Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Doll With The Red Raincoat

"Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children."
- Charles R. Swindoll -

We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, so toys were not something that we had a lot of. Not that we really cared, mind you. We preferred to play outdoors, and aside from those rainy or very cold days, no toy had the power to keep us inside. There was a great big world out there for us to explore, and explore it we did.

But despite our adventurous spirit, and the fact that the financial status of most of the families I knew didn’t allow for such luxuries, my mother did, nonetheless, believe that we should have some toys to play with. And somehow or other, she always managed to find a way to get us some.

She was a very practical and efficient woman, and if there was a thrifty way to accomplish something, my mother would unearth it. One way was shopping in ‘five-and-dime’ stores (if you’re as old as I am, you’re familiar with that term). The other way was cereal box top mail-ins.

Remember those?

I’m not sure when things changed and companies stopped offering toys in the boxes, but when I was a kid, there were two wonderful things offered by cereal companies that were an important part of my young life:

1) Toys directly in the cereal box that you fought over with your siblings, especially if it just happened that the toy tumbled into your bowl when you poured your Alpha-Bits or Rice Krispies or Honeycomb. “No fair. Mooooooommmmmm.” The other kids would call out. And a battle would ensue for the cheap, plastic prize. Until mom took it away for good. From everyone. But you could avoid all this is you were a little enterprising and dug out the toy from the bottom of the cereal box, which is always where it seemed to be stuck, when no one was around. Then, of course, you feigned surprise and disappoint at the breakfast table when the box came up empty of a toy. Not that I ever did this.

2) Toys that you sent away for by mailing in the required amount of cereal box tops.

And one of the best mail-ins of my childhood occurred when I was about four years old...

The doorbell rang one morning while my brothers were at school and the mailman handed my mother a package. My mother’s face beamed as she thanked him, and after she wished him a nice day and closed the door, she turned and handed the package to me.

“It’s for you.” She said.

For me!

It was enough that I was excited about receiving my own mail – such a grownup thing to do - never mind the elation I felt when I opened the package and found a doll inside complete with accessories --- clothes, shoes and handbags. The most memorable thing about this doll that became so precious to me was her red raincoat and hat. I don’t have a clear recollection of any of the other accessories, but that ensemble, for whatever reason, remains a vivid memory. Perhaps it was so pretty that I kept it alive in my mind.

Years passed before I finally understood that my mother had secretly saved many cereal box tops to order that toy for me. In the back of the cereal box, there had been an offer for this doll with her accessories and with enough box tops and a small amount sent in to cover postage and handling, you were able to send for her. My mother had done just that. She was that type of parent, always finding ways to add special touches to our childhood.

The joy I felt that morning is immeasurable. That little doll with her red raincoat and hat is a memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Thanks to my mother.

Do you remember a special toy?


  1. What a wonderful story about a wonderful Mom.
    And you know you look so much like her!
    Yes! I LOVED my little Pebbles doll that I WON at a store drawing. Pebbles, from the Flintstones, with her red hair in a bone on top of her head? I loved the Flintstones, do you know that show was on in the evenings, in prime time?

    1. The Flintstones was one of my favourite shows when I was a kid. I've seen every episode over and over again. I would have loved a doll like the one you won.

  2. I got a toy once by sending in box tops. Trix cereal was offering a plastic version of its rabbit mascot that you could make hop by twisting an elastic contraption. I wanted one SO BAD! We didn't eat Trix cereal because it was too expensive but my Mom bought enough of it so I could get the necessary box tops to mail in. I had fun with that rabbit!

  3. For me it was King Vitamin. I was always into the Medieval theme and one year they had a plastic catapult and castle wall set. You would put the castle wall together then knock it down with the catapult. Loved that toy! I don't remember what cereal had it but do you remember the submarines that you put baking soda in? They would drop to the bottom of the tub, then as the baking soda dissolved it would slowly float to the top. Lots of great cereal toys in the 70s :)

    1. That Medieval set sounds like a blast! I would have enjoyed that. I didn't know about the submarines. Now, there's a toy my brother and I would have had a blast with.

  4. Oh what a nice memory!
    I remember those offers too.
    My last experience with them wasn't good, I sent away for a dining set for a toddler(my boy) and it never came. Boo!

    1. Oh, that's too bad! I imagine that you inquired about that??