Way back when, Wednesdays

What every child wants for Christmas

What would your children like for Christmas? Parents start putting toys on layby from the time of the mid-year sales. Or they race around the shops in December looking for the popular and sometimes expensive toys.

Search online and you will discover that a range of toys such as the Slime Factory, the Furreal Roarin Tyler and the Robo Alive lizard are in demand this Christmas. Santa is also stocking up on the cute L.O.L Surprise Dolls, the My Little Pony: My Magical Princess Twilight Sparkle and the Hatchimals. Lego and Star Wars related merchandise are listed as perennial favourites.

Would you like to encourage your children to play outdoors? Perhaps Santa could bring each of them a pair of stilts and they could have races! The North East Leader, a Messenger Newspaper printed this advertisement for Gimpy brand stilts on page 17 of the edition dated 7 December 1966.


In a simpler time, kids probably had a lot of fun playing with their stilts over the summer holidays. Library staff who were children in the 1960s reflected on some of the Christmas presents that they received. Most parents never bought anything on credit. Only store-cards (which could be used exclusively in the issuing store) were available in Australia up until 1974 https://www.finder.com.au/credit-card-history and people usually could not afford to buy expensive gifts. Some toys were homemade. Intrepid woodworkers made and sold playsets such as a wooden hand-painted service station for toy cars. One member of our staff remembers that her uncle made her some furniture for her doll, a small wardrobe and a bassinet. Or you might gladly receive homemade clothes for your dolls. And you would have been very fortunate to receive several presents in your Santa Sack.


Recollections of commercially made Christmas gifts include skipping ropes, Tonka toys, little cars, minature toy household appliances including a sewing machine and washing machine. There was also a treasured spinning top!



A metal spinning top


little washing machine

Mini washing machine that really worked!

Childlike dolls, Mattel’s Barbie and Skipper and Sindy manufactured by English company Pedigree were on many girls’ wish lists. Board games such as snakes and ladders and quoits were popular gifts as they encouraged family interaction.

Snakes and Ladders


Or you could have lots of fun with dress up outfits like cowgirl and cowboy costumes or a nurse’s uniform (perhaps you were lucky enough to also own a toy medical kit with a stethoscope).

Most toys manufactured in this era relied on children using their imaginations or being physically active to have fun, rather than the use of technological components.

You can still buy stilts for kids online. The design is still basically the same. Modern stilts are made from metal or plastic and the height can be adjusted to fit the child. Some can also be strapped on. Parents might be concerned about accidents and broken bones. Unlike in 1966, it is now recommended that children wear safety gear when using stilts, such as elbow and knee pads and a helmet.


Hello Kitty!

If you love Hello Kitty come and take a look at our display in the Library, on show until 15 November. Sonya has kindly brought in some items from her comprehensive collection. Sonya has been collecting the sweet Japanese merchandise since 2000. She tells me that “Hello Kitty was created in 1974 and is a white, bobtail cat with no mouth! The Japanese describe her as Kawaii (which means cute!).”


Sonya is a keen traveller and while jet setting around the globe she has added to her collection and immersed herself in the world of her favourite character. “Hello Kitty has stores (Sanrio) all over the world and I have visited them in Tokyo, San Diego, Honolulu, Los Angeles and Orlando. I have also visited Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo which is a theme park based on Hello Kitty and her friends. ”

So what is her favourite Hello Kitty piece? She has several of course but Sonya loves to wear her cosy Kitty slippers.

Hello Kitty truly is a modern cultural icon. In 2008 Japan named Hello Kitty the ambassador of Japanese tourism in both China and Hong Kong, where she is incredibly popular with children and young women. UNICEF has also awarded Hello Kitty the exclusive title of UNICEF Special Friend of Children.

You can read some strange and macabre stories about her online but they are not true. Hello Kitty was created by the Japanese Sanrio company in 1974 who manufactured stationery for children. When they first put her picture on a coin purse under the word ‘Hello’, sales were phenomenal.

Hello Kitty leads an active life. Several different animated television series, a webcomic, video games and songs, a Scottish tartan and a sculpture exhibition have been created in honour of her. Sanrio has also stated that Hello Kitty is in fact not a cat, but a cartoon character who is a little girl. She lives in London, attends school and has a twin sister.

There is even a Hello Kitty themed hospital in Taiwan and an airliner decorated on the fuselage and inside the cabin with her image. Like our own Anstey the Echidna, Hello Kitty has even ventured into space. A 1.6-inch tall Hello Kitty travelled about on the Hodoyoshi-3 satellite in 2014.


