A week or so ago I went to a lecture on the history of Palitoy, a Coalville-based toy manufacturer begun in 1918 in Leicester which went on to produce Action Man, Tiny Tears, all the Star Wars figures and other legendary toys till its closure in 1986. At its peak, it was turning over £2million annually - quite something in the very early 80s.
It was more fascinating than I thought it would be. As an occasional lecturer and public speaker it's always hard not to judge the presentation (my Mum went too, so the poor woman had two lecturers in the audience) and it began a bit ropey - slides on an overhead projector, badly publicised resulting in more empty seats than full, and notes in the wrong order.
But it didn't matter. The few who were in the audience turned out to be original Palitoy staff from back in the day, who kept the initially-stuttering lecture notes bouncing along with anecdotes, correction of facts and interjection of shopfloor statistics, thrusting technicolour Palitoy catalogues at us from carrier bags.
One of those people was Stewart Moore, the man who designed Tiny Tears and Pippa, and actually worked in the doll design section for decades (can you IMAGINE?) He claims to have interrupted his job to take National Service, which tells you how young he was when he started. After staring at him for some time, my Mum encouraged me to get his autograph, so I did. An elderly gent with a glint in his eye, he was amused and a bit confused, but humoured this over-excited doll fan and duly scribbled in Mum's notebook.
The signature now sits tucked under the arm of my Pippa who, being a doll, knows no different, but perhaps feels just a slightly increased sense of paternal comfort.
The original Tiny Tears from whom the Palitoy version was evolved, actually crying. Would you buy this for your child? I'm not sure...
The more modern Tiny Tears - the one I had (along with Teeny Tiny Tears and a Teeny Weeny Tiny Tears). Tiny Tears was stolen out of her pram one summertime. I'm still having counselling. Sorry about the 'tiny' photo.