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Saturday, August 03, 2013

Teddy Bears

To begin this blog entry today, I thought that I would tell all of you a little bit of a story about my hometown.

Now, the first weekend of August in Ontario is considered to be a holiday weekend.  Though, as far as I am concerned, a civic holiday is really nothing to be excited about.  I mean, as far as I am concerned, the civic holiday (which falls on the first Monday in August) was only created to ensure that the entire province of Ontario has at least one holiday each month (similar to our "Family Day" in February).

Of course, this is how I feel about it now.  I certainly didn't feel this way when I was a child.  After all, the Civic Holiday weekend was jam-packed with all sorts of fun activities.

Back in the days when I was a kid, practically the whole town shut its doors and gathered together in various celebrations all over the place.  What exactly we celebrated, we had no idea really.  I think that maybe we were celebrating the fact that we could have a whole day of leisure.  Or, maybe we were celebrating the fact that we had an extra day to drink all the alcoholic beverages we could in one sitting.

(Or, for me as a kid, cherry and lime flavoured Kool-Aid.)

Now, some people would travel to various water parks and campgrounds that were located out of town for the long weekend, and that was fine for them.  But for those of us who decided to stay in town for the weekend, there were still lots of things to do.

Since my hometown happens to be situated next to a riverbank, it was almost a no-brainer that people would participate in water related sports.  And in my childhood, there were plenty of good times swimming, watching people speeding by in their boats, and watching the scuba divers submerge into the waters below hoping to view the remains of ships that sank decades ago.

Come to think of it, I seem to remember going down to the beach where there used to be an annual family fun day.  Hot dogs were grilled, cotton candy was spun, clowns painted your face and handed you big red balloons, and for the adults, there was bingo and live entertainment!

(Though, I'll readily admit to sneaking into a couple of the bingo games and winning enough money to buy two or three comic books as a result of it.  Let's just say that O-66 was my lucky number!)

Oh, yes...there was one more event that I seem to remember attending in my early childhood.  An event that I had some fond memories of.

In fact, it's kind of related to today's Saturday Smorgasbord post.




The event took place at Hardy Park, which can be seen up above in this photo.  As you can see, it's a nice, warm, friendly place.  A place that I would consider to be the most kid-friendly place in my hometown.

I loved Hardy Park as a child, and I still love Hardy Park as an adult.  It's a place where I always felt safe.  Where a person could sit down underneath the many trees scattered all over the place and relax without a care in the world.  Hardy Park was the best place in the world where you could forget about your adult responsibilities and just be a child.




So what better place to hold a "Teddy Bear Picnic" than Hardy Park?



Yes, teddy bears are the subject for today's blog entry, and I'm sure that almost everybody in the world has had at least one special teddy bear in their lives.

My favourite teddy bear was, at the time, larger than I was.  I won it as a prize for winning a colouring contest at a shopping mall.  It was a big brown bear that was almost four feet tall, and weighed what seemed like a ton.  Of course now that I look at him, I now outweigh him and am a good two feet taller than he is.  But I dragged that big old bear everywhere I went when I was a kid, and the teddy bear picnic was certainly no exception.

But do you know when the teddy bear became popular?

Well, would you believe that the teddy bear was introduced one hundred and eleven years ago?  And that they were named after an American president?




That president was Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, and the origin for the name came about after an incident during a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in the autumn of 1902.  Roosevelt was invited to tag along by then Governor of Mississippi Andrew H. Longino, and almost everybody on the trip had successfully shot an animal.

Well, everybody except for Roosevelt, that is.

Some members of Roosevelt's suite, led by Holt Collier managed to corner and capture an American Black Bear and tied it to a tree, ready and prepped for Roosevelt to shoot and kill.  But for whatever reason, Roosevelt couldn't bring himself to kill the majestic creature.




That event inspired the political cartoon above, drawn by Clifford Berryman, which was published in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902, which toymaker Morris Michtom was inspired by.  He and his wife created a stuffed bear toy, which they displayed in their shop window under a sign which read "Teddy's Bear".  Teddy Roosevelt had given him permission to use the name after Michtom had sent him a bear as a present.  Within weeks, everyone wanted to have a bear of their own, and the success of the bear sales were enough for Michtom to start up his own company, Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.

