On Matters Slinkish

I’ve been living here at Ava and Doug’s place for a week or so now.  Their home is about two miles from downtown Hannibal.

The past few days I’ve been surveying the local area on my bicycle. One thing I like about Hannibal is that, due to the hilly terrain, isolated “pocket” neighborhoods abound. Typically there is just one entrance, and the far side of such a neighborhood is a creek, steep bluff, or a ravine.

One such neighborhood lies along the north slope of a quarried bluff which looms over the nearby animal shelter. Five mailboxes at the terminus of a gravel road indicate how many households likely are arrayed along that steep road. I was mightily intrigued by the name on the first mailbox: Slinkard.

What a name! It sounds so archaic, and it carries the negative connotation of the word “slink”. And the “tard” suffix! Generally, words which end in that suffix are negative. “drunkard”, “stinkard”, “retard”… can you think of any others? An imaginary bit of medieval invective bubbles to the surface of my mind: “Thou vile slinkard!”

“Slink” is an interesting word. Entities which slink or are slinky are usually up to no good. There is an implication of furtiveness, although cats while slinking in search of prey don’t seem to care who is watching.

“Slink” got a new lease on verbal life during the 1960s, when the Slinky toy was introduced by the Wham-O toy company. Who wasn’t charmed by the simulacrum of conscious intent when observing for the first time a Slinky sinuously stepping down a staircase! Slinkys were fun for a while but I suspect most had short lifetimes, victims of sibling squabbling. Once a Slinky suffers a bad kink its fate is sealed; the trashcan awaits.

Before concluding this short dispatch I’ll mention that the Wham-O company had an enormous effect on the idle youth of my generation. All through the late 1950s and the 1960s the innovative firm produced one incredibly cool toy after another. The Hula Hoop, the Super Ball, the Frisbee… I’ll write more about this company and its products after I’ve done some research. My curiosity is aroused!




Filed under Hannibal, Words and Phrases

24 responses to “On Matters Slinkish

  1. Virginia

    Slinky is alive and well in science classes. My college geology classes loved earthquake simulation lab in which they created P-waves and S-waves with the wonderful toy. They first used 10 foot slinkies (one for each two lab partners) on the concrete lab floor to simulate a shorter distance with waves traveling through hard rock. Next they used 30 foot slinkies simulating a longer distance from the quake. Both were then taken out in the carpeted hallway to simulate waves traveling through fractured or softer materials. It was controlled chaos with students traveling down the hall doging my students armed with slinkies.

    The activity always attracted a group of physics students and assorted people that love slinkies. The activity stretched the entire length of the upper floor of the science building so a lot of people got involved as the students tried to collect data. If somelone released a long slinky by mistake there was a minor uproar as students scrambled to catch it before the kink you mentioned formed.

  2. Joan

    Virginia that is an amazing story! What fun!! I cannot fathom a 30-foot slinky! The biggest one I have ever seen stretched out (comfortably) about a yard and went ‘slinking’ down our steps from the second floor. I can’t even find anything that large for sale on the net. Most are smallish and come in a square box for a ballpark price of about 5 dollars. I’d love to see a picture of those students slinking down the hallowed halls. (grin)

    • Virginia


      The 10 and 30 foot-long slinkies are too long to walk down stairs. Every semester someone asked to try it. As far as pictures, I don’t think I have any. You’ll have to picture young adults over every square foot of the floor I was busy running from room to hall prompting students to “Put some energy in those P-waves” “No, you can’t both be the earthquake at the same time. Someone has to be the receiving station” “Hang on to both ends of the slinkie when you carry it” Catch it! Catch it!!” It was a fun time, that led to some understanding of the effects of an earthquake-sort of.