Born into a world of cuteness at the Hello Kitty hospital in Taiwan


Hello Kitty and friends decorate the Taiwanese EVA AIR jet

Way back when, Wednesdays

Special times at the Show

What are your special memories of the Royal Adelaide Show? One of our staff members at the Library was reminiscing about the Show. She mused about how she always loved the fairy dolls on sticks that you could buy there. She proudly displayed her doll in her bedroom.  On the front page of the edition dated 12 September 1973, the North East Leader pictured Anne Marie McArthur from Ridgehaven holding a fairy doll at the Show. Lots of little girls would have been envious. Their mothers also loved these dolls!

Fairy doll

The fairies on sticks were actually Kewpie dolls. They came in various sizes and the large ones were more ornate. These dolls had glitter painted on their heads and they were dressed in pretty colours, amid several layers of net skirt. The doll was fixed to a piece of cane shaped like a shepherd’s crook, so you could hold it easily and then hang it up at home.

70s girl at the Royal Adelaide Show

“In the 1970s and 1980s plastic showbags promoting snacks and lollies competed with showbags for rock groups, celebrities, television programmes and movies” http://www.nma.gov.au/kspace/teachers/adelaide/learning/showbags


Today Adelaide hosts a myriad of activities for children but in 1973 when your parents took you to the Royal Adelaide Show it really was a special experience. Families were larger so you were fortunate if you could afford to go every year. Children would save up their pocket money for months in advance, in anticipation of purchasing lots of showbags. With the school year having three terms, the Show also fell during the September school holidays.

Some older people might even remember the days when companies gave out free sample bags at the Show to promote their products, which contained mainly food samples. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-31/six-things-you-should-know-about-the-royal-adelaide-show/8859878 This would have been a boon for poorer kids, especially during the hardship of the Great Depression. These bags were the forerunners of our modern showbags.

Some things have remained the same at the Show. It is still primarily an agricultural event. The price, contents and design of showbags have changed over time but there are still so many to choose from. The ferris wheel and dodgem cars have been refitted and showgoers can play games such as the iconic laughing clowns. However on the map of the Wayville showgrounds Sideshow Alley is now called the Carnival. Patrons can purchase many new types of food are now available at the Showground but you can still enjoy Fairy Floss, waffles, hot cinnamon donuts and even the Dagwood dog.

Some things have gone. The art-deco edifice Centennial Hall was built in 1936 and closed in 2005 because it became structurally unsafe. It has been replaced by the modern Goyder Pavilion. I think that the horticultural displays have downsized but there are still competitions for needlecraft and cookery.

The Mad Mouse, which was the original roller coaster at the Royal Adelaide Show, ceased operation in 2007 and Kewpie fairy dolls have been replaced by toys depicting characters from film and television. The days are over where the Commonwealth Bank used to produce plastic elephant money boxes with the slogan “Get with the strength”. You could also get an iron-on transfer of Humphrey B. Bear for your t-shirt in a showbag from the Savings Bank of South Australia. I used to get excited about visiting the RSPCA shop in the Grandstand complex to build up my collection of Britains brand farm animals. And everyone knew that it was worth getting the Golden Eggs showbag from the egg board – not only for the recipes but because inside the bag you would find a cute molded plastic eggcup with shoes and stockings on its legs.

Eggcups final

Eggs with legs



Way back when, Wednesdays

What a funny old fellow

On page 6 of the edition dated 2 May, 1973 the Leader Messenger advertised that Humphrey B Bear would appear at St. Agnes Shopping Centre. His visit was in celebration of Mother’s Day and a retail promotion.  Despite being a children’s character, we all know that mums love Humphrey!  Everybody wanted a photo with Humphrey and a big bear hug.


If you did not grow up with Humphrey, he is a local television legend. He does not speak but communicates through gestures.  Humphrey wears a tartan waistcoat, a big yellow tie and a straw boater.  In true bear style, he loves eating honey.

Perennially young at heart, Humphrey turned 50 in May last year. Here’s Humphrey first appeared on Australian television on Monday, 24 May 1965, televised by Adelaide’s NWS9. Each episode of the show aimed to both entertain and educate its preschool audience while making children feel good about themselves.  Young children could identify with Humphrey as he explored his world of the Magic Forest, meeting friends, dancing and singing.  Humphrey learned from his mistakes but also had lots of fun.  Humphrey was always accompanied by a human companion who narrated his adventures.  One of the writers of the show, Anthony O’Donohue, also hosted it for an extended period.

Humphrey last aired on mainstream television in 2009. Humphrey became an international celebritity when an american version of his show was translated into different languages and screened in several countries. Humphrey was honoured to be declared official ‘Ambassabear’ for the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation in 2012. He was introduced to a new generation of children and the hospital successfully raised funds from sales of a limited edition plush doll and DVD.

In July 2013 Humphrey returned to television when his show was screened on Community Television stations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. In May 2015 the Sydney Morning Herald reported on plans to produce a high quality Humphrey themed animated television series or film.

Humphrey B. Bear is still making public appearances and drawing crowds at community events and school performances. He even has his own Facebook page.  Humphrey does lead a very exciting life!