CYCLOPS TOYS

Article by Marjory Fainges: the introduction to her book “Cyclops Toys” published 1998.

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In practically every street in Australia, whether it be a tree lined suburban street, a back alley of one of our major cities, or even a dusty track in the great outback of this vast continent, there can be found an example of a child’s wheeled toy that bears the name

of that great Australian icon of childhood – Cyclops. It may be a little faded and worse for wear, but it still remains a much-loved item of childhood.

You only have to mention the word ‘Cyclops’ when a group of people are gathered together, and it is soon apparent that this word alone brings out the memories of childhood and the tremendous impact that this name has had on the children of Australia. Fond reminiscences emerge of what may have been a well-loved and battered old pedal car with wonky wheels and missing tyres, but to its once-young owner it remains a treasured plaything; a long-remembered doll’s pram is brought out, once used to wheel the latest dolly acquisition, or the latest plastic tyred three-wheeled Dinkie (which still carries the famous name on the fork of the handlebars), that a child or grandchild uses to perform ‘wheelies’ down the driveway of a modern home.
This seven-lettered word ‘Cyclops’ has graced both boys’ and girls’ wheeled toys for over 80 years. There are myriads of Australians who, when little, were wheeled along by fond parents, safely ensconced in the baby carriages proudly emblazoned with the name ‘Cyclops’. This trade name has had a profound influence on both the wholesale and retail buying of the Australian public for a great many years.
Having originated in a small way in Sydney and spurred on by the insistence and influence of a child’s need, Cyclops progressed from an employment base of 4 people, continuing to grow through the years of World War I, the fabulous 1920s, the bad years of the 1930s Depression, and then under great difficulty and stress during the later years of World War II. Following the revival of industry after the war – when returned servicemen wanted to buy the best for the children that they had left behind – Cyclops came under British ownership. In 1956 the company marketed 100 different items, reaching its zenith in 1968 when the conglomerate it had become marketed over 2000 individual items, (including surfboards. wading pools and slippery slides).
When the first British owner faced bankruptcy in the 1970s, the whole network was taken over by another British conglomerate. In the late 1980s the toys were being manufactured offshore, until the name was rescued by its new owner-an Australian firm-and wheeled toys bearing the name Cyclops are once again manufactured in Australia by Hunter’s Toyline. The name ‘Cyclops’ continues to survive (if only just), against tremendous competition from overseas imports in the 1990s.
This is not just the story of a great Australian icon of childhood: it is a record of the wonderful workmanship and high quality products of the original Australian owner; the merger of an Australian company with a British toy giant; the fall of that great empire; the retrieval; and the endurance of the Cyclops name through it all. For the name of Cyclops lives on, not only in the minds of previous owners, but in the delighted, playful hands of today’s children.
Unfortunately, much of the information that would have helped in the recording of these wonderful people who were involved with the establishment of Cyclops in its first 50 years has been lost, and alas, up to now nothing has been available through libraries; therefore it is of the greatest importance that what is known today is passed on – before it too, is lost forever.
In my position as Consultant on Toys (particularly those of Australian manufacture) to the Queensland Museum, I have realised the importance of dispersing the knowledge and information that I have amassed over the years through the generosity and tremendous help of some wonderful people throughout Australia, who like myself are interested in preserving our heritage for future generations.
Added to this are my own fond childhood memories of exploring excursions on my beloved red Cyclops No. 3 Scooter around the streets of West Geelong in Victoria during WWII; later reminiscences – I remember the joy my three sons had with their trusty red Cyclops pedal car in our backyard in Brisbane during the 1960’s, and a small granddaughter with her first doll’s pram (Cyclops of course) in the early 1980s. All these wonderful memories have made me realise the importance and obvious impact that the word ‘Cyclops’ has had over the years on just one family.
This book is the result; I hope it will bring back pleasant memories of other childhood years to all readers, young and old.
For the many people who are becoming interested in collection, restoring and preserving these old toys, I hope you will find the information included in this book to be of great help. Then maybe, just maybe, on reading this, more information will come to light, and even finer examples of these marvellous old childhood icons will be brought forward so that they can be placed in museums where they may be seen for all to enjoy and remember.

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Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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