At an auction recently I bought three gallon jars full of wooden spools in
order to get only three spools. They were the large size, many of them green,
and had been saved by our friend, the late Velma Bennett, an excellent quilt
maker. I wanted one spool to keep and one each for Nancy and Wilt.
In 1953, when we moved to our farm, I asked Bennett to make matching wedding
ring quilts for the children’s beds. Hand pieced, new quilts they were. She
quilted with those tiny stitches and bound the edges with the same care for
$18 each. What a great neighbor she was. No wonder she had so many spools!
“What in the world will you do with all of those spools?” a woman asked as I
won the bid. “Well, I could make a lot of tractors and tick-tacks,” I said,
remembering my childhood.
We used to make these great toys out of spools. I’d start by cutting notches
all of the way around the edges, at both ends of a wooden spool, for either a
tractor or a tick-tack.
A rubber band provided the tractor’s power. I inserted the band through the
spool hole and used a short piece of matchstick through the rubber loop, to
keep the band in place.
I’d rub dry soap for lubrication on the other spool end and then insert a
3-inch stick through the other band loop. This was for winding the rubber
I’d crank up the motor by turning the long stick until the band was tight, and
hold it in place as I set the tractor on the rug. As I let go, the little
tractor would slowly move several inches as the rubber band unwound. Two
tractors could compete for distance or race to a finish line. As with sling
shots, spinning tops, swords and other toys, making the toy was a big part of
“Trick or Treat?” meant trick to me. We didn’t wait around for the treat. We
did harmless, mischievous things like scaring people we knew with a tick-tack
To make a tick-tack, cut notches as with the tractor. Insert a skinny pencil
or other stick into the spool hole and leave it loose so the spool can rotate.
Attach a twine string about four feet long to the body of the spool. Wind it
around the spool in the same way thread is wound.
To make this noise maker perform, hold onto the long stick as you place the
spool so both notched ends touched the window. Holding the other end of the
string, give a sudden yank on the string. Those notches on the spool will make
a scary, blood-curdling noise.
One Halloween night we decided to pull this tick-tack thing on our friends,
Edna and Berkley Pace. Mom turned off the car lights and parked at the end of
Pace’s driveway. We kids sneaked up on to their porch.
Only one room was lit, and I decided to tick-tack the high window by the
fireplace. This meant I had to climb up on the porch tailing and reach around
the corner of the house to get to that window. I had to tip-toe on that
railing and twist to reach enough to get the spool against the glass.
R-r-r-r-rp! screeched the tick-tack on that dark night. And I was about to
fall! No one responded. I rewound the string and took that precarious position
again. R-r-r-r-r-rp! again, louder and longer. No response.
Just as I finished the third try, wham-o! Someone swatted me a good one on my
backside with a cane. Mr. Pace had done a little sneaking in the dark,
I should have guessed that Edna and Berkeley were off doing their own
Halloween tricks and only their Dad was at home. Mr. Pace had made and used a
few tick-tacks in his youth, and he had guessed that I was the one holding the
spool against his window.
I’ll bet my grandsons would like making tractors and tick-tacks out of Velma