I suspect today’s recollection may touch many Boomers, because I remember nearly all of my 1960’s friends had spring horses similar to mine.
The fascination that 20th and 21st century kids have with toy cars is probably directly related to archaeological discoveries of small terra-cotta horses in Greek ruins. The horse was the transportation of the day (at least for the well-heeled), and kids love playing with miniaturized versions of things that get you around.
Sometime during the medieval period, stick horses appeared. And by the 17th century, the first rocking horses appeared. The rocking horse King Charles I played with as a child still exists today.
As technology improved, so did the sophistication of rocking horses. Additionally, they became affordable to other folks besides royalty. And many handymen became adept at creating rocking horses that would turn into family heirlooms.
The Wonder Products Company of Collierville, Tennessee was manufacturing wooden rocking horses during the 1940’s. The cheap cost of molded plastic caught their attention, and during the next decade, they began making plastic spring horses that were suspended from a tubular frame with four stout springs.
And believe me, a kid could spend many hours happily riding that plasticine bucking bronc. I have many, many memories of riding mine while chasing imaginary outlaws, or perhaps being chased by them, or simply watching TV from a fun perch.
Wonder Products continued to make the spring horses throught the 60’s and early 70’s, then became a victim of the bad economy of the decade. It’s a wonder any toy companies survived the 70’s.
In 1988, the Hedstrom Company began manufacturing spring horses right in the good old US of A. Unfortunately, at presstime, it appears that they have hit hard times of their own.
But Radio Flyer still makes them, in a beefier, safer version that the ones we played with. To be honest, though, I don’t recall ever falling off of mine ;-). So Boomer grandparents, keep your eye out for Radio Flyer spring horses that are quite similar to the ones you played with as children. I’ll bet you’ll have some very, very happy grandkids if you do!