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old king cole

NOTE: As of 9/7/16, I have published an updated version of this story. A wonderful thing happened after I published this version, so I had to rewrite the story. Just go here for the new version. You won’t be sorry! https://randybowlestories.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/an-old-man-looks-back-at-mother-goose-teddy-bears-and-other-joys-the-update/

When I was a little boy growing up in Yakima, Washington in the 1950’s, the first thing my eyes would land on in the morning, and the last thing I would see at night, was the Mother Goose-themed linoleum my parents tacked down on my bedroom floor.

bunkbeds wagon wheel

Our rented house at 707 South 2nd Avenue was small; my brother Al III and I shared a room, and we slept in wonderful cowboy bunk beds. The bunk beds were the finest a couple of little boys could have, because our Grandpa and Grandma Bowles owned Bowles Furniture in the “big city” of Spokane, and they gave them to us for Christmas, right around 1954. The maple bunks, which featured wagon wheels carved into their head and footboards, were a sight. I was going to say they looked like they came right out of a real cowboy bunkhouse; but in reality, I doubt working western bunkhouses would come equipped with beds which sported wagon-wheel designs. But we loved them, played in them, talked until all hours of the night in them, and once in a while, we actually got some sleep in them.

simple simon

This photo shows the border on the linoleum.

But the floor: looking at the floor was like taking a trip to Never Never Land. It was alive with Mother Goose imagery and nursery rhymes. The tales of Simple Simon and Old King Cole were right there for us little boys to read. And I should say: they helped us learn how to read. A colorful border around the linoleum featured more characters from the old stories. And, there were even checkerboards for playing an actual game of checkers. So if you tired of immersing yourself in the nursery rhyme scenes, you could play a game. That’s quite a floor!

the real mother goose

To this day, when I’m happily (and painstakingly) going through an antique mall, pouring over hundreds of items, each of which has the potential to become the next addition to my treasure trove, and I spy a vintage copy of The Real Mother Goose book, the large, colorful book first published long, long ago (1916!) by Rand McNally & Company, I stop in my tracks and pick up the book. — It’s been reprinted many times over the years.

the real mother goose page

I thumb through the stories, which were beautifully illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright, and I’m immediately whisked away to the world of my childhood. A world where stories have morals, everything rhymes; where Jack and Jill go up the hill, Peter Piper picks his peppers, and Little Bo Peep has, sadly, lost every single sheep.

You know what’s crazy? I’ve never purchased the book! I look at every single one I find, but I’ve never bought one. — Now I know why I’m writing this silly story: my subconscious is telling me to get a copy of the book. So: the very next time I see The Real Mother Goose at an antique mall, I am gonna pay the money and add it in my collection. — I mean, after all, I’ll never find the linoleum!

teddy bear vintage

Not my Theodore, obviously…. But a very similar bear.

I remember this: when I was about twelve years old, two things happened: my beloved teddy bear, Theodore “disappeared”. And, Mom had me help her pull up the old, cracked, worn-out Mother Goose linoleum. It had seen better days; and now that my brother and I were big boys, Mom thought we would probably enjoy having the wooden flooring which ran through the rest of our house. I’m sure the linoleum went out behind the fence, where our garbage collectors took it away, for its eventual destruction. As for my bear, I sure hope it wasn’t a Steiff, because if it was, then my folks not only took my pal from me; they took something I could get a hundred bucks for now, without even trying! (Not that I would ever, ever sell it if I still had it.) – Parents, here’s some free advice: if you think your kid has grown too old for his or her bear, and you decide to “disappear” it, don’t discard it! Save it for your child. Give it back to them when they’re all grown up.

Christmas tree 2015 014

My tree.

Teddy bears, Mother Goose, wagon wheel bunk beds…. I think back to my magical childhood, and it helps me understand why I have a Christmas tree like this. – And please take note: I’ve got a hundred more ornaments to hang. This is a tree in progress, folks!

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The linoleum was made by Congoleum, somewhere around sixty years ago.

I would have a real tree, but my apartment management has banned them. I live in a senior building, and they think if we had real trees, we would set the place on fire!


 

 

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