The Scrappy Pull Toy Was Everywhere

Scrappy Pull Toy
This particular Scrappy Band is part of the Scrappyland Archive.

Eighty-three years ago, the Great Depression still seemed intractable and a dollar was a meaningful amount to spend on a child’s plaything. But what a plaything the Scrappy pull toy was. Manufactured by the Gong Bell Co. of East Hampton, Conn. and officially known as the “Scrappy Band,” it featured Scrappy playing a xylophone and Margy doing the hula in a grass skirt. It’s funny and charming, with great graphics, and deserves a spot high on any list of the best Scrappy products of all time.

Enough examples survive that it’s not tough to find a Scrappy Band on eBay, though their condition is often poor. Margy, for instance, has most often lost her skirt. The one in the Scrappyland Archive is in near-mint condition; maybe it was owned by a kid who didn’t play with it much.

How well did this toy sell back in 1936-1938, which seems to have been the duration of its availability? We’ll probably never know for sure. But here are three 1937 photos of little girls surrounded by toys, and in each case you can spot the Scrappy Band among the goodies.

Here, in a photo originally published in the Milwaukee Journal on February 14, 1937, is Betty Ann Gaudynski posing with toys donated by Milwaukee schoolchildren to be sent to their counterparts affected by the Ohio River’s Great Flood of 1937, which killed hundreds and left a million people homeless. Along with the Scrappy Band in the lower right-hand corner–Scrappy himself is in the shadows–the donations include two Donald Duck pull toys (one with Pluto), which were also products of the Gong Bell Co.

In this photo, published in the Tampa Bay Times on December 18th, 1937, Barbara Jean Williams is flanked by a Scrappy Band and a Shirley Temple doll (apparently in scouting togs). Barbara Jean is using a toy telephone-another popular product from Gong Bell, whose president, the wonderfully-named Mayo Purple, was the subject of an accompanying article.

And in this Christmas picture from 1937, by a photographer for the NEA wire service, boxing legend Jack Dempsey’s daughters Joan and Barbara enjoy their loot, with a Scrappy Band near Joan’s right foot (and a doll spread-eagled on top of it).

It’s tempting to think that Columbia, which was generally intrepid in its Scrappy marketing efforts, had something to do with the Scrappy Band popping up in so many newspaper photos of kids and toys. But unless the studio snuck Scrappy Bands into flood donations and sent one to Jack Dempsey’s daughters, maybe this pull toy was just popular enough to have a decent chance of appearing in any image involving a quorum of playthings. I mean, if you’d been alive in 1937 and had a buck–or as little as 79¢ at a discount house–wouldn’t you have bought one?

(Another piece of evidence for that theory: If Columbia had a hand in the creation of the photos, you’d think the girls would be fawning over Scrappy and Margy rather than ignoring them.)

Coda: If someone was a child in 1937, it’s not unrealistic to think that she might still be alive in late 2019. But I’m sorry to report that Betty Ann Gaudynski, Joan Dempsey, and Barbara Dempsey have all died–in 1986, 1993, and 1994, respectively. (Barbara is not to be confused with a different Dempsey daughter named Barbara, whom he adopted with a later wife; that one ended up being the coauthor of his autobiography.)

Barbara Jean Williams is a common enough name that I can’t research the one in the photo with any confidence. So here’s hoping she is still with us, happy and healthy.

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