Soon we will be waking up to the beginning of the year 2019, but before that December month will be overrun by holiday makers, adults and children, spending school, university, colleges and business holidays at the coastal seaside resorts of our lovely province. There will be much enjoyment when the culture of giving will make itself known as different individuals will celebrate for different reasons and receive gifts. The stores will have placed every item they can think of to entice one to buy. But in all probability one very specific gift will be given mostly to children but also to adults (men and women) during this time.
What is that gift? A small or quite large stuffed toy – not just any toy but a Teddy Bear. The giving of this toy goes back to Germany and being sold in Europe during the 1880’s before the world knew it as a Teddy Bear. Margaret Steiff who was confined in a wheelchair first made a stuffed elephant toy and then this other toy. Steiff’s nephew Richard Steiff aided his aunt by working in the business. Quality material and design in the making of all the Steiff toys – monkeys, horses, camels, mice, dogs, cats was considered a foregone conclusion. The firm still exists, there is a Steiff Museum and a Steiff Club. Miss Steiff died just before her 62nd birthday on the 9th May, 1909
During a hunting trip in 1902 Theodore Roosevelt, president of the United States of America decided against shooting a young bear. Shortly thereafter a cartoon, in a slightly satirical fashion, appeared in the Washington Post of the president’s conservation decision refusing to shoot the bear. It did not take much time for someone to come up with a toy named Teddy’s Bear. In no time at all this new toy – now named a Teddy Bear- had become well known. A new toy fashion had got under way. Of course there have been many different bears produced over the years but what has stuck is the name Teddy Bear.
Why has this toy remained dear to the hearts of many children and attractive to adult men and women? Maybe because it is soft, cute, cuddly, a memory of childhood, makes the owner feel safe and loved? Who knows? The poet Sir John Betjemen had a teddy Bear, so, one has been told via the media, did the late Prime Minister of Britain, Lady Margaret Thatcher. The actress Dame Judy Dench and the Beetle Ringo Star, are said to still have theirs. Further interest in the toy came when Michael Bond wrote the Paddington Bear books. Locally one sometimes comes across, in a magazine, pictures of large private collections of these bears . One gathers from the story line that they are very much part of the lives of the owners.