52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 7 Toys

20 February 2011

Gunderson young family

I’m participating in the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history challenge.

This week’s topic is all about what was your favourite childhood toy. I was always a bit of a tomboy so even though I was given the obligatory Barbie doll when she came out in 1959 (I’m a few years older than Barbie and I have great trouble accepting that Barbie is now a 50+ woman), I don’t think I ever really played with dolls.  I was more likely to be found swimming down the creek or fishing and yabbying.

Living in Brisbane it was usually hot and humid and in the days before water restrictions, we used to have a canvas pool with a steel frame (about 6ft x 4ft and maybe 18 inches deep) – I’d put that into metric but that is still one of the things I’ve never really mastered. It was really just big enough for me and my younger brother to splash around in with the family dog on a hot summer’s day.

We also had a ‘Cowboy and Indian’ tent which gave us endless hours of fun with our toy guns and bows and arrows. Yet when my own son was little I wouldn’t let him have guns or other weapons – how the world changed. But in my own defence, I did use to take him down to the Brisbane River and we would chase and sometimes even catch the fiddler crabs in the mudflats (catch and release was my motto even then).

I also used to spend hours in this makeshift bird hide I constructed on the back verandah so that I could watch all the various birds in the bush behind us. It was just old blankets and sheets but I felt that the birds couldn’t see me.

Probably the main reason I didn’t have that many toys to play with is because I was actually a reader and most people gave me books as presents rather than toys. I’m still a reader and there are probably enough books in my current house to set up my own library – every time I move it’s a nightmare and I often end up giving friends books I know they would like and the Salvos get the rest.

I think my interests in life were set in those early years (although it took me over two decades to realise it) but my favourite books were Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series. I’ve always loved solving mysteries – is that why I got into genealogy – and I have always loved criminal detective books and TV shows. I can’t get enough of them or genealogy for that matter – is it all Enid Blyton’s fault??

Well this was supposed to be about childhood toys, but toys could be loosely defined as anything that you spend time doing which is why I have included some of my other childhood activities. The question I am left with is – how many other genealogists read The Famous Five while growing up?


Shauna has been tracing her own family history since 1977 and is a Fellow of the Queensland Family History Society. In 2009 Shauna received the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) Services to Family History Award for her achievements in Queensland, Canberra and Victoria.

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  1. Yes, I have to confess to being a Famous Five, Enid Blyton fan too! Read everyone of those books severals times . . . strangely I never quite got into the Secret Seven (her other series). They just seemed a poor shadow of the Famous Five. George and Timmy were my favourite characters!

  2. I, too, loved the Famous Five. The books made me want to go to boarding school, which is strange since their adventures took place during the holidays. Boarding school was not so common in Canada so I figured I’d have to go to England. My parents, luckily, were not quite so keen on the idea. In general, though, I’d have to say I’m not a big fan of mysteries (in book or TV form, anyway!)

  3. Thanks Seonaid for reminding me of the Secret Seven. Like you I preferred the Famous Five although my dog was named Scamp – he really wasn’t a Scamper!

  4. Thanks Shauna. I love your stories of Brisbane in our childhood days (I think I can give you a few years though). Your pool story reminded me how I used to play under the sprinkler or hose to get cool or make a cubby with sheets in a quiet spot.
    As to the Famous Five, I was more of a Trixie Belden fan. Yes, I too always loved books and still enjoy detective stories in books or TV. Hence genealogy I suspect. Pauleen

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