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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fisher-Price Memories

Before I get into today’s entry, I just wanted to take the time to remember someone who meant a lot to me.

If you want to, you can read the entry that I wrote about her that is dated December 21, 2011, but it was one year ago today that I ended up losing a dear friend of mine.  There are just some friends out there who make a lasting impression on your life, and for whatever reason, you will always remember them even long after they pass away.

On December 19, 2011, my friend Teresa (who I affectionately called Pierette) passed away just days before her 54th birthday, and I miss her every day.  Even though we had never met each other face to face (we met on an online forum in the summer of 2001), she and I developed a really tight-knit bond.  I still have every Christmas card that she ever sent me, and I’ll always remember the friendship and the joy that she brought not only to me, but to the hundreds of people whose lives she touched in some way.

So, I want to take this opportunity to dedicate this post to my friend "Pierette".  Even though it’s been a year since you were taken away from us, the memories will always remain.  I just hope that wherever you are, you are at peace.

And with that, let’s get to the topic of the blog for today.

Today marks Day #19 of The Pop Culture Addict’s Advent Calendar, and for today’s blog entry, we’re going to be looking at a set of toys that brought me much happiness throughout my entire childhood.  In fact, if I remember correctly, I actually received one of these toys for my very first Christmas!

I obviously do not remember Christmas 1981 all that well - mainly because of the fact that I was only seven months and seven days old at the time.

(Wow...that’s a lot of sevens.  And, I was born at 7:35am to boot...draw your own conclusions from there.)

Anyway, in addition to the lovely train ornament that I received for my first Christmas (and which you can see above in a rather out of focus picture due to my trying to figure out how my digital camera worked), I ended up getting some really cool presents.

(Or, so I’ve been told by my parents.  Back in December 1981, I likely did nothing but nap, eat, and cry for diaper changes to really care about many toys.)

Now, here’s the kicker.  I know that I have always talked about how I grew up in a family where the phrase “disposable income” did not exist, and certainly this was the case when I was a baby.  So, for Christmas 1981, quite a few of my baby toys back then were hand-me-downs from my older sisters.

(Well, the unisex toys, that is.)

And, well, this was one of them.

Recognize this one?  Apparently it was known as the Fisher-Price Farm Animal Mobile, and when I was a baby, it was hanging above my crib.  It was the first thing I saw when I woke up, and the last thing I saw when I went to sleep.  What’s insane about it is that I kind of have hazy memories of trying to grab the floating animals that were spinning around my head...keeping in mind that this was easily thirty years ago!  And I also remember the song that was programmed into the mobile as was a soothing piece known as “Brahms Lullaby”.  I don’t know what it was about that particular song, but every time I heard it, I zonked out and immediately fell asleep...of course I suppose that’s the whole purpose of what a lullaby is supposed to do, right?

To this day, every time I hear that song now, I can’t help but remember having hazy memories of being in that crib, listening to that song.  It kind of makes me smile in a way because I will always carry that memory with me as long as I live. 

That mobile brought me a lot of happiness as a baby.  And, it also introduced me to the wonderful world of Fisher-Price, as it was my first Fisher-Price toy!

But it certainly wasn’t the last.

(In case you haven’t guessed yet, this post is all about Fisher-Price Toys!)

The history of Fisher-Price toys goes back over eight decades!  In 1930, the company was founded by four people...Herman Fisher, Irving Price, Price’s wife Margaret, and Helen Schelle.  The name of the company obviously stemmed from combining the names of Fisher and Price.

(Poor Schelle...)

Fisher ended up bringing a lot to the creation of the company.  Prior to the company’s founding in 1930, Fisher actually worked in the toy industry, manufacturing, selling, and advertising games for a company based out of Churchville, New York.  Irving Price had recently retired from a major variety chain store, and Helen Schelle had operated a Binghamton, New York toy shop.  So, to say that the team behind Fisher-Price had the experience in toys and games is like saying that the sun is hot.

The code of ethics for Fisher-Price toys was very strict.  The Fisher-Price company insisted that all their toys were built with quality materials, great value, and creativity and ingenuity.  In fact, when Fisher-Price toys first hit stores in 1931, the toys were constructed with such materials as ponderosa pine and heavy steel.

The first Fisher-Price toy manufactured was the Dr. Doodle toy, first sold in 1931 (and which would be worth a LOT of money if one were to find one in pristine condition).  By the 1950s, the wooden Fisher-Price toys began to be replaced with plastic versions, and the first toy to be manufactured entirely out of plastic was the “Buzzy Bee” toy.  By the end of the 1960s, at least thirty-nine toys were brought out that were partially or fully made out of plastic.

