By A. Glenn Mandeville

Many of us who were children in the 1950s and 1960s fondly remember the many doll friends we had to stimulate our imaginations that were just plain fun! Naturally there were the staples, including Barbie, Ginny, Lionel trains, and Marx play sets of castles and forts. Here’s a look at some other fun friends you might remember and some you may not. Many were very inexpensive at the time and have become prized collectibles.

The advent of television provided hours of programming that also enticed children (by dozens of clever commercials) to have more of a say in what toys they wanted. Previously the parents mostly controlled the toys and dolls their children received.

Also contributing to the fun was the arrival of catalogs galore, everything from Sears to F.A.O. Schwarz offering goods in every price range for every taste and budget. Many an hour was spent pouring over these magic catalogs with more than enough choices for mom and dad to consider. Often other relatives were given a well-thought-out list, usually inspired by a combination of television ads and catalogs. This was big business for many children, and it had to be perfect!

Personally, as I’m sure many readers have already figured out, I never lost my love of toys and dolls. My holiday wish list at 13 was basically the same one I had at 6 — only the items were updated! In the days before personal computers, cell phones, and texting, a child could spend hours with their fun friends and create whole play worlds for them. It was a time of not wanting to grow up too fast, instead enjoying the time of fun play!

Captain Kangaroo doll.

Captain Kangaroo

Many remember Bob Keeshan as Captain Kangaroo. Keeshan was also Howdy Doody’s friend Clarabelle the clown. Stuffed toys were in a class by themselves, with many hav­ing vinyl faces that added to the reality. The Captain Kangaroo doll was made by Baby Barry Toys in New York City and is hard to find in mint condition today.

Danny O’ Day

Another class of toys were ventriloquist puppets. Ven­triloquist Jimmy Nelson’s Danny O’Day character became a regular on the “Texaco Star Theatre” show — the example shown below is spectacular in his Texaco uniform. Made by Juro Toys, he was one of several puppets in the Juro line.

I Dream of Jeannie and Davy Crockett

Barbara Eden, the actress who played the titular role in “I Dream of Jeannie,” was depicted in doll form by Libby. This 1960s celebrity doll is hard to find today, as is the Davy Crockett doll by an unknown manufacturer. Fess Parker played Davy on the popular Walt Disney television episodes.

From left: Danny O’Day, “I Dream of Jeannie,” and Davy Crockett dolls.

Linda Williams

Who could ever forget adorable Angela Cartwright as Linda Williams on “Make Room for Daddy”? Later in the 1960s, she was Penny on “Lost in Space.” The doll shown below was a mail-in premium from Post Toasties Cereal. Astute readers might re­member her sister Veronica in Alfred Hitchcock’s film, The Birds!

Annie Oakley

Many Baby Boomer children loved Annie Oakley, and in 1954, American Character made a stunning doll in all hard plastic. I could just see the look on some lucky child’s face when this showed up at a holiday celebration!

Little Miss Sunbeam and Dennis the Menace

Finally we have the unlikely duo of Little Miss Sun­beam from Sunbeam Bread, made by Eegee, and Dennis the Menace, manufacturer unknown.

These toys of course are just a sample of fun friends of the ’50s and ’60s. Hope you rec­ognized one or more of your friends or per­haps made some new ones!

From left: Linda Williams, Annie Oakley, Little Miss Sunbeam, and Dennis the Menace dolls.

Dolls courtesy of Tony Poe. Photos by Mike Marquez. Technical assistance by Richard M. Chapman.