Thursday, June 9, 2011

Back to my childhood...

I have finally reached the age where I can say "Thirty years ago, when I was a kid..." Songs I sang along with on my radio/cassette player are "classics". Books I loved are out of print (like Everybody Say Cheese by Betty Bates). Toys I played with, like the original Strawberry Shortcake, are now part of history.

Speaking of toys... Most of us from Greenwich  remember when the old chicken barn on Fiddler's Elbow Road in Middle Falls churned out wonderful cloth toys like the Velveteen Rabbit, Ratty and Mole from The Wind in the Willows, Puss in Boots and many more. Founded by John Gunther in 1973, the Toy Works, Inc. used the modern silk-screen process to re-imagine 19th century full color, cloth toys for children of a new era. With a focus on functional and decorative items for the home & now called Fiddler's Elbow (, the company is still in existence 38 years later.

As children, my younger sister & I both had a 6" Tabby Kitten from the Toy Works. At Christmas time, out came the 14" Sinterklaas with all the rest of the festive decorations. I had a Velveteen Rabbit that mom sewed together. I remember her having a hard time with it, even though she was & is an expert seamstress. She probably sewed & stuffed all of them because, not only were the toys available as "sew-it-yourself" kits, there was a once a year seconds sale. The weekend after Thanksgiving, mom would go to the sale at the factory & pick up seconds, remnants, prototypes... for a fraction of the cost. This sale has become a Thanksgiving tradition. My mom, my daughter & I still go over to Fiddler's Elbow for the sale, usually on Saturday (Friday can be a bit hardcore). Instead of cloth toys we buy hand towels to give as holiday gifts with homemade quick breads and cookies.

When I took the position of town historian in 2003 I was kind of surprised to find a 6" Tabby Kitten, a 14" Tabby Cat looking down at me from their perch atop one of the filing cabinets. It brought all of those childhood memories back & made me smile. A little while later I discovered some ephemera from the old Toy Works. So, here is a sample from the 1984 price list...

6" Tabby Kitten- unit price $3.00- sew-it-yourself kit $2.00
14" Tabby Cat & 14" Sinterklaas- unit price $8.75- sew-it-yourself kit $4.00
7.5" Ratty, Mole, Toad, Mr. Badger- unit price $4.50- sew-it-yourself kit $2.75
10" Velveteen Rabbit- unit price $5.00- sew-it-yourself kit $3.00
15" Puss in Boots- unit price $6.25- sew-it-yourself kit $2.75

Bunny, Green-eyed Kitten, Antique Teddy Bear, Tabby Kitten, Tabby Cat

1 comment:

  1. 6/11/2011- Alice Foss Quigley wrote on Facebook...
    "I never owned any of the stuffed toys, but I did know a lady who worked there very well. Clara St Mary used to work with me and my parents at my uncle Henry Fryer's chick hatchery, Meadow View Chicks. When he closed the business, she went... to work at the toy factory as she called it. The hen barn was part of what had been Frank Humphrey's poultry farm. I graduated with one of his daughters, Mabel, and plodded through French with the younger, Helen (she was a whiz at French, unlike me). So thanks so much for the memories!"