SoCS – Wooly Willy

Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you every week by Linda Hill. Check out her blog for the rules and the contribution of other bloggers.

This week’s prompt:
Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “magnet.” Use it any way you’d like. Enjoy!

From the time I was little, I have been fascinated with magnets. I loved trying to force the same poles of magnets together only to see the magnetic fields repel each other. I think all of us had one or two horseshoe magnets 🧲 around the house.

So many of our toys were simple and some were simply made of dangerous materials and hazardous to our health! We won’t go into that here, maybe another post. Some of the toys were ingenious use of byproducts of the manufacturing process. That’s how Wooly Willy was born.

The toy was invented in Smethport, PA in 1955. It was made of discarded metal filings from grinders, moulded plastic and a magnet. The original face was created by a local artist, Leonard Mackowski.

The magnet was used to drag the filings from the bottom of the plastic to decorate the face with eyebrows, a beard and hair. The magnet worked from the front of the package or the back. Of course, as soon as the toy was tilted upright, all the filings fell back to the bottom.

It was actually an ingenious toy. The plastic was necessary to encase the metal filings as well as keep them dry – otherwise they would rust. It was also used to act as a holding place for the magnetic wand. We always got our parents to slice the end of the plastic off with a razor blade so we could store the magnet for safe keeping. Not bad for the 29¢ investment.

Wooly Willy Took his place among the commonplace toys of the time – YoYos, balsa wood Hi Flyer planes, marbles, and jacks.

The background music in the video below is annoying, but if you listen carefully, up you will pick up the sound of the magnet clicking against the plastic case.


18 thoughts on “SoCS – Wooly Willy”

  1. I had a similar toy, but it was called ‘Mr Upside-Down Head’. You used the filings to make his hair, then turned it around and that hair became a beard. But my favourite magnet was a huge horseshoe magnet that my dad used to store small nails on. It was so heavy I could hardly lift it, but I would pull all the nails off into a pile, then slide the magnet slowly toward them until the pull of the magnet dragged them all back onto it.
    Simple pleasures that kept me amused for hours! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. I remember Wooly Willy well. Seems like he went on long trips with us. I think you can still get him at some Cracker Barrel stores and there are other versions. I always like seeing toys that don’t involve electronics.

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