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How Grandma Spent Time As a Child

By:  Karla Sullivan

Unlike today’s’ grandchildren and young adults whose family room entertainment consists of computers, androids, Nintendo Wii, and 900 cable TV channels, Baby Boomers and their parents spent childhood hours indoors with less sophistication and a lot more imagination. When, raindrops diminished the hope of playing outside, creative pastimes took over. With or without friends, Baby Boomers could find plenty to occupy their childhood time during stormy weekends even without computers and TV.

Coloring books were always a must along with the 64 box of Crayola Crayons including the built in sharpeners. Beautiful vintage coloring books can be purchased along with paper doll books; another generation favorite. If Mom had a monthly subscription to McCalls, you could cut out a variety of Betsy McCalls and constantly change her clothes with different outfits you collected each month. Betsy appeared in 1951 and continued on until the early 1990’s never aging like Peter Pan. Betsy also became a real doll in later years. You can still order her monthly stories with her friends and pets through the years at Betsy McCall Home.

Another solitary pleasure was Colorforms; a scene decorated on cardboard that you could place colorful plastic flat pieces on a scenic board. The pieces did not require glue but would stick like magic. There were celebrity Colorforms such as the Brady Bunch Family, The

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Munsters, Batman and Peanuts. The best part about having a Colorform set was the smell of the plastic. Re-arranging the furniture in your metal dollhouse was next on the list after running out of ideas on where to place the next Colorforms piece.

Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs and Erector sets would be assembled by the aspiring architect; creating models that inspired deductive reasoning and logical thinking. Again, items you can purchase in classic editions.TINKERTOY Mini Set

And girls always had their dolls which was a full-time job taking care of them; still is if you have saved yours.. My dark haired talking Chatty Cathy who was introduced in 1962 now has a garbled voice when you pull the string since one weekend many years ago she was accidentally given a bath. That same weekend my best friend cut her bangs and I cried for days knowing that her hair would never grow and she would never speak again. I should have been a better Mom. Now, when I hold Chatty she doesn’t look so bad after all and if my tears are present, it is only for those days long ago.

Barbie in her black and white bathing suit from 1962, Ken, Midge, and Skipper were reserved for the older ones with their individual cases that we would turn into bedrooms. Of course, if you were lucky to have the cardboard Barbie House, Fashion Designer Shop, a pink Barbie car and Ken’s Jeep, there was no time to be bored. One rainy day weekend, I decided to marry off Barbie and Ken and turned the house into a wedding reception ball room with tables for guests made from my Father’s bar room shot glasses as the base of the tables. I found glass tea saucers to put on top and made my own miniature centerpieces. Mom actually took pictures of the reception and sent to the official Barbie magazine and my pictures where printed. Over 50 years old, Barbie has retained her youth far better than the rest of us from one decade to the next.

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Easy Bake Oven and Etch a Sketch never worked well for me since I always ended burning the bottoms of the miniature cakes and the same thing happened for my own children years later. Building a staircase on Etch A Sketch was about all I could accomplish and I truly marveled on how others could draw so well.

Older girls pulled out paint by numbers sets to create a copy of the masters which is still a very relaxing way to spend some quiet time. You could also make potholders using a metal frame to give as presents to someone you loved. Boys would search their Dads garage to find tools for the next playhouse or race car. Playing records as your background noise instead of the TV was the creative motivation you needed to finish your artwork. Reading was another pastime that most of us enjoyed and another topic altogether.

Though for those who weren’t serious readers of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, comic books could fill in the time especially Archie, Veronica and Betty. I always thought that Archie would marry Veronica one day. Sure enough, in 2009 after 68 years, Archie finally proposed to Veronica and they had twins. I also heard that he may have married Betty too. What a guy.


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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