Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ghosts of Christmases past presents

GolliwogGolliwog skirt

I raced around the house today with my iPhone, snapping pics of Christmas gifts I remember receiving over the decades.

I've dated this little woollen golliwog (above) as being from Christmas 1963. Not so PC in the 21st century, but I recall watching my grandmother make a similar one for my younger brother; it is a similar method to making pompons. The golliwog just gets tied off differently, and then is cut free from his cardboard frame. While looking around today for something to give a sense of scale to the photos, I remembered how we often used to beg for a spare paper patty case, when Mum was making cupcakes, so we could allow our golliwogs a little crossdressing freedom.

Wooden monkey

Predating the popular "Barrel of Monkeys" by at least a year, this wooden monkey (above) came to me at Christmas 1964. I remember seeing chains of them hanging from the shelves at an import gift and caneware shop in the Imperial Arcade in the Sydney CBD. Their curved hands and feet allowed them to be contected, just like the plastic game pieces in "Barrel of Monkeys". Some of the monkeys had long, curvy, cane tails (and mine does have a hole where a tail would have originally been inserted). My brother had a matching monkey, in a slightly darker colour of wood stain, but the elastic holding his monkey's limbs in place perished many decades ago. My grandfather repaired his, to an extent, with rubber bands.


A hand-knitted red and yellow gonk (above) from Christmas 1965. His name is Messy Hair and he has a few moth holes these days. My friend at school, Jean, had a sewn one, made of red, white and black satin fabric, and I pestered my Mum and paternal grandmother - for months! - for a gonk of my own. My brother received one in reverse colours to mine, and our younger brother received a similar, hand-knitted Humpty Dumpty. I think it must have been in the same pattern book. My grandmother knitted our gonks in secret (and sent them off to Santa to bring back on Christmas night).


This "monster" (above) was given to me at Christmas 1982 by a friend who'd heard I was "into The Lord of the Rings". She bought it in an Australian giftware shop and it carries a label underneath, "Made in Canada". It appears to be made of clay, and is studded with coloured "jewels", but it is actually carved from some kind of plant root, probably azelea (I have a carved wooden tiger which is definitely azalea root - and I just realized it seems to be the same texture). It's almost as light as cork; some sections are polished smooth, while other parts are the natural surface of the root. The plain corrugated cardboard box it came in was crudely labelled in felt pen: "Sauron".


"The Herculoids" was a classic animated series from 1967, but these very cool Toynami retro action figures are from 2003. You can bet they were brought to licensing life by some guy who loved and wanted such a set in 1967. I bought the "Zok the dragon with Zandor" boxed set (#1) new, and only ever saw one other of those sets in the shops. No locations near me ever imported the other two huge sets. I found all three sets, loose and second hand, in Brisbane at Christmas 2008 - and bought them all as a gift for myself. This gave me a spare Zok to take to the school library, where he continues to enthrall little kids, and a spare Zandor who may be useful customizing fodder some day. When you open up the blobs, Gloop and Gleep, there are unopened packets of a white, Pla-Doh like, compound so that one can emulate the creatures' stretching abilities during play.


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