The 1970s Fisher Price Play Family Camper

Introducing the 1970s Fisher Price Play Family Camper, with rufty-tufty, chunky plastic in a soft, satin finish.

This arrived in my life in Christmas 1974, and I played with it for hours.
Zoom into those worktops and see a frozen moment from the 1970s family holiday: a camera with a flash cube, photos of the dog, sea shells gathered and postcards being written (click the image to open up larger)
As with any 'small world' toy, the magic really happened when you got eye-level with the little people.
The boat really floated. I discovered this a few months in, after which time no bath was complete without it.

I once saw another child's camper where the patio set had a yellow umbrella with a red table.  I can still remember how wrong this felt. 
I may have mixed in some stuff from my Play Family House. Fisher Price aficionados, don't hurt me. 
The baby is adorable, with vintage kiss curl. 
The copywriting on the original advert reads: "When pulled, truck makes motor noise. And campers bounce merrily in front seat." I can confirm the motor noise is a click, click, click, click, click, and bouncing does indeed happen. 
My sister and I called this boy Gary because he looked naughty.  The naughty boy in our street was a Gary.
Nothing is funnier than a toy on the toilet. The lid to the loo closed with such a satisfying snap.

1970s children could play house, go brum brum with the truck, ride the motorbike up their arm (ooh... bumpiness), float the boat and sit a toy on the toilet.  And no colour dominated. 2016 gendered toy makers, take note. 
In our stories, the dog often came to the rescue and was the real brains of the Play Family. His smile confirms this. 
We called the girl with the blond hair Lucy. This was most likely due to Narnia. 

Hot dogs with a knife and fork? Must be the Cameron family. 

It was so satisfying to help them all climb safely into bed (tap, tap, tap up the ladder) after a grand tour of the living room and the kitchen. Maybe the garden too, if it was sunny.

Could not resist it: the Breaking Bad tribute.

Invitation to Comment

Did you have any of the Fisher Price Play Family toys? Which ones? And are they still with you, like mine?

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The Joyce Mercer 1930s Vintage Children's Illustrations

I feel I should just take a bow and shuffle back stage, letting you look at these illustrations without the distraction of words. But I am a writer, so I'll dilly-dally a little longer. 

Commissioned for The Big Christmas Wonder Book (1937) these incredibly stylised children’s illustrations by British artist Joyce Mercer (1896–1965) demand to be stared at, whether you’re a 1930s child sinking into your pillow, or a 21st century vintage lover revelling in the elegance of a lost decade. 

Hard black lines give the precision of stained glass, whilst the abundance of perfectly executed curls give the satisfaction of fine calligraphy. I wonder what the artist's handwriting was like?

Look at them from a distance, or upside down, and the balance and poise of the whole composition comes to the fore, letting you enjoy them all over again. 

Encapsulating the character of the period and dramatically telling a story, Ms Mercer, I doff my hat to you.  


For those of your who’ve just watched The King’s Speech, The Big Christmas Wonder Book was published in the middle of those events, for that was the Christmas when Edward VII gave up the British throne for Wallis Simpson. Eight pages of illustrations in the book offer a souvenir of the coronation of Edward VII, an event that never happened.  

If you’d like to know more about the owner of my family’s copy of The Big Christmas Wonder Book, please click through to this blog post A Hand Written Letter from 1946.

Invitation to Comment

Which is your favourite picture? I think mine is “The Princess was more lovely than words could tell”.

And who are your favourite children’s illustrators? I of course also like Arthur Rackham, "Google Image" his name if you’re not familiar, you're in for a treat. 

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Next Post: The Fisher Price Play Family Camper


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