My Favourite Toy
The main reason I got so excited about Christmas was as a kid was because it was a time I used to get loads of fantastic new toys. The presents I get nowadays are just not as exciting as they were back then. And I suppose I’m a lot more cynical in my old age.
However, of late I’ve had conversations with people my age about favourite Christmas presents of childhood, and that’s got me thinking back to my favourite toys.
I have to say that my favourite toy of all time was Action Girl. I don’t remember what year I got her, or even if she was actually a Christmas present. But she was manufactured between 1971 and 1977, and my guess was I got mine around 1976, when I was about six or so. This picture on the right is actually of my doll – same red hair, same outfit. And she was presented in this box. Check out that psychedelic 1970s outfit – all brown and orange!
There were many accessories available for Action Girl, including clothes and furniture. One of my big beefs was that apart from the rubber boots that she came with (see picture) none of the shoes you could buy her ever actually fit. Unlike other fashion dolls, Action Girl’s feet were realistic looking, with soles and heels and five toes. The plastic high-heeled shoes that generically came with every Action Girl outfit never actually fit on her feet properly.
In the UK, we didn’t really have Barbie in the 1970s. We had Sindy instead, who was a fashion doll known for her distinctive round head and big eyes. I had a Sindy too, but I preferred Action Girl. Action Girl was fully flexible and every joint could bend. Each section of the doll was connected to the next joint by a length of wire. It wasn’t pretty, but it made her far more interesting than Sindy, who wasn’t nearly as flexible.
Unlike Action Girl Sindy is still available, but she’s been through a few face lifts since she looked like she does in this picture. In the 1980s she looked rather a lot like Barbie. So much so, in fact, the manufacturers of Sindy got sued at one point by the manufacturers of Barbie, so Sindy’s face had to change once more. Nowadays, it seems she looks a lot more like she did originally, and she’s once more got the round head and large eyes.
Although I preferred Action Girl to Sindy, Sindy had far more accessories than Action Girl did, and with Sindy being a more enduring design they were more easily available. So over several Christmases I got Sindy’s bed, and dressing table, and wardrobe, and even Sindy’s horse, but I used them with Action Girl, not Sindy. I never got the saddle for the horse, so Action Girl used to ride bareback. She was cool that way.
I named my Action Girl Jennifer, and she went everywhere with me. I even took her into the bath with me, which in retrospect was a bad idea. First of all, those metal pins holding her joints together rusted. And her hair, which was made of nylon, frizzed up and got completely ruined after the first dip. But none of this bothered me. I loved her, and the two of us had many wonderful adventures.
When we moved from England to Canada in 1980, we had to get rid of a lot of our toys because we couldn’t take them all. Action Girl was one I made a point of taking with me. When I moved back to England, aged 18, limited on space again and having to get rid of stuff once more, I still brought Action Girl with me. For much of the last decade, I had her sitting on my PC, inspiring me to write. She got put in a box when we moved house two years ago, and sadly didn’t fare too well in the move. In fact she broke in half. Her waist was fastened with that rusted pin and two elastic bands, connecting her top torso to the bottom and allowing her to swivel, but after 35 years those elastic bands were perished. Somewhere over the last few decades one of her plastic hands, which also swivelled (I thought it was neat that her wrists could move in a complete circle), broke and fell off and got lost. But I can’t bear to throw her out, so she’s still up in the attic in a box. I’m still trying to decide if I want to get her restored to her former glory, or whether it’s best to keep her in her original state, battered and broken though she may be. At least this proves how much she was loved.
So, with a week to go until Christmas, it seems appropriate to open this topic up to conversation. Can you remember those Christmases past, and what your favourite childhood toy was?