On Santa’s list through the 1960s

Black Country Bugle - - GAIL MIDDLETON -

IT’S here again – and by now, fraz­zled par­ents are hop­ing for a stress-free Christ­mas! But, will this year’s top toys be the ones the kids re­mem­ber for­ever?

This year’s must-haves in­clude: ‘Poop­sie Unicorn Slime Sur­prise’ – the fa­bled crea­ture poop­ing out glit­tery slime! Or, there’s the more pro­saic, ‘Don’t Step In It’ game – promis­ing ‘blind-folded poop dodg­ing fun’. At just un­der a whop­ping £150, peren­nial favourite, Lego, has a ‘Cre­ative Tool­box’ to keep dads and kids away from the wash­ing up! While those nor­mally averse to board games might en­joy the ‘Mo­nop­oly Cheaters Edi­tion’ – where cheat­ing, or ‘what you can get away with’ is oblig­a­tory!


Just like to­day, back in the 1950s and ’60s, our par­ents lost sleep over the must-have Christ­mas toys of the day. But, we still en­joyed tra­di­tional gifts like books and games – and most toys were sim­pler, then. There were no PCS, mo­bile phones or in­ter­net – and many toys didn’t even need bat­ter­ies, let alone wifi. Scalex­tric or Mec­cano was about as hi-tech as it got.

But we were en­ter­ing a new age. More fam­i­lies had TVS and kids craved toys in­flu­enced by pop stars, or film and TV char­ac­ters – like Sooty and Sweep pup­pets, mod­els of James Bond’s As­ton Mar­tin DB5, or Thun­der­birds mod­els. Toys were still very gen­dered, dolls and dolls houses for girls, cap guns and Air­fix mod­els for boys.

Luck­ily for my sis­ter and I, our par­ents em­braced the swing­ing six­ties vibe – hence our top present for 1964 was a stylish blue Dansette por­ta­ble record player. Up un­til then we played our sin­gles on the big Decca Ra­dio­gram in the lounge. As a tod­dler, my kid sis­ter had twid­dled the knobs on that so much the ra­dio was per­ma­nently stuck on the Home Ser­vice. Now, we could re­treat to our bed­room and play our favourite sin­gles as much as we liked.

Per­haps it was por­ta­ble record play­ers and tran­sis­tor ra­dios that re­ally trig­gered the modern phe­nom­e­non of kids liv­ing in their bed­rooms.

Yet, back in the ’60s, we were all still fam­ily fo­cused – eat­ing to­gether, watch­ing TV and films to­gether, play­ing cards and favourite board games. So, what did we hope to find in our Christ­mas stock­ings?

In 1960, Lego was seen for the first time in Bri­tain, and the rest is his­tory. The ver­sa­tile blocks be­came a mas­sive hit, out­selling pre­dicted favourites, that year. Lynne and I had a set – to build a minia­ture sub­ur­ban house, com­plete with gar­den. A far cry from Lego’s in­ge­nious de­signs, to­day. But it came with cute lit­tle flow­ers you could slot into flower beds.

The year be­fore, we had a real dolls house, lov­ingly made by Dad, us­ing bits and pieces he had in the shed. Mom made the cur­tains and car­pets from scraps. They even made ba­sic fur­ni­ture and a pair of Mr and Mrs Peg Dolls – all done when we were safely tucked up in bed.

By 1961 Scalex­tric had re­ally taken off, com­ing third in the best sell­ers list, just be­hind Noddy. Our friend next door in­vited us round – thank­fully not to see Noddy – but his gleam­ing rac­ing cars, which were rather wasted on us girls! We couldn’t wait to get back home to put on a magic show with our con­jur­ing set – with the fam­ily as cap­tive guinea pigs!

The same year Amer­i­can Bar­bie ac­quired a boyfriend, Ken – stand­ing half an inch taller than his gal. Man­u­fac­tur­ers Mat­tel fret­ted over whether or not to make him ‘anatom­i­cally cor­rect’ – in the end putting him into a pair of un­re­mov­able ‘perma-pants’! Noddy prob­a­bly had some, too.

