An Associated Press article about a Pennsylvania company caught my eye this week. A former Pennsylvania math and computer science teacher is on a mission that will highlight a business located in Hollidaysburg by highlighting the well-known toy it makes – the Slinky.

It seems Bob Swaim wants the state Assembly to approve the Slinky as the state’s official toy.

The Slinky is already in the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, N.Y. It was first manufactured in Philadelphia in the 1940s before its headquarters was established in Hollidaysburg.

We actually have a quite a few “official” state items. There are, of course, a state flag and a state symbol. We all know the state nickname is the Keystone State. There is also a state game bird – the ruffed grouse (1931), a state flower – Mountain Laurel (1933) and a state animal – white-tailed deer (1959). But did you know that milk is our official state beverage? It’s actually the state beverage for about 20 states. Pennsylvania’s lawmakers made it official in 1982.

There’s also state colors (blue and gold), a state tree (Eastern Hemlock), a state fish (Brook Trout), a state insect (firefly), a state arboretum (Morris Arboretum and Gardens in Philly), a state aircraft (Piper J-3 Cub, which was manufactured in Lock Haven), a state pops orchestra (The Philly POPS), a state theater (Walnut Street Theatre in Philly is the oldest in the U.S.), and two state locomotives – one steam and one electric (K4s Steam Locomotive which was built in Pennsylvania and GGI 4859 Electric Locomotive).

The state firearm (the Pennsylvania Long Rifle) is the forerunner to the Kentucky Long Rifle. Daniel Boone was a Pennsylvania native before he became famous in Kentucky. There is also a state fossil (trilobite) and a state conservation plant (Penngift Crownvetch). This plant is the pretty pink flower motorists traveling through Pennsylvania may see in the median area of our interstates. I often wondered what the flower was that grows in abundance along our state highways and looks so pretty.

There is also a state motto: Virtue, liberty and independence; a state ship – the U.S. Brig Niagara; and a state song – “Pennsylvania,” which was written by Eddie Khoury and Ronnie Bonner. (If you go to our website and find this column, there is an attached YouTube video of the song if you’d like to hear how it sounds.)

The lyrics are:

Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania,

Mighty is your name,

Steeped in glory and tradition,

Object of acclaim.

Where brave men fought the foe of freedom, Tyranny decried,

‘Til the bell of independence filled the countryside.

Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania,

May your future be, filled with honor everlasting as your history.

Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania,

Blessed by God’s own hand, Birthplace of a mighty nation, Keystone of the land.

Where first our country’s flag unfolded,

Freedom to proclaim,

May the voices of tomorrow glorify your name.

Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania,

May your future be, filled with honor everlasting as your history.

State songs, mottos, flags, seals – these are all things I can understand as state symbols. I am not sure that animals and other things should be state symbols. I understand that they represent what can be found in Pennsylvania but whitetail deer can also be found in other states, as can Eastern Hemlocks. I understand the reasoning behind the Piper Cub and even the two locomotives as they were manufactured in the state but so were a lot of other products and they are not a state symbol. Maybe because they are iconic items, such as the newest push for the Slinky. I remember the jingle and the commercials for this toy. I did have one but once I had it I can’t say I found it all that much fun to play with. It may still be sitting in a box in the attic or basement for all I know. Now a doll that closed her eyes or talked when you pulled the string such as Chatty Cathy, those were much more fun to play with during my childhood.

I’ll go along with the Slinky as the state toy because of its iconic place in toy history and it was manufactured here. But I cannot support the chocolate chip cookie as the state cookie. It has not been named but there was a push a few years back for that very thing. The problem is the chocolate chip cookie is the state cookie for other states, including Massachusetts where the chocolate chip cookie was invented at the Toll House Restaurant in 1930. I think Massachusetts wins that one hands down.

If we have to have a state cookie, lets find one that is original to Pennsylvania. A contender is the Nazareth Sugar Cookie or Amish Sugar Cookie. This cookie was suggested as a possibility for the “state cookie” because its recipe was said to be perfected by the Moravians. They were Protestants from Germany who settled in Nazareth, Pa., in the 1700s. They cookie is even baked in the shape of the “keystone.” Another contender may be the Fig Newton, because the inventor of the machine that makes these cookies was from Philadelphia. So if we absolutely need to name a “state cookie” here are two contenders, but really, do we need a state cookie?

When does such things go from promoting the state to just being frivolous? I don’t know, but in case you were wondering, the state dog is the Great Dane. I’m waiting for the naming of the state cat.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.