Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back-to-School with the Fisher Price Safety School Bus

It's September, so I thought we ought to take a little trip back-to-school with one of the classic theme-related toys made by Fisher Price: the Safety School Bus.

The first version of the bus came out in 1959, measured 14 inches long, was made of wood with a transparent plastic roof, and originally included 6 passengers. (More on the passengers in a minute: they're very important!)

 The roof has a removeable wooden piece that allows access to the bus interior, where the passengers nestle in holes cut in front of their seats. This holds them securely in place as the bus is pulled. Can't have kids falling over all willy-nilly as you're going down the road...

The front of the bus features headlight "eyes" and a friendly driver, along with a moveable stop sign that can be flipped out and tucked back (the "safety" component of the Safety School Bus). The headlight eyes and the driver turn back and forth as the bus is pulled.

That is, amazingly, the original pull string.

The back end of the bus holds 2 naughty children who spin and bounce wildly as the vehicle is pulled, a touch of realism that I remember vividly from my own school days. (I myself always sat up in front with the nerdy good kids...)

And speaking of those kids: what makes the Safety School Bus such an historically significant toy is its inclusion of the first iteration of what would eventually become the famous Fisher Price Play Family Little People. These 6 simple peg people evolved over the years to become the "green dad," "blue mom," and their children, familiar to any of us who grew up in the 1970s. In their earliest form, these Fisher Price "little people" measured 2 - 3 inches tall, with plastic collars and hats and wooden bodies covered with lithographed paper. This paper invariably peeled, and the concept was quickly abandoned in favor of painted bodies, which makes people with their paper extremely difficult to come by, and priced accordingly.

The third child from the left has the "crabby" face which was retained on some Little People boys all the way into the 1980s. My favorite, though, is the one on the far right, with the comically ginormous head.

In 1962, Fisher Price released a redesigned bus (no transparent roof or removeable insert) with restyled "little people", who now had painted bodies and some interesting shapes. (In between this and the original bus, there had also been an unpopular version, with stationary, printed eyes on the front end.)

"Yeah, I'm lookin' at you, kid..."

There's the infamous "crabby boy" again, and observant readers will note the similarities to the FP Nifty Station Wagon family, who debuted in 1960.

To learn more about the development of Fisher Price's Little People, check out This Old Toy's great history page.

Happy September everyone!


  1. It looks like the later versions no longer needed the plastic collars, which remind me of the ones you put on your dog or cat to keep them from chewing on themselves.

  2. Yes, they reminded me of those as well!

  3. Unbelieveable items! Thanks for the lesson Tracy!!!