Ruined by safety regulations, these toys were more fun dangerous

Let's be real for a moment: being a kid is dangerous business. You could swerve that two-wheeler into traffic, or fall out of that tree you're climbing, or fly that kite into a power line. Just about everything that a kid does over the course of an average day is risky in some way. You know why? Because doing stupid things is fun. Kids know this. Johnny Knoxville knows this. Parents know this too, but they think that reducing risk is part of the raising-kids gig these days. Which is sad, because some of the best toys have been ridiculously dangerous. Gloriously, awesomely dangerous. Until safety came along and ruined everything. Thanks a lot, safety.

07. Johnny Reb Cannon
 It's debatable whether this was taken off the market because of safety issues or because the glorification of the Confederacy became less politically correct as the Civil Rights movement gained strength. But seriously, this toy -- like lots of playthings from Remco -- was thrillingly inappropriate. A nearly three-foot cannon that fires cannonballs 35-feet? Man, that's the sort of fun kids just can't buy at the store anymore.
06. The Ideal Toy Company The Ideal Toy Company (inventor of no less than the Teddy Bear, by the way) made tons of amazing and weird games back in the 60s and 70s, when playtime was allowed to be a little more violent. A good example: Swack!, which is basically a giant mousetrap that snaps on kids' hands. That's the game: avoid getting hurt by the mousetrap. Genius. Another Ideal example was Bang Box, in which you were hammering nails into a supposed box of TNT. Just the violence of the concept itself wouldn't fly today, but this was also back when games could include things like toy hammers and wooden nails, and it wasn't assumed that children would eventually crucify each other.
05. Weebles
 These had to be the most innocuous toys ever, until some dumb kids decided to suck them down their windpipes and bring about the cancellation of one of the most beloved toy lines of the 1970s. Not to mention one of the most memorable ad campaigns--Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down, remember? Of course you do. And they might not fall down, but they do lay down and die in the face of potential lawsuits. They brought them back years later, but they're now as big as your Dad's fist instead of a small egg. Lame. Choking hazards are cool, and weed out the weak.
04. Slip 'n Slide
 One of Wham-O's ubiquitous toys of summer that used to be just a plastic sheet hooked up to a hose, with a bunch of metal stakes to hold it into the ground. Then you ran as fast as you could, vaulted forward on the yellow plastic and slid forward completely out of control. Trouble was that some kids (and even more adults) ended up crashing into stuff, and hurting themselves -- so now, most of these have inflatable pillows at the end to stop (or at least slow) momentum. It also means that they last about as long as a beach ball--which is to say, not very.
03. Daisy Air Rifles 
Okay, everyone knows that if you get a BB Gun, you're just going to shoot your eye out. Or so A Christmas Story said, and while most everyone's eyes remained just fine, it was true that virtually no BB gun ever went without drawing bead on someone in the neighborhood. Target practice is only fun for a while, and then, honestly, kids just want to shoot someone. So you played one-pump BB Tag, which soon escalated to two, three, and five-pump before someone finally broke skin and you spent the rest of the afternoon in backyard triage, desperately working together to avoid being pegged as the little Lee Harvey Oswalds you were. But despite the danger, there was a lot of good that came from BB guns -- not the least of which was just running around outside all day. And seriously -- learning to toughen up and not whine when you get shot in the ass? That's a pretty good lesson, too.

02. Big Wheel
 This suped-up trike was awesome -- back in the day, everyone on the block who had a Big Wheel would face off against everyone with a Green Machine, and you'd have these huge bumper-car vehicle battles. But that wasn't what made this toy dangerous -- it was the hand brake you were supposed to use to spin out. Let me repeat that: You were supposed to pedal as fast as you could, and then pop the brake to spin around, out of control. That is too cool to survive past the litigious 80s, when these were demoted back to just big plastic tricycles, and died an undeserved, ignominious, and far too un-spinny death.

01. Jarts
 Holy crap, it's amazing this ever got produced. It's a giant, heavy dart that you're actually meant to throw in the air. Sure, you were supposed to throw it underhanded, and hit some lame plastic ring in the grass -- sort of like horseshoes, I guess. Of course, no one ever played that way -- instead, they threw it directly up in the air, and counted how many seconds you could stand directly under it before dodging out of the way to avoid impalement. They've made "safe" versions now, like the ad above (which explains very well why "nerfed" became a synonym for "ruined") but just like all of the above toys, you just gotta wonder why they bother.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen