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It’s Christmas day 1960 and little Suzie is sitting on her uncarpeted living room floor beneath a beautifully decorated cedar Christmas tree as Frank Sinatra croons The Christmas Song from the all wood Zenith radio in the corner. The little girl looks wide eyed at her mom and dad as she hugs a big red shiny box with a green bow.
“Please let it be Barbie….please let it be Barbie”, she repeats in her head over and over.
“Go ahead…open it honey” her mother edges on.
Suzie slowly unties the bow and noisily rips through the red wrapping paper and starts to scream with joy when sure enough, looking through a plastic window in the box is Ruth Handler’s creation, “Barbie Millicent Roberts”, a full busted sexy looking doll standing 11 1/2 inches tall, wearing a black and white striped swimsuit with sunglasses, high-heeled shoes, and gold-colored hoop earrings, costing $3.00. (Walsh, Tim. Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them (Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2005); Rogers, Mary F. Barbie Culture (London: Sage Publications Ltd., 1999).]

Fast forward to Christmas day 2007, little Amber and her parents sit on her bed as N sync’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas booms from her iPod speakers. She too hoping and praying that the huge purple box in front of her contains the now most famous doll in the world. But surely not just a singular doll. Also for Barbie’s 4 room mansion, furnishings, friends, dog and other accoutrements costing $299.99.

It would be a fair statement to say that in forty more years the Christmas wish list of every little girl in the free world would still contain this famous doll because it is estimated that every second two Barbie’s are sold somewhere in the world!

But while a few things have stayed the same, a lot more has changed. During the 50s and 60s boomer children were blissfully happy going outside to entertain themselves; and they didn’t need much to have fun. Most of the toys required children to be physically active and to have an active imagination. Think of the Hula Hoop craze that took off in 1958. How many hours in the summer did kids spend in Hula Hoop competitions, Hula Hoop parties, and even Hula Hoop-a-thons? Hackey sack, Frisbee, Slinky, Superball, Pogo stick and simple Jump Rope, these were all toys that allowed children and teenagers to enjoy hours of fun outdoors. The 50s, 60s and 70s also saw the rise of many board games which were great because they allowed children to interact with their peers and spend quality time with their family. The hugely popular Candyland, Clue, Monopoly, Parcheesi, Scrabble, Sorry!, Labyrinth, Risk, Tiddlywinks and even the hair raising Ouija Board; all these games were a way to bring families and friends together.

Less television viewing during this time meant fewer distractions in the form of TV commercials. If little Johnny in 1960 wanted the new Mattel Tommy Burst Submachine Gun it was because he saw it in the display case of his local toy store, or because his buddy Pete across the street got it for his birthday last month.
That’s not the case today; it is estimated that kids are exposed to 1500 commercial messages a day. With TV and the advent of the Internet today’s 12 year-old is more technologically advanced than his 40 year-old dad! The other day a friend of mine, told me her grandson wanted the Hasbro Nerf N Strike Vulcan for his birthday and she asked me to find out what it was just in case it was some misplaced weapon of mass destruction that could burn the house down. Any top 10 toy list today will have many robots, iPods, and video games that require a lot less physical activity and not as much imagination from a child as the simple toys from yesteryear.

But all hope is not lost, many of the games that were made famous in the 50s and 60s have remained as classics now for the tech-savvy dot-com children to enjoy. Toys like Lego, Mr. Potato-head, Barbie, Monopoly still make many top 10 toys lists every year, giving us hope that perhaps the magic, wonder and imagination of playtime of the past can still be enjoyed by the kids of today.

Have your own favorite yesteryear playtime activity to share? Come join us at www.bomeryearbook.com and continue your journey down memory lane.

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