32 Years Ago: Lawn Darts Banned From America’s Backyards
Where were you in 1988 when my all-time favorite yard game was banned from my backyard? Did you have these weapons of war in your garage?
Lawn Darts have been around since the 1950s, but by 1970 they were headed for the same fate as prehistoric dinosaurs. According to Mashable, lawn darts were initially banned in 1970. However, a compromise was reached with manufacturers who challenged the ban, and they were allowed to continue to produce the game but it could not be sold as a toy. Every package had to contain the warning "Not a toy for use by children. May cause serious or fatal injury." Kind of reminds me of Ralphie's Red Ryder BB Gun in A Christmas Story -"you'll shoot your eye out."
Between 1978 and 1986 the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported more than 6,000 emergency room visits due to lawn dart accidents. Reportedly, 81 percent of the "victims" were under the age of 15, and 50 percent were under the age of 10. At least three children were killed by lawn darts, and in 1988, the sale of lawn darts was banned completely. Apparently, we could still play it, we just couldn't find it in a store.
While you couldn't buy traditional lawn darts with the sharp, pointed end in a store, from time to time they would show up at a yard sale and we always bought them. In the photo above, you can see about half of my dad's collection of lawn darts that goes back nearly 50 years. I have at least that many lawn darts in my shed that I collected through the years. We always wanted to have backups because over the course of time, the plastic wings of the darts would grow brittle and break. From time to time, would take the pointed end to the grinder to get it good and sharp so it would stick in the ground.
Through the years, decade after decade, every time I would visit my parents or they would come for a visit, we would play tons of lawn darts in the yard or at the park. We always loved spending time together playing lawn darts and horseshoes, and mom would be sitting in a lawn chair nearby watching and cheering us on.
I am happy to say that in nearly 50 years of lawn-dart playing, nobody in our family suffered an injury of any kind from playing lawn darts. There wasn't a nick, scratch, or gouge. Thankfully, my older brother and I never did throw darts at each other. We weren't complete idiots. We played the game a lot, and we were always careful to keep our distance from the target ring when someone was throwing. However, I can understand how injures could occur, particularly if you have a 5-year old trying to throw. Young children generally have undeveloped skills and not the best sense of direction. I would have to admit, Lawn Darts probably should have never been played by anyone under the age of 10.
We haven't played Lawn Darts for a few years now, and in a recent garage-cleaning excursion, we pulled the darts out and decided it was time to say goodbye. After so many years, it was hard to throw them away. However, in the process, we got the chance to revisit some fantastic memories not only from childhood but through the years as adults. Hopefully, this little trip down memory lane has sparked some of your memories of lawn darts in days gone by- and hopefully, those are happy memories.