Readers’ childhood plushies

November 7, 2014 • 5:37 am

For today I’m going to hold back on the “Readers’ wildlife photos” to replace them with a one-off feature (actually, I have two more bears to be shown later): “Readers’ plush toys.” To put this up brings me great joy.

A few days ago I asked readers to “Bring out your teds”—that is, to provide a picture of a childhood toy animal that had remained with them, along with a few words on each. It turns out that some readers, overwhelmed by nostalgia, could not produce just a few words, but gave a brief essay instead. That’s fine, for I now realize that these animals are to many readers what a madeleine was to Proust.

So, enjoy a baker’s dozen of plushsies. (Two more bears are on tap for the weekend.)

First, reader Dorsa Amir sends “A Persian teddy bear”:

This is my teddy bear “Khersi” (خرسی), (meaning “Bear-y” in Farsi). This little guy was my companion back in Tehran, and when we made the move to the US in ’97, he was among the few possessions I brought with me. If I recall correctly, he also used to have a little blue t-shirt that was lost at some point in ’95. In one of my earliest memories, I’m crying and upset for some unrelated reason, so I grab Khersi and throw him against the wall. I immediately feel so guilty that I start crying again. For the following decade (and honestly, up until today), I regularly feel bad about doing that.
This morning, I asked my mom to send me a photo of him (he’s back at home), and she sent me the following photo shoot [JAC: I’ve chosen one photo]:


Diana MacPherson had a turtle!

I had a teddy when I was a kid but it was my mom’s teddy George & he resides with her. My favourite toy was this Yertle the Turtle and he is really worn. I’ve had him for just over 40 years and my mom bought him from a variety store near our apartment. When I got him (I think for Xmas), I threw my doll—rather unceremoniously I’m told—out of her doll bed and put Yertle in it. When I got clothes for my dolls, I exclaimed (and my mother still tells this story) “Oh good, clothes for Yertle!”. His nose is messed up because I dropped him a lot & my dad had to glue him. The fabric has also fallen apart so his arms are a mess. He has a pull string that says several things but it sounds pretty garbled now. One of the things he says, in a shaky voice is “Do you like turtle soup?” He also says “I’m fond of my pond”.

Yertle the Turtle

In response to my email: “That’s one debilitated turtle!”, Diana replied:

I know, he’s been through the wars and I was always so careful with my toys! I remember I used to talk to him all the time. I suspect my parents owning a tortoise when I was a kid (and the had the tortoise until my late 30s) had some sort of influence over my love of Yertle. I just thought he was the perfect toy.


From reader Kit (“Don’t call me Amy”) Predergast:

I am Kit (preferred name, real name Amy but god forbid anyone who refers to me by my ‘real’ name ;p) Prendergast, a qualified zoologist and conservation biologist from the University of Western Australia. I present to you my dear toy panda, who I have had since I was a mere two days old and was about the same size as she is! Her name is “Panda”…original I know, but in my defense, firstly I clearly was unable to name her myself, being a mere babe when I received her, and whilst I attempted to give her a ‘real’ name numerous times during my early years, the name “Panda” stuck. Furthermore, at least it is taxonomically accurate (vs. giving a name to cats with stripes Tigers and any animal that is black and white ‘Panda’) and likely speeded my ability when a little kit to recognise species of animals (as opposed to children who may learn that based on the name of their early toys, real bears are a Teddy species, and real dogs are species of Rovers).

Panda has always been one of my dearest cuddle buddies and despite her now wonky nose, derpy eyes, and her fur that has turned a bit yellow with age, I still think she is the best 🙂

My brother-in-law Bob reminded me that my own teddy bear (Toasty; see here) had a sort-of wife, my sister’s bear named, of course, Mrs. Toasty. But Toasty and his spouse never had a happy relationship, as I took every opportunity to besmirch and mistreat my sister’s toy. Here’s “Mrs. Toasty”:
What is a picture of Toasty and Tiger without Mrs. Toasty?  She attended many teddy bear picnics with Toasty over the years; she even made an appearance at Jerry’s 60th birthday party in Boston, several years ago, with Jerry’s nephew, Steven.
From reader “rickflick”:
This is “Rabbit”.  I think my brother and I had so many toys that we were running out of creative names. I had this rabbit, along with a vast menagerie, collected by my brother and me when we were kids.  This may be the last one in existence.  We used them as characters in play dramas, and each had a definite personality.  Usually the dramas were court cases or other disputes where  there could be winners and losers.  Since I was older, I usually won.
From reader Ann:
I was so envious to see you still have your beloved childhood teddy (and tiger). In 1953, shortly after I was born, my dad returned from a New York business trip with a Steiff tabby cat from FAO Schwarz, the big toy store on Fifth Avenue.  I am sure it was an unusually extravagant purchase for him. It was one of the floppy, “sleeping animals” and had the trademark “Knopf im Ohr”. “Toy Kitty”, as it was dubbed, was genderless from what could be discerned.
From reader Su Gould:

My mother’s bear, given to her when she was 40yrs old by her sister. (I inherited it.) It is a Korean bear, 28″ inches high. When my university kept cutting back the staff in my office, I brought it in for three weeks to work the front reception desk.

