It's Back! the Low-Tech Toy That Charmed Generations Past Has Kids Clack-Happy Once Again-and Parents in a Panic

updated 02/04/1991 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/04/1991 01:00AM

Looks simple, right? A stick and a couple of plastic balls. How hard could it be? Well, hang on to your Hula-Hoops, folks, because clackers, the cacophonous contraptions absent for years but once again taking the country's kids by storm, are not merely the hottest plaything since the Slinky. They are also, as parents are reluctantly relearning, a very tough lesson in the laws of physics. As the handle shakes and the balls spin, clacking together again—and again—and again, an unfortunate class of old-timers (many of whom clacked away gleefully in their youth, though with less safe versions, known to shatter) is being reminded that for every action, there is indeed a reaction.

That's reaction as in, enough already!

"These things are driving me crazy," says Artavia Thorpe, the mother of two class-A clackers, Anissa, 10, and Marietta, 9, in Gary, Ind. "I hear them and I want to scream, 'Put those things away or I'm going to go straight up a wall.' I send the kids to the back room where you can't hear them, but they come out and then it's click, click, click all over again."

Nor is Thorpe the only adult running for clacker cover. Between Classic Items Inc., which introduced its $2 Klikas last January and now ships out 1 million a month, and Fascination Toys, which has sold more than 850,000 of the more expensive ($4.50 each) Newton's Yo-Yo since its inception four years ago, schools are also under siege. In self-defense, many are declaring the newfangled yo-yos old fashioned no-nos. "Let's face it, they're disturbing," says Glenn Own by, an administrative assistant at the Capitol Hill Cluster Schools Watkins Campus in Washington, D.C., where the ban on toys inside can't quell the clatter outside. "When you're a parent or a teacher," he adds, "there comes a time when you want your space, and you want it quiet."

Ah, but bugging the grown-ups is half the fun. "They drive my mother up the wall," gloats clacker whacker Monte Manyfield, a sixth grader from Gary. And the other half? Simple, explains Dale Brandon, an Ohio-based toy consultant. "It's just enough of a challenge, but it can be done easily by everyone." Plus, he says, it's addictive, "like doodling."

Indeed, behind closed doors, scores of not-so-youngsters are going clacker crazy, too. Take the business executive who recently marched into Adriana Ranter's toy store in La Grange Park, Ill., demanding one of those, er, "ball busters." "We have to let our energy out somewhere" he told her. And a Chicago newscaster, Joel Daley, has been caught in the clack. "It's therapy in motion," he contends. Sure—and if you can't beat "em, clack'em.

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