CHRISTMAS TOYS FOR GIRLS AND BOYS
By Karen Utter Jennings
Toys are always a big part of Christmas. Each year, Mother told my brothers and me to make a list of what we wanted for Christmas. Usually, we received two things from the list we wrote. While I reminisced about the old toys from our past Christmases, my curiosity led me to research the history of some of those toys.
The year was 1965 and I asked for a walking doll, which was a hot toy. Every girl wanted a doll that walked. Early on Christmas morning, when my brothers and I couldn’t wait a minute more, we jumped out of bed and rushed to the living room to marvel at the presents strewn around the tree.
When I spied the huge rectangular box with my name on it, I knew. To my fourth grade stature, the doll was amazingly lifelike, standing three and a half feet high. I named her Tonie. She wore size 3 real girl clothing and during the months that followed, I quickly collected clothing for her, keeping the wardrobe in the doll box.
Since I was the only girl in the family, my walking doll was the little sister I never had. I named her Tonie. Tonie had long red hair with poufy bangs and her blue eyes watched me marvel at her beauty. She wore a red dress, white under things with white lace socks and shoes. By taking her left arm and guiding her Tonie walked everywhere with me except to school. I distinctly remember Mom telling me the doll was a Horsman doll and the emphasis she placed on the name meant it was important.
In 1865, E.I. Horsman opened a toy company in New York City. In those early years of manufacturing, they produced a variety of dolls. A Horsman doll meant value and parents wanted quality dolls for their children. During the 1960s, the Horsman Company proudly distributed dolls that looked like celebrities and famous characters such as Cinderella, the Flying Nun, Mary Poppins, Patty Duke and Jacqueline Kennedy, and of course, the wildly popular walking dolls.
As I marveled over my new doll, my brothers, Mike, Bill and Bob, got a Marx Fort Apache Play set that they shared. The fort came in a big box and included figurines of the U.S. Cavalry, the Indians, the walls and gate of the fort along with cannons, tepees and all the accessories. Along with the fort, the boys also got Johnny West and Geronimo dolls to accompany the theme of cowboys and Indians.
Louis Marx & Company toy manufacturers made the Fort Apache Play Sets and the Johnny West and Geronimo boy dolls. The company began in 1919 and is known for producing the famous Yoyo in 1928.
When I asked my husband about his favorite Christmas toy, with a twinkle in his eye, he spoke of his little blue pedal car. He was six years old in 1957 and all he wanted was a car. He got it.
The house his folks lived in at the time allowed him to drive his car around throughout the house. He remembers pedaling the car as fast as his legs would go, bumping into anything and anyone who got in his way.
Toy pedal cars were made after the automobile was invented. However, due to their expense to manufacture, usually only the wealthier families purchased them. Because of World War II, no pedal cars were produced during the 1940s. The miniature cars became increasingly popular and eventually, they were not just for the wealthier families. During the 1960s, plastic replaced much of the metal pedal car production, ending the era of true pedal cars.
In today’s market, collectors vie for vintage toys. The little girls and boys have grown up and have turned the vintage toy market into a big business. The internet is full of websites with toys for sale. Search any of the sites and you are sure to find a replica of that exact toy you once owned as a child. Interestingly, the prices on most vintage toys accommodate everyone from those on a low budget to those who are able to spend thousands of dollars.
And so, I bring you the memories of a few Christmas toys for girls and boys. I wish everyone a happy and safe Merry Christmas. May all your holiday wishes come true, no matter your age!