  3. I live just 25 miles from the slinky factory, but sadly, I’ve never taken the tour.

  4. Darrell

    My intro to Wham-O was in the ’50’s when they introduced the “Wham-O Slingshot” I managed to weedle one out my folks and proceededc to terrorize the neighborhood for a few weeks. However the real destroyer of worlds was the vastly superior “Wrist Rocket” slingshot that used surgical tubing and rested on the wrist.We each got one in ca ’55-’56 and they were awesome. We’d scour the creek and railroad beds for round rocks . . and a Wrist Rocket could ricochet on of these off a hard surface with such speed that the rock would whine like a bullet. One day we got into a rock fight with some other kids from the Bottoms at the confluence of Minnow Branch and Bear Creek. They started it by throwing rocks at us . . and not needing too much in the way of an excuse returned with our own vollies of round stones. It was over quickly; we probably had 4 to 5 time the range as the hand thrown rocks. The upshot was that the outlanders abandoned their improv tree house and launching platform, and never returned . . and Minnow and Bear Creeks became our turf. So thanks be to Wham-O for Market St mayhem!!!!

    Wham-O also imported a “Malayan Thrownig Knife” . . . so, got one of those for about .90 cents and tried to master that skill as well . . . but it was NEVER the weapon that a high powered slingshot was!!!

    Wham-O also sold a crossbow with a ca 125 lb. bow weight; wanted one of those too, but could never make the cost.

    Sadly the Kids Armory dissolved into Slinkys, Hoola Hoopsand other effete paraphenalia . . . the glory years were over.

  5. Darrell

    Oh, lest I forget. Wham-O also produced the “Wham-O Blowgun”. Now that was an adventure . . . .!!!!!

  6. Virginia

    Darrell, What would have happened if your mom found out about the slingshot war?

  7. Virginia

    Dave, It’s never to late to tour the slinky factory. It has to be interesting. Where is it located?

  8. Joan

    Darrell, I just keep flashing on that mantra from the movie “A Christmas Story”. where the mom keeps saying ‘you’ll shoot your eye out’.

  9. Darrell, I had a Wrist Rocket too. Such an improvement over my earlier slingshots made from forked sticks and bike inner tubes! My favorite ammo for the W.R. was 3/8″ ball bearings — somehow I’d happened across a supply of those. They would make the most appealing whizzing sound when propelled by that surgical tubing.

    Virginia, Dave lives in PA, so I assume the slinky factory is in that state. I can picture in my mind’s eye a procession of pristine newly-wrought Slinkys end-over-end-ing down a ramp and neatly plopping (with a muted ‘zing’) into open brightly-colored cardboard boxes.

  10. Virginia

    Zinging slinkies by the thousands-wouldn’t that be something to see? It’s a wonder you guys made iit to adulthood with your eyes intact. I’m with Joan on that.

  11. Joan

    I am waiting for Bonta to get finally take the tour, get himself a slinky and set it going down his mountain road like his winter sled movie extravaganza. (grin)

    Virginia, I still don’t know where you got a 30 foot slinky. Did you fasten two or three together?

    Reckless Guys..my husband remembers ‘fondly’ using those lethal weapon slingshots you speak of. He also remembers putting an inner tube between two small trees and launching big pebbly Osage Orange fruit at passing freight trains. Splat! Ewww!

  12. Darrell

    Virginia . . slingshot war? Why, her admonition was “Go my son! Make your slingshot pellets darken the very face of Helios Himself. . . and come home with your Wrist Rocket, or come home carried upon it . . . a cowardly geek dies a thousand deaths – but a brave 8th grader dies only once!”.. I think she was a bit old fashioned from time to time?

    Larry . . weren’t Wrist Rockets sublime? I wanted a Whamo blowgun too . . but couldn’t swing it so I had to “blow” that one off. However my pals in Market St mayhem came up with our own made of electrical conduit and using bicycle spokes. One of our group had one by his sick bed in the upstairs of your current building where he was recovering from rheumatic fever. A geek classmate caller came by, picked up the blowgun, aimed at my pal and sunk a steel dart into the plaster by his head. My pal was peeved by this blatant display of diss -i-fication. The kid dropped the blowgun, let out a squeek, and dashed for the back door above the courtward. My pal, pulled out the dart, loaded the blowgun and and let fly at the geek as he rounded the corner for the balcony . . and sent the dart through his upper arm. Shock was immediate, and he started to collapse and go over the railing. However my pal grabbed him, then walked him back into the kitchen. pulled out the dart, allowed him to recover, then sent him on his way. Never forget Larry that your abode witnessed acts of violence and clemency in that darker age that once was. It should be on the United Nations Historic Sites list!!

