By BRIAN KRAPF
Military and service themed toys were popular items for children during the Second World War. The Reliable Toy Company of Toronto was a significant manufacturer of these items, marketing and shipping them within Canada and also exporting them to the United States and Great Britain. Shown here is an advertising card for Reliable, circa 1941, where a determined, cigar smoking Prime Minister Churchill is the backdrop for a display of wartime dolls.
Reliable is recognized as a pioneer in the manufacturing of plastic dolls. The company first perfected the technology for injection moulding. During the war, the company manufactured small plastic items for the Canadian government, specifically plastic bullet tips and oil bottles for real guns that supplied the Canadian Armed Forces. Scraps left over from war production were used to make the first Canadian plastic toys in the 1940’s.
Remember the green plastic soldiers we all played with as children? Thank Reliable for being the company that first manufactured those and introduced them to the market. Besides the dolls and soldiers, Reliable produced toy plastic planes, ships, jeeps, and tanks. Of particular interest to collectors today are Reliable’s wartime plastic ships produced as convoy sets, and plastic aircraft including Hurricanes and Spitfire fighters and American bombers.
Reliable is still making toys today, after merging with a competitor, Viceroy. Interestingly, many of Reliable’s wartime plastic injection moulds are still being used today. While Prime Minister Churchill no longer appears in their advertising, the company has endured for future generations to enjoy.
Brian Krapf’s book We Want Winston!—A Treasury of Churchill Memorabilia will be published by Pen and Sword later this year.