Some toys ‘born’ from mistake

Published 3:54 pm Monday, May 20, 2013

While rummaging through some items I need to put aside for a yard sale one day, I found a doll that my granddaughter had left at my house years ago. It resembled the Cabbage Patch dolls that catapulted into popularity in the early 1980s. And yes, I remember that she had one of those, too, a real Cabbage Patch. Not realizing she was listening to my conversation with her mother one day, I commented that I thought Cabbage Patch dolls were about the ugliest dolls I had ever seen. Later she called me on that!

I have been perusing my son’s loaded bookshelves again and found some more information about those unique Cabbage Patch dolls. They were called “Little People” by the originator, art student Xavier Roberts, who actually founded Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Ga., in the 1970s. During an interview, Roberts said he called them Cabbage Patch babies because he was told when he was a child that he came from a cabbage patch. Today you can go on line to see the hospital where the Cabbage Patch dolls are still “delivered.” Or next time you visit Georgia, you might want to drive to the small town of Cleveland and see for yourself.

Speaking of toys from an earlier time, I was reminded of Silly Putty in a book I picked up. It was developed way back in 1943 by a researcher who was trying to come up with synthetic rubber. Seven years later it made an appearance as a toy.

The Slinky that still fascinates us came on the scene in 1943, invented by a naval engineer.

During the 1950s, a real “biggie” turned up to win little girls’ hearts—the Barbie doll. In December 1959, I took our son and daughter with me on a voyage aboard the U.S.N.S. Patch to Germany to join my soldier husband. He was stationed in Bamberg. My little girl had not yet been touched by Barbie’s appearance. I was glad because, frankly, I was a little shocked that such a “mature” doll was on the market. Of course, just like every other little girl at that time, she soon convinced her mother that she had to have her own Barbie and began collecting her Barbie wardrobe. Barbie’s popularity led to the formation of the Mattel Toy Company.

In mid-1950, a man and his nephew, Joseph and Noah McVicker, tried to invent something to clean coal residue from wall paper and were apparently unsuccessful. However, they wound up with something later named Play-Doh. Who isn’t familiar with Play-Doh even today?

One of my favorite toys was invented in 1914—Tinker Toys. My cousin Harold, several years younger, shared his Tinker Toys with me. During one of my visits, his dad brought us both a present. Harold’s was more Tinker Toys; mine was a doll with a hard head and fabric body. Despite my disappointment, I minded my manners with a forced smile and told him, “Thank you.”