Trend-setting Barbie was living in her 3-story posh beach townhouse tooling around town in her pink Star 'Vette sports car. Dawn sashayed down her fashion show stage and zipped around in her pink convertible action car. Fashionista Tuesday Taylor entertained her highbrow, cosmopolitan friends in a beautiful penthouse apartment. Then... there was The Sunshine Family. A fashionable and luxurious lifestyle was definitely not their vibe!
This salt-of-the-earth hippie family wove macrame belts and purses and made pretty flower pots. They probably also embroidered jeans, baked granola and tie-dyed vintage T-shirts. They made their living selling these treasures to local folks from their mobile craft store in the Piggyback Shack on the back of their far-out yellow van.
Mattel produced The Sunshine Family (SF) from 1974 - 1978 and they were 9" tall. The first set of dolls included Dad Steve, Mom Stephie and baby Sweets. All of the adult dolls were made of soft, posable vinyl with jointed knees. They wore prairie dresses, peasant blouses, bell bottoms, turtlenecks, cords, rainbow striped tank tops and sandals. I'm willing to bet they recycled and were vegan! Next came The Sunshine Family's white-haired grandparents and family pets, a friendly cat and playful dog. In 1975, before the second issue of SF in 1976, Mattel added groovy African-American neighbors, The Happy Family, along with their set of grandparents. The Happy Family set included Dad Hal, Mom Hattie and baby Hon. One doll you don't hear much about is SF's red-haired aunt and cousin (a baby). All SF dolls were made the same size and shape.
Initially, the dolls' fashions were DIY and you could customize the threads yourself. The second series SF fashions were redesigned and looked a little more modern. Steve wore jeans instead of khaki pants and another red turtleneck but in a brighter color and different fabric. Stephie had a more noticeable update. Her granny-style dress with the apron was replaced with a cooler jumper dress over a short-sleeved red blouse. Her hair was shorter, blonder and styled a bit differently.
In the last year of production in 1978, the third series of The Sunshine Family was updated and changed its name to, "The Sunshine Fun Family." The African-American dolls were renamed "The Happy Fun Family." Baby Sweets grew up to be big sister Sweets Sunshine and the family added an unnamed cute, freckle-faced baby boy with red hair. The box the new family came packaged in says, "And now there are 4! Mom, Dad, big sister and baby brother having fun together!" Dad Steve had a new outfit along with a funky, tight-curled hairstyle. Mom Stephie wore a new dress, had longer hair with a more natural color and upped her game with eye shadow and lipstick! Blonde-haired Sweets had orange ribbons in her ponytails and wore a cute orange jumper with matching orange shoes. The baby donned a jumper with a white top and brown shorts that matched the Dad's new outfit. The Happy Family also came in a family of four with big sister Hon Happy. The little girl versions of Sweets Sunshine and especially Hon Happy are probably the hardest to find of the SF dolls because they were only produced for about a year.
The Sunshine Family's modest (vinyl fold-out) one-bedroom home had a wood-burning furnace, rocking chair, kitchenette set, bed and other accessories and furniture. The house was comprised of a bedroom, kitchen, patio and living room. The Sunshine Fun Family got an updated house that included a kiddie pool and swing set. Each Sunshine family of dolls and each family accessory came with its own things-to-make Idea Book. It gave kids suggestions on how to creatively decorate The Sunshine Family's home with odds-n-ends around the house. You could grow potato plants in tiny paper cups, braid yarn to make a rug, make a sofa out of a milk carton or build an ice cream stick fence.
The eco-conscious Sunshine Family had other cool things like a Craft Store that came with a functional spinning wheel and pottery stand, a 2-story farm complete with a cow you could milk, a baby's nursery and a 3-wheeled Surrey bicycle the family could ride together. You could also purchase separate fashions, coloring books and paper dolls.
In our bicentennial year, 1976, a set of dolls were released called the Star Spangled dolls. These were my least favorite. The collection included blonde-haired Miss Alison Thompson (Colonial Girl #7941) in a long blue and yellow dress with a white wrap; Rosa Lee Linden (Southern Belle #7939) with long red hair wearing a floral dress and straw hat; brunette Sara Jane Benson (Pioneer Daughter #7940) wearing a pink bonnet, long purple dress and floral purple shawl; Indian Maiden #7938; Regina and Richard Stanton (Liberty Patriots #7944); Jazz Performers #7945 and Thanksgiving Pilgrims #7943.
Thank you dolls for tripping down memory lane with me! xo
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