Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Sunshine Family (1973)
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:
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:
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?
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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. :)
A last, parting shot of the roof here:
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!