Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Dolls with K & J

Displaying our dolls and stuffed animals

Working-class suburban children had more toys than kids from any previous era, although we had nothing to compare what life was like for children who grew up during other times or places. We didn’t know how lucky we were! Economic prosperity followed World War II, and parents had some expendable income and prices were relatively low. Parents expected us to share our swing set, wading pool and sandbox with our neighborhood friends. While we had many toys, they did not waste away in a mountain of plastic. We played with each toy, and parents were generally careful about buying too much. Toys fell to pieces from wear. Kids had time to play, as we didn’t have many chores, and mom was home to take care of the house, for most of us. In our family, our parents impressed on us to take care of our things, and if we didn’t, that demonstrated we would not be not entitled to any more. Santa delivered many of our toys on Christmas morning. My mother told me that when I was three, I exclaimed that I heard Santa’s sleigh bells, which kept me believing in the jolly old elf for years.

Backyard Swing Set

The 1950s brought in the era of reasonably priced, if not terribly safe or functional, swing sets. Some sets offered options, such as  rings, gliders, ladders or a slide, which would get burning hot in the summer. Fathers plunked the sets down in the middle of the yard on the hard earth without sand or wood chips. When swinging more than slowly back and forth, the entire set would fly up in the air. My dad added boards to the bottom to stabilize the set. Nevertheless, the swings became a place to hang out, if nothing else, passing the odd moments between other activities. Milling around the swings, we would start a game of tag, freeze tag or hide ‘n seek, hop scotch or jump rope. On summer nights, we’d find glass jars and collect lightning bugs.

Horns 1955

Skating

Suburban sidewalks and patios provided the perfect platforms for the metal roller skates with the leather straps. A key locked the skates to our shoes, and off we’d go around the neighborhood. In the winter, we signed up for ice skating lessons at the local rink, earning different color buttons as we moved up through the various skill levels. There was always a program at the end of the season to show off our talents, and the best part was wearing a fancy costume. We skated on creeks and ponds and at the tennis courts, which the township fire trucks would hose down to create smooth surface.

Trikes, Bikes and Scooters

David 4th of July Bike

TricycleKids under six would ride tricycles. Made of heavy steel, the trikes usually had a little platform in the back where a friend could go for a ride as we peddled.

Most, but not all, children in our neighborhood owned a two-wheeler. The popular Schwinn was equipped with foot brakes and large tires. A durable bike, it was difficult to peddle on steep hills. Some rode their bikes to school. Later, we graduated to the English bikes with gears and hand breaks. Because of the ease of peddling, we ventured further out of our neighborhood to explore local towns. Our municipality required bike licences, and we would ride up to the township building to go though the testing, which usually consisted of riding in a circle and straight line.

Dolls

christmas Baby dolls

1952 Christmas: dolls, bikes, clothes

Baby Dolls: Our cuddly baby dolls, made of vinyl soft plastic became our first favorite doll. Some had rooted hair that we could brush and some could be fed with a bottle and wet a diaper. Our layettes included blankets, pajamas, booties, and assorted outfits. We had cribs and baby carriages for taking our babies out for a ride in the neighborhood. Every night we would put the dolls to bed in their little cribs. I played with my Shirley Temple baby doll so much, she eventually disintegrated.

Christmas doll cribs

1954: Cribs, scooters, blackboard, lunch box

Walker Dolls: As we grew older, we graduated to a walker doll, usually about 14 inches tall, their legs and head would move together. These dolls were porcelain with mohair wigs and eyes would open and shut. Some of these dolls came in bride outfits. My friend, Joan, had the Ideal Toni doll, associated with the Toni cosmetic company, and came with her own permanent wave kit. I believe my doll was an American Character Sweet Sue. Joan and I had many of the same outfits for our dolls. We usually kept their clothes in small suitcases so that we could carry doll and outfits over to our friends’ houses. My the time my parents purchased a walker doll for my younger sister, the popular Shirley Temple, they were mostly made of plastic with rooted hair.

Madame Alexander and Ginny Dolls: These were the eight-inch little girl dolls, and we collected dozens of outfits for them and had at least two dolls. The accessories were endless: slips, shoes, socks, handbags, hats and headbands. The clothes were detailed and well-made. Our moms helped us create beds out of cigar boxes, using clothes pins as legs. Mom made little blankets, sheets and pillows. We could also buy furniture, including patio and bedroom sets. In the picture below is the cardboard suitcase that Ginny carried back then.  The price was still marked on the box: $1, for a nightgown, slippers, robe and towel.

High Heal Fashion Dolls: In the late 1950s, the 8-inch high heel, or grown-up doll, became popular. This doll was the precursor to Barbie. The dolls were proportional but designed to wear high heels. We could buy a variety of outfits and accessories including nylon hose, simulated pearl necklaces and earrings, and fancy undergarments. The Revlon Fashion doll was the most common, but one manufacture created a doll after a local Philadelphia television celebrity, Sally Starr, hostess for Popeye Theatre, which ran from 1955 into the early seventies. Like Sally, the doll was dressed in a cow girl outfit with hat, boots, gun and holster.

