By Alice Pollard
Mrs. Beasley was my favorite doll. Just like Buffy on Family Affair. (Above, Mrs. Beasley sits on a chair as Uncle Bill explains the birds and bees.)
I don’t know if Mrs. Beasley was created for the show or if she was a popular doll made more popular by the TV show, like Cindy Brady’s Kitty Carry-All. It didn’t matter to me as a six-year-old. Nor did it matter that my doll was a snippy old woman with a pull string that said very odd and creepy things. Things like “Come a little closer so Mrs. Beasley can hear you.”
Toy brands take us back in a way that nothing else can; it’s best when a toy is exactly as it was originally created. There is genius in a toy marketer that does not alter the product in any way. The very toy is the brand, and holds all the appeal.
I remember everything about Mrs. Beasley. The way she smelled, sounded, even the weight of her in my arms, with her clunky 1970 pull-string voice mechanism, and when I saw her in the Back to Basics Toys catalog the rush of emotion knocked me of my feet, until the $95 price tag made me think again.
I do hope the Back to Basics Toys catalog does very well this Christmas, in spite of the economy. It is brilliant. All the classics are in there. Here are a few:
- Lincoln Logs, 1916: just like the first set designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son.
- View Master (now Fisher-Price, formerly Sawyers and GAF): The name keeps changing, as does the viewer, but everything else stays the same.
- Trio of Big Band Horns: I had a sax. I can taste it!
- Slot Car Racing, 1957: Anyone who owned one was instantly cool.
- Bozo, 1965: Was it sand in the bottom?
- Gnip Gnop, 1971: Had the best commercial. A stupid toy with a great name. They kept the color.
- Shrinky Dinks 1973: Nothing better than getting kids to melt flammable plastic in a hot oven.
The Back to Basics Toys catalog also has every toy that I coveted from my chic Danish cousins. They were a family with seven beautiful toe-headed children and true to their Scandinavian heritage they had every blond wood, well-made toy ever created under the 14-foot candlelit Christmas tree:
- Wooden Block Set: Clunky and overpriced, they can’t be beat.
- The Original Brio Labyrinth, 1947: Made popular again by a recent car commercial that gives me vertigo.
- Skittles, 1932: Endless fun and hiliarous.
- Shoot the Moon, 1920: Frustrating test of nerves. Another metal ball game.
- Wooden Maze with grooves and holes: What’s up with all the metal balls and Scandinavian toys?
- Original NOK Hockey, 1948: Air Hockey is more exciting.
- Our Rugged Balance Board, 1940: It says it helps with coordination and holds up to 250 pounds. Like to see that.
The catalog has products that are reminiscent of the original. I am glad they are in there, because they show that it is vital to keep these toys in circulation. But eventually, they need to be brought back to their original perfect form.
- Colorforms, 1951: I can just smell ‘em. Can’t you? I am sure the modern version is probably less toxic but they have done away with the cool packaging and themes.
- Lite Brite: I don’t know what happened here, but please set it right. Perhaps fire hazard? “Light Bright makin” things with light…outta sight makin things with Lite Brite!”