Two Toy Telephones
The little telephone has a jingly bell inside it, which sounds when you shake the toy. This toy actually dates back to the late 1950s. The bigger telephone looks very like the real-life counterpart of its era, the early 1960s. The key winds up a realistic sounding ringtone. Once it’s wound up, then pressing the button below the dial, in rhythmical bursts, creates a convincing ringing sound, all ready for the child to ‘answer their call’. It has a spring-loaded dial, again, just like the real thing, but the toy also doubles up as a money box, with a stopper in the base that rotates for the retrieval of coins. It originally had a round sticker in the centre of the dial with, if I remember correctly, a number on it, which has become detached and lost since its much-played-with heyday.
When Britains Ltd (makers of scale models such as farm animals, knights in armour and the like) launched their 1960s plastic miniature garden sets (superceding those made in metal earlier in the 20th century), my pocket money was a shilling (1/-) a week. I never had a big set, but the smallest sets cost 1/11, a penny short of two shillings. This meant that, every other Saturday, I would hop on my bike, cycle through the centre of town, over two bridges, to the bikes and toy shop on the very edge of town. There I would spend a good while poring over the choices. I hardly dared look at the larger, more expensive and so unattainable sets, but concentrated on those within my budget. My first set was a flower bed with sunflowers and hollyhocks. The flowers slotted into holes in the bumpy plastic flowerbed.
My next set, if I remember correctly, was daffodils and tulips. This set came complete with a little ‘spade’ – a brightly coloured tool that resembled a spade handle at the top, but whose tip was rounded metal, strong enough to push the flowers’ centres to make it stand, leafy and proud, in another flower bed.
So my collection slowly grew: a young weeping willow tree, a rockery, rhododendrons, sets with flower-beds of different shapes, quarter circles and so on, that tesselated with the regular rectangular beds. Some bigger sets were Christmas and birthday presents: a lawn and crazy paving, a large fir tree, a greenhouse with seed trays and flowerpots. What fun!
Sometimes I played with it on its own, at other times in conjunction with my dolls’ house (not to scale) when my little dolls would play in the garden. I still have all the bits, but some of the lugs have broken off the fir tree so its branches are somewhat sparse. It was a lovely, gentle toy, and one that was for a time an addictive obsession. I wonder why they stopped making it? Such a shame!
This motorbike was a push-and-go-toy – best used on lino(leum) rather than carpets. (I still remember pulling and cutting the fluff out of the works when I did try it on even our threadbare pieces of carpet.) The method was push-push-push on the wheels, on the spot, then pull back and let go. It whizzed along, making a fairly realstic motor-bike noise. My brother had one, too: identical. Of course, we managed to find some minute difference in order to identify whose was which and then we raced them. My brother, three-and-a-half years my senior, nearly always won, as his pushes probably had extra oomph! I say it ‘was’ a push-and-go toy, as it stopped going many years ago now, being probably 1960-vintage. However, such toys – even if not working – are still collectors’ items. This little biker rode off into the sunset to the Land of Internet Auctions, so is still being treasured by someone somewhere.
While on the subject of motorbikes, here’s a Matchbox toy Lambretta. It was a present from my mother to cheer me up when I was off school with the German Measles in about 1962-3. I have always loved miniatures and admired the detail of scale models, toys or ornaments. This was both for me – but I wasn’t one to play at road-crashes, so it was still in excellent condition, complete with its box, when it, too, drove off to new climes via an internet auction site. Only one aspect of the toy annoyed me – it was not to scale with my matchbox cars, so looked like a giant bike by comparison. This in no way detracted from its beauty in isolation and its having no rider rather added to its attraction.
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