December 13, 2012

Sepia Saturday #156: Around the Christmas Tree

Wake up! It's Christmas 1972!

Please note: Excerpts from the following post (that which pertains to Christmas) have been extracted from 2009 articles on my Blasts From the Past blog). 

I learned the truth about Santa Claus when I was 11 years old. (Don’t tell anybody, but he doesn’t like milk and cookies – he likes chocolate cake and whiskey!)
No, Seriously, someone blurted it out at a family dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house (you know who you are!) and I was incredulous (still am if the truth be told). I cried, “No! You’re lying! You made that up! Santa is real! He really is! (Honest – with all those exclamation marks).

I still believe in Santa Claus because every year he never fails to place the perfect gift for me under the tree. Even when we lived out in the “boonies” he gave me the ideal comforter for the queen-sized bed in that backroom in the old house with the ice on the windows. Santa always knows. End of story.Well, not really the end, or you’d be rather disappointed, wouldn’t you? You’d have to think twice about coming back here for my trips back in time, so, I’ll give you what you came for:

My Childhood Most Wanted List for Santa (Top Ten Best Christmas gifts from the Big Man in Red)

Here we go! See if any of these jog your memory:

Number 10: The Krazy Karpet

Everyone I knew, got these plastic whizzing wonders, but as long as the wooden toboggan with padded cushion (from 1964) was still in our garage, Santa didn’t see the need for ME to have one. Fortunately, my friend, Jane and her twin sisters did have them, so I got to ride them anyway.

Wow! I had no idea you could use this on sand and grass! We missed so many opportunities to drag it out to the beach or take it on an Easter Egg roll. Darn! Gotta love those “Batman adjectives: “Wild!” It was only $2.99! What a steal!

Here’s a funny story: In the 1990s, I was a teaching assistant at an elementary school. As such, I was often called upon to do recess yard duty. One winter’s day, I happened to be outside on duty in the freezing cold, when I spied some kids using their krazy karpet on the small hill out back. Being a big kid myself, I went over and told them I could show them a better way to slide down the hill – to have less drag, if you will.

My father always maintained that you had to tuck your feet into the lap of the person in front of you in order to get maximum speed when you raced down the hill. On my instructions, that’s what three Grade 4 boys did – only, I couldn’t leave it at that; I had to hop on too (it was the “giant” version).
So we got all tucked in, with our feet placed in each others laps and off we went, flying down the small hill. The only problem was, about half-way down we smacked into another kid who was crossing our path to get to his friend. We all flew off the karpet – and my glasses flew off my face, but the worst part was, we had actually knocked the kid out of his boots!!!
Here’s me, on yard duty, supposedly taking care of the children on my watch and what have I done? I’ve been instrumental in ejecting a little boy out of his winter galoshes.
Fortunately, no other teachers were in my vicinity, so no one ever caught on. To the kids, (except the one crying) I was a big hero and everyone wanted me to go down the hill with them again, but I sloped off to obscurity in a group of little girls who were making snow-angels and NEVER offered that sort of advice again.Perhaps it’s just as well I didn’t ever get one of my own.

Number 9: Spirograph

I’m no Picasso, or even Van Gogh, but I do have a bit of artistic flair and talent and even as a kid I leaned towards toys that allowed me to express that. I can’t say it started with the Etch-a-sketch because that was waaay too limiting for me with all those sharp corners that just would not turn. Maybe it was the paint-by-number sets that I whipped through, or all the many colouring books I had featuring the latest cartoon character, Disney movie, or nature and wildlife.

In school, I loved Art Class and would happily don a smock to get into the finger-painting, toothbrush spray-painting, cutting tissue paper, gluing and shellacking—I loved it all!So when Kenner came out with Spirograph, I had to have it!

Oh, it was with great relish, that I pulled that red box out from under the tree in 1973. I remember all the pieces – the little pins, the clear plastic saw-toothed shapes, the coloured pens–I was in Christmas Heaven!

Check out this video of a commercial for Spirograph:

I swear, from that first note, I thought the music was going to be “Wild Thing” by the Troggs! Groovy outfits too! This makeshift band looks like the Brady Bunch meets – well, anybody in my Grade 5 classroom! The sad thing is, I had those boots, I wore that headband! I even danced like that. Yikes!I guess the marketing-mavens at Kenner, thought that if you put some “hip” pre-teens on a fake concert-stage it would sell their new product.

I have to be honest; it sure wasn’t those “rock stars” that made me want to buy it–it was all those funky designs and bits and pieces in the box.

Tell the truth–didn’t you at least once lose it with Spirograph? Didn’t you just let those circles fly out of their frameworks and keep on going with the pen? You’d just be swirling along, back and forth and then something in your brain would snap and you’d end up in a frenzy with the pen in your hand. Didn’t you just grind that pen into the page until it tore holes in your paper? Maybe that was just me.

