Back Before the Mysterious Disappearance of Barbie’s Littlest Sister

In keeping with my promise to a couple of my loyal readers, I have put away my snips and snails and closed the lid on my can of puppy dog tails long enough to look at some of the more popular girls toys of my youth. I have done my best to do so through the eyes of one made of sugar and spice and everything nice, but really, who am I kidding? In my world, Barbie was nothing more than a lust interest for my G.I. Joe when he went on R&R.

Anyway, the first thing I noticed is that the market has been kinder to girls’ toys. Almost all of the toys on the list are still available, if only in vitiated mockeries of their original selves. Two of the items are from the impossibly ubiquitous Barbie line of toys by Mattel, yet only one is still on store shelves. And so we begin with the story of a vanished pre-teen plastic girl…

ScooterBarbie’s other little sister
Status: No longer manufactured

It was never easy for little Scooter. Being the youngest of three girls and lacking the fantasy-formed beauty of her sisters, poor Scooter spent many a playtime at the bottom of the toy box buried beneath musty stuffed animals and the sticky parts to an old Snoopy Sno-Cone Maker. She couldn’t understand why hardly anyone wanted to play with her. She knew she was just as wonderful a doll as Barbie and Skipper. After all, didn’t they take all her clothes and wear them as their own?

Then one day Scooter vanished. No one heard from her again. Oh, there would be reports every now and then that she’d been spotted hustling her wares down on eBay Boulevard, but the best I could dig up were some snapshots. They could have been taken thirty years ago for all I know.

My theory is that Mattel decided Scooter wasn’t good for their bottom line and had her rubbed out. I can’t prove this, however.

Barbie Styling HeadHere, Gertrude, a life-size head that’s prettier than you! Enjoy!
Status: Still available

It’s a brilliant idea, really. Get the kid to paint all over a fake, plastic head instead of her own. I bet a lot of moms would have been delighted to see a boy’s version with plenty of hair they could hack off in chunks; would’ve spared them having to look at crew-cuts all the time, at least.

I’m not sure if the point of the Barbie Styling Head is to teach girls how to do their own makeup or how to do someone else’s. It seems like a toy only beauticians would buy for their daughters, but maybe that’s the snails-n-tails talking.

The Barbie Styling Head of the 60s and 70s was classic in its design. It was obviously a practice head specifically designed for styling hair and applying makeup, as evidenced by the handy pink trough that comprised its base. Save for her pleasant facial expression, today’s version gives the impression Barbie has mistakenly teleported herself into your table. Oopsie, it appears I’ve fused my atoms with those of your countertop. Tee-hee. Oh, well, might as well have a facial while I’m here. Go easy on the eye shadow, wouldja girlfriend?

Easy-Bake OvenBefore it turned into a microwave
Status: Still available

I’m here to tell you there was no fouler tasting pastry than the tiny, brown chunk of drywall produced by Kenner’s Easy-Bake Oven. Ironically, you’d willingly wait an eon for the 60-watt light bulb to cook the glob of re-hydrated goo into an unpalatable brick, never considering that in that same amount of time, you could probably have pestered your mom into making you some real brownies.

But then, it was all about the independence, wasn’t it? When I let the neighbor girl ride my Green Machine and she felt the need to reciprocate with a hot brownie, she certainly couldn’t be so crass as to ask her mother to step in and do the baking, could she? No, that would not do. She had to make it herself. Thank heavens for the Easy-Bake Oven (and for boys so willing to impress they’ll swallow just about anything if say you made it just for them)!

A more recent version of the Easy-Bake Oven (now by Hasbro) has forsaken the standard oven appearance and looks like a microwave. I’m happy to report, however, that the newest model has gone back to the old-style oven setup. Evidently, my reaction to the microwave version of “What the HELL!?” wasn’t the only one.

Ankle-SkipsSkip-Its, Skip-Balls, Skipity-doo-dahs, Skipped-town-with-my-rent-money, whatever
Status: Still available

The Ankle-Skip is sort of an advanced jump rope and was decidedly a girl’s toy. Boys who played with one either felt at ease running like a ‘retarded spaz’ or had an insatiable desire to jump rope, but needed their hands free for other things like swatting away spitballs and wads of gum. As I recall, the boys who played with Ankle-Skips got beat up a lot. Then they were hog-tied with their Ankle-Skip.

