Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Barbie and Ingo

Merry Christmas everyone. Reiner and I are enjoying our time off for the next few weeks. We have no big plans other than several very casual friends-and-family gatherings and nothing that requires a lot of prep or travel. We do not celebrate the holiday as lavishly as we once did. We don’t exchange gifts or decorate. “Low key” is the theme. 

So, since I haven’t got anything seasonal to share, I’ll recount a couple of Christmas episodes from my childhood. 


Kitchener, the town where I grew up, was a sizable burg with the typical assortment of neighbourhoods. I grew up in a blue collar area. When I attended high school, I rubbed shoulders with kids from “Westmount”, the name that designates wealth in many towns across the country.

Up until I was introduced to the lifestyles of the rich and famous, I was happy with dolls and comics.

Let me qualify the term “happy.” One Christmas I asked Santa for Barbie, the model with bendable limbs. What landed in my stocking was a knock-off. She had clunky, articulated joints made of hard plastic, the mechanics on clear view. Next year, in an effort to rectify his grievous error, Santa brought a Mattel doll. My heart leapt when I saw the logo. Then disappointment bulldozed glee aside when I saw that the doll’s name was Midge. Madge? Not Skipper, I know that. Most definitely NOT BARBIE!

This Midge/Madge/NOT BARBIE doll did have the proper articulated limbs. Glossy and pliable vinyl the shade of a California tan concealed the joints. At least she had that going for her. I played with her for a few hours posing her thus and so. The elbows and knees snapped softly into place with a pleasing click-y/clunky sound. I tried to position her feet en pointe.

From Amazon

From Amazon

The next sound I heard was my stomach lurching. I over-extended the joint, and broke Midge/Madge/NOT BARBIE’s ankle. Oh the humanity. Didn’t even make it to dinner time.

IngoA few Christmases later, though, in highschool, my fashionable classmates introduced me to Ingo sweaters.

ingo 1

How stylish. You of course understand the appeal. If you do, perhaps you could explain it to me?

My poor mother. She had no trouble saying, “No.” and I had all kinds of trouble accepting “no” as an answer. I pleaded. I cajoled. I offered to pay for half. Nothing doing. This would have been in the early 70’s when a sweater cost $40.00.

The sweater here is exactly like the one I had my eyes on. The cost has kept pace with inflation.

The sweater from today’s webpage is exactly like the one I wanted. The cost has kept pace with inflation.

Which is just as well, for if I had purchased one of those boring plain ol’ pullovers, what the heck would I wear for Ugly Christmas Sweater Days?

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49 replies

  1. We all went thru this didn’t we


  2. I have never heard of those sweaters but I cringe at the memory of all the silly things I “had” to have. My mother was too much of an early feminist to give me a Barbie. I can’t remember what doll I got instead, but I recall that she didn’t have big boobs and a large wardrobe… or articulated limbs.


  3. Thanks to this post, I’m now recalling the many ridiculous gifts I HAD TO HAVE because they were en trend at the time. 🙂


  4. I still have “Midge” in my small Barbie collection. This one is even pre-bendy days so her legs are stiff. Her hair was very coarse and rolled up at the ends in a perfect Lady-Bird kind of doo so emblematic of 60’s hair. Fun, post, Maggie. Reminded me very much of my youth, too. Have a lovely low-key Christmas.


  5. Maggie – we really are twins born of the same Mother-Mode 😊

    It was mohair sweaters that were all the rage in my hometown. I carefully and deliberately marked the exact page, order #, size and color in the catalog of the ‘perfect’ mohair sweater for me. I made it clear that was the one and only gift I wanted for Christmas. I asked for that and only that. I asked they please get me nothing but that.

    I opened my gift – it was a white and gray (bleh) NON-mohair acrylic sweater (WTF?!?) with horror-of-horrors a zip up front instead of buttons. A zip up front? Who wears those? Certainly not an immature, insecure teen trying to make it with the ‘in’ crowd.

    It’s a disappointment that haunts me still – I love giving gifts and abhor receiving them. The most innocuous childhood scars can haunt long past their expiration date.

    I never have owned or worn a mohair sweater, but I have several other longtime favs I ‘gifted’ myself!

    Merry Christmas to you and Reiner 😍

    Liked by 3 people

    • I recall that mohair was all the rage from TV programs. Or maybe teen magazines, or something. But yeah, it was on my radar too, back then.

      Now that I think a bit more deeply, I remember barely disguising (or maybe I only thought I was able to hide) my disappointment when my Fairy Godmother gave me this blue sweater with ghastly gaudy giant flowers embroidered all over the front. I wouldn’t wear it. Mom solved that dilemma by un-stitching the blossoms.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family, too Sammy.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It seems that you, Sammy D and I have all had similar childhoods. As Sammy mentioned, I still have issues with receiving gifts … call me shallow, but it’s one of those emotional scars of childhood.

