I was having a sort out a little while ago and came across an old photo of me in my school uniform. The photo brought back many a happy memory from times spent playing ‘It’ in the playground, to having friends round for a special treat of Ribena and fish fingers, to Bunty comic. Ah, Bunty. There was something quite special about Bunty:
Bunty is the Best
“You can’t have Bunty. I have Bunty. You can have Mandy.”
My friend’s words chilled me. It was 1979 and we were both seven years old. At that grand old age I had grown out of Twinkle comic and was ready to move on.
I’d stood for ages at the newsagents, with Mum tutting beside me, as my eyes lit up at the array of comics on display – The Dandy, The Beano, Mandy, Bunty, Judy, Jackie (a bit too old for me at the time) and several others. Mum didn’t understand. To have a weekly comic was a wonderful treat. When Dad first bought me Twinkle when I was five, I’d fallen in love with it. The pages were bursting with colour, the stories (absolutely dire, of course, but brilliant to a young girl) dazzling and entertaining and then there was the cut-out doll, with cut-out clothes to dress her in. And her choice of wardrobe was mine, all mine. Well, all two outfits that is. But I loved her and I loved cut-out dolls.
So when the stories in Twinkle became too twee and ‘beneath me’, it was time to take the next step in comics for girls.
The Dandy and The Beano looked fun but more for boys. Mandy and Judy looked quite good but when I saw that Bunty had a cut-out doll every week, that was it. There was no contest – until I told my friend.
She was adamant. Bunty was hers and I wasn’t allowed to have it as well. I was so upset. I didn’t want Mandy, I wanted Bunty. I can’t quite remember how it was resolved. Perhaps our mothers sorted it out or maybe we sorted it out for ourselves as I started to take Bunty each week and my friend decided she preferred Mandy after all!
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the comic every week. Woe betide the paper boy if he brought it late. I would then settle down and read it from cover to cover. Thinking back to the story strips makes me wonder who on earth came up with the titles. Clearly someone who liked their alliteration. There was Catch the Cat, Tina of Tumbledown Towers, Sandra’s Sad Secret, Lessons from Lindy, In Petra’s Place, Donna’s Double Life and many more.
My favourite story was The Four Marys. It’s arguably the most popular and well-known one running from when the comic was first launched in 1958 to its end in 2001. Reminiscent of Enid Blyton’s St. Clare’s and Malory Towers books, which centred around girls at boarding school, The Four Mary’s featured stories about four girls at St. Elmo’s Boarding School for Girls. I loved the scrapes the girls found themselves in but no matter what happened, it all ended well.
Once I’d devoured the stories, I then turned to the back page and to Bunty’s Cut-Out Wardrobe. I don’t know what it was about the cut-out dolls that I loved so much. I’d always loved playing with dolls houses and figures and making up stories. I had a Sindy doll but she only had a couple of outfits so perhaps that was it. Here was this young girl, albeit a paper one, with a different wardrobe every week. Money was tight in the 70s and I didn’t often have new clothes myself so that may also have been part of the appeal. Additionally, I was fascinated by the tabs on the clothes, which you had to fold around the doll (just squares of paper but to me they were ingenious).
Then there were the Christmas annuals. I always put the Bunty annual on my Christmas lists and over the years was lucky enough to find the 1980, 1981 and 1982 editions in my stocking.
Secondary school followed. At 11, Bunty and cut-out dolls were still very much part of my life. But I soon found out that they weren’t part of the other girls’ lives; it just wasn’t considered acceptable or cool to like either.
So my love affair with Bunty and cut-out dolls was over. I didn’t throw the comics and annuals away. I wasn’t ready to part with them just yet. Each comic and annual was placed lovingly in a pile in the bottom of my wardrobe and taken out for a sneaky read now and then.
My weekly magazine (note the word change from the now considered babyish ‘comic’) became Jackie, then I ‘progressed’ to Smash Hits before Just Seventeen caught my eye. But none of them measured up to Bunty.
I don’t know what happened to those comics and annuals in the bottom of my wardrobe. I don’t remember ever getting rid of them. But they must have gone at some stage. Though I have found one. And, not only does it feature an extra length The Four Marys story, there is also a cut-out doll. But it’s no ordinary cut-out doll; it ‘s a special Cut-out and Colour Wardrobe cut-out doll. Heaven.