In last month’s post in my new genealogy blog A Scottish Family Album I described my search for pictures of children and their toys in amongst my Scottish family photograph collection. I was surprised to discover there were not as many of these as I’d expected, surmising that the grown-ups who’d taken the photographs had most likely decided in advance how the children should be photographed. Possibly they did not want any toys to be a distraction. In contrast, the formal studio photographs often showed children with wooden or classic toys, which may have been given to them by the photographer to create a naturalistic setting or to relax the young sitters.
I remember my father hadn’t been keen to encourage us to line up our dolls and stuffed toys for the rare times he had his camera ready, regarding it as a waste of good film, and I recall sneaking my ‘teddy-bear cat’ into family photographs. When he did give in to my demands for a portrait of Pussy Willow, I proudly posed him on the back steps of the house for the occasion, dressed up in an outfit belonging to my younger sister.
Like many children, I adored my stuffed animal toys more then plastic renditions of babies or functional items such as building blocks and Lego sets. A soft item which can be cuddled obviously has a much greater chance of being loved and even improves with age as its battered parts are a reminder of all the hugs over the years. That’s possibly why my mother preferred Panda and George to her French bisque doll Margaret (see Toy Stories: Part 1), who by dint of her antique status was only ever allowed to be played with under supervision, and never outdoors.
It is also the reason why I did not have many dolls myself, and those I did possess tended to be treated cruelly. The only doll I can really remember (and still have ) was called Linda, named after my mother’s much younger teenage cousin who seemed exciting and glamorous. Unfortunately, she (the doll) was often forced into doing the sort of activities that the cuddly stuffed animals would never have to endure.
Read more of this post at my new family history blog: A Scottish Family Album. Better still, become a subscriber to the new blog and always get each new chapter delivered to your inbox on the first of the month!
The Incidental Genealogist, July 2022