• Laurel Contributor

Unwinding the Mystery Ball

by Donna Rhodes

We enjoy historical accounts of the activities, construction, and commerce on the Plateau over the decades, but what were Highlands’ youngsters doing while adults were building roads, launching businesses, and saving the forests?

In his “Heart of the Blue Ridge,” Ran Shaffner shares a kid story passed along by his wife, Margaret.

Ran writes, “Children in Highlands found a number of stores that catered to them as much as to adults. The Country Mouse Gift Shop opened in 1947 on Lake Sequoyah, and Mrs. W.E. McGuire from Clemson had surprise gift balls for the children.”

Margaret remembers the balls being made from brightly colored crepe paper strips. At the very center was a prize whistle or tiny treasure… a reward that was better than Cracker Jacks toys but far from a Daisy Red Ryder. The payoff toy was wrapped snugly with the paper. Then miniatures and trinkets like gumball machine charms (probably made in Japan and worth a mint today) would be placed in the wrapping and wound into the ball. Layers of paper and surprises continued to be wound until the ball was nearly baseball-size. The last strip would be secured with a picture of a clown or ballerina. Think of it as a grab bag in a paper ball form.

As the ball was unwound, toys fell out to the children’s delight, and the guessing continued until the last strand of paper revealed the reward for their patience. I fear that today’s kids would settle for nothing less than a phone app or a Minecraft set, but this was a simpler time.

Enjoy more stories about Highlands’ residents of all ages by reading Ran’s detailed accounts in his book, available at the Hudson Library and Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library. It can also be purchased online. Or visit the Highlands Historical Society’s website, highlandshistory.com and see what kind of history ball you can unravel.

The Laurel Magazine

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