When I was a child, at least I never had to worry that my doll might eat my hair off. In the 1970s, one of Mattel’s Cabbage Patch Kids (Snack Time Kid) was recalled because it had a habit of snagging the long hair of little girls and chomping its way up to the scalp, where it yanked out patches of hair by the roots. It had no on/off switch, so the only way to save the child was to either remove the doll’s batteries of cut the child’s hair.

I did have a doll which opened and closed its eyes, but that was the extent of its talent. Our toys were few and primitive by today’s standards. If we had a few balls, a doll, a truck, and a board game, we considered ourselves well-equipped in the toy department. In my opinion, no toy can beat the play potential of an empty refrigerator box.

Some of my friends had Lincoln Logs. The rest of us made our own. I spent many afternoons sprawled on my stomach in the dirt, building an entire village out of rows of broken twigs stuck into the ground.

Sometimes we spent hours turning our sandbox into a miniature golf course, with water hazards, traps, and obstacles. Popsicle sticks and marbles made dandy golf clubs and golf balls.

The freedom we had! We played outside (unsupervized) from dawn until dusk. We climbed trees, rode bikes, and walked to town or to the playground. We played hopscotch, hide and seek, jump rope, and roller skated downhill on the sidewalk. We built clubhouses in the woods and waded in the creeks catching crawdads. Every house on the street was home to four or five kids, so playmates were always outside and available.

When the weather was unsuitable for outdoor play, we played Monopoly or Jacks indoors. There were no computers, video games, or cell phones. We had a big, boxy television, but it only got three or four stations, and none of the offerings were of interest to kids, except on Saturdays. We didn’t dare whine to Mom that we were bored. She’d find us something to do, but it was likely to be cleaning the garage or ironing huge piles of freshly washed laundry.

Mom, who was resouceful and imaginative, taught us how to make our own dollhouses out of cardboard shoe boxes. A washcloth laid in the bottom became a carpet. Two books, stacked and covered with another washcloth, made a passable bed for Barbie dolls. From the Sears catalog we cut out pictures of furniture, curtains, framed artwork, and lamps, etc., which we fastened to the box’s “walls” with homemade flour-and-water paste. When we’d finished several rooms, we’d arrange the boxes in a variety of floor plans or stack them to make a two-story house. It was great fun and cost nothing.

I still have a couple of raggedy-looking old Barbie dolls. Barbie, the perrenial buxom blond, continues to fascinate little girls with her surreal beauty and seemingly endless variety of career and hobby accessories. I keep hoping for a Tax Preparer Barbie, who’d come with her own calculator and a list of tax loopholes.

My favorite Barbie is Dr. Barbie, who came in a box designed to look like a medical office, accessorized with tiny surgical instruments. When I carefully looked over Barbie and her office with a magnifying glass, I found a miniature diploma on her office wall stating that she is board-certified in Internal Medicine, and what looks like blood stains on her lab coat.

Before I go to sleep tonight, I’m going to draw arrows pointing to the cellulite on my hips and thighs, and tuck a pamphlet on liposuction into the pocket of Barbie’s lab coat.


2 thoughts on “Toys, in the Era before Video Games

    1. Gosh I forgot about Slinky. We played with that until it got so stretched out that it wouldn’t go down the steps anymore. I had no skill with a yo-yo at all, but my husband was amazing at it when he was young. Thanks for being a regular reader of my blogs. I appreciate your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

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