Did you have a set of Clackers back in the day? They first appeared in the late 1960s, and by the early ’70s, they were all the rage in playgrounds across Britain… until they were banned. 

Clackers, Bonkers, and Ker-Knockers! 

Clackers were essentially two hard balls that made a loud “clacking” sound as they ricocheted off each other at high speed – hence the name. However, they were hugely popular around the globe and copycat products quickly sprang up, all with their own descriptive names, including Bonkers, Click Clacks, Whackers and Ker-Knockers, an interesting choice considering the un-PC ‘Carry On’ connotations of the ’70s! 

By whatever name they were known, the noise they made has never been forgotten by many in the Spring Chicken Community: 

They were a nightmare. The kids who lived behind me played with them from 6 am to 9 pm for the whole summer holidays in 1971. The day they went back to school, I thought I’d gone deaf!

Black and Blue 

They came in every colour of the rainbow, but a memory shared by almost all Spring Chicken Facebook followers is that everyone who played with them was guaranteed to see black and blue… all around their wrists! It took a little skill and practice to perfect the wrist action that would set the clackers arcing above and below your hand, achieving maximum clacking volume as they bounced off each other, and getting it wrong resulted in some pretty hefty wallops as the hard balls smashed into your wrists instead. 

Loved my Clackers. I had a glass pair purchased while on holiday in Belgium. They were even heavier and deadlier than the typical acrylic plastic ones available at home. Many a bruised wrist, but so much fun!” 

I had a blue pair – matched the bruises on my wrists!”

There were bruises aplenty, and an occasional broken wrist or finger, but the real danger that led to the eventual banning of Clackers was their potential to shatter and explode. Toy safety regulations were virtually non-existent at the time, but numerous exploding Clackers sending shards of plastic flying into the eyes of children was about to change that. 

They were the playground craze of the early ’70s, but head teachers were soon confiscating them at the school gate.   

I had Clackers and proudly took them to school one day… just when the policy changed. We all had to line up and they were confiscated! We got them back at the end of the day after promising not to return with them. It felt like an injustice at the time, but with hindsight, they were lethal! 

Simple Times 

The introduction of stringent manufacturing regulations soon saw Clackers taken off the shelf, but their legacy lives on in many parts of Britain as they dangle from power lines to this day. When children weren’t bashing their wrists with them, or hitting their siblings over the head with them, they were entertaining themselves by throwing them up into overhead power lines… ah, simple times! 

You can still buy a watereddown version today with solid struts between shatterproof balls of very lightweight plastic, but we had nHealth and Safety police when I was a child – we were hard in those days!

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