If you remember phrases such as “walk the dog” or “around the world” or “rock the baby” chances are you knew a few yo-yo tricks when you were a kid. If you’d like to relive a few of those memories and see the worlds largest public display of yo-yos and yo-yo memorabilia, head to Chica, California. The National Yo-Yo Museum (located inside the Bird in Hand toy store) has a vast collection of early yo-yos from the 1930s, as well as modern day versions that have become precision pieces of sports equipment. The world’s largest wood yo-yo ever constructed, weighing 256 pounds, is the centerpiece of the small museum. It was made by Dr. Tom Kuhn who started a yo-yo business in a basement workshop in San Francisco in 1977. His giant version was tested using a 150-foot crane and made the Guinness Book of World Records in 1982.
Yo-yos have been around for over 2,500 years— some historians claim it originally came from Greece, others say China. In the museum you’ll find an original Delft Tile from Holland, circa 1650-1675, depicting two children playing the yo-yo. In the United States, Duncan is best known for promoting the fad. Americans first heard the word yoyo in the 1920s when Pedro Flores, a Philippine immigrant, began manufacturing a toy labeled with that name. In the native language of the Philippines, the word yoyo means “come back.” Donald Duncan bought the rights from Flores in 1929, and then trademarked the name Yo-Yo. Duncan’s first contribution to yoyo technology was the slip string, consisting of a sliding loop around the axle instead of a knot. With this revolutionary improvement, a trick called “sleep” could be done for the first time. Duncan then introduced the butterfly shape, allowing players to do even more tricks. Media blitzes and contests enabled Duncan to reach its highest sales peak in 1962, selling 45 million units. Since then, yo-yos with ball bearings and other high-tech design elements have been patented.
The National Yo-Yo Museum was formed in 1993 to actively collect and interpret the history of the yo-yo. That year the Museum hosted the first National Yo-Yo Championship held since 1961. The Museum also administers the National Yo-Yo League that supports contests that qualify players to the National Yo-Yo Contest, held annually in Chico on the first Saturday of October. Whether you’re an avid yo-you player, a memorabilia collector, or just looking for that long lost treasure from your childhood, the National Yo-Yo Museum is the place to go.
IF YOU GO:
National Yo-Yo Museum
320 Broadway St.
Chico, California 95928
The National Yo-Yo Museum is open Monday through Saturday 10 am to 6 pm, Sundays 12 to 5pm. FREE admission.
Driving Directions: From Highway 99 take the Central Chico offramp (8th St.) and head west to Main St. (about a mile), turn right on Main St., go to 3rd St., turn left, then turn left again on Broadway. Museum on the right mid block at 320 Broadway. Street parking.
From Highway 5 take the Highway 32 exit (Orland), follow signs to Chico (20 miles), once in town, turn left on 2nd. St (Chico State), drive east to Broadway, turn right, go one and a half blocks to 320 Broadway on the right. Street parking.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com