The 1960s was a time of social change and memorable music, but the radical era was a time for toys as well. Baby boomers who were children during the 1960s got much of their information about toys from commercials that ran during Saturday morning programming -- children's cartoons. Whether received as birthday or Christmas presents, or simply wished for, some toys first produced in the 1960s are still being made -- and continue to inspire childhood memories.
In 1964, G.I. Joe -- a 12-inch action figure representing America's armed forces -- hit the market. Throughout the decades, G.I. Joe evolved in image and size -- from original 12-inch military hero to the 8-inch Sigma 6 edition, the 2 1/2-inch mission scale figures and the 3 3/4-inch Real American Hero. According to the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club website, G.I. Joe was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fall in 2004.
In 1960, Mattel advertised the 20-inch "talking" doll Chatty Cathy. A record fit into a slot in the doll's side, and when a child tugged on a ring attached to a pull-string on Chatty Cathy's upper back, the doll "spoke" one of 11 phrases, including "I love you." Brady Bunch actresses Maureen McCormack and Eve Plumb appeared in original Chatty Cathy commercials, and McCormack was the voice of Mattel's 1970s version of the doll.
Barbie's New Friends
Mattel's Barbie doll arrived on store shelves in 1959, but Ken, her boyfriend, didn't appear until 1961. Barbie transformed throughout the 60s, wearing trendier clothes and trading her 50s ponytail for straight fringe and a shoulder-length flip. By 1967, standard Barbie was joined by a new version that could "twist 'n turn," and other Mattel fashion dolls, such as Francie and Casey, joined Barbie's crowd.
The board game Operation became available in 1965. Children take turns operating on a patient named Cavity Sam, who has a red light bulb for a nose. Cavity Sam's nose lights up and a buzzer sounds if the "doctor's" attempt at removing a body part, such as the funny bone, is unsuccessful.
Wild-haired, scrunched-faced troll dolls became a hit with children and adults in 1963. The little dolls, originally produced in Denmark in the late 1950s and viewed as good luck charms, appeared on "Time" and "Life" magazine covers. A million troll dolls were sold in 1964 alone, and vintage trolls are valuable collectibles.
Etch A Sketch
Although the idea for a toy of its type was originally invented by a French electrician in the late 1950s, the Ohio Art Company produced the first Etch A Sketch for sale in 1960. To create a picture using this drawing toy, a child turns two knobs below the flat grey screen to move a stylus vertically or horizontally, and the etching -- created in aluminium powder -- is then displayed on the screen. Shaking the toy erases the screen. Currently, classic, travel, pocket and mini Etch A Sketches are sold.
At a price of £10.30 each, 500,000 Easy-Bake ovens were sold in 1963, its first year on the market. Children could heat their very own mini TV dinners in the oven in 1965, and General Mills offered tiny boxed cake mixes to use with the oven by 1968. Since then, the oven's original heat source -- a 100-watt bulb -- has been replaced by a heating element. In 2006, the Easy-Bake oven was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.
The Thingmaker provided a heating element, moulds and plastic goop, which allowed children to create their own toys in the 1960s. Spin-offs of the original Thingmaker set included Creepy Crawlers and Creeple People -- to make rubbery insects and creatures -- as well as Fun Flowers, for younger members of the "flower power" generation and Fighting Men, to make toy soldiers, weapons and accessories.
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