By Karen Osburn, Archivist
What did you ask for on your Christmas list as a child? People who know me well won’t be surprised to know that every year I asked Santa, and later my parents when it became apparent that Santa didn’t get the message, for a pony. I scoured the Christmas “Wish Book” for rocking horses and asking for one of those with the idea that Santa might go for that. Sadly, Santa, my parents, my grandparents, my cousin, even my aunt and uncle couldn’t be persuaded to bring me an equine breathing or carved of wood. Oh, everyone had great excuses from “a pony wouldn’t fit in the sleigh” to “we don’t have enough land.” The last phrase being a blatant falsehood since at the time I was asking we had 3 acres and our neighbors had 150 plus there were several horse farms in the area so zoning wasn’t a problem either.
Phooey! What did I get instead? Well, Santa was generous. I have a vague memory of a Christmas morning with the floor under the tree covered with presents. I must have been about 3 that year; I doubt I would have remembered a Christmas before that. I was frequently given dolls, I remember a “Betsy Wetsy” though I don’t remember asking for a doll that needed to have its diapers changed. One year I got quite a large doll, probably close to 24 inches high. It was impressive, but dolls didn’t hold much interest for me until Barbie became available. I think it was her clothes that appealed to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my presents, it is just that they didn’t hold my interest and two days after Christmas, the dolls sat in the corner and I was back to playing with stuffed animals.
I just wasn’t a “doll-type” of girl much to my mother’s chagrin. She always wanted dolls as a child and wanted me to like them, too. These memories came flooding back to me when I was researching an article on the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the 1940s. I encountered an ad for Montgomery Ward after Thanksgiving shopping sale (Black Friday was alive and well in the 1940s). The girls’ toys mentioned were a tea set, an Army Nurses kit complete with uniform, and a pastry set for “little mothers”. I might have enjoyed the pastry set, though what being a mother had to do with baking is beyond me. I would not have been interested in a nurse kit or a tea set. Where were the cowgirl outfits? Where were the stuffed dogs, cats, and bears? Where were the Lincoln Logs? The 1940s advertisements seemed pretty stereotypical of what you would expect to receive if you were a boy or a girl of that time period. Girls did not play solider or cowboy and boys did not play nurse. Times have certainly changed!
I did some research on Christmas Catalogs from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and found a few pages that were pretty representative of what I asked for and what I go instead. Can you tell which was which? I even found one page that I vaguely remembered that mentioned you could buy live pets, cocker spaniels and hamsters in this case, through the catalogs! Of course this wasn’t a great idea then and would never work today, but it was nice to have my childhood memory verified. I hope looking at some of this advertisements stir some pleasant Christmas memories for you and I hope each of you enjoys this beautiful season celebrating in you r own traditional ways.
Oh, I did finally get to ride an adult size rocking horse at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. There is enough “child” in me that I would have bought one if I had money to waste and the space to put it. I guess there are some things you do not outgrow.