Unbeknownst to Michtom, the teddy bear was also growing in popularity in Europe right around this time as Richard Steiff of Germany had come up with a prototype for a bear toy that was eerily similar to Michtom's design.  His design debuted at the Leipzig Toy Fair in 1903 (one year after the infamous incident which inspired the American design), and it was alleged that after New York City based buyer Hermann Berg ordered three thousand of the German designs to be sold in America.  For whatever reason though, the bears never made it to America, leading to the infamous urban legend that they were shipwrecked and lost at sea.

Whatever the case, by 1906, the Teddy Bear was the hottest toy of the decade, and a little over a century later, they remain one of the most widely recognized toys ever.  They are more often than not a child's first toy, they are used as mascots for several charities, and they are often given as gifts to children who are sick in the hospital and need a friend to help them battle illness...




...or as in the case with this bear, a man in his thirties who had just had his gall bladder surgically removed.

Today, teddy bears can be found in department stores, drug stores, even dollar stores.  They can be found on the shelves of hospital gift shops, and they can accompany flower arrangements.  Teddy bears can be found in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours.

And since 1997, children of all ages have been given the opportunity to build their own teddy bears, courtesy of "Build-A-Bear Workshops", and some participating Walmart Portrait Studios.

But do you know some of the most famous teddy bears of all time?

Here's a partial list of teddy bears throughout the world of pop culture.




POOKY

It's true that Garfield the cat doesn't have many friends in his life.  He steals Jon's food, treats girlfriend Arlene horribly, kicks Odie off the counter, and sends Nermal to Abu Dhabi whenever he gets the chance to.  But when you try to get in between cat and stuffed bear...well, let's just say that you might have slightly less damage done to your body than that spider that Garfield smashed with a newspaper on Monday.  Pooky is definitely Garfield's most prized possession...even more prized than a heaping portion of homemade lasagna!




PADDINGTON BEAR

Okay, so I already did an entry on Paddington Bear a couple of years ago.  I can still talk about this British bear who is dressed in a trenchcoat and hat.  I used to watch Paddington Bear all the time on television and was fascinated by the adventures that he would have in London.  Created by Michael Bond, the story was inspired by a Christmas present that he had purchased for his wife one Christmas Eve, and that gift - a lone teddy bear - inspired the book series which starred Paddington.




TEDDY RUXPIN

Okay.  The toy itself creeped me out and it really shouldn't have.  All the toy was doing was reading a children's book that was recorded onto a cassette tape.  But there was just something about the toy that gave me the heebie-jeebies.  Mind you, if you switched the tapes and placed Madonna's "Like A Virgin" or Motley Crue's "Dr. Feelgood" inside of Teddy Ruxpin's belly, it was quite the sight to see.




Sigh...the cartoon series was much better.




MR. BEAR

On the surface, Mr. Bear was a Paddington Bear wannabe.  But to Stephanie Tanner from "Full House", Mr. Bear very rarely left her side.  Mind you, there were a couple of close calls regarding Mr. Bear.  One time, Michelle hid Mr. Bear which freaked Stephanie out, and another time Comet ATE Mr. Bear, which made Stephanie cry.  But thanks to big sister D.J., Mr. Bear made it through surgery and was reunited with Stephanie once again.




BOBO

Remember the time in which Simpsons character C. Montgomery Burns was nice?  Yeah, me either.  But he did have a soft spot for a teddy bear named Bobo.  It was his oldest, prized possession that got lost one day.  When the bear reappeared and was given to Maggie Simpson to play with, it prompted Burns and Smithers to launch a series of "Mission: Impossible" attacks on the Simpson household to get Bobo back.  In the end, Burns and Bobo were reunited after Maggie had a change of heart.

But then again, Maggie did SHOOT Burns in a later episode...




PUDSEY

Many of you may not have heard the name before, but if you happen to live in the UK, this bear is associated with one of Britain's biggest telethon events ever.  The "Children in Need" telethon is held every November in the UK which raises money for children's hospitals all over the country.  It's kind of similar to the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon in that celebrities come out far and wide to support the cause.  And Pudsey, the golden bear with the bandage over his eye, has helped millions of children all over the UK smile as they recover from serious injuries and illnesses.

A similar bear is also the mascot for the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

So, that's my list of teddy bears in the world of pop culture.  Can you name any more?


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