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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Once a statewide craze, pogs are making a comeback

By Will Hoover
Advertiser North Shore Writer

What goes around comes around.

Waialua Elementary School students, from left, Destry Lunasco, Conor Donovan and Jodi Kalama-Worley play pogs, a 1990s craze being revived at the school.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Especially when what's going around is silver dollarisize pieces of waxed cardboard that once upon a time were used to seal the glass lids on milk bottles.

Milk caps, otherwise known as pogs, have been circulating Waialua Elementary School in large numbers lately — leaving teachers and administrators with a sense that history is repeating itself.

"I'm telling you, (last week) was like madness," said Carol Ishimoto, an educational assistant who runs the school thrift store and said she had gone through between 40,000 and 50,000 pogs in six weeks. "The kids are going nuts over them again."

The pogs have yielded unexpected benefits as both a fund-raising tool and to keep the peace on the playground. The school's profit from selling the pogs for 2 cents each goes to the school playground fund. In the last six weeks, more than $500 has been raised. And unlike the arguments and scuffles that can erupt as students play marbles during recess or lunch, there have been no such problems with pogs.

It was a decade ago that Waialua Elementary sixth-grade teacher Blossom Galbiso introduced old-fashioned milk bottle caps as a motivational tool, revised a 1950s Hawai'i schoolyard game and inadvertently touched off a phenomenon.

The milk caps Galbiso used came from Haleakala Dairy's passion-orange-guava (P.O.G.) drink. Children dubbed them "pogs." Before the craze died out in the mid-1990s, it had spread across O'ahu, engulfed the state and moved to the Mainland. Caught in a speculative frenzy, folks here were grabbing them by the fistfuls — gladly forking over $1 to $5 each, and sometimes more.

Meanwhile, Mainland toy and cereal companies realized the marketing potential of the cheap cardboard rounds. Soon American Airlines, Taco Bell and even Coca-Cola and other companies were producing their own pog sets.

It all ended as fast as it began. Tens of thousands of Hawai'i residents were left holding millions of pogs stuffed in closets and drawers. After that, the subject was all but forgotten in Hawai'i.

"It kicked off again when I banned marbles last December," said Vice Principal Tiffany Eason, who coincidentally was the teacher who replaced Galbiso, who died in 1994.

Waialua Elementary School Vice Principal Tiffany Eason sells pogs to Destry Lunasco and Gavin Rin. The school decided to capitalize on the renewed interest to raise money for the school playground fund.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Late last year, after repeated fighting and fussing over marbles, Eason sent notices to parents advising them that marbles would no longer be allowed at school. It turned out some of the children were playing "for keeps," and with some marbles costing upward of $5 apiece, the game had become too serious for the school's liking.

"The next day the kids brought in pogs," Eason said. "And I don't know why, but for some reason there have been very few problems with the pogs. Maybe it's because they don't have the value they used to have. They are important just for the game's sake."

With the resurgence in interest, Ishimoto brought in some pogs that she had left over from the craze. Soon she was out, and students were clamoring for more.

Ishimoto had an idea. She met a wholesale source and struck a deal for the school to buy pogs for a penny apiece. Students and others buy them for 2 cents each, 50 for a buck or a tube of 500 for $10 — though kids who can afford to buy only a couple might find themselves with extras when they leave Ishimoto's store.

Second-graders Conor Donovan and Jodi Kalama-Worley, both 7, prefer to buy 13 pogs for a quarter. Better deal.

"I have 304 pogs altogether," said Jodi, who admitted that most of his had been won playing the game that originated in Hawai'i decades ago, when milk was delivered door to door in bottles.

Conor described the fundamentals.

"Say you put down 4 pogs, and then the other person puts down 4 pogs. So what you do is put down a stack of 8 pogs — 4 and 4 — and you take your hitter (the pog that is thrown), and try to slap all the pogs upside down."

If the game is "for keeps," the upside-down pogs are won.

Neither Conor nor Jodi was aware of Blossom Galbiso or that their school had been the origin of a pog phenomenon 10 years ago. And neither Eason nor Ishimoto believes they are seeing the start of another craze.

"I talked with a woman who's with the Hale'iwa Outdoor Circle, and she said, 'I've got thousands of pogs at home; I'll just give them to you,' " Eason said. "So I don't think pogs have the passion and monetary attachment that they had before."

Would she like to have more donated pogs?

"Absolutely," Eason said. "We'll take all the pogs anyone wants to give us. Then we won't have to buy them anymore. We'll take them all. We'll find a place to put them."

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8038.