Retro Dee is a regular contributor to The Grooveyard’s website, writing about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s. Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every Wednesday.
Hi, folks! It’s Retro Dee with another swell edition of “Life in the 50’s!”
For this post, I’ll be highlighting some of the more popular toys that kids in the Nifty Fifties would find under their Christmas trees.
The 1950’s were a good time for most families. The war was over and The Great Depression was far behind them. Most families were comfortable, middle class families with a well-paid working father, and a stay-at-home mother. This stable family structure saw a surge in the abundance of many types of playthings available for children.
So what kinds of toys did children play with in the 50’s?
Let’s have a look at some of the popular toys of the day:
Kiddie Cars were kid-sized toy cars that kids could drive! These fantastically crafted toys were popular in the 1950’s due to the fact that many families could now afford such an elaborate gift to give to their child.
Kiddie Cars were modeled after the real things which means, like the actual cars of the 1950’s, they had a distinct, classic look. And pray make no mistake, this was no simple toy! Some Kiddie Cars had a pedal-driven two-speed transmission and ball bearings in rear axle supports to increase “roadability”… Golly!
Kiddie Cars were so detailed, and so beautifully made, that they have become true collectors items, rare to find in their original form.
Triva: Hallmark has made a whole line of ornaments based on the Kiddie Cars of the 1950’s!
Another popular toy of the 1950’s was the slinky. Slinky was available in many fun forms as seen in this 1957 advertisement:
Toys For Boys!
Cars, trains, planes and trucks have been and perhaps always will be an interest of little boys. In the 1950’s, small versions of vehicles were made of metal and painted carefully, with detailed moving wheels and other articulated pieces. Plastic toys were also beginning to regularly show up on the market.
And For Girls:
Dolls of the 1950’s were new and exciting! For the first time, rubber and vinyl non-breakable dolls were widely available to little girls everywhere. They were now ready to be played with and loved without the fear of being dropped. And with a new mechanical design, some dolls could even walk! Life-size dolls, that were about the size of a real little girl were such as “Saucy Walker”, were all the rage.
Baby dolls that drank and wet were also available on the toy market, such as the famous “Betsy Wetsy”. Dolls with eyes that closed when they lay down were and new exciting feature. And, of course, there were plenty of cute, well sewn clothes to go with them all!
Also for little girls, miniature aluminum kitchenware was available so they could pretend to cook and bake all day – just like Mommy!
More Everyday Household Items:
Small toy versions of other every day items were also available to kids, much like they are today. For example, telephones.
Now here’s a funny story for ya! I found this ad on eBay in 2016 when I first began my journey into the past. I looked at the prices (between $0.89 and $2.98) and I thought: “WOW. Phones sure were inexpensive in the 50’s!”
But upon closer inspection, I discovered what I was looking at were actually TOY PHONES! (You’d think the Jimmie Dodd talking Mickey Mouse phone would have clued me in.) I must’ve laughed for an hour… Sure, things were less expensive then, but not that much less expensive!
Career Oriented Toys:
Career-themed toys were also beginning to become popular for both boys and girls, preparing them for their future as adults. Boys could play Doctor, while girls were always the nurse.
Girls also had more accessories than ever for their dolls such as cradles, high chairs, baths, beds and of course, more kitchen stuff to feed their family! These items were made of quality materials- the doll beds and highchairs were made of solid wood or metal, not plastic.
And don’t forget the dishes! Dish washing sets complete with miniature soap boxes of Ajax, Vel and Brillo were available, gift-packed and ready to give.
But what was bar none, THE BIGGEST trend of the 1950’s for youngsters? Why, Cowboys of course! Kids enjoyed dressing up like cowboys and cowgirls from head to toe and pretending that they were fighting for the Old West– just like their favorite television stars.
Toy guns, like the Gene Autry models shown in this 1954 Woolworth’s catalog were an absolute must-have for kids of that generation.
Well, that about closes my post on toys of the 1950’s! Stay tuned for future editions of “Life in the ’50’s”
If you liked this post, you can follow me on Twitter @RealRetroDee and Instagram @mariepascal82
— Retro Dee
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Good post. I had a few of those toys. My favorite was a Mr. Wizard Chemistry Set. I almost burned the house down!