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Classic toys and tricks at the National Yo-Yo Museum | Bartell's Backroads

At the National Yo-Yo Museum in Chico, one man keeps his love of the familiar toy on display. Stop by and he may even teach you a trick or two.

CHICO, Calif. — Your parents probably had one, you probably had one, heck your kids might even have one. They are a fad that seems to come and go with time, but do you know the real comeback of the yo-yo?

Walk inside the Bird in Hand gift shop on Broadway Street in Chico and you’ll probably find Bob Malowney in the back next to a colossal yo-yo, which he claims actually works. 

“Guinness world record said it was the biggest 'til someone made one out of Styrofoam in 2012, but we don’t count that one,” says Malowney.


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Big ones, small ones, plastic and metal ones. The National Yo-Yo Museum has it all, including the odd ones. Paintings of the yo-yo date back to 500 BC in ancient Greece, but the yo-yo as we know it was made popular by a Filipino law school dropout named Pedro Flores. 

“Pedro started out in Santa Barbara, but he had three companies in Los Angeles pumping out yo-yos,” says Malowney.

In 1928, a man by the name of Donald F. Duncan discovered Pedro’s toy and eventually purchased the rights to its trademark. By 1965 Duncan was the leading yo-yo producer in the world. 

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Fast-forward to 1990, Bob was holding a yo-yo contest when a department store liaison asked him to tour the nation showing off an exhibit of historic yo-yos. After three years on the road, Malowney settled down in Chico and started the National Yo-Yo Contest, and eventually the museum.

The museum also holds the Yo-Yo Hall of Fame where you can see all the winners of the National Yo-Yo Contest, and if you are looking to compete, Malowney gives free lessons every month and he will even loan you a yo-yo.

The National Yo-Yo Museum is free and opens every day. If you can visit on June 6 for National Yoyo Day.

More Bartell's Backroads: The original McDonald's is a museum in San Bernardino. Inside the museum is more than 80 years of artifacts. Everything ranging from the original BBQ-era to the current Happy Meal toy.