Number 8: The Barbie Beauty Centre

As a little girl, my mother took great pride in doing my hair. This meant being dragged into the bathroom, head under the tap, “no more tears” shampoo (yeah, right!), a scouring as if I had a cootie infestation, then a comb-out to get the nasty tangles. Yeeeoww! Then she’d roll it up strand by strand in cotton rag-strips, so I could sleep on little lumps all night and wake up with “gorgeous ringlets”. Not really. I ended up looking more like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards, until she tamed it with a horsehair brush.

Perhaps this is why, when I received my first baby-doll at Christmas, I promptly dragged her into the bathroom to scour her silken locks. The result was she ended up looking (as my mother would say), “like a brush mop in a fit”!

You have no control over when your mom wants to chop your hair, curl it, let it grow, or, God forbid (as she once did with me) let some barber (Sweeney Todd?) have a go at it, nick the back of your neck and promptly douse it in rubbing alcohol! Aaaargh!

Still worse, is when she lets your Dad wreak havoc with a pair of kitchen scissors and a salad bowl. OMG! (Luckily, it was HER hair he did that on, not mine. Ha ha.)

So I have always had a bit of an obsession with hair. I pined for the long, ash-blonde locks of my best friend, Jane King and in university, I wanted something dramatic – say, dark with spikes or some such eye-catching feature.

Remember all the paraphernalia then went with keeping long hair tidy and in fashion? Barettes – golden with two tines locked into place in the back, plastic, multi-colour, multi-shaped, tugging on those stray strands that got caught. What about those no. 8 shaped elastic things with the clear plastic “bobbles” on the ends. They were fun to twist round and round and click one over top of the other, but Dang! did they hurt if they snapped and hit your finger?!

Being fascinated/obsessed with hair, I was delirious when Mattel came out with the Barbie Beauty Centre. This topped my Christmas list to Santa in 1972.

Amazingly, Hallmark has released a commemorative BBC ornament for 2012.
 Can you believe it?

I wondered why didn’t God think of that – putting a hole in your head so you could pull out a nice long pony-tail or shove it back in whenever you wanted to?

Not only did the BBC come with brushes and combs and curlers, it had something else I prized just as much: its own makeup kit. Granted, it was only 3 circles of colour – pink for lips and cheeks, blue for eyes and mint green for really far-out eyes!This was the beginning of a 20 year fascination with makeup.

In grade seven I stole my mom’s Yardley baby blue cream eyeshadow in the little white ceramic pot, took it to school and slathered it above my hazel-green eyes. This, combined with a gorgeous Maybelline (you know the one in the pink tube with the green lid?) navy-blue mascara!!! All behind a stunning pair of burgundy-framed coke-bottle bottoms and, well you get the picture.

I have the Barbie Beauty Centre to thank for my sense of adventure when it comes to hair. I never hesitate to try something new. In my second year of university, I read an article in SEVENTEEN magazine about how you could easily cut long hair into a perfect shag, if you tied it up in an elastic band on the top of your head and chopped the tail off with a pair of garden shears. Honest! Guess who did that? Well, it was nothing that a can of French Formula hairspray and a bit of back-combing couldn’t solve. Good thing nobody ever saw me just out of the shower– I looked like an Afghan hound in a downpour!

Today, I’m much less of a risk-taker, although, just last week, I bought some "Ruby Rush" hair-colour and now my husband calls me, "Red"!

Old habits, die hard.

(More Santa Favourites coming up next post!)

If you have come this far with this post, perhaps you'll be willing to indulge me in little poem I wrote today. Perhaps you'll feel the same way.


Memories are store-rooms,
filled with smoke,
and music—
empties on tables—
a choke of laughter,
above the haze.

We gaze,
on their inhabitants—
catch the glance of loved ones,
and loves, lost.

We close the door, for now,
and carry on.

Kat Mortensen©2012Creative Commons Licence

Don't forget to hop on Santa's Sleigh and drop in on these other stops on the Sepia Saturday route! Just click the image and you'll be magically transported!


  1. That was a fun post! I think one of my kids got a spirograph for christmas but I don't remember it getting used much, nothing like you describe.

    1. Thanks, Kristin! I would love to get my hands on one now and give it a go!

  2. Eleven?? You made it all the way to 11?? Amazing! Never heard of the Krazy Karpet. Looking forward to the next list of favorite gifts.

    1. I was a very sheltered child, Wendy. I think I continued to believe in the Easter Bunny until I was 12! I'm
      glad you enjoyed my trip down memory lane, the next instalment may surprise you!