    … and yes, I had a thing for dolls and never got a Barbie either – just a knock-off.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear ya. I wonder if that isn’t why, in part, I’ve been happy to adopt a “no-exchange” policy.

      Do you remember Ingo, at all Joanne? I have no idea how far the trend reached.


      • nope – sorry. Never heard of Ingo.
        … but then again, I was from the frozen north and unless it came in the Sears or Eaton’s catalogue, we would never have seen it. Back then people didn’t travel much like they do now, and a long trip was to North Bay – which we considered southern Ontario 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I avoided social traps by attending an all boys Catholic High School. We were all required to wear the same uniform. My parents were poor but managed to land some brand new Van Heusen long sleeved white dress shirts that were top notch all the way. I fit in but didn’t have a social life. There were no high crust neighborhoods or kids. I graduate in 1967 in the top 25 kids in class, winning a full scholarship to any state college in Illinois. I had to work my way through college even with a full scholarship. I held down 3 part time jobs to pay for books, lab fees and the 100 mile daily round trip drive to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

    I learned to be poor early in life and that if I wanted something I had to work and save for it. I lead a simple life without the burden that materialism puts on your back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Bob – Seasons Greetings. I had lunch with friends yesterday and we were listing all of the “things” we DON’T need to have or do. It was a revelation to some at the table.

      I am grateful to have made your acquaintance this year, Bob. All the best in 2015.


  8. So many toys and sooo many brands. It didn’t matter whether you were buying die-cast cars, Barbie/Midge/Whoever or construction toys, somebody had a brand my parents refused to pay for. At least I was born before that applied to jeans and sneakers and before smart phones and music players were even invented.


  9. Omaword. Well, I’d never pay that for a sweater with acrylic blend, lol!
    Lifestyles are relative, so I can say compared to you, I was spoiled, particularly in the Barbie department. Sweaters, maybe, too. My parents believed in modest Christmases and birthdays, which I understood, even then, but my “wanting troubles” came from being er…less spoiled all year long like the girls in my neighborhood were. My mother did not take me out shopping every weekend and buy me hundreds of dollars of new, trendy clothes to debut each week. She did not take me to the salon to get my hair and nails done, either. Not once did my parents treat me as their very own fashion plate! My parents did not buy me coveted handbags, shoes, or jewelry, either. It’s absurd. I look back on it, and I think it’s hysterical that I wanted things then that would have made a grown woman jealous. But, where I lived, I was surrounded by miniature women, and I was SUCH a girl. Me, the first day of 7th grade? — fresh-faced, pigtails, long skirt, Keds. Every girl on my bus? — perms, hairspray, full faces of makeup, my mother’s clothes… Bizarre. No one told me to grow up over the summer! lol
    My parents were clever people who let me want for plenty, which inspired me to take jobs, and to save money. Along the way, they paid for less and less. Why, it’s like they wanted me to be financially responsible and grateful. lol
    We live in the blue collar area of our community now. When we cross the divide to where I lived, my children think all those people are rich. It’s all relative.
    I’m still really into handbags. Haha!


    • “My parents were clever people who let me want for plenty, which inspired me to take jobs, and to save money. Along the way, they paid for less and less. Why, it’s like they wanted me to be financially responsible and grateful.”

      My parents did this too, not, perhaps, by design, but the end result was the same. And I am grateful.

      You paint quite the picture of that school bus!

      Thanks for stopping by to say, “Hey” – I wish you, Mister, and all the rest of your clan a most enjoyable Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I got the real Barbie, Maggie. She had a brunette beehive. This would have been around 1964 or so, I think. But I never got the real clothes for her. I had to make do with outfits sewn by my grandmother which I thought of as second-rate, so I longed for the glamorous stuff in the stores. Shame on me. Grandma’s outfits were so special, now that I look back. My middle sister got MIdge and little sister got Skipper.


    • Hi Barbara – considerable thought went into that doll-giving, I bet. I remember thinking the same about clothes that my mom made for my doll. And miniature clothing is NOT easy to sew, not by a long stretch. I know, I tried to do it myself, and STILL I threw a pout when the handmades came my way.


      Merry Christmas, Barbara.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I had kmart brand “converse” sneakers. I thought if I wore my pants long enough nobody would notice. Nope. So much for that idea!


  12. I got plenty of Barbies over the years — but never the fashionable clothes I wanted. I had a sister two years older, so it was always the dreaded hand-me-downs!


  13. My Barbie’s have long been gone. But my daughter still has hers. Even the ‘special edition’ Barbie’s that stayed in the boxes so they would be more, you know, valuable. Ridiculous. Mohair sweaters! Yes, I had to have one. And then it shed all over my navy blue serge Catholic school uniform. Kind of like my clothes now with cat hair all over them. I was a Lee’s gal—my husband continues to be a Levi’s guy to this day. What a ride down memory lane this post was, Maggie. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Reiner!


