Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sunshine Family (1973)

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Oh! My! Goodness!

Yesterday afternoon, an earache had curtailed my usual thrift store rounds in Rivergate, but as the doc-in-a-box drugstore I went to for relief suggested a thirty minute wait time on my prescription, I thought I would check out an indoor flea market set up that actually shared a parking lot with said pill peddlar. Sick? Not that sick! Neither rain, nor sleet, nor earache...

Low on expectations, I went from booth to booth, most of which sold the side-of-the-road type fare of last year's Avon products, someone's yard sale leftovers, garish pink faux alligator hand bags in plastic wrap, etc, etc. The (not that high) highlight of the trip had been a Eva Gabor wig (a lot like this one), the box of which I found in one booth and the wig it was supposed to contain in another, until I came across ONE booth that was packed to the gills with vintage baby dolls and children's toys. Seeing as I'd picked up a sixties' RCA tabletop radio earlier with a busted plastic case and a fifty dollar price tag, I was suprised to see that EVERYTHING. IN. THE BOOTH. WAS. REASONABLY. PRICED. Not the two or three dollars you might expect to get great collectibles for at an estate sale, but I wasn't at an estate sale! I was in an actual running business where for some reason, the cost of the vintage goods I wanted to purchase were about on board with the maximum amount of money I was willing to spend on said items, if not a little below! Before spend-mania overtook me, I managed to calm down and, after careful deliberation, whittle my armload of treasures down to one item. One glorious item.

What did I come away with, lads and lasses? Oh, just THIS:

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I'd read about the Sunshine Family in a Cracked.com article and found just about every toy in the "10 Old Toys That Made Sense in Their Era" to be something I'd like to own, but none so much as the macrobiotic, new age spirituality looking Sunshine family. And this one in its box! I opened the cardboard lid expecting to find one chair, a ripped-in-half vinyl playmat, or worst of all, some product having nothing to do with the box (imagine, opening a Sunshine Family playset box to find, I don't know, half the contents of a Sorry boardgame and nothing more). Instead, this:

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NO WAY! The original set didn't even come with the dolls! THIS ONE CAME WITH THE DOLLS. And let's take a look at them, shall we?

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I don't know quite where to begin with these. Exactly what the creators at Mattel thought went into their design as appealing is a mystery to me. Is it the lidless, staring eyes? The unusually high hairline/extremely long forehead combination? The cherubically "smushed" impression you get from the girls' faces? I have no idea. But I love them. Especially the guy:

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The original "family" consisted of a father, Steve, a mother, Steffie, and a baby, Sweets. In this scenario, either the baby has grown to adulthood, or Steve has become a polygamist. This is your call. The dolls were naked when I originally opened the box, but as all their clothes were inside, I've dressed them for you to get the whole effect. Aaaand, lemme get that maxi-prairie dress, Steffie. Do you see Steve's turtleneck and belt?

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When I started pullling out accessories, this turntable sticker fluttered out of the playset, its adhesive sticker back long since dried out. As a brand new toy, you could apparently place some of the decorations anywhere you wanted on the vinyl walls, and even move them around as the mood suited you, which I thought was a neat touch. You can't see the label on the LP, but it's obviously a John Denver record. Obviously.

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Here's a shot of the Sunshines in their home. I didn't get a good picture of the structure as a whole (except kind of at the end of this post), but imagine that three, flat, vinyl covered pieces make up a floor, a roof, and a four room wall set-up. Did I mention the furniture was in the box, too? This is really an exceptionally "together" used toy.

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My favorite room is the living room, with its red free-standing fireplace/chiminea as the focal point. Neat key-based art hanging? Check. Mod-ded out Tiffany style lamp fixture? Check. Books on such varied topics as "rocks", "flowers", "shells", "birds", "animals", "insects", and "trees"? Check. I'm assuming the non-titled books are several volumes of dream journals. I LOVE THIS FAMILY.