  13. Thanks for the story which took place in my building, Darrell! I have a more recent “dissing” story, an account of a worrisome incident which took place in that building this winter, but it’s still percolating in my head…

  14. Virginia

    Joan, I purchased the Slinkies from Ward’s Natural Science. Here’s the link. http://wardsci.com/search.asp?t=ss&ss=Slinky Unfortunately the description of the small slinky is on the Super Slinky and vise versa. The small slinky does not extend to 10 meters but the super slinky does.

  15. Darrell

    Larry, write whatever whenever you feel like it.

  16. Joan

    Naaah Larry. You should write when WE feel like it. (Grin) retrospective worrisome I hope will not be such a worry for you anymore though. (shudder)

    Wow! Thanks, Virginia. The Slinkmeisters should thank you for the information because I most certainly could not find a 30 foot slinky advertised on the web anywhere. Now THIS would be the one to travel down Bonta’s mountain should he be favorably inclined. Or should the mountain be so favorably inclined. 🙂

  17. Virginia

    Larry, Since you brought up the topic of Slinkies I’m finding things slinkish in the most unexpected places. This morning at a small hamfest (Amateur radio get-together and sales), there were three slinky dipole antennas on a radio amateur’s table. I asked to take a picture, but found I’d left my camera in the car. The wife of the guy who makes them gave me the website. So if you want to see a different use for slikies here is an e-bay site. If you prefer not to have a sales item from e-bay posted, that’s fine. It was the only way I could get the picture. http://shop.ebay.com/items/slinky%20antenna?_dmd=2&_cpr=249&rvr_id=&keyword=slinky+antenna&crlp=1890691703_9406&MT_ID=475&tt_encode=raw

  18. Joan

    Hi Virginia. Thanks for the neat ads. Boy! There are certainly widely disparate prices on those. Pays to shop around. BTW I saw this article on how to make your own dipole a couple of days ago, but not knowing what in the world a dipole was, I skipped blithely over it. At any rate, here it is for those who are experimental.


  19. Virginia

    Joan, Thanks a lot for the website. This is exactly the kind of dipole that was at the hamfest. Homeowners groups are a bit touchy about large antennae protruding above homes. Apartment dwellers can also use this smaller style.

  20. Joan

    Hi Virginia! I found this ad which actually shows a pictures of the thing set up. I can’t visualize it from the ad, but it looks like it is designed to be stretched between two vertical poles in some way. (hence the name dipole?) Maybe those tubes on each end of the slinky? There is one picture showing one pole. At any rate this ad gives many configurations you could use inside an apartment or in an attic. Sure wish I had something like this to bring in my TV with converter boxes…but, alas, I think only a TV antennae in the attic will solve our iffy signals.


  21. Darrell

    All this reminds me of how I went radio nuts in the ’50’s and rigged up some interestibg antennae out our back window, much to my Mom’s concern.

    Anymore, I think that DX-ing is the most appealing form of radio left alive. I used to listen to a host of international stations on my Grundig receiver when I was in Saudi Arabia (’97-’99). Some such as Radio Uzbekistan were just (unintentially) hilarious.

  22. I used to fool around with radios and such back in the sixties, Darrell, back when the internal workings of an electronic device could actually be figured out, unlike the modern devices which may as well function by means of magic, for all we can tell.

    I as well spent a lot of time back then listening to distant shortwave radio stations. It was an education in the techniques of propaganda during those cold war years, whether the propaganda was blatant (Radio Peking, Radio Moscow) or a bit more subtle (The Voice of America).

    BTW thanks for all of the slinkish comments, folks!

  23. Darrell

    . . . . And when radios were driven by “great energy sucking fire bottles”? I liked ’em by the way . . we had a tube tester at Hannibal Pharmacy and I started to take pride at the numbers of radios and TV sets I could “repair” for customers by checking their tubes and selling them replacements. But the tester went away at some point.

    Guess it’s time to “slink” on??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s