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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

You might think Eddy Goldfarb’s dozens of toy creations are nothing more than child’s play.  But as the following story taken from CBS Sunday morning correspondent Luke Burbank explains, he’s got the toys, and the years, to prove you wrong.  If you had a toy or game that you really loved anytime in the last 70 years, there’s a decent chance you have Eddie Goldfarb to thank for it.  When asked by Burbank if he was thinking about inventions even now, Goldfarb replied “oh yes, I’m working on two or three right now”.  

Yes, at age 102, Eddy Goldfarb is still inventing, adding tp his list of over 800 toys.  “I believe if you do creative work of any kind, you start with nothing and end with something, it stimulates your brain and that’s very good for your body”.  Growing up in Chicago in the 1920’s, Goldfarb believed he would someday be an applied physicist.  Lacking the money for college, he joined the Navy and fought on the USS Batfish submarine during World War II.  When he wasn’t dodging death charges, he was in his bunk, jotting down ideas for toys to invent.  He figured they might be cheap to manufacture.

Goldfarb says “toys were gonna be just the beginning.  I realized that if I invented a successful game, it could sell a million units in one year easily.  I’d have a million families getting together.  I realized the toy industry is a noble industry”.  You might say Eddie first cut his teeth in the toy industry quite literally with an invention you’re probably familiar with: yes, Eddie Goldfarb invented those wind-up, chattering teeth.  They are technically called “Yakity-yak”.  

When asked if he imagined the teeth could be something that would identify his life, his response was “absolutely not”.  Despite the millions of sets of teeth that have been sold over the years, Eddie made just $900 when he sold the rights to them in 1949.  He says he’s not mad.  He got something valuable with the money.  “I needed an overcoat.  It was really cold in Chicago”.  He did, though, learn a lesson, which was to hang onto those royalty rights of his other inventions, including what he says was his biggest seller: the mini 4x4 replicas known as Stompers”.  I loved Stompers as a kid.  Funny story: more than once, I’d take one of my Stompers and hold it to my head.  I did this while the Stomper was running! As you could guess, the wheels caught my hair and started rolling.  You’d think I’d stop doing this after it started hurting.  I did not.  Don’t ask me why. Anyway. Back to the story.  

Goldfarb also invented the game Kerplunk.  Eddie admits that he never played a single game he invented.  “I was too busy inventing them”.  Lynn Goldfarb and her two siblings got to be the first to play with their dad’s inventions, but they were sworn to secrecy from talking about them with their friends.  “You never show anybody until it’s out because otherwise it could get stolen”.  Lynn, a filmmaker, even made a documentary called Eddy’s World about her dad a few years ago that followed his journey.  She showcased separate inventions, telling you what year they were invented.  For example, the bubble gun was invented in 1989.  She showed him using the product and put the year it was invented to the side.  

When asked to what she attributed Eddy’s mental acuity, Lyn said “he is an eternal optimist”.  3-D printing is one of Eddy’s latest obsessions, including creating Lithophanes, intricate 3 dimensional portraits that he makes on his 3-D printer.  He makes them for the people he loves.  

Eddy Goldfarb still has a remarkable outlook as he enters his second century of life.  “You must be an optimist.  But I also tell people you have to love rejection”.  (CBS Sunday Morning, 12-17-23) . Thank you for reading my columns this year.  Merry Christmas!   Below are the links to my podcast, Blendertainment.  This week: Remembering Norman Lear       


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