If I could find the playthings I adored as a child, an expert would label them antiques or vintage or simply just old toys. They don’t make my favorite childhood things any more, at least not the way they used to; but I still have those big-family-toys-aplenty memories. They are warm and full of love and magical enough to make me smile all these years later. I’d like to share a few of those favorite childhood toy memories with you.
The printable paper dolls on the web are a fair imitation of the pop culture charmers the Mills Brothers sang about long ago, but they’re not like what I had in the 50s. My paper dolls were pink, die-cut ladies wearing white undies. They were cut from something more like fiber board than paper.
Fifties vintage paper dolls came with a book of colorful paper outfits. The shoulders and waists had fold-down tabs to keep them in place. The sad thing about genuine vintage paper dolls is that they are all probably long gone and biodegraded into the earth. I suppose they were just too Green before their time. And what do you mean you never heard of the Mills Brothers?
The Original Mr. Potato Head Funny Face Kit
If there were such a thing as the Toy Pop Culture lifetime achievement award, Mr. Potato Head and his wife would certainly win. While their popularity may have faded over the years, you can still buy a Mr. Potato Head in toy stores. Unfortunately you can’t get that genuine, Old School Potato Head experience I had when I was a kid.
Vintage Mr. Potato Head Funny Face Kit came with add-on facial features and a weird little body with over-sized feet, but no plastic potato. We used the real thing… genuine Idaho spuds or cucumbers or carrots or whatever veggies we preferred. Playing with food was half the fun.
When I first saw a Chatty Cathy commercial, I remember thinking, “neato.” (We really said things like that in the 60s.) There were very few pretty Black dolls back then. Most of them looked like refugees from a brown paint factory, until Chatty Cathy came along in both White and Brown-skinned versions.
Chatty Cathy dolls were pretty (in a baby doll sort of way) When you pulled their strings they said things like, “I love you.” Back then, that was pretty cool.
I loved my little red record player. The sound was thin and watery and it was about 250 times as big as an Ipod, but watching a record turn round and round was hypnotic, even for a child. My record player looked like a little suitcase. It had a handle to carry it from place to place. Inside was a turntable with a shiny silver spindle to hold the records as they played.
There was an art to playing records. You slipped one onto the spindle. You lifted the arm and placed the needle into the first groove, gently to keep from scratching a permanent ‘hiccup’ into the music. It’s hard to find a record player these days, but you can find the LP and 45 RPM records like I used to play. Crafters melt them down and upcycle them into Green crafts, like candy dishes and such.
When I was about 14, my sister and I had matching paper dresses. They weren’t toys, but I loved them. They were simple A-line tunics you slipped over your head and buttoned in the back. The ‘fabric’ was paper towel thick, gauzy and soft and in very 60s floral patterns. Those dresses didn’t look like paper at all, but I got a kick out of telling people they were.
You couldn’t wash paper dresses, because they were paper; and after a few uses the fabric would stretch and wear in spots. Perhaps that’s why they were never really that popular with anyone but me.
My head filled with old school memories