I meant this mainly as a form of “administrator shaming,” but it actually worked out well, as people did stop when they saw the bear. Bear is very polite and official looking. (Bear is now 45 yrs old, and looks as good as she ever did.)
From reader Christina, whose teddy was besmirched by a d*g!:
I got my teddy for my first Christmas and he’ll be turning 27 this year. He came with me to college and grad school, sleeping in my bed until I moved in with my then boyfriend/now husband. The top of his hat was tragically eaten by a d*g at a sleepover while I was in elementary school and his plastic heart is located closer to his butt nowadays due to 27 years of fluff disintegration, but he will always hold a special place in my heart and on my shelf.
Bear 2
From our own Matthew Cobb:
Here are pictures of my Teddy, who’s just called Teddy. I have had him for over 55 years, maybe since I was born – not sure. My sister Liz  made him the tartan trousers when I was very young – never known him without them. He has got a bit battered – his eyes were bits of brown  glass stuck on very long rusty dangerous bits of wire, which were  shoved into his straw-packed head. They were removed, probably for safety reasons, long ago. Now he looks a bit blind. His paws were covered with some kind of fabric, but that obviously rotted and got replaced about 20 years ago by my mother, who looked after him until  about 10 years ago when I reclaimed him. My mum also did some brain surgery when, about 50 years ago, Teddy got left too close to a fire and suffered a nasty singe-based trepanation on the back of his head. She patched him up – not with vinegar and brown paper but with a piece of some old yellow curtains. He’s not very cuddly (the straw is very solid), nor very flexible, and  is getting rather threadbare (threadbear) but I suppose that’s also a  description of his owner. . .
From Leslie Brunetta:

This is my ted, whose name, of course, is Teddy. He was given to me on Christmas 1960, when I was about 6 months old. Home movie evidence shows that I started chewing on his plastic ears immediately, with who knows what eventual impact on my long-term health. He still has a shredded label, crediting his creation to the Knickerbocker Toy Co. Further, the label advertises that he was made under “Sanitary Mfg. Conditions” and was part of the Animals of Distinction collection—“Eyes Locked In” (not in his case), “Filled with Feather Foam” (not sure what kind of bird grows that), “Non-toxic, Non-allergic, Odorless” (which maybe shows that late-1950s, early-1960s parents were no less neurotic than my generation of parents).

It’s a good thing Teddy was/is washable. The Frankenstein-monster-like zipper on his back (which complements the visible stitching attaching his neck to his body and the cattle-ranch-type brands “KNICK” under his chin and “1957” on his neck), used to hold in a wind-up music box. It fell victim to a childhood bout of stomach flu.

I loved Teddy when I was a kid. I never saw him as strange, and I don’t remember any other kids who saw him finding him strange. My own kids and their friends have always found him and his face to be deeply creepy. Maybe it’s the eyebrows.

teddy front teddy back

Three more to go. Heather Bernard was one of only two readers who provided us with “then” and “now” pictures of her with her bear, Winnie the Pooh:

I took my bear with me everywhere – we traveled a lot, and Pooh has been to Greece, England, Scotland, Italy, Russia, Mongolia, Guatemala, the Panama Canal, and probably some places I’m forgetting.

The first picture is Pooh with my brother and me in 1966; I’m not sure what airport.


And then a picture today – Pooh has a treasured place in his own chair.  He looks like a weary traveler – I don’t dare remove the red tape (my long-ago attempt to patch him up).

I’m looking forward to reading other stories – I’m glad I’m not the only one who keeps my old bear!


Reader “Alektrophile” (aka Luca) has another “then” and “now’ pair:

In response to your request for photos and stories about favourite teddies, I thought I’d send you two of my own special stuffed animal, a cat as it happens. Miao the cat was the first Christmas present I ever received, given to me when I was only a few months old, just over 40 years ago. Of all the stuffed animals and other toys I had as a child, Miao is the only one I kept, having been by far my favourite, an inseparable companion for many years. Indeed, many of my childhood photos feature my stuffed cat as well, including the first one below, taken when Miao and I were three.

I am afraid I don’t have or remember any particularly funny stories regarding my stuffed cat, although Miao has the distinction of having been baptized by me with holy water (I sneaked into the local parish church to “borrow” some when I was 6 or 7; nominally Catholic, I had the vague notion that holy water was magic in some way or other and, more importantly, useful against vampires and witches, so it couldn’t hurt to sprinkle some on Miao just in case).


The second photo, one I just took, shows my stuffed cat today, still in pretty good shape (missing eye and minor surgical interventions notwithstanding) and enjoying occasionally being taken for walks and chosen over newer stuffed animals for naps by the next generation, aged 4 and 1.