Karin* says it was one of her favorite toys of all time. She also says it took some practice to master. See, around one ankle you have this ring, which is attached to a rope with a bell (or ball) at the end. The idea is to get the thing spinning as you run, skipping it with your other foot each time around. Sounds easy enough, but I guess there’s serious potential to hand some skin over to ol’ Mr. Pavement before you get it down pat.

Fisher Price FarmBefore it put on all that extra weight
Status: Still available

Okay, so, not a girls-only toy by any means, but it really should have gone on the other list and it was a girl in my neighborhood who had one when I was a kid. Plus, it was Karin who reminded me of it and she’s a girl, so there you go. Sue me.

I liked all the Fisher Price people, of course, but the farm set was my favorite. I especially dug how the barn door would issue an electronic-sounding moooooooo whenever it was opened. I also loved it that the Fisher Price granny had square-framed glasses and wore her hair in a bun. And her smile was so pleasant. It said, Come on in, children. I’ve just baked some chocolaty brownies that don’t taste like charred sheetrock.

The Fisher Price Farm of today has to take into account the fact that babies absolutely love to see if random items will fit down their windpipe. So now the farm comes in a cute and chubby, too-big-for-small-mouths design that really makes it a babies-only toy. Used to be a kid could play with Fisher Price people up into age seven or eight without any loss of dignity. Not now. No self-respecting six-year-old is going to let other first-graders see her playing with those baby toys. She’s more likely to see how Farmer Jed does in the Easy-Bake microwave. Or, again, maybe that’s just boys.

*Karin is my queen, my heart, my support, my anchor, my life. If she says the Ankle-Skip was a fun toy, I believe her (no matter how silly and un-fun I think it looks).

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About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
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27 Responses to Back Before the Mysterious Disappearance of Barbie’s Littlest Sister

  1. Lystelle says:

    Hi Kirk,I've been reading your blog, but haven't left a comment until now. Your mention of 'Pop Rocks' inspired me to use it as a sample, in fact your recent retro articles were the original inspiration for a piece of audio art/electro noise I played live on UK radio, thanks!Now girl stuff:Well, my Barbie was always disappointed that Action Man's undies didn't come off; even in days of innocence we girls still wanted to see his bottom!In the UK we had more Sindy dolls than Barbies, so Barbie was Sindy's friend from the US who came to stay and stole her boyfriend Paul, who was much more attractive than Barbie's Ken. Sindy practically disappeared for a few years, but she's said making a comeback this year.I remember Scooter, I didn't want her. From what I remember, the poor gal was usually used as Barbie's daughter. I wanted Maria, but she was never in stock.For me Barbie styling head lost to one by 'Zapf Creations' due to the limitations the Barbie one had in the way that she looked like she was already wearing makeup.My Skip-it's appeal was that it had a counter which told you how many you'd done, this meant competition however stupidly boring it was, tell you what though this one f***in' hurt when it whacked into your ankle. Twas great for girls who couldn't skip – it bothered me at the time!Now what else? 'Speak and Spell' anyone?

  2. Kirk says:

    Your mention of 'Pop Rocks' inspired me… in fact
    your recent retro articles were the original inspiration for a piece of
    audio art/electro noise I played live on UK radio, thanks!Wow! That's really cool, Lystelle. I feel like I should be thanking you. 😉 You wouldn't happen to have an mp3 of your electro-noise piece, wouldja? I'd love to hear some of your audio art.Excellent point about the Barbie Styling Head appearing to already be wearing makeup. Wish I'd thought of that when I wrote the post!

  3. Molly says:

    I remember my Easy Bake Oven. It was so much fun! However much fun it was, the food ALWAYS tasted like a lump of sugar mixed with some other unnatural taste. But FUN.

  4. devonrex says:

    scooter was honest, pleasant, and had unfortunately large and flat feet; therefore she was doomed to fail.glad to hear barbie heads and easy-bake ovens are still around. now I know what to tell mom to get me for xmas:)

  5. Choccie says:

    I remember Sindy – I 'inherited' some Sindy gear when I was younger, which included a horse! I had a head too, only it was called Girl's World here in the UK. I was more into lego though for some reason, hehe. Guess I was a slight tomboy.

  6. sonyaseattle says:

    Oh, great article! I had many of these toys – funny thing is, I hated dolls, and preferred the thousands of little plastic animals I treasured for most of my childhood. Weird kid. But you know, the grownups get you the toys they think you want.

