By Jeff Salter
Quite logically (for this week leading up to Christmas), we’re discussing some of the weirdest gifts we’ve ever received.
I’ve given this a good deal of thought and realized that before y’all could appreciate the weird gifts I’ve gotten, you need to comprehend some of the more typical ones I’ve received over the years. [I’m focusing mainly on my younger years].
Most potentially valuable gift (if I’d been able to hold on to it)
My memory of the specific year is hazy, but I’m pretty sure I was not yet in kindergarten (i.e., the early 1950s) when my grandmother gave my brother and me (each) a brand new Mickey Mouse wristwatch. One of the original first generation MM watches, which – had I kept it – would (in good condition or better) be worth a small fortune on eBay these days. However, that poor watch took a beating and (somewhere along the way) disappeared completely. Who gives a watch to a pre-schooler? BTW, I have a vague recollection that my younger sister – then a toddler – received a Minnie Mouse watch that same year… but I can’t swear to it.
More or less ‘typical’ gifts
One year in grade school (probably fourth grade), I’d asked for a basketball and got a volleyball instead. I guess my parents thought – quite generically – that a ball was a ball. It wasn’t. So the next year I asked for a basketball again … and actually got one. However, that ball was ‘dead’ — wouldn’t bounce right. So the next day, my parents exchanged it for a good one.
[Since my birthday was only 11 days before Christmas, I often got ‘combo’ gifts… which cost more than my parents had budgeted for either event by itself.] One year – junior H.S., I guess – I was given a well-used [and partly damaged in front] 12-foot wooden Jon boat as a combination birthday and Christmas gift. It cost $15, too much for either my birthday or Christmas alone.
One year, the combo gift was a well-used second-hand record player and AM radio — also for $15. Don’t recall the brand name, but the needle housing was shaped like a snake’s head! The only drawback of that unit was that its needle was badly worn; but we could never find a new needle to fit it — not even in several New Orleans music shops.
Now for the list of bizarre gifts
Okay, that partial list should give you an idea of the unusual status quo of REGULAR gifts I received as a kid for this holiday season. Wait ‘til you hear about the WEIRD ones.
Both of these gifts were for Christmases when my grandmother, Nora Lee Robinson, lived in Atlanta. We lived in MaconGA for one of these years and possibly one of these Christmases was when we still lived in StarkvilleMS. [Other than these two gifts I’m about to mention, her typical Christmas gifts to each of us three kids was a pair of PJs and one crisp dollar bill (each) pinned to the tree.]
For any youngsters reading this, you won’t likely recognize the name Ted Mack … but he was in TV/radio network show business and went around the country supposedly looking for talent to feature on the “Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour.” It was one of my grandmother’s fondest dreams for my older brother and I to somehow land a spot on that show. So one year, she gave each of us matching plastic trumpets! [Try to imagine the excitement on my parents’ faces as we unwrapped those.] Needless to say, we never made the short list for Ted Mack’s tryouts. In fact, I don’t recall ever playing an actual true note on that thing… though it was the source of a LOT of noise. And when we were playing cowboys and Indians, it often took the place of a bugle and blared out the notice that our cavalry was on the way!
But I’ve saved the best for last: in the annals of kooky gifts, surely this takes the cake. For either my pre-school Christmas or the kindergarten year, my grandmother gave me a popcorn popper. Yep … electric heating element base and a pan with a heavy glass cover.
Now let’s just suppose that I was a popcorn-eating fanatic – which, by the way, I don’t recall in any way whatsoever – would any of YOU give a five-year-old ME an electric popcorn popper? Of course, I was never allowed to use it by myself – only with adult supervision – so it’s not like I could just pop up a batch whenever I wanted some popcorn. [And, BTW, for you younger readers, this was long before microwave popcorn packets … and even before those Jiffy Pop contraptions – which you’d prepare on your stove top – became popular in TV commercials.]
So what’s the most bizarre gift YOU’ve ever received at Christmas?