    • I have a friend who has built a Barbie house to scale – she has different rooms in various parts of her real house. It is a devotion. And a marvel. I suppose she doesn’t understand my rocks, so that balances.

      I recall wearing a pair of mohair mittens. I think that was the closest I got to owning anything of that fabric. Constant sneezing from snorting the fuzz.

      All the best, Lois, to you, your husband, and your houseful of fur-babies.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. No Barbies for me…don’t remember too many dolls…but being a Tom-boy,Tonka trucks, plenty! Don’t have a sweater Christmas story either. But do remember a pink angora sweater I had in high school. It was quite the rage way back when!


  15. My grandmother gave my father the same Christmas present every year that I can remember. A tin of St. Bruno flake tobacco and a Giles annual (cartoons). I still have some of the Giles books. He used to go through the theatre each year of feeling the parcel and guessing what might be inside before opening it to cries of surprise and delight. Life was simpler then. I don’t think he ever received a Barbie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love this sweet story, Andrew. Life was considerably simpler then, I believe.

      Now, I’d have to retract that statement if you did indeed receive a Barbie.

      All the best, Andrew. I look forward to seeing you hear on the blog in 2015.


  16. Reading Andrew’s comment reminded me that my father gave my mother a pair of stockings every Christmas. She was not impressed. I don’t know why he didn’t at least try to please her! I remember for years yearning for a bike. Eventually I did receive one, when I was nine. Barbies were after my time!
    I didn’t want my daughter to have one, and my in-laws bought her one, and she was over the moon!


    • Grandmas and Grandpas do that, don’t they? Come to the rescue at gift-giving time – in the eyes of the grandchild, anyway.

      All the best to you and Christopher this Christmas, Barbara. I look forward to our continued blogship in the new year!


    • Some female in-laws–not necessarily yours, but some–are envious that they are not around their grandchildren’ more often, and desire to make a bigger impression of joy when they can. They are willing to contradict parents’ wishes–esp. non-blood relative’s–or steal their thunder.

      Some in-laws do this solely to undermine a non-blood relative. Marriage can be a dirty, dirty business, and Christmas loaded with politics. It’s best to stick close by the eggnog.


  17. Merry Christmas and have a happy New Year in 2015, Maggie. Thanks for being there, and for being such a honey.

    XXXXX 😀


  18. What a double disappointment, Maggie! I remember that Midge–such a loser! And then to have her stupid click-y ankle break that first day. Not only “Midge-Not-Barbie”, but “Gimpy Midge”, at that!

    (Have I just been non-P.C.? Am I about to be inundated by emails from the mad at D.A.D.? (Differently-Abled Dolls)?)

    You know from my “Thumbelina Rashomon” post that I know what it’s like to be disappointed by doll gifts. But I can’t relate to the sweater thing. I didn’t have the first clue about labels or what was “in”. I wore mostly third-in-line hand-me-downs from neighbors (although my father made the equivalent of over $300K), and $2 used jeans and $1 shirts when my mom stopped getting ANY clothes for me.

    It shocks me that people spend so much on young children. When my spouse and I had a combined income of six figures in the 80’s, I bought my boys’ clothes at K-Mart, and I was often complimented on their appearance. Neurotypicals are so silly.

    Another in your endless line of always glad-we-came posts.

    Merry Christmas!


  19. Gack! Just re-read that. Pretend I said “Some people” or “Some neurotypicals”. Oh, dear.


  20. Happy New Year, Maggie! I hope you and your family have had a good Christmas! I think the doll was “Midge,” Barbie’s best friend. I had Skipper too, her little sister. But this was before the dolls’ legs and arms bent (or broke, for that matter.) 😦 I can relate to not getting the name brand; for me it was Villager clothes and John Romaine purses; but by the time I left hight school, we had made the switch from sweater sets to “pant suits” -shudder- to jeans. Quite a switch! (I am obviously older than you!) 😉


  21. Like several other people have said, I ended up being grateful that I didn’t get the name brand clothes, shoes, and purses I wanted at the time. I had to work to save up for half my first pair of contact lenses, and I remember how proud I was of them! (Especially compared to my very thick glasses!)

    Liked by 1 person

  22. My family went through hard times starting when I was about 12 years old and my parents told us children that we would have to work hard in school, get jobs, work even harder and then buy what we wanted. That worked for me and I am grateful to my parents for the lesson they taught me.


    • Hello, and thanks for commenting. You and I share a similar upbringing, actually. My parents also encountered difficult financial times when I was a girl. We soon learned that Santa Claus and all he stood for wasn’t an attractive choice.


  23. I went to KCI in Kitchener in the late 60’s. Back then the status symbol was owning a INGO sweater. I had 2 one blue and one burgandy. These sweaters never wear out. Still have them.


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