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Scott Hollifield: My pick for this year’s Toy Hall of Fame
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Scott Hollifield: My pick for this year’s Toy Hall of Fame

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I stand with sand.

That wonderful granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles is in the running for the National Toy Hall of Fame this November. The public is asked to participate in the voting process, which organizers insist will not be manipulated by shadowy Russian operatives.

The National Toy Hall of Fame, established in 1998 by A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village, a children’s museum in Salem, Oregon, aims “to recognize toys that have achieved longevity and national significance in the world of play and imagination,” according to the hall’s website.

The institution moved from its original home in 2002 to a new site in Rochester, New York. There was no Mr. Potato Head scandal, it simply outgrew its original location.

There are currently 74 toys in the Hall of Fame, including favorites like bicycle, ball, Big Wheel and G.I. Joe. Three more will be added in November

This year, the nominees, in addition to sand, are American Girl dolls, Battleship, billiards, Cabbage Patch Kids, Fisher-Price Corn Popper, Mahjong, Masters of the Universe, piñata, Risk, The Settlers of Catan and toy fire engine.

It’s an interesting list, though I doubt the late Minnesota Fats considered billiards a toy.

The hall said criteria for induction include: Icon status (the toy is widely recognized, respected and remembered); longevity (the toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations); discovery (the toy fosters learning, creativity or discovery through play); and innovation (the toy profoundly changed play or toy design).

“These 12 toys represent the wide scope of playthings — from one of the most universal playthings in the world like sand to a game-changing board game like Risk to the popular adult game of billiards,” said Christopher Bensch, vice president for collections, in one of the few news releases I’ve gotten in the last 18 months that didn’t mention COVID. “Whether old or new, for kids or adults, all 12 of these toy finalists greatly influenced the world of play.”

Maybe, but, as I said, I stand with sand.

We now go back to the days when I had not only a sand box, but a separate and distinct sand pile.

The sand box was behind the cozy — that’s another word for small — trailer where I lived as a toddler. I let my parents live there, too. The box was constructed of scrap lumber and the sand came from some nearby gravel plant.

I spent many hours chasing away cats and building roads with Tonka trucks (Hall of Fame inductee, 2001), racing Hot Wheels (2001) and Matchbox cars (2011) over the dunes and digging bunkers for little green Army men (2014) with a stick (2008).

But the real thrills came at the sand pile just a short walk from home to the oil company where my dad worked. In the gravel lot where trucks came and went near the dock and the giant tanks was a sand pile.

Looking back, I envision it as mountainous, the Everest of sand piles, a challenge to conquer. In reality, it was probably a couple of feet tall.

The company’s workers used scoops from the pile to soak up the occasional petroleum spill. Playing in that sand was a like a vacation, a day at the beach away from home sand, with the roar of trucks and the smell of diesel fuel in the air.

What more could a young boy want?

I eventually graduated to red clay, but sand gave me that firm playful foundation.

Join me in voting for sand, which I contend has earned its Hall of Fame status. Frankly, I don’t even know what the heck The Settlers of Catan is.

To vote, go to www.toyhalloffame.org. Or, drive to Rochester, beat on the doors and yell, “SAND!”

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion and a humor columnist. Contact him at rhollifield@mcdowellnews.com.

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