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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Beds, Boys & Toys - Sepia Saturday

Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs.

Beds, boys and toys  are among my theme this week - not forgetting a look at girls. 

What has struck me in writing for Sepia Saturday is how limited the photographs were in my childhood -   either taken on a seaside holiday  or formal school or studio shots. Of course there was no flash for the average home camera - so no photographs of parties, or playing inside - nor do I have any taken in winter. So finding photos featuring toys was a challenge.    

Illness, beds, boy and toys are all here
 in this photograph of my husband, Neil and Panda friend, in hospital c.1948,
Ian  (my husband's older brother), smart in his thick winter coat, cap and gaiters -
 with doggy friend  in a studio portrait, c.  1937

My uncle Harry Rawcliffe Danson,  c.1916   No toy here but this is my favourite  photograph of my mother's brother.  Harry's middle name came from  his grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.
24 years later Harry survived the Battle of Dunkirk.  He retained his good dark looks all his life.

Below are two photographs from the large collection left by my Great Aunt Jennie (Danson), who grew up in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. She had written names on the back, of the majority of the cards,  but otherwise little is known about the people in them.    I suspect they are the children of friends,  and date from the period 1915-1925.  I was unable to make any headway in further identification through a search of the 1911 census.

Jesse and Bernard Pennington are identified on the back of this card.  I like the seascape background, to this studio shot, and is that a spade that Bernard has in his left hand?   - A prop rather than a toy perhaps.

A lovely little curly headed  girl with her teddy.  Unfortunately this photograph was unidentified. 

And Dolly came too! 
An idyllic country scene as the studio backcloth for this photograph of Joseph Prince Oldham (1855-1917) and his granddaughter Elsie Oldham, p[proudly showing off her doll, c.1911.
Elsie Oldham and my mother, Kathleen Danson, were second cousins, and I am grateful for Elsie's son, Stuart for the use of this lovely photograph. 

Joseph became a carter and coal merchant in Blackpool, Lancashire, in a house with stables, opposite the North Station. His son John William Oldham carried on the business. In the 1920's, Elsie became a hairdresser, giving her name a French twist as "Elise", working from the family home

Here I am, aged around 2, clutching a soft ball, which i think is one my mother probably made.  She enjoyed making such balls from felt and embroidering the sections in contrasting colours with numbers, or motifs  for sale at village fetes etc.  Today the picture of my father smoking a cigarette by me, would be distinctly frowned upon! 

I was a "dolly girl" -  I loved my dolls, which, as my mother was a dressmaker, were the smartest on the street.  With my best friend, Carol, we would wheel  our prams up and down  and put the dolls in their cot (an old box), with a crocheted blanket and lace trimmed pillow and quilt cover, again  courtesy of my mother, or set up the doll's tea set for a tea party.
I had a "Last Doll" for my 11th birthday, which seems in today's lifestyle, really old for a doll. The inspiration came from the book "Sarah Crewe or the little Princess", by Frances Hodgson-Burnett, where Sarah was given a grand doll with an extensive wardrobe on her 11th birthday.  I saw the book serialised on television and decided that would mark the end of my "dolly" era - it didn't really,  as I went on to collect costume dolls.

 Funnily enough I cannot remember having any favourite soft toys, though presumably the one I am clutching in this studio photo must have been high on the list.  

As for other toys, I  remember being  given (from the TV series) a Muffin the Mule and a Sooty puppet and these formed a major part of the "make believe" games we played.    We got a new jigsaw every Christmas.  The one I best remember was of a winter scene of skaters at the White Horse Inn, near Salzburg in Austria - 45 years later I actually visited the inn on holiday.    Games were popular such as dominoes, snakes and ladders, ludo, tiddlywinks and colouring books and join-the-dot books.

Puppets were a favourite pastime.  We would set up a makeshift theatre in the  front room with the clothes-horse and a sheet, and make simple glove puppets from felt and bits and pieces from my mother's trimming box.  I was usually the script-writer and my brother did the  sound effects, with  my father the hero or villain role and my mother and aunt the audience.  

