Slip ‘n Slide
Kids without easy access to a pool on Long Island in the 1970s had to find all sorts of creative ways to stay cool in the summer. Luckily, the folks at Wham-O toys were there to help, via the ever-popular Slip ‘n Slide. Simply roll out the narrow plastic mat, attach a garden hose, and do try to make sure that the end of the slide doesn’t lead to a tree, driveway or sidewalk.
An upholsterer named Robert Carrier invented the Slip ‘n Slide and sold the idea to Wham-O toys, who released the first ones way back in 1961.
The toy consisted of a long sheet of yellow plastic with a tube running along one edge. By attaching the tube to a garden hose, water would spray from tiny holes along the length of the slide, making the plastic extremely slippery.
The key to successfully navigating the treacherous Slip ‘n Slide journey required two things: a good running start, and making sure that the end of the ride led to a soft landing area. Neglect the forward and you wouldn’t travel very far. Neglect the latter, however, and you might just fling yourself out onto the pavement or across the driveway, cement patio, a lofty elm tree, etc.
Users often misjudged the inertia of the toy, thinking they could easily stop at the end. Not always so easy.
Thankfully, few kids were ever seriously hurt on a Slip ‘n Slide. For teenagers and adults, however, it was a different story. It turns out older bodies don’t exactly absorb the impact of a running dive quite as well as the youngsters.
After numerous reports of back and neck injuries, some actually leading to permanent paralysis, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement in 1993, warning that a Slip ‘n Slide is only intended for use by children. Future products would bear a similar warning on the box.
None of this diminished the popularity of the Slip ‘n Slide, which boasts sales of over 30 million since its introduction and it is still sold in a variety of forms to this day. The toy has long provided an inexpensive remedy to those hot and muggy summer months and remains a favorite among children of all ages.
Having said that, if the mere sight of a Slip ‘n Slide starts making you feel all nostalgic and adventurous, it’s probably best that you live vicariously through your kids rather than risk an embarrassing trip to the emergency room.
Did you grow up playing with a Slip ‘n Slide during the summer. Did you have any mishaps you’d like to share? I’d love to hear all of your memories of this classic Wham-O toy in our comments section below, as we remember back to a time when all took was a strip of plastic to provide us with countless hours of entertainment.