Universal York

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Sniffles dolls and toy machine guns at York’s Joe the Motorist Friend store.


Fellow blogger Joan Concilio discovered York countians have lots of memories of Joe the Motorists’ Friend stores, and she has shared them in several of her blog posts. The regional chain sold tires, automotive items and other things, but the toys stand out at Christmas time.

I’m sharing two full page Christmas ads from Joe’s in this post and the next one. They are both from the December 13, 1956 Gazette and Daily. The text reproduces too small to read, so I’ll pick out some highlights from each ad:

The doll at upper left “is actually taller than this newspaper page.” She has “rooted Saran hair. sleeping eyes, eye lashes… .” She also has an “unbreakable vinyl head,” which doesn’t quite match the “all rubber” description. Or, if you want more action in a doll, Sniffles “drinks, wets and cries real tears.” You can also give her a bath and feed her with her bottle. Either doll could be had for $3.98 each.

You can buy Harry the Horse for children age one to five as well as tricycles in a variety of sizes. (the ad calls them velocipedes, which seems like an outdated term by 1956.) I wonder how much the $4.77 electric (battery) robot with baby robot would sell for on eBay today.

Then there is the Burp Gun, described as …”the world’s safest, loudest burp gun. An exact copy of the army version. Just pull the trigger and you get a loud noise, just like a real machine gun…battery operated… . The big game hunter in your family will love this fine, safe and inexpensive machine gun.” (I didn’t think army machine guns and big game hunting went together.)

Teenagers and adults can have fun too. I wonder how many pairs of roller skates from Joe’s ended up gliding across the floor at Playland. For $13.95 in 1956 dollars, you probably got some good quality skates. These are “the preferred kind with maple rink wheels mounted on shoes of genuine leather.” I did go skating at Playland, but I didn’t have my own skates.

Closing out the ad are single and multiple electric candles. Remember putting them in your windows at Christmas? You could end up with quite a maze of extension cords, especially in older homes.

The links below will take you to my other recent posts from Christmas season 1956:

Robots at the post office.

Downtown York tries to keep shoppers.

Exodus to the shopping center.

Letters to Santa.