Memory Lane: Bill Ding Blocks

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Remember these? “Bill Ding Blocks,” they were called, made of wood and brightly colored. They were also called “balancing clowns.” Those strangely leering little figures were supposed to be clowns. And if you were patient, with a light touch, you could set them up into all sorts of improbable arrangements. I used to play with these with my friend, David, next door. We were little more than toddlers at the time, and improbable arrangements were beyond our powers.

Bill Ding Blocks first came out in 1911. In the early 1960’s the company that made them was bought and the product discontinued, but the owner believed in his product and eventually bought back the rights to it. Today they’re manufactured in China. It does seem a shame not to make these in America.

David and I enjoyed these unusual blocks; but I think if we’d looked more closely at the faces, we might’ve had second thoughts. Happy memories, though. Happy low-tech memories.

3 comments on “Memory Lane: Bill Ding Blocks

  1. All those non-mechanical — or maybe I should say inanimate — playthings were wonderful. They stimulated the imagination, increased manual dexterity and kinetic awareness, and encouraged problem solving in a way that even the most complex of video games can’t do, because we had to invent the goal instead of having someone else set it for us and keep us from deviating from what was set.

  2. I had never before seen these, but it’s an interesting concept.

    In the late ’70s, when video games began to proliferate, I always felt that there was something not so good going on, and I still feel that way. Video games teach hand/eye coordination, and certainly teach one to march to the beat of an external drummer, but they do nothing for the imagination.

  3. You got me, Lee. I’ve never seen these. Even my brother never had them. But even if he had, I would’ve been busy cutting out paper clothes for my paper dolls 🙂

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