I loved getting in my Christmas stocking a pristine notebook to write in, a blank scrapbook to show off my collection of scraps and a new pencil case, with new pencils, rubbers and sharpener to take to school at the start of the fresh term.  The really classy one that everyone wanted was wooden where the top swivelled round to show the bottom compartment - the only drawback was it was heavy in your satchel. 

I enjoyed playing at shops, so a toy till , with play money  was an ideal choice.   We also played at libraries, so I was in seventh heaven to be given  a date stamp - and I went on to become a librarian!

Books remained one of my favourite presents for any time of year, with an Enid Blyton at the top of my list.

For my brother it was  meccano, marbles, conkers, his train set, Dinky cars and Airfix models.  Outside, he had his pedal car and football, whilst  I had my tricycle and skipping rope to practice  "crossovers" and "bumps".

Onto the next generation and my daughter's favourite toy -
 donkey, ridden later by her own daughter.

And finally back to  bed  with  a menagerie of soft toys.  My daughter was never a particularly "teddy" girl - panda was her favourite.   Here is Scottie dog, with two owls perched on top of him and alongside  two pandas, a  koala  bear present  from Australia and a  Brownie, knitted from a pattern in "Woman's Weekly" magazine - a great source of ideas for home made toys for children.


Looking back, toys seem very simple compared with the range
today's children have in their crowded toy boxes, but none then  needed batteries! 

 I have happy memories of what we did have.  

Click HERE to read  contributions from other bloggers on this week's  theme.
Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved



  1. I really enjoyed this post Sue. I'm envious of your many family photographs which fit the theme so well. I agree with you regarding our own childhood pictures being limited, and I'm going to have to dig deep in the albums to find something that far back for me. Your descriptions of childhood toys and activities awakened many happy memories for me too. Thank you.

  2. What a perfect choice for a theme with all those wonderful old photos you have! Too bad the one with the darling little girl holding a teddy isn't identified. I have many unidentified photos on my husband's side of the family. Luckily, his aunt (mother's younger sister) is still with us & will hopefully help me put names to some of them at least. Anyway, what a fun post for this week's Sepia Saturday!

  3. How lucky to have so many family photos, (very delightful too) that work well with this theme too. You were so adorable, such a little cutie, and I think my mother and more so my great-grandma made that same kind of yarn ball! As for bringing dolly along, I always did too, and in fact my most treasured baby doll, is still with me! In a safe place, of course!

  4. I enjoyed all your pictures but thought the one of your daughter delightful.

  5. Oh, we could have been great playmates had we not had that silly ocean in the way of our meeting up! I loved dolls and playing house and any other sort of pretend game. My own girls were not into dolls although the younger one always liked a cuddly thing whether a Pound Puppy, Care Bear, or a nameless stuffed dolphin or zebra.

    Love Elsie's doll -- and I remember "Elise" from one of your earlier posts.

  6. And some of my daughter's favorite toys were mine when I was a youngster. A bunny that my grandmother made from a sock has a permanent place on her bed. Very nice post!

  7. I have often bemoaned the fact that we have no photos from our childhood and I was surprised that we have so few of our own children with toys as we didn't even own a camera in their early years. A panda does figure in my post but even now there is an argument who 'owned' the thing.

  8. Little you does not appear to happy with that cigarette smoke so near. I played with dolls way past 11. Mainly dollhouse dolls or dress up sorts.

  9. Fantastic photos...particularly that first one...very special.

  10. What a fascinating post, Sue. It brought back so many memories. Like you I loved my dolls and Enid Blyton, though my play time was very much as a tomboy as there were only boys living nearby. Thanks for the memories.

  11. The stuffed panda in the hospital is strange? I wonder where it is now.
    I love all the different props in the children's photos too.
    We had similar dolls and home made teddies growing up too.

  12. What a wonderful collection of photos. The first and last are absolutely perfect for this weeks theme.

    My favourite is Ian with his little friend.

  13. You brought back a lot of toy memories from my own life. And I too collected dolls. My grandfather used to give me a bad time about all the dolls and stuffed animals that sat along my bookcase style headboard. He'd shake his head today if he were to see the large case filled with hundreds of dolls I still have.


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