1957: Happy Families
January 13, 2019
Baby Boomer kids at play: Happy Families. My premise is that a child’s play is preparation for life. These card sets, c.1957, show that the life New Zealand children (girls in particular) wanted to prepare for was the assembly of a nuclear family. Father, mother, master, and miss.
It is also an ethnically and culturally homogeneous family but it goes beyond even that. The sets depict active, employed, happy, dynasties with matching interests and common means of production. The Creamoatas (rolled oats) are all farming, the Bettas are occupied by health and fitness etc. Note from the Betta’s set also that every family member is described with reference to their patriarch: “The man,” “The..man’s wife,” “The..man’s son,” etc.
“In the 1950s Four Square, then New Zealand’s largest grocery chain, produced a Happy Families pack based on 12 popular brands in its range. Four of those are shown here.”- Te Ara
Hat tip to the genius product placement here but that was also tapping into the drive for the future parent to familiarise and accumulate provisions. Makes sense doesn’t it? These youths were growing up in the Baby Boom and had expectations of navigating it and perpetuating what their elders had spawned.
Goodbye Happy Family
However, the 1960s counter-culture directed us to an equal and opposite reaction. ‘Free love’ promiscuity, drugs, nudity, looks,…antiestablishmentarianism. Now the first Barbie dolls became the new fascination for young girls. Girl’s play was directed toward dressing up the women in outfits, making her hair and face attractive, accessorising with jewellery etc. Perhaps deliberately, Barbie and her ‘Sex in the City’ girlfriends were also too large (physically and symbolically) to fit in the dollhouse homes previously the subject of a young ladies playtime attention.
Kiwi society had switched from K-selected mainstream to the r-selected cultural domination we still find ourselves in today.
(See also my post on ‘Swaps‘.)