 Reader Leo Glenn apparently is not too fond of his bear!

There’s not much of a story associated with this bear, other than I had a great many stuffed animals as a child, which I used to play with in a closet under the stairs (a la Harry Potter), and this was the only one I didn’t like. Truth be told, I was a little afraid of it, with the strange blotches and eerie, orange eyes. I usually buried it at the back of the pile.Imagine my surprise when, after 30-odd years, my sister returned it to me. She had kept it all that time, somehow thinking it was a favorite of mine. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth. It’s odd, but childhood feelings tend to linger into adulthood–I still don’t like looking at it, but somehow can’t bring myself to throw it away.

I’m so happy we have bears from all over.  Two conclusions: plushies tend to be seen as male, and the names bestowed by kids are not terribly creative. Oh, and bears are family members in only a slightly lesser way than are live pets.
If you have a bear or other childhood toy, send it along and perhaps I’ll do another feature in the future.

25 thoughts on “Readers’ childhood plushies

  1. Lovely to see so many people have still got their old friends. One of my greatest regrets was letting an ancient, threadbare ted that was my grandmothers, then my mother’s, then mine, get thrown away by removal men after my mother’s death. Nostalgia is a funny thing, but oddly important.

  2. Does anyone else remember the Gahan Wilson cartoon with old toys up in the attic? The teddy bear seems to be the one saying something like “Just wait till he gets old and sentimental and comes up here. Then we’ll get him!”

    If you have a copy of that, pls scan and send to jac – the only versions I can find are low-res and from the cover of a collected works book.

  3. My brother and I were both given English teddies similar to the one in Matthew’s photo. I didn’t like mine (it was Not A Lion) but my brother still treasures his.

    I agree that Marshmallow Tarsier Bear in the last photo is a bit creepy.

  4. Great turtle, just looking at would evaporate a sad day. The keyboard Su Gould’s bear looks more dated than the bear.

  5. This is one of the most unique (oddest?) postings I have seen here, but it is totally delightful. I am smiling from ear to ear and getting a little choked up.
    I miss my ‘Cheeko’, a monkey who is entombed in a cedar chest a couple hundred miles away.

  6. Seeing all these toys is great!

    rickflick: We used them as characters in play dramas, and each had a definite personality. Usually the dramas were court cases or other disputes where there could be winners and losers. Since I was older, I usually won.

    I like that you were playing at court cases – usually we just played “Charlie’s Angels” or some other lame thing from TV.

    Leslie Brunetta: I had a stuffed toy that I always thought was just a weird cat – it had human face. Later, my mother told me it was supposed to be a child dressed up in a cat suit. How weird – why make such a complicated toy?

  7. Love this post! My granddaughter loved her stuffed monkey so much that her mom bought a duplicate just in case Monkey got lost or ruined. My son’s panda was named Peter Peter Peter Peter Peter Peter Panda (yes, six Peters). He took it with him to space camp one year, duly hidden in his luggage lest anyone should see it at his age. I once had to interrupt a NOW meeting at my house to search outdoors for Peter so that my son could go to sleep.

  8. I had mentioned it on the previous post about stuffed friends, but it should be repeated–if you like these, you’ll probably like the book “Much Loved,” which came out last year. The photos in the book are similarly charming and the stories equally heart-warming.

    1. I second Greg’s recommendation. I downloaded the Kindle and read on my iPad. It is really good. My favourite one from that book is about a little 5″ teddy called, “Teddy Tingley” that the owner forgot on a pile of comics at a train station and only noticed teddy was left behind when the train started to move. Her mom bellowed out the window. She relates the story:

      “The teddy! The teddy! I just want the teddy!” some kind person picked up Teddy and ran with him as the train picked up speed, reaching up to the window just in time for Mum to grab him. She then had to sit down and face the other passengers for the rest of the journey, marked as the mad teddy bear woman. To hell with them and the comics; Teddy was what mattered

      1. Diana MacP: Your turtle gives a whole new meaning to my favourite winter garment – the turtle-neck white cable-knit sweater!!

  9. This post was fun and heartwarming! My Icky Baby is in worse shape than many of these companions; I must have been very rough on her! She was a constant companion for about 5 years and a bedtime companion for maybe 5 more. She will be turning 30 or 31 this Christmas. I’ll have to send Dr. Coyne a picture when I next have the opportunity to see her, if it is not too far out in time; I believe she is in a drawer in my old room at my Dad’s house.

  10. Love these photos and stories. There is such a charming innocence about stuffed animals. And when we grow up with them, they really do become family. From what I can tell, it’s a phenomenon that seems to cross social, geographical, and cultural boundaries. I think we impart a bit of our own humanity into our plush companions.

    1. Wow, Tina’s still got it into her 70s! Saw her and Ike and Ikettes Dec ’69 Oakland Coliseum opening for BB King and then Stones. 5 hour concert . Unforgettable.

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