For generations, little girls have topped their Christmas wish lists with baby dolls. My friend Helen, who is 101 years old, fondly recalls a special baby doll that she wished for back in the early 1920’s. In my post 100-Year-Old Storyteller: Interview With Helen Geiszler— Part 2, Helen stated, “My one and only favorite toy was an infant baby doll with a long white dress. That was my pride and joy. We got one gift and that was it at Christmas. I remember I wanted an infant doll—not a grown-up doll but an infant doll—and that’s what I got. Its head was china [probably bisque], and the rest of it was stuffed cloth.” Helen lamented that she had not kept that doll.
When I was a little girl in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the popular dolls were Chatty Cathy, Tiny Tears, Thumbellina, and Ponytail Barbie. I owned several beloved dolls, but the only one on the 50’s hot list was the inimitable Betsy Wetsy. To read about those favorites, see my post Hey, Boomer Girls, Remember Your Baby Dolls?—Part 1 and This Boomer’s Humble Baby Dolls of the 50’s/60’s: Part 2.
What about the dolls of the 1980’s when my daughter Leslie was a child? There was Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, and, of course, Barbie, plus a new fashion doll named Jem.
But the most popular dolls of the 1980’s, hands down, were the Cabbage Patch Kids, made by Coleco. Each kid came pre-named with a birth certificate and adoption application!
In 1983, Cabbage Patch Kids were introduced at the International Toy Fair in New York City. Instantly they became a sensation—even hotter than Boy George and the Culture Club! Every little girl wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. I think my mother-in-law longed for one even more than Leslie did. Well before Christmas, Carmella and her friend Mary were determined to get one for their granddaughters—come hell or high water. “Oh, we waited in line for hours,” Leslie’s grandma griped. But before they could get to the front of the store’s line, the dolls had run out. Demand was greater than supply. They’d go to another store, wait in line for hours, and come away empty handed again. On the third or fourth try, their sacrifice paid off, and they finally acquired their much-coveted Cabbage Patch Kids. My mother-in-law even bought one for herself!
Here is one store’s handling of the dilemma:
Across the country, these soft-sculptured dolls promulgated near riots, as seen in this video:
In December 1983, the Cabbage Patch dolls were featured on the front cover of Newsweek Magazine, and by the end of the year, 3 million of the dolls had been “adopted.”
Below is Leslie in bed with her Kid in 1985 or 1986. It was a real Kodak moment. (Yes, there was such a thing as a KODAK moment in 1985, as you may recall.) Like Mommy, like daughter. Leslie is holding her favorite “Pinky” blanket to her nose; Baby is holding her mini “Pinky”—handmade by Grandma (me)—to her nose and wearing her Uncle Frank’s newborn outfit. I still have the doll and the striped outfit, but I have no idea what happened to the pacifier.
Easter 1987 from left to right: Our pet turtle, my son Frank, Leslie’s other Cabbage Patch Kid in background, cousin Justin, Leslie
Leslie also had the bank:
Cabbage Patch Dolls. Cabbage Patch banks. Cabbage Patch stickers. Cabbage Patch puzzles. Cabbage Patch lunchboxes. Cabbage Patch comic books. Cabbage Patch games. For boys with sisters, they were helpless to avoid the craze that, in their estimation, seemed to go on ad nauseam—until 1985, when they got their revenge with the introduction of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. Produced by the Topps Company, they irreverently parodied the Cabbage Patch dolls. If you had a young son in the 1980’s, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Rather than describing these cards to you, I’ll show you part of my son Frank’s collection. He was 8 years old when the Cabbage Patch furor began.
Garbage Pail cards became so rampant that some schools banned them as distractions. Kids were trading and selling and fighting over them during the school day!
Did you know that Coleco sued Topps for trademark infringement? In an out-of-court settlement, Topps agreed to change the appearance of the characters as well as its logo.
Finally, I want to show you that the vintage Cabbage Patch dolls are still winning little girls’ hearts years later. When my 5-year-old granddaughter comes to visit from California each Christmas, she plays with Leslie’s two dolls, but, like Leslie, she favors the little bald-headed preemie, probably because she is an adorable little infant. Here is 3-year-old Katie at Christmas 2014 serving green apples, carrots, pretzels, ice cream cones, and other nutritious snacks to her baby.
Cabbage Patch Dolls are still sold today although—no surprise— they’ve changed with the times. On Amazon, you can buy Cabbage Patch Caucasions, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. You can buy a Cabbage Patch Naptime Baby, Drink ‘n Wet Newborn, and Dance With Me, which sings as well as dances. Cabbage Patch Twinkle Toes has shoes that light up and shine, and the Cuddle Babies are the most realistic infant dolls that I’ve ever seen. But they don’t diminish the cuteness and lovability of the original Cabbage Patch Kids.
Naturally, one can also buy 2016 Garbage Pail trading cards and a Garbage Pail Kids movie. For the politically incorrect or politically exasperated, there are even Garbage Pail vinyl figures named Donald Dumpty and Billary Hillary!
Do you have any Cabbage Patch or Garbage Pail stories to share? Do tell, please.
KAREN GENNARI is the author of The Crab Hollow Chronicles, a fictitious memoir based on her experiences growing up in a neighborhood full of boys in 1961/62. It also explores the merits and challenges of life in a Catholic family of seven.
Join nine-year-old Karen Schmidt in her attempts to navigate Crab Hollow Road amidst the overwhelming male majority who beleaguer her at every opportunity. Does Karen have the fortitude to weather toadnappings, midnight escapades, false impersonation, and more? Along the way, relive the people, products, music, sports, and headlines of the early 1960’s. Virtually every page references the 1960’s. Lots of your favorite toys are mentioned in these pages.