By Dr. Curtis Varnell
Walking around the school campus could be a hazard to your life!! Every corner you turned, there was the whirling, buzzing crescendo of sound followed by the rapid clashing of two plastic balls suspended at the end of a string. Successful users could bang the suspended balls together, whip them in loops, and create continuous noise. They were the fad of the day and teenagers across America just had to have a set- that is until they started breaking into flying projectiles that endangered the users and everyone around them. The fad died about as quickly as it began.
Fads and crazes have no rhyme or reason; they are simply sudden, quick-spreading, and generally short lived behavior that catch on with the masses. Everyone wants to be a part of the fad; its “cool,” it’s “the thing,” and it’s what everyone is doing. One of the first of my lifetime was the Davy Crocket fad of the late 50’s. The popularity of the movie and T.V. character as shown by Walt Disney had every child wanting a coonskin cap, buckskin clothing, and a Davy gun. I had all the accoutrements and wore them everywhere I went.
Even prior to that, rounded circles of plastic called the hula hoop were popular. Made popular in the late 1950’s, the hula hoop required rapid gyrations by the body to set the hoop in motion and to keep it revolving. At its greatest popularity, toy companies were manufacturing 50,000 hoops a day and could not keep up with the demand. Contests were held with the eventual record of 100 continuous hours of hooping. I tried it with my kids recently and I am still as good as I ever was- I can do about five revolutions before collapsing.
Hair styles can also be fads. Most of us can remember the mullet and a few of you still practice it. At my age, I would be better suited to the reverse mullet with no hair on top and long hair on the sides. What boy doesn’t remember the mini-skirt fad but, alas, they were soon replaced by the ultra-long maxi. We had the peace signs, the tie-dyes, and the bell bottoms of the sixties followed by the conservative polyester leisure suits of the 80’s. I probably have a few left in my closet waiting for them to come back in style.
Probably the most unusual craze occurred in the seventies with the pet rock. A down in luck advertising executive by the name of Gary Dahl conceived the ultimate craze. His friends were always complaining about their pets and how difficult they were to train and take care of. He conceived of the ultimate pet- one that required no grooming, no food, no walking and would never be disobedient, never be sick, and never make noise. Dahl collected common rocks, placed them in a pet box containing the rock and a list of instructions and sold them to a waiting and gullible public. The instruction list contained a lot of puns and jokes as well as instructions to “train” your rock. It was very easy to teach the new pet to sit and to stay; with a little effort from its owner, it could even be taught to turn over. America loved it and boxes flew off the shelf. Dahl sold over a million at $4 per pet. I wonder if kids have forgotten about that craze?? I have a lot of available stock left down in my pasture and I could let it go at a very reasonable price.
One positive thing about our crazes and fads is that they are short lived. They hit the market, sweep across the world, and then disappear. They generally leave us a little wiser and with a little less money. I just wonder——- are texting, Facebook, and cell phones just a fad???? I certainly hope so.