Tuesday 2nd August 2011
The Tufty club
The life saving squirrel
The 1940-50s post-war boom in road traffic led to a worrying increase in child related traffic accidents. RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) were always developing campaigns to help keep children save and Rospa continued to use the 'Kerb Drill' into the 1960s but it was the Tufty Club that became the main stay of child road safety campaigns in the 1960-70s.
Tufty Fluffytail the red squirrel began life in 1953, created by Elsie Mills MBE to give children clear and simple safety messages. Tufty featured in a series of animated public information films narrated by Bernard Cribbins and the popularity of the character saw the creation of the Tufty Club in 1961. The original badge from 1961-2 (shown centre of the image) was rapidly withdrawn. It's design of a crouching squirrel appears as if it is relieveing itself, but more importantly the lettering featured a nasty mix of upper and lower case -not something teachers would be happy with.
The standard badge was then introduced and this 32mm design was issued in the hundreds of thousands. One interesting design feature was the solid metal back with safety pin. White and Lambert produced this on their standard crimped button badge (shown below top left & right) as did B Sanders on their normal button badge (shown below bottom left) and clearly this feature was designed with safety in mind. In the 1970s the club reverted to a more 'normal' D pin system with a plastic ring from Sanders (shown bottom right below).
The classic nature of this badge means that, in the 2000s the design has been copied and sold on the internet-these nasty copies are nearly always 25mm. A rarer and original badge is that marked 'Leader', this was issued for the teacher or adult in charge of the safety sessions (shown top left top image).
The Tufty Club application form from the mid 1960s (above) illustrates that enrolment cost 2/6d -which was not that cheap in 1966. However members did receive a book of stories and safety messages and the ever popular members badge. Throughout the 1970s the club grew ever stronger reaching its peak with around two million members. Towards the end of the decade the badge was redesigned and issued as a larger 55mm badge (shown below top row). This has the classic B Sanders solid plastic back safety type fitting and lasted well into the late 1980s (slight variations of colour can be found in later examples see below). The 1984 tufty catalogue revealed that you could acquire a single badge for 17pence or 500 for £47.00 (just under 10 pence each!).
Throughout its life the Tufty club produced a host of other material such as handkerchieves, bars of chocolate, posters, games, jigsaws project sheets and a wide range of educational material. In the 1980s Robin wools produced knitting patterns for Tufty jumpers (or sweaters as they used to be called!) A rare Tufty badge exists that was possibly issued with the patterns or in the wool shops 'Robin Wools Supports the Tufty club' is a 45mm design from 1984 made up by Universal Button Co (shown below bottom left).
The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the development of 'reflective discs' These were designed for children to wear round their necks and they has a loop hole at the top for a cord. They were often sponsored locally by building societies local radio etc. I guess you could call these badges! There was also a sew on cloth Tufty club badge -very hard to find now.
In 1993 Tufty was redesigned and relaunched in a comic (shown below). The badge was sponsored by Adams and continues to the present day (2011) The badge issued in 1993 is a 55mm design made up by B Sanders, it was issued in Comic number 6 (cost 95p) and RoSPA were keen to point out the safety design of the badge -see below. Tufty now had his new look for the new century and continues to keep children safe. The little squirrel character will be 60 years old in 2013 but hopefully he wont be thinking of retirement and he is fondly remembered by many.