribe, the natives didn't see this so much as a cause for concern as they did a harbinger of the prince's arrival so he can bask in their worship.

To date, Prince Philip has not announced any plans to relocate.

A version of this story ran in a 2012 issue of Mental Floss magazine.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]


More from mental floss studios