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Christmas Toys
Hot Christmas Toys of the 1960s & 70s
by Billy (ho-ho) Ingram

First up, from You Tube, a medley of toy ads from the 1970s:

BOLD Links in this article are to Real Player clips Real Player

Undoubtedly, one toy you'd find under the Christmas Tree of anyone who grew up in the 1960s and '70s was the Slinky, a continuous ring of metal (now plastic) that decended stairs on it's own inertia. (I feel sorry for anyone who didn't have stairs in their home - that was most the fun of the toy.)

The toy originated in 1945 as a hot Christmas novelty available only at Gimbel's Department Store - but sales for "The Original Walking Spring Toy" took off in the early-1960s with a TV campaign and one of the most memorable jingles of all time:
"What walks down stairs,
alone or in pairs,
And makes a slinkity sound?
A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing,
Everyone knows it’s Slinky…"

By the early-seventies, the Slinky line included Slinky Cater-pullers, Slinky Dog and other Slinky variants. Slinky is still produced and will be found under many Christmas Trees this year.

Suzy Homemaker
Christmas Toys / suzie homemaker Every Christmas there's a hot toy that kids clamor for and parents suffer mightily to get.

Back in the early-sixties, the Suzy Homemaker doll from Topper Toys was one of those hot holiday items. The doll didn't incite riots, fist fights or high-priced auctions but it was so popular that, forty years later, you'll hear someone referred to as a "Suzy Homemaker."

She wasn't only a doll there was an entire line of toy stoves, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners - great for the little girl who wants to grow up to be a maid!

For the modern, liberated female Suzy became an object of derision; an anachronistic take on women's roles that was, from their point of view, harmful to impressionable little girls. Why can't G. I. Joe stay home to cook and clean while Suzy Homemaker fights the insurgents in Viet Nam? (Suzy was a few inches taller than Joe so maybe that wasn't such a bad idea.)

The Deluxe Reading company took over the franchise for a while before the Suzy Homemaker doll totally fell out of favor in the early-seventies and the line was discontinued.

classic christmas dollsBut that wasn't the end for Suzy - as you can see in this TV ad from 1977 Suzy was recast as a Raggedy Ann knockoff with a stroller; morphing from molded plastic to cloth. Made in China by Coleco, the new Suzy was helpless, limp and dependent. She went from capable to cuddly - not exactly what the feminists had in mind, I suspect, but nothing they could criticize either.

Evel Knievel Crash Car
classic christmas toy ads / Evel Knievel dollA popular toy for boys in 1973 was the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. The legendary stuntman came with a car that, on impact with a wall or rocks, could break apart to release Knievel to ride away unscathed. Bet you won't find too many of those in mint condition!

Knievel himself was involved in the toy's development but didn't get all the features he hoped for in the final product. "One toy I'd like them to make is my own idea," Knievel explained at the time. "I think it's the most super toy in the world. You wind it up, it goes like a little bugger, goes across the floor, grabs this little Barbie doll, throws her on the floor, gives her a little lovin', jumps back on the motorcycle and goes whizzing out the door screaming, 'G.I. Joe is a faggot!'"

The Micronauts line of toys from Meco in 1976 was a lot like the massively popular Transformers, except the Micronauts came first. They were futuristic robots and vehicles with interchangeable parts that allowed for kids to customise their experience. The basic storyline provided had Space Glider and Bio-Tron battling Baron Karza with the help of their Hydro Copter, Galactic Cruiser and other pull-apart coneyances.

Not as popular as the Transformers would become; but Transformers was a toy line based on a cartoon and all the Micronauts had was a pretty darn good comic book from Marvel.

In the early-1970s, with a backlash against the war, Hasbro reimagined G.I. Joe as an action adventure hero. It worked, this line of accessories was very hot with kids of the day.

Example of the crappy kind of dolls that were produced in the 1970s by Meco. You know the kind - so poorly produced you could barely imagine who the doll was supposed to represent.

Meco had a huge line of toys that included both DC and Marvel characters with ill-fitting outfits that looked like they were produced for 29 cents an hour by child laborers in some sad, far-off land.

Every year this high end department store releases number of items that costs a fortune - one year they had a full sized replica of the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars. Other items: a $20,000 custom-fitted suit of armor, a $10,000 mermaid suit and a $65,000 tricycle with a 330-horsepower V8 Chevy engine, two bucket racing seats a stereo system.

For more than 80 years, the arrival of The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book marks the official start of the holiday season for a certain segment of the population.

Every season in the 1980s there was some new toy that the stores couldn't keep on the shelves while people took to bribing Toy R Us employees. Somehow all the kids that wanted them got them, I'm guessing.

After a month of steady preparation, Christmas Day finally arrives. Presents are torn open, families reunite and the whole bloody ordeal is over before you know it. All that's left is paying for everything you bought.

What was the present you wanted most for Christmas when you were a kid? Let us know!

"What I most wanted for Christmas 1973 was a Desert Fox World War II playset. I was beside myself with joy when I found it beneath the tree."
-Dan Churney

Hi, I was born in Dec 1959 and when the turquoise Easy Bake Oven came out in the early 60's I wanted one so bad.  I had friends that had them, and I got to see how it cooked the tiny cake mixes with a little light bulb.  I am soon to be 50 years old and I wrote to Vermont Country Store to see if they could get Kenner to create a reproduction of the original, not a microwave like now a days.  No luck yet.  

I always wanted a Madame Alexander Big Baby doll as well.  Never got one of those either.  I did have a 1967 Twist and Turn Barbie and a Crissy Doll and Talking PJ doll and Snugglebuns with her Play All Six from Remco.  I wish I still had my childhood toys.  I am trying to collect them back, thanks  to Ebay and Mattel making reproductions of Barbies.  I also had the Dawn Dolls.  Those were a lot of fun as well. We baby boomers need to preserve our childhood.  Our generation is the most unique and imaginative of all generations, even to come.  Notice how everyone now a days copies our songs and our shows and our styles.  Thanks for the memories.  
- Elaine Hoffman

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