Category: Christmas 2017

How I Remember Christmas

Christmas

Like I’m sure it was for most kids, December 25th has always been one of those benchmark dates on the calendar. Along side my birthday, and the last day of school, it has always been a measuring point for the year. And for good reason, as I’m sure I’m not alone in enjoying the gift giving, gift getting, food, and fellowship that the magical holiday brings.

For me though, the highlight has always been about the time I get to spend with family. Especially my Dad. All through my years of growing up, my Dad traveled. He would be gone for roughly 300 out of the 365 days of a year. But his work always slowed down in December and he had a lot of time at home that lined up so well with our Christmas break from school. And while he himself never got overly excited about Christmas, he did so many little things to make it special for me. Things that most would not think are overly special, but so special to me, that I try to do the exact same things for my daughters every year now.

There is so much nostalgia built into the holiday season for me. So many different things about the holiday that trigger vibrant memories of some of the happiest times of my life. So here in this article, I want to share with you a lot of the little things that I enjoy during the Christmas season, their origins in the past, and some of the strong memories associated with them.

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The Mega Haul of Christmas 1986

 

Two weeks ago, I spent quite a bit of time working on, and posting the article, 1986:  The Year Santa Became Real, for the Christmas season here at Retro Ramblings. In it, I go into detail about how my Christmas experiences took a huge upturn in 1986, and mentioned several awesome toys that I got from Santa Claus that year. I didn’t have the space in the article to go into a lot of detail on each of those toys, so this whole article is dedicated to just that!

Cobra Terror Drome

The big one that Christmas morning in 1986 was the G.I. Joe Cobra Terror Drome. At that time in life, my world revolved around four toys. G.I Joe, Masters of the Universe, Construx, and Legos….with G.I. Joe being at the top of the list. Knowing this, it was no surprise to my parents that the biggest hit of the holiday season would be this huge G.I. Joe play set.

It had room for plenty of figures, so massive battles were a foregone conclusion. I stockpiled this sucker with every bad guy I had in my collection, and then began a full on assault with all of the good guys I could find. Even Bo & Luke Duke in their 3 3/4″ figure form and the General Lee got in on the action on the side of the Joes!

 

More Dukes of Hazzard:  Looking Back at Dukes of Hazzard Merchandise From the 80’s

 

 

Cobra Terror Drome

The initial battle was a stalemate, with Cobra barely able to hold off the tremendous might of the Joes, as they retreated back a little ways to regroup and plan for a second assault. Now of course this stalemate was only to ensure that the Terror Drome was intact to play with again the following day. I spent a while Christmas afternoon interacting with various parts of this set. The Cobra vehicles re-fueled at the re-fueling station built into it, while some of the top Cobra brass interrogated a captured Joe down in the holding cell area.

The shine of this toy didn’t wear off anytime soon, but I had gotten quite a few other new toys this Christmas that required my attention, so I had to let the action cool down a little so I could get on to some of the other stuff like…..

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Woolworth’s Christmas Book from 1954

Enjoy this old school trip back in time and check out Woolworth’s Christmas catalog from 1954.  It was a time of simpler toys, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a large selection to choose from.  This would be our parent’s and grandparent’s version of a Sears Wish Book.  So flip through, and see what it would have been like for them.

 

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The Hottest Christmas Toys Through the Decades: The 1950’s

Christmas Through the Decades

 

It doesn’t matter how far back through the decades you go, each Christmas season has had it’s “must-have” hot toy that all the kids wanted.  Cabbage Patch Kids dolls were hot in 1983, but Davy Crockett coonskin caps were just as hot in 1954.  We’re going to be taking a look back at the hottest toys for Christmas’s through time, and this time we’re looking at the 1950’s.  You can also check out the decade of the 1940’s.

 

1950

Buzzy Bee

Buzzy Bee

Fisher-Price introduced the Buzzy Bee, a wooden pull-toy shaped like a bee whose yellow plastic wings not only rotated when pulled but made a delightful clacking sound.  Further delight was added by red wooden balls that waved at the end of coiled-spring antennae.

 

Hopalong Cassidy Lunch Boxes

Hopalong Cassidy Lunch Boxes

Hopalong Cassidy lunch boxes, inspired by the new TV hit, flew off the shelves.  Before December is out, over 600,000 had been sold.

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Vintage Holiday Recipes From 1967

I recently came across an issue of McCall’s magazine from December of 1967, and while getting lost in all the great advertising, I stumbled upon some fun and tasty looking recipes from that magical year.  The Christmas season always brings along it’s own unique blend of tasty treats that are usually reserved for the holiday and not many other times of the year.  So chances are these recipes only saw print a few times through the years.  Well today, we’re pulling these old recipes out and sharing them with the world!

 

While all the food on this spread looks pretty tempting, the only recipe given is for the Cream Wafers that are pictured at bottom right.  They seem easy enough to make, and look pretty dang good too!  The main thing I’ve picked up on in these old recipes, and you’ll see as we go along, is they call for butter and not margarine.  These are my kind of people right here!

Now I know that aluminum foil isn’t food, but Reynolds Wrap got in on the game with some “recipes” of their own to try and move more of their product by giving you ideas of things to do with it.  You can wrap a child’s present with it, Christmas candles look more “gala” when they have some foil curled around them.  From the looks of things, I guess bunching a big glob of it up and sitting the candle in it as a base works too.  It even says you can line your fireplace with it to reflect it’s glowing warmth.

Now this one is certainly one of my favorites, as it features the always delicious snack, Bugles!  It also features Whistles and Daisy’s, but they are no longer on the market, so we just have to settle for what we can get.  As much as I love Bugles, I am more than a bit disappointed I missed out on ever trying the other two offerings.

