The Syco-Slate Pocket Fortune Teller donated recently to the Louisiana Area Historical Museum handles every imaginable query.
Like a smart aleck, it has an answer for everything.
Unlike a snarky twit, it still comes off cool.
The Syco-Slate Pocket Fortune Teller donated recently to the Louisiana Area Historical Museum handles every imaginable query. One of its modern cousins, a Magic 8-Ball, also was contributed.
Either toy is sure to bring joy. Just fire a question, then flip them over for a tongue-in-cheek comeback.
Is love in the future? Most likely.
Will the Blues win the Stanley Cup? Yes.
Did Yoko break up the Beatles? Very doubtful.
What’s the meaning of life? Ask again later.
“We are fortunate to have not only the original cylindrical Syco-Slate, but also a Magic 8-Ball, which has delighted children for generations,” said Museum President Judy Schmidt. “These generous donations will be on display in the ‘Toys and Games’ area of the Louisiana Area Historical Museum when we open for our 26th season next May.”
While soothsayers have been around for centuries, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to conjure the story of Pocket Fortune Teller.
Was it the result of a Three Stooges flick? Signs point to…nyuck, nyuck nyuck.
The slapstick superstars did use what they called a “magic ball” in a 1940 film. But rather than being known as inventors, the scientific abilities of Larry, Moe and Curly probably were better described by the picture’s opening disclaimer – “any resemblance between characters in this picture and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle.”
So, is Albert C. Carter the real creator? You may rely on it.
Carter got the idea from a spirit mechanism used by his mother, Mary, who was a highly-successful clairvoyant in Cincinnati.
She would put a small chalkboard inside a sealed container, then “summon the spirits.” Clients were shocked to hear the sound of chalk doodles. Mary would then open the container and reveal messages from “the beyond.”
Did the trick work? Without a doubt.
Carter wasn’t the only one whose imagination was captured. He took the idea for a modernized version to Cincinnati store owner Max Levinson, who shared it with his brother-in-law, Abe Bookman.
Carter designed a container filled with liquid that was divided in the center and included a window on one end. Dice imprinted with answers would appear when users turned the toy over.
Today’s Magic 8-Ball came about because of Brunswick Billiards. The company in 1950 hired Alabe to make a prognosticator that looked like a black pool ball. A single, 20-sided die with white letters was fitted inside.
Is that liquid really blue? It is certain.
The dyed fluid is alcohol-based. Tiny holes keep the die sufficiently buoyant to gradually float to the top from the dark abyss, adding to the aura.
The new design quickly caught on, and current manufacturer Mattel reportedly sells a million each year.
Changes were made from time to time. In 1975, a Magic 8 with a bubble trap was introduced. The idea was to keep answers clear even when the toy is shaken, although purists claim the ball should never be treated like a rattle.
How many questions does it take to see all the answers? Better not tell you now.
Actually, someone with way too much time figured out it takes an average of 72 questions before all 20 answers will appear at least once.
Sue Deines of Louisiana donated the two items. She remembers her mother kept the Fortune Teller in a bedroom dresser drawer. Deines and her younger brother, Denny Lowry, couldn’t get enough of it.
“Whenever you had a question, you could go in and ask the Pocket Teller,” she said. “As children, if we had a question our parents didn’t want to answer, they’d send us in and say ‘Good luck.’”
Only slightly joking, Deines claims the oracle foretold her marriage to a strapping Vietnam veteran she met on a blind date in 1971, just after graduating from the University of Missouri at St. Louis with a bachelor’s in education.
She and Charles Deines were united in 1974. He got a bachelor’s in computer science and business from UMSL, while she earned a master’s and doctorate in educational-related studies from St. Louis University.
Deines, who spent more than 32 years instructing students, won’t quite admit the exaggeration about using Fortune Teller in finding the love of her life, but will say she did what so many others have with both collectibles.
“I might have asked numerous times before I got the answer I wanted,” she laughed.
Deines decided to donate the novelties so that they wouldn’t get lost. That’s just fine with Schmidt, who said free programs for “kids of all ages” are held each summer and that Pocket Fortune Teller will fit in well. Two of the most popular programs have been “The History of Toys and Games” and “Toy Stories II.” Both featured items from the museum’s extensive collection.
For the record, there are 10 affirmative and five negative responses possible with the two curios, but both leave wiggle room by including five non-committal answers.
OK, which would Deines prefer to see in the window? My sources say…
“I kind of like the undecided ones, because then you can make it up,” she said.