  3. You won't be surprised that the Barbie Beauty Center was not high on my list but the Spirograph was. The reason was probably that my drawings usually consist of cubes within other cubes and other more mathematical drawings. And with the S. you could make all these fantastic curved figures. I liked your comparison of memories and store-rooms, very appropriate! But it strikes me that someone capable of making these sensitive poems is also capable of knocking a kid out of his boots with so much violence. The human spirit will never cease to surprise me :)

    1. Peter, I WOULD be surprised if it WAS though!

      Spirograph kept me occupied for hours, and it sounds like it did with you as well. Santa is no dummy!
      I'm not a violent person. Honest! The kid just sprang up out of nowhere! ��

  4. Never got the krazy karpets over here, but I'd love one now!
    Yes, I yearned for a spirograph too, but once it was a reality under my hand it never quite fulfilled expectations. The power of advertising...
    Barbie Beauty Centre. Er, no, still serious tomboy back then. Plus the disembodied head thing.

    Loved the poem. Merry Christmas!

    1. Hello, Titus! This IS a surprise! How nice to see you again!

      Krazy Karpets can still be found over here. You might be able to get them in pound shops or even charity shops. They are in with the swimmer's "noodles".

      I didn't have a problem with the disembodied head, probably from watching war movies from a very early age.

      Glad you liked the poem.

      Do come back and visit again! Have you checked out my food blog? That's where I spend most of my time these days, in the kitchen.


  5. Chocolate cake and whiskey? Yikes!! That was one tough Santa you had -- we just left a Budweiser and Ritz crackers (we were sure Santa was tired of all that milk by the time he got to our house).

    1. Nah! He was a pussycat! We did leave out milk and cookies, I was just pulling your leg!

  6. We bought a spirograph for one of our children (can't remember which one.) I was disappointed with it as I rarely got the chance to use it.

  7. Oh, my gosh, this whole post is so funny! Thanks for all the work that you put into it.

    Kathy M.

    1. Well, Kathy, I put work into it a while back, I cannot lie. This time of year, I don't have much opportunity to research and write as I would like to do. Glad you found it entertaining though.

  8. Your playground incident had me laughing out loud! Such a great anecdote. . . I can just imagine you trying to become invisible so your naughtiness would go undetected. You big kid, you!

    1. Too much so, I'm afraid. My "big kid" often gets me into trouble.

  9. I was too old for the Barbie Beauty Center - but one Christmas I did receive one of those make-up extravaganza things with 40 shades of eye shadow. Never did get the hang of applying that stuff, but I did like looking at all the colors in the little trays. This is a great post and I do love your poem.

    1. Oh, I remember those! Can you imagine what condition they must have been in after a while? I mean you cannot wear EVERY one of them, can you? So glad you enjoyed the piece and the poem.

  10. Great stories, Kat. The season's cheer always improves with shared memories.

    1. Thanks Mike! Yes, that is indeed the case.

  11. Looking forward to discovering what the top 7 are. I always wanted one of those Spirograph things myself - perhaps it is not too late, I will have a search on eBay. As for Santa's favourite drink, perhaps I might suggest a glass of Lagavoulin this year.

    1. I think you could probably find a Spirograph on eBay without too much difficulty, Alan.

      By the way, are you filling in for the big man this year? Lagavulin is one of my favourites.

  12. I had the Krazy Karpet, but still preferred my toboggan.
    I had the Spirograph but I didn't go ballistic with it,
    so, it's just YOU!!!
    I didn't have the Beauty Center, thankfully!!
    Who knows how it might have changed my destiny!?!...
    Looking forward to your next post.
    For me? It was my G.I. Joes, with HAIR!!!
    I was precocious in my taste for hairy guys.

    1. Just me. I'm a weirdo, what can I say? Sure, if you'd had the Beauty Centre, you might have been more queenly, I would imagine.

      G.I. Joes, huh? You'll love the post that's coming up soon. I'm the opposite, I'm not attracted to hirsute men at all.

    2. Ah!! I'm eccentric enough without needing to turn into a shrieking queen...

      Looking forward to your next post!!

  13. I'm afraid your Christmas wants came along long after I had Christmas wants, but I can tell you one most kids would have never asked for. When I was two and my family was living out in the Pacific Ocean on the very very tiny island called Midway, I asked for a bag of peanuts. Had we been on the mainland this wouldn't have been a problem, but stuck out in the ocean with no grocery stores other than the small Navy commissary, folks were nearly out of luck. Food was not delivered to the island very often so staples alone were hard to come by. Somehow they managed to finagle a can of peanuts from someone and they tied the bag onto our very scrawny, nearly needless tree. They always went the extra mile for me.

    1. What a story, Tattered and Lost! I feel over-indulged and spoiled, by comparison, but then relative to that, it seems your parents did every thing they could to make your wishes come true.

      I know, "Midway". My dad took me to see the film back in the early 1970s.