Not too long ago, a fad among the elementary school set was — would you believe — the rubber band. Now the rubber bands they were going gaga over are not the ordinary brownish ones that probably come to mind when you think rubber band — or even the pretty red and green ones that you sometime see. These were colorful rubber bands, but what made them special was their shape. They were shaped like chickens, ducks, dinosaurs, elephants or just about any other animal or object you can think of.
I was first introduced to them when my grandson came in with a few of them. It seems the kids at school were going nuts over farm and zoo shaped rubber bands. When I asked “Why?,” the answer was “Why not?” They were cute, cheap, and best of all, “When you stretch them, they return to the original animal shape.” Of course, that made perfect sense, at least to a child.
It seems that the kids took them to school, traded with friends for harder to find rubber bands, and wore them on their wrist or arm. My grandson wanted more of these miraculous rubber bands. We couldn’t find them locally and resorted to ordering them on the internet. He spent half of his birthday money to order several batches and couldn’t wait until the big brown truck arrived with them.
Now, I never thought I would be party to such foolishness as collecting animal shaped rubber bands. But then I remembered Beanie Babies. Remember how we chased all over town to find the one Beanie Baby that was in high demand? Where are Beanie Babies now? Forgotten in the bottom of a dresser drawer? That’s where mine are, I think.
Anyhow, the lowly rubber band came into its own. Remember when every newspaper was secured with a rubber band before it was delivered to your home? Now they come in plastic bags. Or how strawberries came in plastic crates covered by cellophane secured with a rubber band? Now they come in plastic boxes. You may still find your celery or broccoli secured with a rubber band, but the rubber band has become what is called a “mature product,” meaning the demand for them is not increasing.
Almost everyone has a few rubber bands around a door knob or stashed in a kitchen drawer with the scissors and paperclips. Any office worker can find a few rubber bands in the desk drawer, so handy for holding together a pile of file folders or a stack of letters. In fact, rubber bands are so useful for letters that the Post Office is said to be the largest user of this handy item. It was the Post Office that came up with the idea for coloring them red due to postal workers dropping them and forgetting to pick them up.
The history of rubber bands is almost as old as the history of rubber itself, which goes back to the time of Columbus who discovered it being used by Mayan Indians. After the Europeans found out about rubber, it wasn’t too long before the sticky substance was vulcanized into a useful product when Goodyear accidentally mixed rubber with sulfur by leaving it on a hot stove and forgetting it. Fortunate for him that rubber was not explosive when mixed with sulfur or we would be driving cars with wooden wheels now.
Anyhow, all is well that ends well. Along with the dozens of other rubber products, someone invented rubber bands by covering a hollow tube with rubber and then cutting the rubber into strips. Now we have thick and thin, long and short, plain and colorful rubber bands for any use you can think of — even for kids to collect, trade, and wear on their arms. New shapes are coming out all the while: cars, flowers, hearts, anything you can think of. The more unusual the shape, the more in demand it is.
It seems to me that I recall rubber bands being used for slingshots to shoot paper wads when I was a kid. I’m certainly not going to mention that to my grandson. Obviously, times have changed and I don’t want him to come up with any new (old) ideas to get in trouble with.
But rubber bands? Who could imagine that rubber bands would ever be a fad?
Copyright 2010 Sheila Moss