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History Corner: What Shall We Do Now?

History Corner: What Shall We Do Now?


The holidays are over, for the most part, and for some, it’s a let down because the momentum, to get everything ready, sets the feverish pace. Then, when the outdoor lights get put away and the tree makes its way to the transfer station, there seems that there’s nothing to do. As the winter gets colder and folks stay indoors, the family unit has a chance to stay together, as it was in the Victorian days. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are credited with the idea of family togetherness gathering around the first Christmas tree, but in truth it was Queen Charlotte, married to King George III, who brought her family tradition from Germany. She is known to have set up the first known English Christmas tree in December, 1800.

It would appear that this is not the first tree to become a Christmas tree as an anonymous writer, in 1605, recorded how, at Yuletide, the inhabitants of Strasburg set up fir trees in the parlors and hung roses cut out of many-colored paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets and such. For Charlotte, her childhood custom had been a yew branch that was decorated and up until 1800, such a bough was decorated with candles, placed in little decorated, tin holders, lit while the family and household staff gathered to sing carols.

These Royal boughs created quite a stir among the nobility who had never seen such a glorious sight. So, in 1800 Charlotte planned to hold a large Christmas party for all of the principal families in Windsor and in thinking of how to make the event extra special, put up an entire tree! She covered it with baubles, fruit and little presents, tinsel and glass as well as the lit candles which, when seen by the children provided nothing less than a true fairyland.

Now you may wonder why this story is after Christmas. Well, part of gearing down from this Christmas is to make some plans for next Christmas, especially in the decorating, as the stores have their 75% off sale on all holiday items. IF one can remember where they stored them for the year, next year will present a new and exciting display without the hustle and bustle of the malls and the 100% pricing. Take a hint from the squirrels or not and make some notes as to where you have “hidden” your precious purchases. Hmm, that is a very, vague childhood memory.

So what to do next? Did you receive anything that remotely resembles a hobby, a game or something to put together? So many adults do not have hobbies anymore, although A.C. Moore doesn’t seem to be going out of business. As kids, we collected stamps, coins or in my case both. I still have a small box of Revell plastic planes that I put together with that glue that stuck to your hands and made “strings” as you glued the pieces together, remember? In 1945 Bob Reder and Jack Besser formed a company making buildable, wooden kits for children under the name of Monogram. Four years earlier, in 1941, Lewis Glaser was working in plastics and manufactured a ladies compact calling it Revell, the French word “to awaken.” He soon was making plastic kits for a variety of planes, trains, boats and cars. Jog your memory, a little.

I see commercials for games on television, not electronic games but board games…remember those games that came in a long box with a board and some tokens that went around and around as you picked up property, money, Sorry cards or maybe you found out that Mr. Body was done in by Miss Scarlet, in the parlor with the knife. Do parents of today, dare to buy a board game, putting it under the tree to hear oh Mommy, that’s just what I wanted! Perhaps it will get a quick glance while the child endeavors to find “the” present, an iPad, iPod, DS or whatever electronic gadget they just must have!

So, where am I going with these ramblings? There must be a point here somewhere. Oh yes, memories, childhood, quieter times, traditions…all of the above. Traditions, that reminds me. How many of you hung your stocking, your OWN stocking (sock) over the fireplace for Santa? Hmm. Let’s see how many hands went up. Now, to hang ones own stocking is a thing of the past as the new and improved “stockings” can be seen in every holiday department, in every store, even one for the family pet. I guess that’s because they don’t wear socks.

I decorate several artificial trees with various themes but every year we haul in a real tree and when the needles start to drop, we haul it out again. To me, Christmas is not the Christmas I remember, without a real Christmas tree. I can remember going to bed early so my parents could bring in the tree that we bought together. Somehow I didn’t connect the buying and the putting up BUT I was surprised in the morning when I flew down the stairs to see it and what was under it! I still have the music box that is in the shape of a jukebox that doubles as a bank, made by Ideola and plays Three Little Fishes. “Down in the meadow in a little bitty pool swam three little fishes and a mama “fishie” too, swim said the mama “fishie”, swim if you can and they swam and they swam all over the dam. Boop Boop, Dit-Tem, Dat-Tem, What-Tem Chu˚ etc.

So what can you do for the rest of the winter that rivals the entire hubbub since Thanksgiving? There are still stores that carry Revell and certainly Toys R Us carries old-time board games. Chinese checkers has marbles,but how about asking a grandparent how to play marbles on the rug or a grandmother whose knees will still take on a game of jacks, on the floor. Believe it or not, the game of Tiddlywinks is being celebrated with the North American Tiddlywinks Association celebrating its 50th year in 2016. I hope to be one of those grandparents to bring back these games to the Stone-Otis House next summer. We have the jacks, tiddlywinks and marbles so all we need is the kids.

I would imagine a large map of the United States can still be found for children to collect postcards from each state or a Connecticut map finding a card or two from each of the 169 towns. In our collection of postcards at the Academy we have found towns, within towns. Have you heard of Stanwich or Lakeville, CT? In putting our collection together, for sale, we had to do a great deal of research to properly categorize the postcards, as the names of some of the “towns” were unusual. Try these on for size: Aspetuck in Easton, Branchville in Ridgefield, Buckland in Manchester, East River in Madison, Milldale in Southington, Stepney in Monroe, Moodus in East Haddam, Noroton in Darien, Sachem Head in Guilford and Silvermine in Norwalk. The state is full of these little villages and boroughs with some of them printing over 50 different scenes and others only a few.

That’s where the fun is. So, see if any of my ideas tweak your fancy and spend some quality time with your friends and family in the old fashioned ways.

Happy New Year Everyone!

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