Saturday 9 December 2023


I've never been too keen on 'pre-owned' books or items with inscriptions in or on them, but I'm a bit more relaxed about it now, often finding myself wondering what the story is behind them.  For example, the box of one of my six Wade Yogi Bear porcelain figures (only four of which retain their boxes) has the following inscription inside the top lid:

Truth to tell, it was the inscription which decided me to purchase the figure as, already owning five of these Yogis, I didn't really need, nor was I actually looking for another one.  However, the inscription prompted me to ponder on the story behind Rose and John, and the circumstances under which the boxed figure became available for sale.  Had it been a gift to a child (brother to sister perhaps) or an adult to his wife, and if so, had she kept and treasured it until death, long after her husband had expired?

It was my first purchased Wade Yogi (bought around 1970 or '71, which I yet have) that, decades later, prompted the following story about George and Elsie, and I've been wondering whether I should change the names to John and Rose to tie the box in with my tale.  Do me a favour, will you, Crivs?  Take a read of it, then let me know which names you prefer.


A Tale Of George And The Dragon - And The Bear...

Elsie held the little porcelain figure in her hand and regarded it thoughtfully.  She'd always hated it - ever since George had first brought it home on her birthday and laid it proudly before her, like a cat presenting an expired mouse to its horrified owner.

"It's horrible" she'd growled, contemptuously.  "Whatever made you buy that?" she spat, without even the slightest attempt to season the cold nakedness of her words with a hint of gratitude for the thought behind the gift.  Elsie was the kind of person who called a spade a spade and was proud of it.

George looked pained... crestfallen... devastated.  Like a small child receiving an unnecessarily sharp rebuke for a relatively minor offence.  "I... I thought you would like it" he stammered, trying to conceal his hurt.  "Look - it's a little bear - with a hat - and a collar and tie.  I thought it was cute" he ended, lamely.

"I'm not having it in the house.  I don't want the ladies from the guild thinking I've no class, cluttering up the house with cartoon ornaments.  It's junk - get rid of it!" she ordered.  And that was that.

Or at least, it would have been... had George not been made of sterner stuff than his wife gave him credit for.  He just couldn't - wouldn't - discard the porcelain testament of the love he held for the unappreciative Elsie.  Over the ensuing months, he would tuck it away, half-hidden, behind a picture-frame or a vase until, inevitably, she would discover it and the game of 'hide-and-seek' would begin anew.  Many a time she wondered why she simply didn't throw it away or 'accidentally' drop it, but there was something about its irritating 'please love me' expression that mysteriously prevented her from doing so.  That was impossible, but she hated it - hated it with a passion.  "Blast the man!" she would say.

And so it went.  Until the fateful day she received a call from George's office.  The voice on the 'phone sounded like that of a concerned parent speaking to a little child. Was she sitting down?  They were terribly sorry.  There had been an... 'incident'.  It was so sudden.  He wouldn't have felt a thing.  If ever there was anything they could do, it said.  She put down the 'phone, slunk into the chair beside it - and let the tears explode from her soul.  She cried for two hours, then put on her best coat and went down to the hospital mortuary.  When she returned, she was clutching a bag containing her late husband's personal effects.  Along with his watch, wallet and wedding ring was a little porcelain bear which was found in his pocket when he died. For a moment she wondered why, but other concerns drove the thought from her mind.  She made herself a cup of tea, watched 'Coronation Street', then went to bed.  Elsie never cried again.

A few months later, the sum total of poor George's life lay in an assortment of boxes and carrier bags in a corner of the hall.  In one of the boxes, lying on top of George's best lambswool sweater, was the object of Elsie's loathing - smiling inanely at the ceiling as if it expected the ceiling to smile back.  "Hark at me" she thought. "It's almost as if I thought the blasted thing was alive."  She laughed at her foolishness and consoled herself with the knowledge that, from tomorrow, it would be gone forever.  Sam from next door had offered to drive George's things down to the charity shop in the town.  Then it would be time to forget the past and move on.  A new optimism had recently begun to permeate her soul and she looked forward to the future with enthusiasm.  Life with George seemed almost like a dream.

"This all there is?" Sam asked when she opened the door to his knock the next morning.  He took the carrier bags first, then carried out the boxes one by one, puffing and grunting as he did so.

