The types of toys parents were scrutinizing at Christmas in 1954

CBC Newsmagazine followed one couple through a Toyland in 1954, where they bought toys for under the tree.

CBC Newsmagazine checked in with shoppers looking for Canadian-made toys

Shopping for Christmas toys in 1954

3 years ago
Duration 2:59
Mom and Dad make a trip to a downtown Toronto department store Toyland to buy Christmas presents.

"It's the time of year when parents get time off from work and find a babysitter for the morning," CBC Newsmagazine's Rex Loring told viewers in 1954.

With just 11 shopping days left till Christmas, it was time to head out "on a present-buying spree." 

And for mom and dad that meant leaving the children at home as they set off on a "secret expedition, where only the Christmas savings go along."

The show's cameras followed one couple through "a big Toronto store's Toyland."

Children could ride the "Treasure Train" in Toronto's Eaton's Toyland in 1954. (CBC Archives/CBC Newsmagazine)

In a scene that could have been taken from the 1983 film A Christmas Story, the store was crowded with children enjoying a miniature midway, including a ride-on train, and gazing at enticing displays of toys. 

For the parents, Loring told us, "months of saving go toward Christmas," a time he dubbed "zero hour for one of the biggest little industries in Canada — the toy industry."

Constructive, educational and ... cheap!

A father put the finishing touches to a N.S.-made wooden log building set during a Dec. 1954 Christmas shopping excursion. (CBC Archives/CBC Newsmagazine)

"There's plenty of foreign competition," he said, with trains from Germany, England and the United States, but this Mom and Dad found a fine Canadian-made wooden log construction game to take home.

And the toy met all the important criteria — "it's constructive, educational and Canadian," Loring said, adding that "it's cheap, too."

With the competition of cheaper and mass-produced items such as dolls from the U.S., the Canadian toy industry struggled to capture not quite half of the $50 million Canadians spent each year, Loring told the viewing audience. 

Fortunately for the Newsmagazine shoppers, there was joy to be found at the doll counter in Toyland. 

They cry. They sleep. They cost money.

A sales clerk demonstrates the walking ability of a doll in this Dec. 1954 trip to Toyland. (CBC Archives/CBC Newsmagazine)

"Canadian dolls compare favourably with imported dolls,"  we are told, "they walk, talk, sleep, even cry." 

Loring added that "they're a delight for any little girl to have and to hold."

But, as Loring reported, "it's a fight to keep their price down to the point where the customer will say: 'I'll take this one.'"

An Eaton's Toyland special sale advertisement in the Toronto Star newspaper from Dec. 16, 1954, priced 24-inch "Christmas Doll Beauties" with "deeply rooted 'Saran' hair, sleeping eyes and crying voice" at $6.98 — or closer to $70 in today's dollars. 

For boys, they advertised ride-on, chain-driven metal tractors for $24.98 (about $242 today) and Gyroscope tops, made in England, for $0.49 (more like $4.74 today). 

Parents trying out the toys available for under the Christmas tree in 1954. (CBC Archives/CBC Newsmagazine)

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