If the “Barbie” doll fostered young Boomer girls’ sense of fashion style and planted the seeds of future sexpot-ism, then Tiny Tears and Chatty Kathy nurtured both the maternal instinct and sisterly love in hundreds of little girls in the late 1950’s through mid-60’s.
Tiny Tears was created by the American Character Doll Company and came on the scene around 1950 through 1968. She was one of the most popular dolls of the 50’s-60’s. Cathy was created by the Mattel Company in 1960 and had a special low-fidelity phonograph inserted in her abdominal cavity. Every time you pulled her special ring, Chatty spoke some sweet-voiced pleasantry. Patty Play Pal was created by the Ideal Company around 1961 and was marketed as a life-size “companion/friend” who never had to go home.
Tiny Tears was the most popular baby doll that taught many young girls how to both console a crying baby and change their diaper. Due to her special internal design, Tiny Tears was able to shed real, watery tears from 2 special holes on either side of her nose when you gave her water from her bottle and pressed on her stomach. Tiny Tears stimulated our “caring” instincts at an early age, teaching us how to respond to a crying child by drying her tears and getting her “rock-a-bye” eyes to close by gently rocking her back and forth. Some of us Boomer women may wonder, if it wasn’t for Tiny, and other dolls like her (Dy-Dee Baby and Betsy Wetsy), and we didn’t have a baby brother or sister to learn from, would our parents have chosen to hone our nurturing skills first by giving us dolls like these rather than hone our mathematics or engineering skills at such an early age? Likely so, as learning to care for future children was what most Boomer girls were all being groomed for, consciously or not, in those days rather than careers outside the home.
And, if Tiny Tears was a Boomer girl’s “baby”, or “caretaking charge” of the future, then Chatty Cathy and Patty Play Pal were the little sisters Boomer women never had. At about 20”, Chatty was about the size of a 1 year-old, while Patty at 36” was about the size of a 3 year-old child. Chatty spoke in 11 well-chosen phrases while Patty, however, could actually go for walks with us – in a jerky, mechanical sort of way. Although we could play make believe, have private tea parties in our rooms, or tell all our secrets to either of them without judgment, or bratty brothers telling Mom or Dad, Chatty though, was probably the more appealing “friend”. Whatever we did or said, all Chatty ever, sometimes eerily, answered was “I love you”, or “Please take me with you”, or “Let’s play house”. But as psychologically interesting the “relationship” could get with Chatty Cathy, girls saw her as a true friend and confidant which nurtured another typical “girl” quality – loyalty to our BFFs.
Today, the original Tiny Tears dolls, Patty Play Pals, Chatty Cathy’s are falling apart. Most are full of dark, mottled pink rubber and corrosion from usage and, in Tiny’s case, the water they took on. In 2013, looking back at these once popular Boomer girls role model toys, the “decay” we see in them now is oddly ironically symbolic of the unraveling of the 50’s-60’s unspoken female code that dolls like Tiny, Chatty and Patty embodied and taught. It was a code that completely fell apart in the pivotal years of 1968-1970. It culminated in grown Boomer women wanting to also nurture other qualities in their own little girls – like teaching them they could be anyone they wanted when they grew up – housewives and mothers, doctors and rocket scientists – or both.
Instead of being given dolls like Tiny Tears, Chatty Cathy or Patty Play Pal, Boomers Generation X daughters were given more brain and imagination stimulating toys. And as molded, so did they grow – more Gen X little girls grew up to be engineers, doctors, and all kinds of different things – in addition to being mothers. And, Gen Y/Millennial girls? Well, they’re light years ahead of their Boomer grandmas. But are Gen X and Y women/girls intrinsically different from their Boomer mothers and grandmothers? Well, on one internet chat room, one contributor, age unknown, in a post commenting on the retro-dolls of our Boomer pasts said: “Those dolls were popular back in the day when women were taught to be feminine.”