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Here's the first photo I took of the interior window that leads to the kitchen. Look how much creepier it looks with the dolls in it! I can see so many uses for this in future doll tableaux photography. Also, dig the macrame wall hanging, and the light switch.

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Here's Steffy in the kitchen, which looks a lot like many early 70's kitchens I've seen in real life at estate sales. Deep brown particle board cabinets, spice rack, ceramic cannister set, built in stove, sink, and the ubiquitous orange-y red tile of the seventies' kitchens. Yes! I put the turntable on the shelf in front of Steffie, where it seemed to belong.

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Here's their outdoor patio area, the fourth and final room, awash in hanging plants and a garden planter, as well as a tripped out blue and orange stone pattern that is the only criminally dated feature of the house besides the Sunshine family themselves (and is one of my favorite features, natch).

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Below, you can see everyone hanging out in the kitchen, with a creepy cameo from a photo of Mabel Normand taped to my refrigerator though the left window. As if they needed any help weirding people out. I love the ten-inch tall scale of the dolls inside the house; unlike a lot of Barbie playsets I've been through, they really seem the correct "size" to be using the items in the house, and things like that are important to children. And kitsch childhood obsessed twenty somethings. :)

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A last, parting shot of the roof here:

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Did you have any totally dated, totally beloved-of-you doll playsets like this as a child? What's your favorite Sunshine family house feature? These guys apparently came with sets that included a barn, a truck with a vendor-topper/store in the back of it, and other dolls, so I'll have to keep an eye out and let you know if my Sunshine Family empire expands!

I Love the Sunshine Family blog, Doll Reference entry HERE, collecting guides HERE and HERE

Also, don't forget to join the MPBCSB Facebook page at the right of this entry... I've been enjoying connecting with you guys on a totally different social space! Plus, how else am I supposed to bombard you with Joan Crawford links when I feel guilty for neglecting my poor blog?

Til next time!

16 comments:

  1. Get! Out! That's an amazing find! I spent sooooo many hours with them as a kid. I remember that since Little House on The Prairie was on around the same time, I thought that the Sunshine Family Mom looked like Mary who had gone blind on the show. So I always pretended that the doll was blind!

    And that flea market...oh my god, yes. It's tragic. That must be new booth. Going to have to check it out!

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  2. @Eartha: That's so cool you used to have them! My #1 70's era childhood toy was my cousin Jamie's passed along Fisher price A-frame playset, and it has NOTHING on these straight-from-Night-Gallery guys. Good luck on your next treasure hunt out there! I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

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  3. Lisa, You..are...the Bomb! May I suggest you research the Weeble family? Father Weeble must have been a corporate overlord of some kind. They had a JET for the love of Betsy! Also a pop up camper, a car, a house, a boat, etc, etc.
    How do I know this? My spoiled little brother (the one who whispered to Willie the cigarette penguin)had it all. He was Mom's favorite child, you know.

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  4. Oh yes! I remmeber the sunshine family! We must have gotten our childhood hands on them from a yard sale because I had them in the 80's. We knew they we dated even then. My mom called them the Hippy Dippies, and henceforth, that is what we called them ever since. Our Hippy Dippies had the house, and we had the whole family including Sweets. I remember their trippy LSD dialated eyes! OUr Hippy Dippies also had an unfortunate occupation, they were the sole workers at a toy McDonald's restaurant set that was origianlly made for Barbies. Our poor groovy hippy family had to work at McDonald's searving our poshly dressed snooty ass Barbies! Sad how childhood games can take a turn like that! In another coincidence to your post, I came across a sale with a well loved set of the Sunshine Family and allllmost bought them. I thought of cleaning them up and telling them that I was sorry for the McDonalds thing. Maybe I could have crafted them a Whole Foods Market to shop in to make up for it! Alas, an image of my overstuffed apartment popped into my head and I left them behind. I'm so glad yours found a good home! :-)

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  5. It's funny that you mentioned polygamy, because they do look rather like religious fundamentalists. (Bad Lauren!) I do have to say, though, that their house is totally groovy.

