Vintage Pin-Ups For The Nursery

Once upon a time, brightly-colored graphics on pressed layers of cardboard in the shape of characters from nursery rhymes, Mother Goose stories, and other childhood tales covered the walls in baby nurseries and children’s bedrooms.

Once the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States joined World War II, Japanese imports disappeared from store shelves and American companies began to take over the toy and other markets once previously held by importers. At the end of the war, Phil Riley of the Dolly Toy Company in Tipp City, Ohio, designed this new kind of wall decoration. They were dubbed “Pin-Ups” and promptly patented.

The Pin-Ups hit stores in 1948, marking the entrance of Dolly Toy Co. into the “Baby Business”, and quickly spawning knock-offs. Dolly Toy would defend their patent in court — and win, thus cornering the paper Pin-Ups market. With such success behind them, Dolly Toy sought to increase their line. By the the 1950s, the company had created other matching décor items for baby’s room. Along with Tidee-Ups (a decorative wall hangers with pegs for clothing), there were lamps and even the company’s first Disney designs. By the early 1960s, crib mobiles would be sold too.

The following photos are of the Dolly Toy Co. items I have listed at Etsy. (You can also search eBay for deals too.)

I personally adore the vintage Western cowboy designs. I soooo wanted to do my son’s room in a vintage cowboy theme, but I didn’t have these then. I mentioned that to my son when he was about six years-old and he put his hand on my arm and said, “You can still do that it you want, Mom.” It just about broke my heart it was so sweet! Of course, now that he’s 11, all I get is an eyeball-roll. *sigh*

If some of these seem vaguely familiar or faintly nostalgic, even if you never had them in your family’s home, you may recall seeing them on reruns of at least one classic TV show.

According to the long-gone Dolly Toy website, Dolly Toy Co. products were featured on one of the most popular shows, I Love Lucy, thus making Pin-Ups part of The World’s Most Famous Nursery. While Dolly Toy Co. was not featured in the 1953 ad, you can spot the Pin-Ups in Desi Jr’s nursery — there’s Jack Jumping Over The Candlestick and what appears to be Mary & her Little Lamb.

A more complete Dolly Toy history (or corporate obituary, as the company ceased in 2008) can be found here.

Vintage Flocked Hallmark Easter Card

This vintage Easter greeting card features a blond toddler in a flocked bunny suit, exploring his Easter basket full of dyed eggs — the one in his hand has hatched and he’s surprised to meet the chick inside!

On the back, the Hallmark stamp (10E630-5), copyright MCMXIIX (1920) Hall Brothers, Inc.

Sweet Vintage Glass Storage Jars For The Nursery

I spotted this charming set of glass storage jars with lids at a Minnesota antique mall. Obviously for the nursery, the frosted glass jars have white bunny rabbits. The jars are labeled with common-for-the-day items for baby: “Boric Acid,” “Baby Oil,” “Nipples,” and “Cotton.”

Collecting Children’s Books: Lessons In Rabbit & Skunk

Rabbit and Skunk and the Scary Rock, by Carla Stevens (illustrations by Robert Kraus) is one of my fondest childhood reading memories. Of course, I had completely forgotten about this book until I spotted it at one of those church rummage sales where you pay $2 for whatever you can fit into a paper bag. But the instant I saw that cover, it all flooded back — and I neatly snatched it up and put it in my bag.

I was so excited by the find that I was shocked to discover that neither hubby nor the kids had ever heard of what I consider to be a childhood classic! Apparently it’s been out of print for a number of years now. *sigh* (But you can still find cheap copies at at eBay.)

Remembering reading about Rabbit and Skunk and their fright over the scary talking rock is far more delicious than reading it now; sometimes you really can’t go home again. *deep sigh*

But then collecting children’s books isn’t about reading and rereading them — at least not alone by yourself. No, collecting children’s books is about literally holding-on to those precious literary memories, about the tangible connection to those fragile and magical moments of those early joys of reading… We get to hold in our hands again those things we still hold dear in our hearts.

Rabbit and Skunk and the Scary Rock, for those unfamiliar, was published by Scholastic Book Services, so it was a very early reading experience for me. I remember reading and rereading it, the repetition more than that soothing familiarity children seek, but a mastery of the adventure — with each read I could take myself out there and bring myself back again. All by myself! No longer was I held hostage to the schedules and preferences of others; no longer was I stuck to the confines of my room, my house, my world — I could go anywhere, do anything!

And, just as Rabbit and Skunk discovered, big scary things aren’t always what they seem. You just have to muddle through to the end, that’s all.

Thinking of this reminded me of another childhood favorite: The Monster at the End of this Book.

By the time this book came out, I was way past both Sesame Street and Little Golden Books — but I had younger cousins, and they love-loveloved it when I read them the story of silly Grover’s fear of a monster. How could he be afraid of a monster at the end of the book when (spoiler alert!) he is, of course, a monster himself!

One of the reasons I enjoyed reading this book over and over to my younger cousins was because of its similarity to Rabbit and Skunk’s adventure. There’s the silliness, of course, but primarily the books address fear. My understanding of the concept of fear was, as a young reader, closely tied to the fear of reaching the end. The anxiety of “What would they find?!” was sort of a high… And the resolution rather a come-down. Not specifically because it wasn’t terrifying enough or was anti-climactic in anyway, but because all that good stuff was at an end. (In some ways, that hasn’t changed; I still loath for a good book to end.)

I was then left with a choice, do I read it again or select another adventure? (Never was the choice not to read.) What if the new adventure isn’t as good as the old one? …But, if I read the old one again, what might I be missing? Staying in the middle of a great read, looking forward to the miles to go, is always my favorite place to be.

This confusing pull surrounding endings — even those with new beginnings — is what I find myself struggling with each New Year’s Eve.  If I might be allowed a cynical moment here, I suspect most of us feel that way and that’s why drinking alcohol and partying have become de rigueur; we just are too uncomfortable with “Goodbye.” And facing a “Hello,” even after a bad year, is to wonder if we wouldn’t really be better off sticking with the old one…

But, as this year is about to end, I must remind myself of Rabbit, Skunk, Grover, and reading books taught me. Be brave. Big scary things aren’t always what they seem. Whatever you’re going through, it’s better when you have a friend to share it with. You just have to muddle through to the end, that’s all. And then look forward to the next adventure.

After all, you can’t prevent this New Year from arriving anymore than Grover could prevent the end of the book. So you might as well embrace it. Happy New Year, one and all!