  7. spooktastic says:

    oh my, snoopy sno cone maker!! i had one of those, i was telling my boyfriend (who is younger than me about it), mine had a crank. it took forever to get enough to make a sno cone. and someone mentioned speak and spell, i had one of those and a speak and add (?) speak and math (?). i can still hear it's voice in my head. awesome.

  8. Lauri says:

    LOL at brown chunk of drywall! Heeeeee!

  9. Lauri says:

    Lol, I just read D'fab's reply and he is right. You could get in trouble labelling girl's toys and boy's toys! jk….My daughter HATED dolls. She and her friend would play "grenade Barbies" by pulling the Barbies' heads off and throwing the bodies at each other. This was when they were snotty, sarcastic 12 year olds, though. And, my youngest son had a Cabbage Patch doll he named Crystal when he was four.

  10. Jay says:

    My cousin had the Easy-Bake Oven, and she'd always make me eat that confounded lump of lukewarm mud that came out of it after an hour of 60-watt 'baking'. And I pretended I liked it. Or else I'd get a punch.Childhood…best days of my life right? I sho' hope not.The bruises have just begun to fade.

  11. RedScylla says:

    Here's the doll I never understood–Betsy Wetsy. WTF? Neighbor girl had one and I just couldn't figure what the thrill was of changing a poopie diaper. Even if it was just faux poop.

  12. Lauri says:

    Reeeeeally, Redz. Poop comes along fast enough in life. No need to bring it into childhood…except by the natural means!!

  13. Lauri says:

    Jay, it sounds as if you were a smart kid! You made it through childhood with only bruises, right? 😉

  14. Jay says:

    I laid low. And avoided contact sports.I have to wonder what marketing genius came up with the name "Scooter". For a pre-teen girl doll. No matter how many times I say it, it still makes no sense.

  15. M says:

    Fisher Price granny had square-framed glasses and wore her hair in a bun. And her smile was so pleasant.
    Oh, sure, she looked like a kindly old granny. But you should've been there the day they dug up all the Fisher Price drifters from the underneath the barn floor.

  16. Lauri says:

    I had a Skipper doll. Wasn't she Barbie's cousin? I was given her because she was a tomboy and rode horses, etc. The toys I liked best (like sonyaseattle) were my plastic farm animals, and when I got older, my live mice. Animals, animals, animals. That was it. Dolls….pffffft.I did "bake" brown drywall in my Easy Bake Oven, though. Heee.

  17. Kirk says:

    Fattypants, you must have missed the first paragraph of the Fisher Price Farm section wherein I wrote:"Okay, so, not a girls-only toy by any means but… it was a girl in my neighborhood who had one when I was a kid. Plus, it was Karin who reminded me of it and she’s a girl, so there you go. Sue me."So, I guess I'll be waiting for a letter from your attorney, then? 😉

  18. Kiss Me Cate says:

    Did Scooter morph into Skipper? I remember I had a Skipper doll when I was a kid, I thought she was Barbie's little sister? The best thing about her is that all her clothes fit Barbie- only tighter, shorter and sluttier.

  19. Kirk says:

    Cate: I'm pretty sure that Skipper and Scooter were available at the same time, so I don't think one evolved into the other. Skipper was girly like Barbie, while Scooter was sort of the tom-boyish little sister.Lauri: It is quite possible the younger girls' relationship to Barbie was really of the cousin or niece variety; As I said, my G.I. Joe never bothered to ask. 😉

  20. Jay says:

    How come they never made any Barbie's mom and dad? That would have been nice, come holiday time. Are we to assume she lost her parents in a tragic pink van accident? Or that she was immaculately conceived? Perhaps sprang fully-formed from the head of Cobra Commander?

  21. Kirk says:

    Clearly, Barbie's folks were close friends of all the parents of Peanuts. I imagine they even had the same wha-wha voices that only their children could understand…

  22. Fattypants says:

    Whoops, you caught me skimming. Sorry! This after I agreed with your post about how people should read more…Um….I was reading quickly because I couldn't wait to get back to my book. Yeah….that's it!

  23. Kirk says:

    No worries, FP. We've all done it. Hopefully, my reply indicated my casual attitude about it. And surely your book was far more interesting anyway. 🙂

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