Vintage Childhood :: The Fisher Price is Right.

If I say to you “apple chime”, “chatter phone”, “snap lock beads” or “buzzy bee”… what comes to mind? How about “Little People parking garage”? Farm house? Airport? Chances are at least one of these items made you grin and say, “Awww, I had one of those!”

Images: 1, 2 and 3 (Flickr users amazing granda, CracklinTulip and julielion)

Growing up in Michigan in the 70s/80s, my brother and I were Fisher Price connoisseurs. We started with the little kid stuff—pull toys, rock-a-stack (those round plastic donut shaped circles) and the ever popular popcorn puller dealie. Then we graduated to the Fisher Price camera and the awesome world of Little People. My favorites were the Castle (with it’s secret trap door), the A-Frame Chalet and the Sesame Street playset…we even got a cool knock off of a Little People Holiday Inn, which we LOVED because every summer our family drove from Michigan to California and we stayed in Holiday Inns. It was like having a toy made especially for us! (although in retrospect I guess it was a little wierd….a hotel toy.)

Images: 3 and 4 (Flickr user: jpidgeon)

Fisher Price toys made their debut in 1931 at the International Toy Fair in New York City in 1931. Created specifically for toddlers, the wood and metal push-pull toys were based on characters created by Margaret Evans Price (the wife of founding partner Irving Price). The whimsical toys were an immediate hit, with popular characters including Dr. Doodle, a duck dressed up in a top hat and tuxedo, and Granny Doodle. (Hey, how come he gets to be a doctor and she’s a granny?? Hmph.) By the 1950s Fisher Price had evolved their line into plastics (“I have one word for you. Plastics!” Hey, The Graduate knew what was up!) and these colorful toys took off. By 1961 they introduced their infamous Little People line and the rest, as they say, was history.

Images: 5 and 6 (Flickr users: -Sandy- and AnEYEForPerspective)

I have to warn you, this will be an image-heavy post…but I promise it won’t disappoint. I swear I could do a weekly Fisher Price column there are so many incredible toys. I couldn’t include them all, but here are some of my faves…

First up! The Airport. I looooved this. The little luggage cart. The air control tower. Also, check out the decals. Fisher Price had the cutest art work on their play sets. The little travel agency is pretty adorable…now if only there were a wee little Fisher Price  airport cocktail lounge….

Images: 7, 8, 9, 10 (Flickr users: cracklintulip and chrism70)

The barn is just as cute today as it was back then. You hear a cow moo-ing when you shut the barn door (hey, isn’t that a saying for when yer fly is down? “Shut the barn door!” or “Close your barn door before the owl flies out!” No? Anyone? Am I making this up? Hmm….)

Images: 11 and 12

The little camera was part of their youngun line. We had a more updated version (the long, flat skinny camera). I also love the birdie chime and the Lullaby TV, with sproingy antenna!

Image 13, 14, 15 (flickr users: john_kratz, monique(moki), doe-c-doe)

Images: 16, 17, 18 (flickrusers:  jpidgeon and doc-c-doe)

Have you ever even seen this wood-paneled station wagon?? I mean honestly….it’s like the Holy Grail of Fisher Price coolness. I think it’s super rare.

Image: 19

This family camper was always something I coveted. It came with a super cool BBQ set and picnic table. I also always loooved the little doggie (never mind that he should be more accurately named the Little People Big Ass Dog, as he’s clearly got a bigger head than anyone in the family).

Image: 20 (Flickr User  CracklinTulip)

Ring ring! Ring ring! I love this little phone. A generation of iPhone toting tots will have no clue what this is, but it’s our job to educate ’em! (“No son, real phones didn’t have googlie eyes, but they did have these crazy-fangled things called rotary dialers.”)

I love the pull toys (that little doggie up there is my personal pup and you may recognize him from my Strawberry Lemonade blog banner!). Scored at the thrift store for $1. yay!

OH, and who didn’t love this snazzy garage?? The elevator was the best….all open-air, your Little Person perilously close to plunging to his or her death all for the sake of a parking space. WHoo hoo!

Image: 21, 22, 23 (Flickr users: galexiegirl, mamonto_70

Of course the crown jewel in any self-respecting 70s kiddo’s arsenal was when you graduated to….THE RECORD PLAYER. I can’t tell you how many hours I logged sitting on the floor of my bedroom listening to my Disney Read-A-Long Records (“You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear the chimes ring like this….”) and eventually feeling like a bad ass as I danced to ABBA and Michael Jackson.

Image: 24 (Flickr user: smalltownfun)

The best part about these toys is that they are as fun today as they were oh so many years ago! Wolfie loved playing with so many of these (and my mom, genius that she was, saved our Castle and Garage and whenever we visit them we drag them out for a fun play session). While the truly older toys are considered collectors items, you can pickup many of these cuties at garage sales, in thrift shops and on ebay. The news is, because they’re plastic (PLASTICS!) they clean up really well.

And if you do manage to score some vintage Fisher Price, do me a favor and let your kiddo play with it! While it makes for the most adorable retro nursery/playroom decor I have to say it makes me a little sad to think that they won’t have kid’s playing with them. Call me sentimental (or maybe I’ve seen Toy Story one too many times?) but I think old toys like to be played with! This photo pretty much sums it all up for me. We love Fisher Price! Happy Monday!

