In November 1953, Abraham & Straus Department Store opened its annual holiday Toyland with a party for children from the Brooklyn School Settlement. Activities included visits with Santa, music by an accordion quartet, a doll fashion show, and an appearance by local child "movie star" Richie Andrusco at a "Coke-Tail" party in the store's restaurant. But the biggest moment of the day was when the children took a first look at Toyland intself. As the Eagle reported, the children from the Settlement "lost themselves." Even a movie star like Richie "admitted that he wasn't play-acting when he was carried away with the charms of the breathtaking new Christmas toys."Photographs of the party and A&S' favorite new items appeared in the Eagle a few days later, giving children across Brooklyn plenty of inspiration for their wish lists.
Aspiring bakers may have been drawn to Junior Chef's baking sets, which featured real Aunt Jemima cake mixes in gingerbread, coconut sprinkle, devils food and other flavors. The sets also included baking pans, a measuring cup, spoons and recipes. All of the mixes could be baked in just fifteen minutes at 375 degrees. And the Ding Dong School apron was the perfect way to keep clothes clean during those messy baking sessions.
A&S carried a number of models for all ages and abilities. Young engineers could mimic the work completed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard while assembling and painting this model of the U.S.S. Missouri. For a final touch, paper signal flags could be cut out and rigged with string.
More mature model builders hoped for the latest addition to their multi-model displays. This plastic Hand-Car and Trailer model would have been perfect for any train collection.
As with models, a variety of dolls could be found in all shapes and sizes. These sisters were hoping Christmas morning would bring a Madame Alexander doll, such as "Rosebud" (left) or "Winnie Walker" (right).
With the help of a Wonder Weaver, the girls could have created mini blankets to keep their favorite dolls warm on those cold winter nights.
And who better to protect those dolls than a knight in shining Italian-imported aluminum armor? The outfit in this photo cost only $19.95. But ambitious young knights could also ask for the complete "head to toe" version for only $89.95.
Last but not least was the Shooting Gallery, a "French import" that recreated the experience of duck hunting. The kit included a spinning tripod stand, three "gaily painted wooden ducks" and a rifle that shot rubber arrows (sorry kids, the fringe jacket is sold serparately). As A&S described, "The three arms are in motion and the "hunter" then takes aim with his rifle. When he "wings" a duck with a rubber-tipped arrow, the duck drops realistically limp on its chain."
One can imagine many requests for the Shooting Gallery being met with the ominous phrase, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."