Our tax dollars at work; can we get a refund?

By on October 7, 2015

There are just 77 days left until Christmas, so in the spirit of being loyal to one’s home state I am considering purchasing the official state toy for everyone on my holiday shopping list.

Do you know what the official Pennsylvania state toy is? Did you even know we had an official state toy? Me neither, but we do and it is called the Slinky.

The Slinky, you old geezers like me recall, is a spring-like toy that is able to, and this was always so darned cool, walk end-over-end down a stairway without holding on to the railing. Not only that, but it can also … uhhh … Come to think of it, walking down a stairway is about all a Slinky does.

The Slinky was introduced in 1948 and became the state toy in 2001 under House Bill 1893. This fact leads me to speculate on the amount of taxpayer-paid time and debate that went into this pressing issue.

House Speaker: Our agenda for this session includes funding for emergency highway repairs, help for the unemployed and increasing the level of education in our state through better schools. But first, we’ll address the state toy since it should pass quickly without much debate.

Rep. Sidewinder: I propose the Slinky, since it’s made in Pennsylvania.

Rep. Pickleslicer: I propose the Etch-A-Sketch since it’s popular in my district.

Rep. Thudwhumper: I think it should be Play-Doh because it’s so nice and squishy

Rep. Flange: I like the Slinky walking down a staircase made of Play-Doh modeled to look like a bunch of Etch-A-Sketches.

House Speaker: This is gonna be a long, stinkin’ session.

The Slinky won on the 986th vote.

But it isn’t just Pennsylvania that spends its precious tax dollars debating pointless state symbols. For you Etch-A-Sketch lovers who lost out on the Slinky vote, don’t worry. It’s the state toy of Ohio. In Kansas, the state toy is a teddy bear, although after watching all those disaster specials on the Weather Channel, I think it should be the game “Twister.”

Ohio has a state rock song which is the 1965 hit “Hang On Sloopy” by the McCoys. It’s a fairly good record, a copy of which I personally own (somebody hadda buy it). Although if I were a girl, I’m not sure I’d want the world to know my nickname was “Sloopy.”

Washington state considered “Louie, Louie,” a terrific song that any teenage rock band, or even several reasonably intelligent chimpanzees, could play because it only uses three chords.

In June 1965, and this is true, the FBI bought a copy of this record because it was rumored to have dirty lyrics. In the end, the investigation failed after it was concluded, I assume, that the recording was “unintelligible at any speed.” And, of course, it gave J. Edgar Hoover something to listen to while he was changing into his formal evening gown. In the end, Washington state settled for “Washington, My Home,” which, beat-wise, doesn’t hold a candle to “Louie, Louie.”

Colorado’s state song is “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver, available on the popular album, “Greatest Weenie Hits Of All Time,” while in Kansas the official song is “Here’s Kansas,” except during tornado season when it shifts to “There Goes Kansas.”

Toys and music aside, Pennsylvania’s state plant is crown vetch, which sounds like something one does while hung over. “Clear the way! I have to vetch!” In Arkansas, the tomato is both the state fruit and the state vegetable because, well, it’s Arkansas.

Many states have chosen square dance as their state dance, for which they should all be fined heavily. In North Carolina the state dance is Shagging which, to me, sounds dirtier than singing “Louie, Louie.”

In Alaska, the state sport is dog mushing, which sounds like something you scrape off the bottom of your shoe. Arkanas’s official state neckwear is the bolo tie, otherwise known as the “I-can’t-believe-they-call-it-a-tie” tie.

Indiana’s legislators must have agonized for months over an official state beverage until they chose water. In Minnesota, the state drink is milk, preferably heated with cocoa in it, while the state beverage of Nebraska is Kool-Aid. (Finally, something sensible, and a beverage that can be proudly served at all government functions.)

Florida’s state beverage is (surprise!) orange juice, although votes also were cast for Maalox, which is why I think their state motto should be “Geez, we have so many old people.”

California’s state beverage is wine. No one knows which wine, but you just know it will be the right wine, properly chilled and served. The state also has an official silver rush ghost town (Calico) and official gold rush ghost town (Bodie). California, however, does not have an official state ghost – although I hear Casper is in the running.

Foods also are popular state items. Massachusetts has the Boston cream donut and the chocolate chip cookie, Texas has chili and Utah has Jell-O (Utah is on a diet).

Oklahoma has lots of official foods, including – surprise – barbecued pork, grits, cornbread, pecan pie and chicken fried steak. It sounds like one big Bob Evans restaurant.

My all-time favorite state symbol is from Hawaii, where the state fish is the Humuhumunukunukuapua`a. Bumper stickers proclaiming “I (heart) the Humuhumunukunukuapua`a” are available, but only of you drive a very large car.

Suddenly the Slinky seems sane, doesn’t it?

Larry Alexander is a freelance columnist based in Ephrata. He is an award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author. He can be contacted at larry2851@yahoo.com.



  1. Robert Landis

    October 7, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    So who wrote this piece? Larry or Eric? Was there any purpose? Was it to confuse intelligent voters into thinking the legislators spend this kind of time on unimportant issues? Was it to take up time so voters would not have time for legitimate matters ( such as checking who is really holding up passing a state budget)? It seems like something Larry would write ,but I do not know who Eric is.

    • Editor

      October 7, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      Hi Robert and thanks for your comments. We were a bit perplexed by your question about the author however…not sure where you would have seen the name Eric anywhere. Larry is weekly humor columnist for us in the print edition and it was also put online this week. Thanks again for your feedback.

      • Robert Landis

        October 7, 2015 at 8:19 pm

        Yeah, online ,the only name I saw until the end of the article was Eric’s. So while I was reading the article online ,I thought it was Eric that was writing, but at the end it looked like Larry was the writer. I thought it read like Larry’s writing, so I am not surprised.

        • Editor

          October 8, 2015 at 10:06 am

          Hello again Robert…we are not seeing anything with Eric at the end of the article…did it have a last name? Thanks,

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