Image: High Steel Heels

Do you have any awesome old Fisher Price memories? Have you bought ’em for your kiddo?

32 thoughts on “Vintage Childhood :: The Fisher Price is Right.

  1. I loved all those toys too! I even just love photos of old Fisher Price stuff…the ones you found were priceless. Okay, so you would love the print I have in my nursery…got it on esty from dazeychic and it’s her rendering of the vintage Little People. You can see it in my nursery post here if you are interested: Thanks for the memories, this was fun!

  2. Hi Courtney! That’s a sweet little print! (i just popped over to your blog) Can I just tell you that I misread what you wrote initially and thought it said it was her take on the Village People?? I’m giggling over here imaging Village People Little People style….

  3. I LOVE this post. We had the castle, the airport, the school, the parking garage, and the barn. And also I think a bus. I LOVED those Little People. My favorite element of the city buildings is how very midcentury the buildings are! Like a child’s playset of Palm Springs.

    I recently bought a lot on eBay of the chime carousel, a pull airplane with a ticking propeller, and this super-cool five-toy-in-one rotating pyramid thing that I don’t remember, but that the RocketBaby just adores! I can’t find a picture, but it has sliders, a little boingy rabbit, a mirror, a spinning carousel, a squeak button and a rotary dial!

    And thanks to Modern Kiddo post from a few weeks back, I am now the giddy owner of a Happy Apple, which I loved from my childhood. And now I get to hear its sweetly ringing chimes every evening! Word to the wise, though: shop carefully on ebay, as a lot of the Happy Apples are missing stems. I lucked into a mint condition apple; my mom theorizes it belonged to a schoolteacher like herself.

  4. Jody it was SO HARD to edit this post down to something manageable!! I think I need to do a Part 2 next month. The school, the bus, the boat, a zillion more pull toys. I actually had a whole slew of images of the amazing artwork on the decals. Maybe that can be part 2! I’m glad you liked it….and I’m so glad you scored all those old toys! Seriously, they so much more colorful and cool than modern day toys. The plastic seems so much better quality too, huh!

  5. My daughter has my sister’s little people farm and my little people school set (with school bus and merry-go-round). Alas, the school’s roof (that came off and reversed to be the playground) got ruined by mildew in storage. She loves them but probably not as much as I did when I was her age.

  6. I love this post! I was just thinking about all these retro toys this weekend. I had the airport and the bus (my son plays with it right now) and all the pull toys (wish I still had those)…OMG and that awesome little “radio” with the boy and girl dancing on the back! Oh I wish I still had that.

  7. Great pics! Ok… I’m gonna brag here-sorry! My anal retentive husband and my save everything no matter what mother in law (i love them both dearly -btw), shared with me the goldmine of vintage toys that my husband had when he was little… and still has today! I couldn’t believe how spoiled he was!

    HE had every fisher price toy ever made- no joke!

    And better yet… I found a giant stash of still in the bag vintage Mc Donald’s Happy Meal toys! We let my son play with some of these toys but he has inherited my clumsiness and has already destroyed a few. So now playing only happens when my husband can supervise… it’s best.

    I will have to take some pics to share. But they will not be nearly as awesome as the pics posted here! great work and thanks for sharing!

  8. i love this post!! you chose amazing pictures, the colors and graphics are simply the best. i was (still am) a huge FP fan. i have so many memories of my own FP sets – the garage was my all time favorite – and i can’t wait for my little one to play with the sets my boyfriend had as a kid (can you believe my mother-in-law kept them all these years?! awesome!!)

  9. We had the hospital and the town, with the little movie theater. I think someone in my family still has it somewhere, I should find out!
    They’ve started making reproductions of them which I’ve gotten for my daughter-the phone, the tv, the clock. They are so cute!

  10. So very cool! Loved all the pictures–they brought back so many memories! We bought our son a vintage F-P barn and silo w/ animals and fences for Christmas this year–he loves it! Thanks for reminding me of some old favorites to put on the list for next year!

  11. I’ve started collecting these for my little Stevie. The Apple, Buzzy Bee, The TV and a few others. I loved them so much as a kid that it makes me so happy now to see her playing with them. This post is fabulous because it’s made me realise there are so many good ones out there that I need to find!!

  12. i am being haunted by that apple. i was recently remembering playing with one as a child and i have now seen it on the internet twice in 24 hours. perhaps one will show up on my doorstep.

  13. Oh wow, so many fun toys. Between me & my siblings and my slightly older cousins, we probably had almost everything on this list. Right now my 2 year old plays with the castle, airplane, school (his current favorite – it still had ALL of the magnetic letters), the school bus, camper, the bard, countless accessories, etc. But now my mission is to find that station wagon – I’ve never seen it but I WANT IT! And as for the knock-off motel – we had one too – I found it and bought it on ebay about 2 years ago b/c I remembered how much fun it was. Was yours actually built for square people? I have never known anyone else who owned it!
    Also, does anyone remember the Western town? Awesome.

  14. Great website! Fun to see some of my pictures on here– CracklinTulip is me! I love Fisher Price, obviously. Just wanted to mention that the first picture of the Little People on the Ring Stacker thing is actually mine though you reference someone else. No Biggee…..keep up the great work!

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