Rarely has a toy reemerged over and over again as a hit “new toy” as the Lemon Twist (or Jingle Jump, Footsie, Skip-A-Roo, or Skip It) has done. First introduced in the late 1960’s as the Footsie toy, it became very popular for several few years before gradually fading away into obscurity. Then in the mid-1970’s the toy reemerged as the Lemon Twist toy and became one of the top selling toys of the decade.
The Footsie Toy
Children as early as the 1930’s have tied heavy objects onto a rope and looped them around their foot. It was during the 1960’s that companies began manufacturing similar toys for sale to the public, beginning with the Footsie toy. There were at least two variants of the Footsie toy. The first was a red ball shaped object (with a bell inside that jingled) tied to a two-foot plastic cord with a large yellow plastic ring on one end that the child placed their foot through. You wore the Footsie on your ankle and jumped over it as it swung around. Popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the sport evolved into group type games with players doing tricks, competing to see who could keep the Footsie going the longest, and how many times the player could make it rotate off of a single hop.
Shortly after the Footsie was introduced, several other variants appeared including another “Footsie” toy that included a red ball on the end in lieu of a red bell. The Skip-A-Roo was also introduced that was almost an exact replica of the Footsie toy (including the red bell).
The Lemon Twist Toy is introduced by Chemtoy
The Lemon Twist was by far the most popular of this line of toys. The toy consisted of a plastic yellow lemon shaped object attached to a plastic loop that was slipped around the ankle. The lemon contained rocks in it that rattled when the player swung and skipped over the object. Introduced in the mid 1970’s by ChemToy, it rose to fad status in a very short time.
Chemtoy trademarked the Lemon Twist on December 29, 1975 describing it thusly: “Lemon Twist is an amusement device comprising a tether having a loop at one end to embrace the user’s ankle and a mass at the other end to follow a substantially circular path whey gyratory motion is imparted to the ankle.” The trademark was granted on October 12, 1976 and the Lemon Twist toy began flying off the shelves shortly thereafter.
Chemtoy was no stranger to hit toys. During the early 1940’s, Chemtoy, a chemical supply company which sold cleaning supplies in the Chicago, Illinois area, revolutionized the toy world by bottling their bubble solution and packing it with a plastic wand that children used to blow bubbles. The product, Mr. Bubbles, was a sensation and attracted the attention of the Tootsietoy Company who acquired the small chemical company (but keeping it as a subsidiary) and put Mr. Bubbles into full retail distribution by the late 1940s. Note: Tootsietoy is now owned by StromBecker which itself operates under J. Lloyd International company.
Each Lemon Twist toy came in a clear plastic package with directions on the back that read:
1. Place one foot into spinning loop about ankle high.
2. Starting with the Lemon extended outward, swing Lemon in a forward loop as you raise foot slightly off the ground.
3. As Lemon comes around towards other foot, raise that foot high enough for Lemon to swing clearly under it.
4. Continue the Lemon swinging on one foot as you jump over it with the other foot, using a sort of “jog-in-place” action.
5. After a little practice you’ll be able to “jog forward” as you hop, skip and jump over the rotating Lemon.
The Skip-It Toy
The Skip-It was introduced by Tiger Electronics in the late 1980’s. A heavy rotation of advertisements on the Nickelodeon TV station ensured healthy sales of the product. The ‘Skip-It’ apparatus was designed to be affixed to the child’s ankle via a small plastic hoop and spun around in a 360 degree rotation while continuously skipped by the user. In a second production run, the Skip-It improved on the Lemon Twist by adding a counter that recorded the number of skips (or more accurately, the number of rotations of the ball). Later versions of Skip-It’s also added colorful, interchangeable plastic decorations that could be slid on in the ball in order to create colorful patterns as the object was spinning about.