With a name like “Pete The Pepper”, it seems possible that this “friend” may have been one of Mr. Potato Head’s more nefarious associates possibly with ties to organized crime or at least to the shadier aspects of the vegetable import business.
I also was unaware that the first Mr. Potato Head toys were made to actually be inserted into real vegetables.
According to the included instructions, “most any vegetable or fruit” can be used. When I was a small child, the fruits and vegetables in our home were strictly for consumption and not play. It seems to me the act of shoving plastic eyes, mouth, moustache and a pipe into a ripe tomato over and over again would render the fruit unappetizing at least and would most certainly produce a rather macabre doll. I can’t imagine the fun would increase with the use of the more stable fleshed onion once it’s wildly pungent and real-life eye scalding, milky juices would begin to weep from the wounds created by the hard plastic facial prosthetics. It takes no great stretch of the mind to imagine horrified children attempting in vain to comprehend why their new best friend the onion headed doll was lamenting its creation with foul smelling, bitter and burning tears.
According to Wikipedia, “in the 1960s, government regulations forced the Potato Head parts to be less sharp, leaving them unable to puncture vegetables easily. By 1964, the company was therefore forced to include a plastic potato "body" in its kit. Little children were also choking on the small pieces and cutting themselves with the sharp pieces”. Though the date on the box above is clearly listed as 1966 and there seems that there were only “face parts” in that particular box.
Regardless of the math, by the time I was playing with Mr. Potato Head in the late 60’s, there was a plastic potato body included in the box.
And the rest, as they say, is toy history…