The year is 1990. You wake up for what you expect will be an average School day. The morning feels as it normally does. You gather with your classmates and wait for the bell, which comes too soon as usual. Two classes later, the sweet sweet relief of the bell for the first break sounds through the Halls and you rush out to the usual spot (in our case it was a under a tree next to the rowing tanks and school library). Something is different though. You see groups of people all around the School grounds flicking little plastic doo-dads up and down rhythmically. Then it hits you – it's yo-yo season.
Every year it would happen, from the early 80s and into the mid 90s - Coca Cola would release the familiar yo-yos with the white or clear mid-section. The models varied but generally the outer shell of the yo-yo was green for Sprite, red for Coke and orange for Fanta and every year, for only about a week or so, it was everything you had ever wanted. The bell goes again, you return to class and just when you think it will never end, the School day finally comes to a close (and pitifully you learnt nothing apart from which colour yo-yo you were going to go for!) and the second you lock eyes with whichever parent picks you up, you insist on a trip to the local Mall to get your very own yo-yo.
Upon entry you see that the Mall is awash with the familiar coke red with older kids (who you immediately decide are way cooler than you will ever be) showing off their sweet yo-yo moves. They wish to entice you to pick up a refreshing beverage and a yo-yo, as if you weren't going to anyway. You would also see a little stage set up for one of the yo-yo championship tournaments which were happening all over the Country. You could pick the yo-yo up at the various kiosks, or just about every store in the Mall would have a box. You would find your yo-yo and buy the hell out of it.
However, the yo-yos you could buy were only the tip of the iceburg – you could also pick up a can of any Coca Cola soda and on the pull-ring (which pulled off completely back in the day, allowing you to flick the ring at an alarming speed towards peoples' heads, but that's a different story altogether!) you could find a little printed symbol. If you found this, you got yourself a special edition gold yo-yo, making you the envy of the World. You could also place in a tournament and be awarded a special version.
You would spend the entire ride home thinking about what moves you would master first. Would it be 'walk the dog'? Or perhaps 'cradle the baby'? You would, of course, have to master the spin first. This took great wrist skill and you had to get the string loosened just right. While practicing, you invariably snap the string and realise too late that you should have bought a pack of spare strings. Once you've gotten over that small hiccup, you are back at it. In no time you are doing all the tricks and you can even flick the yo-yo up from the fully extended position instead of winding it up like some kind of dork. You were officially ready to get to school and show off your new skillz.
Then the weirdest thing happened. You either broke your yo-yo in half or sent it flying over a wall while practicing a particularly optimistic special move. Sure, maybe you go and get a new one after breaking the first one, but eventually you just lose interest. Strangely, the whole School, Country, World also loses interest at exactly the same time and the yo-yos just completely disappear. You are then back to marbles or wall-tennis, until the following year at exactly the same time, when it happened all over again. It was a strange phenomenon which happened just about every year of my school life and it was great.
This was a marketing campaign started by the Coca Cola Company as a way of promoting their products. Every year they would hit the Shopping Centres and sell roughly 4 million yo-yos and, I am certain, an obscene number of cool drinks thanks to this campaign. The yo-yo's were made by the Company Russel, named after one of the original American yo-yo pioneers Jack Russel, and were actually called 'spinners'. I don't remember ever using this term growing up, they were always just yo-yos to us. Amazingly, the first ever Coca Cola yo-yo campaign occurred in Australia as early as 1958. Canadian-born Dick Moffat came up with the idea while working for the Coca Cola Company. In 1966, the team behind the Australian success travelled to South Africa in order to bring the same campaign to new shores. By 1967 the craze had swept through most of Southern Africa. At the same time the campaign was spreading through North America, the United Kingdom and parts of Asia and South America.
Unfortunately the campaign has ended, and with it goes much of the interest in yo-yos. However, there is always space for a new trend and at the moment it is all about the fidget spinner. These funky little things aren't nearly as hard to master as the yo-yos but they are great fun. Invented as a stress-relief toy, they have taken the world by storm. They were invented in the 90s but have only in 2017 become such an outrageous hit. Go to any Mall in the Country and you will find them. However, I shall always have a soft-spot for the yo-yo craze and a little pang of nostalgia always hits me when I seen the familiar white and green/red/orange combo.