What did you play when you were young?

Midweek Visiter - - Age Concern -

AF­TER the war Bri­tain was far from wealthy. Nev­er­the­less, at the start of the 1950s, the de­mand for toys in­creased rapidly, prob­a­bly fu­elled by the short­ages that fam­i­lies, and par­tic­u­larly chil­dren, had suf­fered from for so long.

Chil­dren still played with the toys their par­ents had played with, the tra­di­tional favourites like teddy bears, guns, build­ing kits, scoot­ers, dolls houses and tea sets.

But new toys were also com­ing into fash­ion.

Model cars were the top sell­ers and Bri­tain’s Les­ney’s Match­box se­ries and Met­toy’s Corgi cars were lead­ing the world.

Mec­cano, the con­struc­tion set toy in­vented by lo­cal man Frank Hornby, was still sell­ing well nearly 50 years af­ter it was re­leased.

With the war re­cently ended, there were calls on both sides of the At­lantic to ban toy weapons.

Boys in par­tic­u­lar had for cen­turies played with weapons of all sorts, im­pro­vised or shop-bought, but dur­ing the 1950s, such war toys be­gan to be dis­cour­aged.

New toys ap­peared from abroad in­cluded Lego, which al­though launched in 1955, did not make a huge im­pact un­til the 1970s when it won Toy of the Year three times.

From the US came Scrab­ble, in­vented by Alfred Butts af­ter he lost his job dur­ing the de­pres­sion of the 1930s. The first sets avail­able in Bri­tain were made by JW Spears and Sons in 1953.

In Bri­tain thou­sands of fam­i­lies had bought a tele­vi­sion set to watch the corona­tion of Queen El­iz­a­beth II in 1953 and TV swiftly took over from ra­dio as the prin­ci­pal provider of news, en­ter­tain­ment and prod­uct pro­mo­tion for chil­dren and adults.

The re­sult of this was a de­mand for toys which chil­dren had seen on TV.

Muf­fin the Mule was the first of the great stars of chil­dren’s TV in Bri­tain, mak­ing his de­but in Oc­to­ber 1946 with Annette Mills.

He re­mained a pop­u­lar fea­ture in Watch with Mother un­til 1955 when Annette died.

Bri­tish chil­dren bought many Muf­fin toys and nov­el­ties, which had been li­censed by Ann Hog­a­rth and Annette Mills through the Muf­fin Syn­di­cate.

One sim­ple toy that took over the 50s mar­ket was the Hula-Hoop.

All over Bri­tain, chil­dren chal­lenged each other to see who could keep it spin­ning for long­est.

In 1957 Scalex­tric caused a sen­sa­tion at the Har­ro­gate Toy Fair.

The first set cost £6 and de­mand was so great that the firm could not cope with the num­ber of or­ders and had to sell out to Lines Bros.

At the same time, more and more plas­tic toys ap­peared.

Moth­ers took to plas­tic toys im­me­di­ately be­cause of their hy­gienic prop­er­ties and be­cause they could be washed in­def­i­nitely, while man­u­fac­tur­ers liked plas­tic as it was cheap and easy to pro­duce at scale.

Also dur­ing the late 1950s, chil­dren’s fas­ci­na­tion with the un­known was fu­elled by comics like Ea­gle, and films like Godzilla and The Crea­ture from the Black La­goon.

Firms Char­bens and Cher­ilea both pro­duced mod­els of as­tro­nauts and space crea­tures in what would prove just the beginning of a huge de­mand for science fic­tion toys in the 1960s.

Scrab­ble was in­vented in the US and the first sets avail­able in Bri­tain were made by JW Spears and Sons in 1953

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