Spinning Class

[Today’s guest post is by Lisa Carey. Lisa explains things for a living, mostly to humans. When not writing about stuff, she plays clarinet and keyboards with zombie noiseniks The Jimmy Cake and tweets nonsense at @msleedy].

Ah, to be in primary school in early 80’s Ireland, where some sort of pre-internet mind meld meant that every so often, suddenly everyone was “into” the latest vaguely pointless craze. Fancy paper. Tying patterned shoelaces round your head in the manner of a proto-Axl Rose. “Illuminous” socks. Deely boppers. “Doing Buck’s Fizz”. Watching That’s Life after you’d done your homework on Sunday in the hope that there’d be a talking dog and not just an exposé of Guar Gum. And, of course, Coca-Cola Spinners.

A Spinner was, basically, a yo-yo, blinged out with Fanta or Coca-Cola colours and logos. Like this:

Of course, I know now that they were called Spinners rather than yo-yos for legal reasons – yo-yo was a trademarked term here in 1981, so they were marketed as Russell Spinners instead. But at the time it made them seem like an exotic new toy, not a boring old yo-yo.

Not only did they have a shiny name and shiny covetable colours just like their namesake minerals, they also had a further secret weapon of coolness: the professional Spinner experts. One afternoon in school we were all marshalled outside the prefabs to watch a group of hyped-up cola representatives demonstrate Amazing Feats Of Spinning. Beverage-themed plastic yo-yos “walked the dog”, hovered in mid-air, defied gravity, formed cat’s cradle patterns, always whipping back into the operative’s hand with a satisfying “thunk”. There was talk of competitions, giveaways, special prize Spinners. The Spinner experts were on the Late Late. Suddenly being able to do yo-yo tricks had instant cachet.

Soon like every other child that summer, I got my Spinner, purchased in the local newsagents. I went for the red Professional one, not because I particularly cared about weight and handling (apparently the clear-edged Professionals were slightly heavier than the opaque-edged Supers) but because I liked the colour. I was that serious about my yo-yoing career.

I can still remember the plasticky smell of the thing, the glowing boiled-sweet beauty of the translucent red bits (bear with me, it was the 80s), and the brisk whizz as it whirled its way down the string. And, well, stayed there. But no matter! I was going to be like the Coca-Cola Spinners team. I would do tricks! I would amaze my friends!

One major problem with this plan was that I was possibly the least coordinated child in Ireland. I was the kid at tennis in school who wasn’t given a ball. No, I just had to stand beside the gym and practice “making shapes like a banana” with my tennis racquet. My haplessness in all feats of physical dexterity was such that I have no idea why I became convinced that I could become a yo-yo expert.

First, of course, I would work on “back up”. Whizz. Nothing. Roll it back up. Whizz. Nothing. Roll it back up. This went on for some time. I became convinced that there was something wrong with my Spinner and handed it to a more dextrous friend, who promptly whirled it into something resembling an Escher painting, still spinning, then snapped it back up into her hand. Back to the drawing board.

Of course, with persistence, even the most cack-handed child can figure out how to operate a yo-yo, and for some reason I persevered with the Spinner for longer than I had with, say, the tennis racquet. Finally I mastered the flick of the wrist needed to propel the thing down the string with such force that it shot back up again, and was able to move on to other vital life skills such as clicking my fingers (eventually mastered in a Gaeltacht céilí aged 14) and drinking.  And I’m proud to say, it’s like riding a bike – to this day, I can make a yo-yo go back up the string. Still need to work on “walking the dog”….

(Before writing this I hadn’t realized there were multiple Coca-Cola Spinner campaigns – there was a second, much-documented campaign in 1989, when I was in college and only interested in Fanta if it had gin in it. As far as I can remember, “my” Spinner mania took place in 1981.)

Tagged , , , , ,

9 thoughts on “Spinning Class

  1. fústar says:

    Walking the dog was a piece of piss. Even I could do that, and I can barely juggle one orange. Recall seeing smug-spinner-expert-bastard-kids (or SSEBKs) doing that thing where the string formed a triangle and the “spinner” hung down and rocked to and fro pendulously. They looked so pleased with themselves. As I would have been if I’d been able to stop hitting myself in the face with the thing. I hate them still.

    • Lisa Carey says:

      I am glad I was not alone in my spinning inadequacy. I’m sure those SSEBKs weren’t happy. Or, y’know, not *really* happy.

  2. nlgbbbblth says:

    Thanks Lisa – fond memories of this. Spinner mania came to New Ross in or around May 1981. Two slick American dudes called to every classroom in the CBS primary school and gave us a demonstration. Within a few weeks almost everybody had one. I just could not master the skills and was back on conkers by the autumn.

  3. Nam Citsale says:

    I’m old enough to remember the thrill of dangling yokes on string too. I had two of these, the red, opaque-rimmed Coca Cola and a blue-banded, Fanta-branded one. I also had, and still have thankfully, ten fingers, two hands and two wrists at the time,none of which were any fecking use to me when it came to Spinners and other such gewgaws. Was the campaign confined to Ireland? Perhaps we were considered missionary territory by soft drink megacorps then, a cultural wasteland inhabited by palate-less primitives hooked on the likes of Cadet and Score? If so, Caffreys missed a promotional trick. Two Big Time bars soldered together would have made a dandy if possibly destructive playground boomerang.

  4. deetwelve says:

    Fanta with gin? It’s far from that you were raised, missy. Vodka and Britvic, surely?

  5. Oliver Farry says:

    It’s funny – I was just thinking of these the other day but I couldn’t remember their name. I was in Senior Infants at the time and I had at least one (I agree about their shiny allure – they looked incredibly glamorous for 1982/83). I never got the hang of the tricks though and was convinced that all the fancy-dan stuff in the ads were a wheeze to sell the thing.

  6. TheQ47 says:

    Hah – I remember this campaign hitting Sligo around this time too (I was 10/11 in 1981) There was even a competition organised in the local shopping Quinnsworth Shopping Centre, and about 50 boys (well I remember mostly boys, but could be wrong) were all lined up along the wall, where the experts had to whittle us down to the chosen few. Everyone had to start with a simple trick, walk the dog, but this immediately got rid of about 40 of us chancers, including me but NOT my younger brother.
    I don’t think he got any further though (I’m not bitter, the f**ker).

    I think I had the red Coca-Cola Spinner and my brothers one was Fanta orange.

    Ah Good times.

  7. emmachinn says:

    Very glad this piece was about fake yo-yos and not some horrific spinning class.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: