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Early American Christmas: 1961

Early American Christmas: 1961

December 1961. Maybe people who lived in the Hollywood Hills or in the pages of Sunset Magazine dwelt in high-concept Case Study homes, but regular young marrieds of this period were more likely to have furnished their abodes from the Early American section of the Montgomery Ward catalog. Here is a classic example of its kind, down to the ubiquitous braided rugs.

My nephew Jimmy, on the right, is visiting his cousin Bobby, and apparently I came along to record the event on this 127 Ektachrome. Jimmy is pulling the talk string on his Casper the Friendly Ghost, one of about a billion times he did it that year. "I'm co-o-o-o-ld." After 47 years that sound still echoes in my brain. Bobby's got himself a Mr. Machine, who didn't talk, but the TV commercial jingle still resonates. "Here he comes, here he comes, greatest toy you've ever seen, and his name is Mr. Machine!" I know that because at the age of 15 I was still watching cartoons on TV every day. In addition to the incredibly cool army truck, somebody has gotten a "Super Sonic Jetliner," whose wings were cleverly designed to deliberately detach. Someone else, presumably, has gotten the gift box of Kools up there on the end table. View full size.

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I'd almost forgotten...

How every second household had that horrible red-stained "colonial" furniture during the sixties. That was what working class people actually bought, as opposed to the sophisticated "up to the minute" ultra modern extravaganzas seen elswhere on this site.

And, changing the topic back to cigarettes: When I used to indulge, back in my youth, I found our Canadian smokes boring after a while. So, every time I crossed the border, I'd bring back some Camel Filters. I remember how they crackled like gunpowder while giving off that exotic Turkish tobacco smell.

Re: Cigarettes

There apparently is a difference between U.S. and Canadian brands. When I visited Canada years ago, a local scolded me for lighting up one of my "stinky" American coffin-nails. He described the smell of American cigarettes as that of "burning rope." He then explained that none of the Canadian brands utilize Turkish tobacco in their blends, which most American brands do, and offered to let me sample one of his. The difference he was describing was evident. In my opinion, however, they just didn't pack the wallop that a good-old Kool did (hack, hack).

The Friendly Ghost

For Christmas 1962 I got a Casper doll, Which is of course long gone now. Until last Christmas, when someone very close to me found one on eBay. The tag said "Mattel 1962." I like to think this is THE one that got away. Which doesn't have much to do with the photo of course, but this picture sure did bring back fond memories of that Christmas in particular. Thanks very much for posting this.

Poor Casper

Of all the photos I've enjoyed here, this one hits home, right down to the furniture. I too had a Casper that I loved as a child. But not so much that curiosity didn't get the better of me -- after having him a few years, I ripped him open to find out what made him talk. No microchips in those days, but a little record with "Mattel" on the label. Poor Casper, but seeing as he was a ghost I'm sure he felt no pain.

No knots

Love Jimmy's bow tie. Bet it was a clip-on version.


All of those cigarette brands are foreign to people who grew up in Canada. Kools - what are they? We (by which I mean those who smoked - in 52 years I never have) had brands like Du Maurier, Rothmans, Number 7, Players (my uncle Harry's favourite) Sportsman, and Cameo. For years in Canada when you heard "Macdonalds" you thought cigarettes because Macdonald Tobacco was one of the biggest companies around (they sponsored the national curling championships, the Macdonald Brier). Their main brand was Export A and the menthol version, Export M. To this day I can tell when someone is smoking an American cigarette - the smell of the smoke harsher and, well stinkier.

Mr. Machine

I received a Mr. Machine for my birthday in 1963. I also took him apart and my dad had to reassemble him. I haven't taken it apart since then-- I still have it! Also, it does kind of talk. It emitted a weird, synthetic "ahhh" when the mouth opened.

Space-Age Colonial

Being the queen of Early American yard sales, I have a pair of the same side tables in my den, even as I type. Solid maple, no veneers, no particleboard, ahhhhhh.

Early American

My aunt was very proud of her "Early American" decor. My mother used to get a giggle out of it behind her back, because the kitchen curtains actually had the words "Early American" incorporated into the design of the fabric.

Those Rugs!

I recognize those rugs. My folks had a set and they lasted for a good 20 years before they started coming apart. I've no idea where my folks got them but those were well-made rugs!

Previous Night's Party

I spy under the end table a pointy black pump, so odds favor that Christmas Eve was spicy for someone!

Deja Vu - 2!

Your folks smoked Winstons, Horace T. Water; my mom smoked Salems because when she took a puff, it was springtime and my Dad smoked L&Ms because "L&M has got the filter that unlocks the flavor in a filter cigarette." Me? I ended up carrying around a pack of Kools and a pack of Lucky Strikes, alternating brands when my lungs got too raw or too frozen. Ah! the good old days!

Good Memories

I had a Mr. Machine for Christmas. Took him apart and couldn't get him back together again.

Deja Vu

That could have been taken at my house. I remember my mother making those braided rag rugs. My little brother got a Mr. Machine for Christmas. My folks smoked Winstons, however. I guess because they "taste good, like a cigarette should."


It's so wild to hear that theme song again! And really....what a cool toy.

Happy Yule, Kool Fool!

And then there were the cigarette commercials where you'd see a young couple arrive at the front door of a house while it snowed. They're bundled up for the cold weather, laughing and smiling - and under his arm he's carrying a carton of cigs, wrapped in a festive bow.

Because nothing says "Merry Christmas" quite like a gift-wrapped carton of Kools.

This is from someone who smoked - and loved smoking - for decades.

"He is real, he is real..."

And for you he is ideal
And his name is Mr. Machine!

I had Casper too. "Will you be friends with me?"

Mr. Machine

I always wanted a Mr. Machine! I also remember rolling around on the same kind of woven rug. You could lose all sorts of things on the rug due to its unique camouflage of colors.

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