"Last one" he said.  As he stooped to pick it up, Elsie's eye fell upon a small porcelain object and a strange sensation suddenly welled up within her.  Feelings of grief, loss, pain, remorse, pity - a Kaleidoscope of emotions that threatened to engulf her.  "Wait a minute" she heard herself saying as she plucked the figure from atop the sweater.  "That's it, Sam.  Thanks very much for all your help" she said, in a slightly bewildered tone.

Elsie held the little porcelain figure in her hand and regarded it thoughtfully.  She had always hated it - but - now she was astonished to find that she couldn't stand the idea of being parted from it.  She couldn't explain why, but that's how she felt.  Sometimes people are surprised to find that they are not as hard, or as heartless, or as unfeeling as they imagine themselves to be.

And so it was with Elsie.  She looked at the little porcelain bear and thought of George - and remembered how much she'd loved him - and realized just how much she missed him.  Tenderly, she caressed the small figure, kissed the top of its head, and then placed it on the top shelf of her very best display cabinet where visitors would be sure to see it.  Then she smiled to herself, made a cup of tea, and sat and thought of all her wonderful years with George.  "Bless the man!" she sighed.  From its prize position in the display cabinet, the little bear sat and smiled at Elsie.

And - wherever he happened to be - no doubt George was smiling too.


Colin Jones said...

I can't stand porcelain figurines so I'd have no qualms about getting rid of Yogi if I was in Elsie's shoes! Keep the names of George & Elsie because they are the original ones!

Kid said...

Oh, you heartless brute, CJ. How can you fail to love a ceramic figure with a face like that?

Colin Jones said...

Have you ever looked at the UK singles chart at this time of year, Kid? Because the Top 100 is mostly compiled via streaming nowadays the chart is chock-a-block with Christmas songs including LAST CHRISTMAS by Wham! at No.1 which George Michael never lived to see.

Kid said...

I don't really pay much attention to the charts, CJ, unless I hear that a particular song I like is doing well. Don't think much of Last Christmas, to be honest - there are other songs I'd prefer to see at No. 1. (Like Silver Bells by Jim Reeves. It's time, I tell you, it's time.)

McSCOTTY said...

My gran used to have a few of those Wade animals and I loved them as a kid but as I got older they just seemed like dust collectors to me. Since she passed away in the late 1970s, every time I see a Wade animal even to this very day, they make me smile and think of her. A bit like Elsie in your (nice) story. Saying that I wouldn't buy one for myself all the same lol.

Kid said...

Oh, go on, McS - one wouldn't hurt. And if you won't buy one for yourself, buy one for your girlfriend. Then she can remember you when you snuff it every time she looks at it.

Gene Phillips said...

Cool story. Yeah, one sometimes wonders about artifacts that have passed from one pair of hands to another's. And of course the people making the artifacts may never appreciate what they made as much as members of their audience. A lot of the time the "children" of creative people are just a means of keeping the wolf from the door. I was in San Diego the year the elderly John Broome was flown there, in large part thanks to super-fan Rich Morrissey, and that was pretty much the first time the venerable Broome had come back in the U.S. in years, much less being accessible to fans. But the rub was-- he hardly remembered any of the comics the interviewer asked him about. Someone suggested having copies of the comics Broome had worked on might have sparked his memory, but I tend to doubt it. The stories just weren't as important to him as they were to his readers.

Kid said...

That's what we tend to forget a lot of the time, isn't it, GP? The fact that it was just a job to many of the old-timers and a way of putting food on the table. Apparently Kirby never even looked at the published mags of his work and it wasn't until he eventually saw others making money from his original art pages in the growing collectors' market that he decided he wanted them returned. Just think - it was a resentment of seeing others making dosh from pages he'd already been paid for that formed his decision, his attitude seemingly being why should others financially benefit, but not him? Er, well, because you sold them Jack and didn't put a value on them until others did.

I sometimes wonder how many stories Jack and Steve Ditko (and others) produced over the years that they simply didn't remember doing at the time? And that was probably common for most comic creators until readers of comics became creators themselves. For them it was a dream-come-true so their work had greater significance to them and was more likely to be remembered than in past times.

Kid said...

Remembered by the creators, that is.

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