When Herman Fisher retired from the company in 1969, Quaker Oats bought the company.  In 1991, the company regained its independence from Quaker and became a publicly traded entity before being incorporated as a subsidiary of Mattel Toys two years later.  As of 1997, all preschool-aged toys manufactured by Mattel bear the Fisher-Price label.

So, what were some of my favourite Fisher-Price toys?  I’m going to offer up a Top 5 list from my own personal memories.


If memory serves me, this playset was the very first one that I had that was brand-new.  I think I ended up getting it for my third birthday, or something like that.  The playset included a helicopter, a jumbo jet...even a chain of cars that was supposed to resemble the vehicle that drives around the airport with everyone’s luggage on it.  I think that I must have played with that set all the time.  Oddly enough, the playset did not inspire me to be an airline pilot or even a steward (truth be told, I’ve never flown in my life!)


Would you believe that I recently saw an ad for the record player in a recent catalogue?  It’s true that the record player was initially released in the late 1970s, but for whatever reason, I loved it.  The record player came with four plastic records in pastel colours, each one with its own set of grooves.  You see, the record player worked by putting the plastic record in the slots, and then as the needle ran over the grooves, it would make a musical note.  Mind you, most of the songs that came with the record player were either classic kids songs, or nursery rhymes, but I didn’t care.  I remember being in awe of that record player.  It truly was an introduction to music.  Though, I do admit that I wondered when Michael Jackson was going to make a Fisher-Price version of his wildly successful “Thriller” album.  J


Okay, so this one was a hand-me-down from my sisters...and unfortunately for them, I completely trashed it when I was younger.  I scribbled on it with Crayola crayons and markers, because I just felt like doing it.  But the Fisher-Price schoolhouse was interesting because there were tons of activities that one could do with it.  In addition to the playground sets and the desk sets that you could host a class with, there were other unique features associated with it.  There was a bell at the top of the schoolhouse that you could ring.  There was a clock on the wall that helped you learn how to tell time.  There was a chalkboard included in the set that you could write on.  And there was a little magnetic board attached to the roof of the schoolhouse that you could stick your little Fisher-Price alphabet magnets to.  Here’s the good news though.  My sister ended up regaining possession of the schoolhouse playset, and completely restored it to its former glory.  I guess we can all be grateful that Crayola made washable products, huh?


This playset was easily my favourite.  It was two-tiered with seven different stores...five of which were designed in a way that you could place your Fisher-Price characters inside.  If memory serves me, the stores that were included were a bank, a grocery store, a fire station, an ice cream parlour, a post office, a pet store, and a barber shop.  There were other accessories that made the street a lot more fun as well.  You had a traffic light that taught you the difference between stop and go, you had a taxi cab that could travel up and down the slides that attached the second tier to the first, and you had a mailbox, stop sign, and phone booth to make the street seem more realistic.  Even the little mail truck had little plastic letters – one for each business on the street!  The attention to detail was incredible, and you know something...I wish I still owned that playset today.  I would love to let any future children that I hope to have one day play with it so they could have as much fun as I did.


They are quite literally the glue that held all the Fisher-Price playsets together.  First introduced in the 1950s, the Little People proved to have a big impact.  Take a look at some of the original Little People that were first brought out.

Until the early 1990s, the majority of the Little People looked like this.  The men were always straight and tall, the women were always curvy, and the kids and animals were short and stubby.  The design of the Little People was indented at the bottom, and made flat so that it could be easy to place them in chairs, seats, and in the various vehicles that were included in playsets.  Some variations of the Little People were made for specific playsets (for example, in the airport playset, some were designed as pilots, and in the farm playset, some of the Little People wore cowboy hats), and when the Sesame Street line of Little People products were first introduced in the 1970s, there were Little People likenesses of Bert, Ernie, Gordon, Susan, and Mr. Hooper.

In 1991, the Little People design was changed after parental concerns about their children choking on the toys were raised.  The figures were increased in size and diameter to make it harder for kids to swallow.  And by 1998, the figures looked like this.

Personally, I can’t relate to the “new” Little People, but my nieces and nephews loved them.  But I still liked the old design better.  Maybe because it’s what I grew up with.

At any rate, that’s our discussion on Fisher-Price Little People for today!  I hope I brought back some really great memories for all of you!

Coming up on Day #20 of the advent calendar...there certainly is a lot of talk about the end of the world.  In the Thursday diary, I share my holiday plans in brief detail, as well as talking about my experience with the Y2K bug that never happened.  Hey, if we’re going to talk about the end of the world, we may as well have some survival stories from the threat of 12 years ago, right? 

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