Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I first saw this toy back in the late 1980’s, not long after I moved to Manhattan after college. I had discovered Darrow’s Fun Antiques in their original location – high ceilings, deep shelves and cases and stuff piled up. 61st, I think, between First and Second Avenues. There it all was. Toys from my childhood and earlier. Toys I had wanted and never gotten; toys I did have and loved and lost; toys that my friends had and I coveted; and most interesting of all, toys I had never seen before or even knew existed. It was like I had found my niche in the universe – who knew such very wonderful things existed! This was why I had moved to New York – I just hadn’t known it.
I could not afford to buy much from Darrows in those days, despite that they were always lovely and willing to spend time showing me things. One or two purchases went to my then boyfriend (hey to Kevin!) as Christmas and birthdays gifts. Mostly battery operated. (I still have an excellent drinking monkey I bought from them – future post.) On one of my forays one of the gentlemen there showed me the toy above and I fell in love! Once I saw it move I felt it embodied everything I loved about animated toys. The gentle rocking, the honking goose, the breeze created by the turning umbrella. I don’t remember how much they were asking for it, except that it was way out of my price range.
Fast forward at least a decade, probably more, to Brimfield. It was my one and only trip to this amazing extravaganza of flea market. There it was on a blanket – the first time I had seen it in all those years. I picked it up and wound it – I was still entirely charmed by it. They wanted something north of $500 for it and that just wasn’t going to happen that day. For one thing, this toy falls soundly in my fear of celluloid category. An incredibly expensive, exquisite toy that looked like it would smash to pieces if you sneezed on it – or a paw got too curious. So, I moved on – but this time I didn’t forget it.
It nagged at my brain for several more years. Finally I began searching for it on eBay. It wasn’t especially easy to search for – celluloid woman rocking? Eventually I found my way in and discovered that many, many variations exist – some made of tin and celluloid and close to this one – up to more recent, all plastic ones of the same essential type. Along the line I discovered the name, The Happy Life Toy! Never had a toy been more aptly named! I lay in wait, carefully watching eBay. Then, there it was one day, an early model in good condition, almost perfect really. The opening bid was reasonable – a bit more than $100 as I remember. Bam – I won it! No one else bid and there was no minimum. Well, the seller was actually quite annoyed – it is a more expensive toy really – and made no secret of it. They honored the sale however and here it is!
It is so delicate that I have brought it to my office where it sits (safe from cats) on a bookcase across from my desk. Everyone knows that if they need a lift they can come wind it up and be cheered up. In fact, there are folks who come running to see it if they hear the goose honking. It is indeed, a Happy Life Toy! Oh toy bliss!