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  6. My gosh, I HAD that house as a kid in the '80s!! I still have the dolls (of the re-branded 1978 'Sunshine FUN Family set) and all of the original house furniture in a box in the basement at my parents, but alas, the house is long gone. I also have the grandparents and some of the accessories from the barn/farm that I had at my grandparents' house (the chicken that actually lays an egg is fabulicious!)...unfortunately, my mom talked me out of keeping the barn itself when I found it a year ago while cleaning out my grandmother's house. Why did I let her???!! Gaahhh!
    As for my favourite dated childhood toy, that would have to be the Holly Hobbie dollhouse I had at my grandmother's. I loved that thing and have been searching for one for years to no avail. I mean, really. There's none that ever turn up on ebay, no mention on dollhouse or '70s toy sites. Nada. Although another HH house does come up occasionally, but not the one I had. I'd almost think I'd imagined the whole thing if I didn't have all the furniture still and a picture of me at about 7 years old playing with it!
    Mrs.Leapheart is right about the Weebles. I had the Weebles circus. Talk about a blast! The cannon was absolutely legend!
    Also, I loved my Littles Victorian Dollhouse and my Maple Town sets! SOOOO '80s!....yeah, I was a dollhouse girl and still am!
    Nicely done getting such a pristine example of this house! My childhood memories and I are uber jealous!

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  7. @ Mrs. Leaphart: Some brothers have all the luck! Jamie (my aforementioned cousin) had Weebles AND Fisher Price Little People. I smell a follow up blog topic...

    @Amber: I had the McDonalds set! But no hippies to work in it. I love the poor Sunshine family as the slightly shorter, oh-so-unglamorous have-nots in that scenario, that story is hilarious.

    @Lauren: Something about their eyes! But you're right, their living arrangements are to die for.

    @Dolly: It's now my sworn mission to find a Holly Hobbie dollhouse. It can be done!

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  8. I just found my mom giving my sunshine family case to goodwill and rescued it. I will have to did for the family I think she combined them with the barbies for my nieces to play with.

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  9. I think I am a little older, ahem, than the average reader. Y'all wax nostalgic about the 80's when I was making BABIES in the 80's. I was a child in the 60's/70's. In my day we had oh, Popper Knockers, Chatty Cathy and Zotz candy. I was the top dawg in first grade because I had the Campus Queen lunch box.
    Then there were those crazy lead balls they gave us 60's babies to teethe on.....

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  10. I had this house back in the 70's. My family wasn't hippie AT ALL, and I LOVED the crunchy granola-ness of the Sunshine Family!!

    I still have the dog and the cat.

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  11. I had this house when I was a kid (still have it). My favorite thing was a dog/cat house that was a go with type of thing. I still have that and the cat and dog and their little food dishes and the dogs bone. I can't believe that stuff survived. By the way, I'm Jodi, live in Nashville and have reading your blog for a while. Hi!

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  12. @ Living Vintage: Good save!
    @Mrs. Leaphart: I. WANT. A CAMPUS QUEEN. LUNCHBOX. Oh my goodness.
    @Cheetah Velour: I've got my eye out for the dog and cat. They sound like a popular item!
    @Jodi: Hi there, fellow Nashvillian! Thanks for reading!

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  13. In true communal spirit, there was also an accessory greenhouse that you could buy with little pots & seeds to grow your own. A neighbor girl had gotten the set one christmas and I was very envious...

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    1. I had the greenhuose. I have been looking for one for years! I was starting to wonder if it wasn't orginally Sunshine. My mom helped be plant the lima bean seeds that came with it in the little pots. I remember how exciting it was when they broke through the soil! Like magic.

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  14. In true communal spirit, there was also an accessory greenhouse that you could buy with little pots & seeds to grow your own. A neighbor girl had gotten the set one christmas and I was very envious...

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  15. They were quite the "Green Family" back in their day! I found the house for $6 still in the box at a local thrift, the graphics are spectacular-GOOD FIND!

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