My Barbie Country Camper

1969 vintage Barbie Country Camper

1969 vintage Barbie Country Camper

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about things from my childhood; the way the world was and events in my life. I suppose it’s my age and a natural part of growing older. Figuring out how you got to where you are, where your path has led you, finally realizing you have the power to change it if you don’t like it and looking back to what may be perceived as a better time.

However, I like the world I live in now. It’s not without its challenges, threats or abominations but we had those back in the 60’s and 70’s too, without many of the advantages and advances the world offers today. In some cases it was worse. Think about Vietnam. In fact, the world was still reeling from WWII in many ways. At least, my generation was raised by the generations who lived through it and it certainly had an impact on the way we lived and how we were raised.

But I digress. I was actually remembering a funny little incident in my life, very illustrative of the times. I was around six or seven year old. The late 60’s early 70’s was still an era of tradition, ethics, morals and good manners despite the “Hippie Revolution” or social revolution that was exploding at the time. Especially for people like my mother who grew up in a very staunch, Christian household and who still wore white gloves to church on Sunday, put her hair in curlers before going to bed and would never leave the house without a proper slip and girdle under her dress that always sat just below the knee. As proper little girls we did the same, minus the girdle. I hated wearing dresses because I wasn’t allowed to run and play in them and the scratchy stockings we had to wear just about drove me crazy. They were either just a bit too short and sagged in the crotch or too long and bunched. I could never figure out the slip either. Why did we need a dress under our dress? Women sure had to wear a lot of clothes in those days!

Aside from our very proper attire, there were social morals that are pretty much non-existent today. Don’t get me wrong, I think, for the most part this is a good thing. I’m glad as can be that my daughter is not considered too “delicate or emotional” to do the same work as a man and is taken seriously working in what was once considered a man’s field. I’m happy that my son is not expected to be the sole earner and support in his household and that a relationship is now considered an equal partnership.

Some of the things I think we have lost that are valuable are good manners and a sense of social propriety. It bothers me to see young people who are disrespectful to older people. It was a good thing to be told and taught to “respect your elders”. After all, they spent their lives building the world the young people live in and in some cases sacrificing their lives for our freedom. It’s nice to see a young man open a door for a girl. There’s nothing chauvinistic about it. It’s good manners and brings a beautiful sense of decorum to the world that is often not an easy place to live. It’s about respect.

There is also no shame left in anything; again, a good and bad thing. It’s great that a young girl isn’t shamed when having a baby out of “wedlock” and that she can keep that child and raise it and that child doesn’t grow up with a stigma attached to them. But it’s not so good that people like Rob Ford, for example, can plunder through life doing the crazy things he is and still hold the respected seat of Mayor of one of Canada’s major cities. Back in the late 1960’s a man like this would have been forced out of office immediately. But in all likelihood, he would have graciously bowed out on his own accord, ashamed of what he had done.

I remember sitting around the TV on a Sunday evening watching some the family’s favorite shows, like the Wonderful World of Disney, Don Messer’s Jubilee and the Tommy Hunter Show; all very G rated. I will never forget the look of complete embarrassment on the faces of my mother, grandmother and grandfather, the first time a feminine hygiene commercial was aired during this time. I suppose the embarrassment was amplified by the fact that I had to ask what the commercial was all about. Of course my other sister’s would never have thought of asking but I always seemed to be the kid getting into trouble and asking too many questions. I don’t recall what the answer was; probably something like, “be quiet and watch the show”, I just know I felt very embarrassed and realized I shouldn’t have said anything. It would seem silly now but this is very much the way it still was in those days.

So it is no wonder my mom reacted the way she did the day my sister and I decided to build our own Barbie Country Camper. Like all little girls at the time, we wanted a Barbie Country Camper. I’m not too sure why as my sister and I didn’t really play with Barbie Dolls that much. We preferred our stuffed toys that were different shapes, sizes and creatures and who all had their own unique names, personalities and character traits. But here we were, the latest little victims of the advertising industry, thinking we absolutely had to have a Barbie Country Camper or we would just simply die!

So one day, when I came across a discarded box that was just the right shape and size, I brought it to our bedroom which my sister and I shared, and we set about making our own Barbie Country Camper. If mom wouldn’t buy us one, we would make our own! We cut the front of the box open and drew a steering wheel on the dashboard and cut a flap out on the back that could fold down for a table. We cut flaps on the side of the box that could open and close and on top of this, we attached a piece of fabric that could be stretched out and made into a tent, just like in the commercials. Pleased with our work and excited to play we picked up the Country Camper and our dolls and dashed out to the back yard. Barbie drove around the yard, down the side walk and out to the country to go camping. The country was our drive way, in front of the garage. Here we played for hours pretending Barbie and her friends were camping in the country. We found little sticks and pretended they built a fire. We found stones and set them up as seats around the fire. We were in our glory and we had a Barbie Country Camper!

The driveway was in a back alley and our house was on a corner so there was traffic driving by from 3 directions. We were totally safe as no one drove down the alley very fast and we were smart enough to know better than to actually play on the road. We kept our game to the drive way and were found there happily playing when our mother drove up. She got out of the car and we cheerfully greeted her, excited to show her our latest creation. But mom wasn’t smiling. In fact she looked downright mad. She marched over to us and asked where we got the box. She told us to pick up our things and get in the house NOW! Then she took our beautiful Barbie Country Camper and stuffed it into the trash. We were devastated! Our mother was not a mean or unreasonable woman, so we couldn’t fathom why she would throw out our treasured Barbie Country Camper that we had worked so hard to construct.

It wasn’t until we got into the house that mom explained to us the inappropriateness of playing with a Kotex Napkin box in our back drive way for all the world to see. Mom wasn’t mad, she was embarrassed and ashamed! I don’t recall exactly what she told us or how, I just remember feeling terrible ashamed. Maybe not so much for myself but for my mother. I realized that we had done something to embarrass her. After that, any construction projects were undertaken with regular, brown, nondescript boxes.

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