Alnwick, Family History Society
This months meeting 'Our Favourite Toy' took the form of a members' discussion, which was linked to the current exhibition at the museum.
This exhibition had been one of the most successful in recent years.
Nearly everyone had brought along a much-loved toy or were able to speak about and share their memories. Often this sparked off others remembering a cherished toy from childhood.
The period of toys covered was from the 1930s until the early 1960s very different from todays. Toys from the earlier period were often homemade and needed a child’s imagination.
Teddies were a prominent toy either inherited or received as a gift, often called just “Teddy” they were treasured and loved. A teddy owned by a child at the start of 1900 was brought along to the evening still in good repair.
Dolls were also a significant toy and came in a variety of sizes and materials from ceramic to plastic. Some were able to talk when wound up and dressed by close family and friends.
Dolls hospital were clearly remembered as a place to have dolls repaired and existed in most towns. Black dolls and Gollys were fondly played with. Dolls houses were a highly prized toy and the furniture was mainly homemade consisting of match boxes covered with cotton wool and fabric to create chairs etc. Prams to put the dolls in were often large enough to carry a small child or even a dog dressed up in clothes and pushed around.
Many hours would be spent playing with early construction rubber bricks called Minnie Bricks, which slotted together. These were the pre cursor of Lego.
Meccano was also highly prized and relied on a child’s skill and dexterity. Fuzy Felt allowed for hours of enjoyment and the creation of pictures. Roller skates that adjusted to fit the child and bicycles were a great source of fun and freedom.
Larger toys like an old school desk were often used to play shops when it formed a counter with a till and small empty packets. A small stool would become a scooter, throne or fort. Clothes horses and old packing cases made tents or dens.
Books were very special and their titles and stories vividly recalled. One short poetry book called “Drinkle Donkle Do” was so fondly remembered that a search of the internet found it and a copy was obtained from America. Children’s Bibles, Famous Five and numerous children’s books were treasured and kept over the years.
Listening to people’s very personal accounts ignited memories of childhood long forgotten, the sound of a cap gun and the smell, a teddies growl or a doll’s voice.
Did these childhood toys lead on to careers associated with them? Well, it seems it did in some cases.
It did when love of building bricks encouraged an interest is architecture and a child’s bible lead to becoming a lay reader. The meeting closed at 9pm.