Vaia recently hit a major American childhood milestone – she received a Mr. Potato Head toy.  I myself had one of these, and for all I know my ‘rents still have it in the attic.  Although I have fond memories of this toy, I think of it more for something that happened long after I stopped playing with it.  When I was a freshman in high school there was a small item in the paper about how Mr. Potato Head was losing his pipe to discourage kids from smoking.  The Wiki article, which is excellent – who knew MPH was the first toy marketed on TV directly to kids rather than their parents? – says the pipe went when he became the spokesman for the Great American Smokeout (celebrated each year when I was at the seminary by my friends and me,  joined by sympathetic faculty, mirthfully puffing on cigars).  I remember that this struck me as ridiculous at the time, and it still does – who wants to smoke a pipe because Mr. Potato Head does?  At the same time a sister who taught at my high school started a campaign to change the team nickname from Red Raiders because it was “offensive”.  The campaign fizzled quickly and she was, for whatever reason, teaching elsewhere the next year.  These two episodes were my first introduction to the culture of political correctness.  Long live Mr Potato Head and his pipe!

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