In 1962, Air­fix was one of the top toys as boys and Dads went model mad. Mouse­trap also stormed on the scene, with the catch­phrase ‘It’s fun to build this com­i­cal won­der, but woe to the mouse who gets caught un­der.’ Judg­ing by the way he licked his lips, our old cat Billy thought he could do bet­ter!


In 1963 Bar­bie had a Bri­tish ri­val – Sindy – ‘the doll you love to dress’. In con­trast to the more buxom Amer­i­can blonde, Sindy was the fresh faced girl next door – and far trendier! Her out­fits were straight from Carn­aby Street – and be­fore long she had her own mop-top, Beat­lesque boyfriend, Paul. I can’t say whether or not Paul wore perma-pants as my own Sindy was more in­ter­ested in her pony and rid­ing sta­bles. Later, my sis­ter ac­quired Sindy’s lit­tle sis­ter, Patch, both of them swan­ning around in Sindy’s fab Mini.

The same year, boys got Match­box cars, with open­ing doors – and Diplo­macy was top board game.

It was 1964 that saw the mo­men­tous ar­rival of our own Dansette por­ta­ble record player, to­tally eclips­ing other presents. Beatle­ma­nia con­tin­ued apace, with fans cov­et­ing the new Fab Four Dolls. We stuck to col­lect­ing the se­ries of ‘au­to­graphed’ pic­ture cards given away with bub­ble gum. Dur­ing a re­cent clear out at home, I found one of these fea­tur­ing Paul Mccart­ney. If only the au­to­graph had been real I’d be in the Sey­chelles by now!

In 1965 a model be­came the first ever Toy of the Year – James Bond’s fa­mous As­ton Mar­tin DB5. I found one in my Christ­mas stock­ing, which was nice – but I think Dad got it as a sub­sti­tute for the real thing! We were also given the amaz­ing new Spiro­graph – who knew trac­ing in­tri­cate de­signs us­ing coloured pens and ser­rated plas­tic shapes could be so ab­sorb­ing?


1966 was the year of Tiny Tears – the first ‘drink and wet’ doll – and Ac­tion Man – the first doll in the UK for boys. These weren’t on our Christ­mas list, but Twis­ter was, which we loved. That Christ­mas was a bumper year for us kids as we came down to find two, gleam­ing Raleigh bi­cy­cles tak­ing up most of the liv­ing room. There were still far fewer cars on the roads then and we were free to cy­cle for miles.

1967 was a good year, with the fab­u­lous Etch-a-sketch and Ker­plunk. Clas­sic naval war­fare game, Bat­tle­ships, was also pop­u­lar.

In 1968, Sindy won Toy of the Year again (win­ning again in 1970). Younger kids loved Fisher Price’s Snoopy – ‘a dog on wheels’. He also barked. And fans of the ‘caped cru­sader’ went made for Bat­man’s Util­ity Belt – which came with hand­cuffs and su­per gun.

The last Christ­mas of the ’60s was all about Hot Wheels – its track sys­tem of ramps, loops and curves en­abling death de­fy­ing stunts – as long as you had a re­ally smooth, flat sur­face to lay it on – and didn’t have a pet cat or dog! In the 1990s, we got a set for our son, but our Jack Rus­sell thought it was a strange ver­sion of fetch!

Look­ing back, the Christ­mas toys I re­call weren’t nec­es­sar­ily the most ex­pen­sive or lat­est trend – but those that gave last­ing fun, and the hap­pi­est mem­o­ries.

As for me this year, if Santa hap­pens to call at Greggs, I’d love one of their sausage roll phone cases! Merry Christ­mas!

Doo­dle di­al­ing fun with the Etch A Sketch

Ad­vert for the Dansette Diplo­mat

Sindy was the UK’S an­swer to the all-amer­i­can Bar­bie

Lego ar­rived in the six­ties, and has been a firm favourite to this day

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