Friday, December 5, 2014

Thrifty Acres: Vintage Christmas

Hello! 'Tis the season for holiday decor, and if you're like me you  hunt for vintage decor at the thrift stores. Here are a few recent finds:

Whitman's "Christmas Frame Tray Puzzle", with the date 1961 on it. (I have a brother born that year, so I guess he's vintage too, ha).

It's in pretty good shape given its age and the fact that it's all cardboard. Something like this would have been wrecked in no time when I was growing up. Heck, I can still recall the time one of my siblings got a Battleship game for Christmas. The game was promptly opened up and played over the course of the day. But in the general melee of the day (a family of ten plus a visit from a drama-filled grandmother), one of the battleships was lost, never to be found. 

The name "Vern" is written on the top border of the puzzle in a childish script. (When's the last time you met a kid named Vern?) On the bottom left corner of the puzzle is a statement attesting to its usefulness: "For Developing Coordination and Motor Control". Who knows, if Vern put the puzzle together often enough,  his handwriting might have improved over time. 

Actually, my handwriting isn't the best either, but I bought the puzzle for its graphics:

Cute angel and ornaments on that tree!

The next item may seem mundane, but it's in a category that seems to have some collectible value:

A roll of vintage ribbon that appears to have never been used. I bought it for the Santa graphic. Thanks to thrift store pricing, I paid only a penny more than that original price, but try finding something like this that cheaply on eBay or Etsy - not going to happen! Oh, and the ribbon - it's  dark green, about 3" wide. One Etsy seller estimated that this item is from the 1950's.

The other side of the ribbon roll has the same label, along with the original price tag from a place called Neisner's. Had never heard of that store so I googled the name out of curiousity. Wasn't really expecting to find anything, so to my surprise I learned that Neisner's was a dime store chain based in Rochester, NY. At one time it did have stores in Michigan, but I don't recall seeing any (an Internet search showed they were located in the Detroit area). The chain was bought out in the late 70's, so it exists no more. 

The last find is my favorite, so I have several photos to show off, starting with:

Make your own World of Christmas, a 1972 publication by Rosemary Lowndes and Claude Kailer. Again, purchased for the graphics, though this book is meant to be cut up. My copy is intact - perhaps, like me, a previous owner felt it was too pretty to take apart.

But the book is more than pretty artwork - it also has brief histories of holiday customs the world over. Since there's a 12 Days of Christmas theme, there are 12 sections for these customs, whether by countries (separate nations such as Italy, Denmark, etc.) or by groupings (Scandinavia, Spanish-speaking areas, etc.). 

An important holiday figure associated with each country or region is printed in several pieces to be cut out, folded and glued together. There are kindly saints, an angel, the Three Kings, and more.

Each chapter is preceded by artwork representing one of the 12 Days of Christmas; these are meant to be cut out and assembled as a calendar.

Today is Sinterklaas Eve, a Dutch holiday that anticipates St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6th). As I live in a town that was settled by Dutch immigrants, the occasion will be celebrated locally tonight with a procession led by Sinterklaas, games, stories and refreshments. 

So of course I'll show the book's rendition of Sinterklaas:

This is a photo of the Sinterklaas figure after the various pieces have been cut out, folded and glued together.

And above is a portion of what the Sinterklaas figure looks like in its pre-construction state.

As a bonus, each chapter has an accompanying scene with cut-out figures. Let's go Dutch again:

Above, the scenic backdrop for the Dutch figures. The authentic windmill (ie, it actually comes from the Netherlands) here in town looks just like the one in the scene.

These are the figures to cut out and pose in front of the scene. I think these are meant to show examples of traditional folk costumes from the respective countries or regions. I recognize several of these Dutch outfits from the Dutch dancing performed during my town's annual Tulip Festival. 

Of course, a similar format is followed for the other countries or regions: a brief write-up of holiday customs, the meaning behind the figure to be assembled, and costumed figures to be placed in front of a scene.

The illustrations for a couple of the 12 Days of Christmas calendar pages:

A partridge in a pear tree and three French hens. Gorgeous artwork!

I would have loved this book had it been given to me as a kid! I wouldn't have thought twice about cutting out those figures and playing with them in front of the corresponding scenes. And before I did my snipping, I would have enjoyed learning about all those holiday traditions.

As an adult, however, it seems a little silly to cut up such a pretty book (though several appealing display options are shown, such as shadow boxes, ornaments, mobiles, and so on). I was half-tempted to cut out and display the Sinterklaas figure in honor of the local Dutch heritage. 

But I think I'll hold off on the scissors, at least for this year. If the book has lasted 42 years thus far without being cut up, I guess that can wait at least one more Christmas! (Guess I could make photocopies if I want.)



  1. Cool finds! Our family never celebrated any of the Dutch traditions, though maybe with the food we did and we didn't even know it. :)

  2. The book I showed off really is nice; I should show it to you sometime. Looked for the chocolate initials last week at the Peanut Store but didn't see them. I think those are a Dutch tradition.