Every once in a while, a toy is released with all of the good intentions of the world, and yet, no matter how popular it may become, an unforeseen safety issue arises which requires that it be removed from store shelves. Few, however, have the dubious distinction of being outlawed completely, which brings us to Lawn Darts – those popular ground-piercing projectiles that sent more than a few tykes to the emergency room back in the day. Let’s take a look.
It all started innocently enough when Lawn Darts were introduced in the 1960s. Numerous companies manufactured them, including Sears which had their own version. Measuring a foot long, these pointy metal rods were affixed with plastic fins that helped them glide through the air and find a nice clump of grass to pierce. They weren’t sharp by any means, they were just made with enough of a point to do what they were supposed to do.
Taking turns, two teams consisting of two players each would stand on opposite sides of the playing area and attempt to toss the darts underhand into the farthest of two circles that were spread thirty feet apart. Land within the ring and three points were scored, get it within a foot of the ring and one point was earned. The first team to score eleven points emerged victorious. If you can imagine a cross between horseshoes and darts, you can pretty much envision the game.
And for quite some time, everyone seemed to love playing Lawn Darts. It was a nice outdoorsy activity that was fun for the whole family and perfect for picnics, barbeques, the beach, etc. Unfortunately, during the course of all this “fun,” almost seven thousand people ended up in the emergency room as a result of Lawn Dart injuries between the years of 1978 and 1987 – 75% of whom were children. Complaints from parents started pouring in and initially, stores reacted by moving the darts from their toy department to the sporting goods section. Still, kids couldn’t manage to keep their paws off the adult toys and eventually, more drastic measures would be taken to put an end once-and-for-all to the Lawn Dart carnage dotting the neighborhoods across America. As of today, they are no longer sold and are illegal to even possess. The closest you can get is the extremely safe Nerf version, but it’s just not the same.
And yet, search around long enough and you can still find enthusiasts of the game who, granted, have to keep their activities a little more underground for legal reasons. Give up their lawn darts? Sure, you when you pry them from their cold, dead hands. These rebellious souls serve as a testament to the continued popularity of a game that was a heck of a lot of fun, until a few (thousand) people had to go and ruin it for everyone.
Did you like to play a few rounds of Lawn Darts back in the day? Did you ever sustain an injury as a result? Do you still have a set lying around? Share all of your lawn dart memories with us at Retroland in our comments section, as we pay tribute to a dangerous toy that remains beloved by many.