Doll Houses

Doll house; puppets

Doll House and Puppet Show

We had two metal doll houses, which came with moulded plastic furniture for every room. The miniature pieces, brightly colored, represented detailing of wood, bed linens and upholstery. In the photograph above, a colonial house, made by Marx toys, resembled our two-story home. My sister and I spent hours rearranging the furniture, trying to decide the aesthetic placement of all the little pieces. We would make up stories using the plastic characters that came with the set.

Sleds

Most kids had the American Flyer sled, made of wood with metal sliders. Our neighborhood had a great hill for sledding so at the first snowfall, we’d be out on the hill before the cars and snow plow removed the snow. Later, we used the aluminum twirling sleds, the circular disks that would twirl down the hill.

Sledding

Boy Toys

Boys had several different toys than their sisters. Boys would run around the neighborhood playing cowboys, donning hats, holsters and fringed shirts; in several blog posts I write about how television, especially the Westerns, influenced play back then. Erector Sets, a collection of metal pieces, including wheels and gears and an electric motor, could be put together with nuts and bolts to build any number of mechanical contraptions. Interestingly, girls did play with Lincoln Logs. Why were girls given Lincoln Logs and not Erector Sets? Maybe tool use was considered too masculine for girls. Boys also had model train sets, usually set up around Christmas and placed around the tree. Some boys had train layouts in their basements. During the holidays, my father would set up his train set from the 1920s for his daughters. I liked the train but was more interested in arranging the houses to make a holiday scene.

Lincoln Logs

Lincoln Logs and Dog

All the Others . . .

We had more playthings in our toy chests: tinker toys, hula hoops, paddle balls, balsam wood gliders, slinky, view master, jump ropes, paper dolls, crayons and chalk. We spent many hours playing games with our friends:  Old Maid, Canasta, Clue, Checkers and Chinese Checkers, to name a few.

We had a wonderful time with the variety of toys available to us and developed friendships that formed around the games and toys. If you have written a blog post about toys in the 1950s, please include a link in the comments.

When light falls on water or ice, the many points of light fan out to create the twinkle that is so magical, especially around the holidays. Sometimes light falls on softer surfaces creating subtle coloring on subjects that might wander into the scene. 🐱

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/twinkle/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/twinkle/

Several years ago we traveled to the eastern shore of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to search for our great-grandparents farm, on a dirt road in the little town of Stalwart. We had a photograph from 1900 as a reference, but we were uncertain whether their home would still be there.

We did find the house in a clearing in the forest. As I took the photograph, ghostly apparitions appeared before me as I imagined that instant in the old photograph of the carriage and where it might have taken my grandparents that day.

<a href=”http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/gone-but-not-forgotten/”>Gone, But Not Forgotten</a>

I studied the ground before me and was startled at what I saw . . . for over forty years, the land had held the memory of the little house that once stood there.

Outline of house

The message is subtle, nothing of exceptional beauty or unique character in this photograph, and I missed what the earth had preserved the first time I looked over the landscape.  In an upcoming blog post, Racial Incident at Bugtussel, which I am still researching, I retell a story that happened in my hometown of Springfield, Pennsylvania, when local authorities bulldozed a poor, African-American man’s home to the ground, killing his cats and leaving him homeless.

<a href=”http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/gone-but-not-forgotten/”>Gone, But Not Forgotten</a>

According to some theories, our universe originated from a “singularity” about 13.7 billion years ago, and yet, scientists are not even sure what a singularity is. Our eye is fooled when we look at converging lines that come to a point, which like the singularity, could extend infinitesimally small. We know the lines do not meet, and yet it looks that way. So we are left in wonderment about what is really there. Convergence offers the conundrum of converging lines to a conclusion that may not end.

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/converge/

 

These minimalist photographs seem to tell a story of a philosophical extension beyond what we actually see. We wonder, what is over the horizon or after the last step on a staircase. The tattered phone booth reminds us that we can ignore the rustic housing and pick up a phone and dial anywhere in world. The macro lens extends our eye in to the world of the ladybug, as her tiny feet step into the crevices of her journey.

<a href=”http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/minimalist/”>Minimalist</a&gt;

In Art Imitating Life, I posted a photograph in which workers were unloading a truck and, by coincidence, that scene was depicted exactly in the mural right above their heads. It’s delightful to catch those moments, but photographers can set up similar interactions with art, creating an entire new pictorial presentation, while sometimes adding a bit of whimsy. Another blog post, Mea Culpa: Breaking the Rules at the Art Museum, has an example of creating a new vignette from an old painting.

Here’s a series of photographs that incorporates a new portrayal of a work of art. The photographer doesn’t just take a picture of art, but rather creates a new interpretation from the surrounds or by including their own additions to the scene.

subway station

The escalator provides the conduit for real-life subway patrons to become part of a scene of a train station mural.

Sign Duplicationjpg

Message on the wall replicates the sign the men are holding, reinforcing the theme.

Reflecton

Using a mirror in a still life display to insert a selfie.

Black and White

A couple stands in front of a mural in West Philadelphia. Since the mural is painted in black and white, I changed the color in the photograph to match the background.

Asking

When traveling through France we were often lost, and to tell that story, I am asking directions to unresponsive statuary.

Have you incorporated an interesting art piece into any of your photographs to create a new vision? Leave a link in the comments!

 

 

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