Fire Mountain Scout Camp

Yo-Yos at Fire Mountain

History of Yo-Yos

It is believed that the yo-yo most likely originated in China. The first historical mention of the yo-yo, however, was from Greece in the year 500 B.C. These ancient toys were made out of wood, metal, or painted terra cotta disks and called just that, a disc. It was customary, when a child turned of age, to offer toys of their youth to certain gods. Historical records indicate that 16th century hunters in the Philippines hid up in trees and used a rock tied to a long cord, up to 20 feet in length, to throw at wild animals beneath them. The weapon was able to be pulled up and thrown back down for multiple attempts at the prey. This gave rise to the widespread idea that the practice was the true forerunner of the yo-yo, but this is a stretch of imagination and has no real basis in fact. It is extremely likely, however, that the yo-yo did travel from China to Greece and the Philippines.

Yo-yos were found through the 1700’s in India, France, England, Scotland, and throughout Europe and first appeared in the US in 1888. In the 1920’s Pedro Flores, a Filipino businessman, brought the first Filipino yo yo to the states. These yo-yos were hand-carved from a single piece of wood and did not have the string tied to the axle. Instead, the string was looped around the axle, allowing the yo-yo to spin or ‘sleep’ at the end of the string. This concept is at the heart of yo-yoing today. Rather than being able to only go up and down, the yo-yo was now capable of doing an infinite number of tricks. (for more information visit

Yo-Yos in Camp

In the very early 90’s the staff at Fire Mountain started to carry light blue yo-yos. They were originally designed and brought in for the Cub Scouts and offered in the Trading Post during Cub Scout week. A few staffers were encouraged to carry them and try to learn some simple tricks. The expectation was not high originally when they came out. The thought being that after that week they would probably just disappear, sit in bottom of bags or hit the trash. But pretty soon EVERY staff member had them in their pockets. During the WHOLE summer they would get in trouble with them. For instance in nature, they would learn “walk the dog” or in crafts, let’s try to learn “around the world” (because finger carving merit badge was not enough there… had to try to add the concussion merit badge also). During that season in particular was the staff and camper comradery was particularly high. Ultimately, the yo-yos came to represent that bond between Fire Mtn and Scouts. At the end of every season, we have a staff “totem”. The year of the yo-yos, we had a massive yo-yo appear off the top of the old climbing tower, light blue in color. As a staff member, that totem truly represented that year for the staff and solidified, what a staffer should be.

In the early 2000’s the Fire Mountain Staff Alumni Association re-introduced the yo yo to the summer camp staff by gifting one to each staff member at the beginning of the summer. During these years several camp staff alumni who staffed in the early 90’s returned to camp and taught staffers the basics of yo and helped spark an enthusiasm for the sport in camp that continues to this day. Many staffers would swap colors with campers thus having one side green and another side shared with a camper. Have you made the Fire Mountain yo-yo a part of your Scouting tradition?