I’m not so sure about the dip though.  Cream Cheese, Blue Cheese, and onions mixed with Cheddar and other stuff doesn’t sound too appealing to me.  Maybe it does you.

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The Golden Age of Department Stores at Christmas

In today’s world of specialty shops, discount superstores, and all the choices we have online, it’s hard to imagine the role the department store once played in American life.  Each town had one of these emporiums, housing thousands of square feet of merchandise beneath a single roof.  Located in the town’s central shopping district, the department store served as a kind of town square.  Wealthy people could not go to a “better” store, and poor folks would not be turned away.  As an economic blender, it was great.

Department stores also played a unique role at Christmas time.  Because their budgets, floor space, and potential profits were so much larger than smaller shops, they took the lead in marketing Christmas as an in-store event.  It cost a quarter to go to the movies, but for free one could linger for hours over fantasy windows, spectacular toy lands, mechanized villages, and red-suited Santa, all set against the backdrop of alluring and highly desirable merchandise.  Whole families trooped downtown each year to enjoy these spectacles, and a new annual tradition became part of millions of American lives.

More Department Store History:  How Retailers Changed When We Celebrate Thanksgiving

 

Retailed realized early on that windows made ideal picture frames for their merchandise.  In the 1920’s, Christmas windows took a revolutionary turn.  Ed Dean, display manager for Dayton’s department store in Minneapolis, began designing windows that were whimsical rather than merely merchandise-filled.  Although Macy’s in New York had long incorporated merchandise into various window themes, Dean’s windows skipped the merchandise altogether.  Among his creations were mechanical cutouts illustrating scenes from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a life-size elephant that swung its trunk and swished its tail, and several circus acts and nursery rhymes.  The idea was to give the windows a new theme each year, and to make each season’s offering grander and more alluring than the year before.  One year it was dolls, another the circus, still another nursery rhyme characters.

Soon other stores adopted the merchandise-free strategy, and fantasy windows became the rule of the day.  In 1946, Marshall Field’s in Chicago used its long parade of windows to tell the story of The Night Before Christmas from start to finish, which proved so popular with shoppers that the store offered the public a new story every year after that.  In cities across America, each season’s store windows became an annual news event, and town residents turned out to see the show.  The amount of free advertising, customer good will, foot traffic, and attention from the retail world was enormous.


Rudolph got his start as a story for one of these old department stores.  You can read his story on our Patreon page.
When Rudolph Mania Started Running Wild

Why are holiday windows always so secular?  Has commercialism completely drowned out Christmas’ true origins?  It turns out the opposite is true – retailers have always been cautious of anything that might seem to exploit religion.  In 1952, to satisfy customers who’d requested a nativity display, Dayton’s in Minneapolis created a sacred side of the store, keeping it separate from the Santa’s, sleigh bells, toy soldiers and decorated trees that enlivened the rest of the store.

Windows were by no means the only investment retailers made.  Awnings garlanded with holly, Santa’s and sleighs climbing store roofs, interior pillars wrapped with pine, elaborately decorated Christmas trees and Santa Villages and Toylands – all these were important in setting the holiday mood.  Marshall Field’s, in Chicago, was a leader in cellar-to-ceiling decorating.  In the 1940’s, instead of having windows to delight the children and decorations of various sorts in different departments, Field’s designers began decorating the whole store around and single theme.  This required not only ingenuity but massive effort as well – the store estimated that some 4,000 employees were required to complete the decorations each year.  The effect was dazzling, and people who might before have been content to see only the windows and the main floor now became interested in seeing the whole store, and as they walked through each floor they invariably made purchases.

The 1950’s and 1960’s were the heyday of downtown windows, with stores striving each season to surpass their previous year’s efforts and those of their competitors.  Stores that had kept their windows dark on Sundays began to light them up.  Eventually, by the mid-1960’s, states started to repeal their Sunday closing laws, and stores began to keep limited hours.

Christmas:  The Hottest Toys For Christmas Though the Decades:  The 1940’s

After the 1960’s, while large stores could still be counted on for interesting and delightful windows, soaring costs caused many retailers to scale back their efforts, to recycle decorations form one season to another, or rely on rented window decorations.  An even bigger factor may have been that new feature on the American landscape, the suburban shopping mall.  With branches of the main store located in the customer’s own neighborhood, there was no reason to lure shoppers downtown, and the advent of the sophisticated attractions like color television, animated movies, television specials, and later VCR’s and DVDs, made children just a little less excited about the prospect of pacing a long line of windows in the cold.

The Hottest Christmas Toys Through the Decades: The 1940’s

 

It doesn’t matter how far back through the decades you go, each Christmas season has had it’s “must-have” hot toy that all the kids wanted.  Cabbage Patch Kids dolls were hot in 1983, but Davy Crockett coonskin caps were just as hot in 1954.  We’re going to be taking a look back at the hottest toys for Christmas’s through time, and we’re starting with the 1940’s.

 

1942

Little Golden Books

Little Golden Books

Little Golden Books published it’s first twelve books.  1.5 million copies were sold in the first 5 months alone.

 

Lionel Paper Trains

Lionel Paper Trains

After being forced to halt production to their normal metal trains due to the war, Lionel offered a paper train for the holiday season.  In its Model Builder magazine and its Railroad Planning Book, Lionel urged boys and their dads to start planning their post war railroad now.

 

1943

Chutes and Ladders

Chutes and Ladders

Produced by Milton Bradley, Chutes and Ladders created a fervor among kids everywhere.

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