Looking back over my 70’s childhood we enjoyed blissful times of halcyon Summer days, playing out till late, trusting our neighbours, swapping our toys, and a not too taxing school life. One of the things that featured largely in my young life was toys. As a young girl I can remember obsessing over certain toys, sure that if they could be obtained, life would take on a rosier hue.
One such toy was Tiny Tears. She had been around since the 60’s but was enjoying a resurgence in popularity. She appealed to the Mother in me because she was a small baby with beautiful blonde hair you could comb, and she promised to wet if she was fed from a bottle. How I desired that doll. I don’t know if I ever mentioned my longing to my Mother , probably not, because she never materialised under our Christmas tree. I must have only been about 7, the same age my youngest is almost now, but I can still bring to mind that fervent ache whenever I thought about Tiny Tears.
I was luckier with my next obsession. Sindy, not Barbie, I couldn’t bear Barbie. Sindy was a teenage doll you could dress up and play with. I had a plethora of Sindy paraphernalia. Many of the dolls, a Sindy bedroom with bed and wardrobe and a fully working shower, which, now I think about came in a horrible, orange and brown hue. Definitely 70’s!
The one Sindy item I wanted but never had was the Sindy Townhouse. This was basically a huge dollshouse with a working lift. I wanted it desperately but was wise enough by then to know my single parent Mother could not afford it.
My entire childhood wasn’t only spent playing with toys. I spent hours colouring and reading also. When I think about the many toys my own children have, my own toy box was small in comparison.
One Christmas just after my Father left and my Grandmother was staying my Mother yelled at us for leaving Lego on the stairs. We dutifully went to investigate and were ecstatic to see a box of wrapped Christmas presents on the stairs, one of which was my beloved Etch a Sketch.
Thinking back unless you were artistically inclined the Etch a Sketch was a hard toy to master. It was like a small tv screen with 2 knobs that controlled horizontal and vertical lines on the screen to conjure up a picture. I was disappointed. My own pictures were woefully inadequate in comparison to those on the box. I had neither the talent or the patience to really concentrate on it so eventually it lay in a corner of my room, untouched. Since then I have seen some amazing Etch a Sketch pictures on Google so it just goes to show what a little talent and an enormous amount of patience can do!
When I became a teenager the next toy in vogue was Girl’s World. Thinking about it now, it was quite a horrific thing. A styling head (the hair came in different colours) that you could experiment on with make up and different hairstyles. the one I had came with lots of make up (that I used to try out on myself) and a book showing you the possible achieved different looks. Needless to say, mine never looked quite like the pictures!
The last toy I remember hankering over as a teenager was a realistic looking soft-bodied baby doll. They were made by Famosa and came in both sexes, supplied with a nappy and a bottle so you could satisfy your Mothering instinct to your hearts desire. I am sure I was in High School at this point so it seems a very childish thing to have but I remember all my friends having them too. For what it’s worth it didn’t depart any true Mothering knowledge. I still horrified the midwife after having my first child, by having to ask how to change my little ones nappy.
During my 70’s childhood I do recall other toys that were in vogue and I harboured a secret desire for but these strictly belonged to my brother’s domain, such as Lego, Action Man, and Meccano. He was 2 and a half years older than me and had long outgrown these toys but when he was younger we would sometimes with a show of reluctance, play together. Our Action Men and Sindy Dolls would be married of course and he would horrify me by stripping Sindy down to her bare essentials to have family time with Mr Action Man!
I am pleased to say that now I have my own children many of those loved toys have made a reappearance in our home. I know this because I am repeatedly treading on Lego that has been left out. And you’ve never felt pain unless you have felt the pain of standing on a Lego or a plug!
We live in a time of Electronic gadgetry and mass production of toys, the scale of which could not be imagined in those childhood years but I still think of those toys with a certain fondness. It was a simpler time, that’s for certain but it was also a time of great innocence by and large.
What were your favourite childhood toys? What joy did they bring to your life?
Till next time.
PS, I haven’t really grown up. At the moment I’m enjoying scouring the Charity shops for Polly Pocket toys that were also a childhood toy and one I’m fascinated by for some weird reason.
Tiny Tears image from V & A Museum of Childhood.