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Scary Christmas Toys

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This scary Santa is a relic from my childhood. It's a mechanical bank toy, the kind you drop a penny in to make it twitch and shake. Circa 1960 (4 years before my birth) it still kind of-sort of works, if the rusted contact points connect with 2 D batteries...and you pray hard. As I recall, it has always been freakish, even when new. It makes a whirring/jangling sound, lurching back and forth on its undersized aluminum rooftop, jerking that bell with robotic menace. Or should I say Cylonic, cuz it's blue eyes change to eerily glowing red! Although it was working fine last week, this morning it decided to be stubborn and refused to jingle jangle and glow for its photo. I firmly believe it's possessed.

This gets me thinking about the time my "full of Christmas cheer" pop brought home slightly used and rather trippy toys for me. See my dad never really believed in toys as presents. He usually left that sort of thing to my mom; except for this one Christmas Eve.

Back then, he owned his own record shop and would take the train home most nights. (This was in Jersey). There must have been some street vendor of ill repute next to the tavern-next to the train station selling last minute swag. Cuz the next day, I woke up to the weirdest looking unwrapped, patchouli scented toys I'd ever seen under an aluminum foil tree.

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There was the ubiquitous, barking and sitting and flipping, mechanical dog, but it looked like it was shedding. There was something that I vaguely recall as an elephant with a ball. I don't remember what it did, but I think it was key operated. Next was a nightmare provoking clown thing. I think I blanked that one out completely. Finally, there was one non-mechanical toy: a sort of stuffed animal. It was bright orange with tie-dyed spots of purple and neon green. I thought it was a giraffe with a too-short neck, but it turned out to be a misshapen kangaroo. You could turn its "shroom inspired" body inside out and stuff your PJs in it, and prop it up on your bed. Why any kid would want to store their PJs in a fake fur pillow with a giraff-aroo's head sticking out of it, I'll never know, but this was the early 70's.

The mechanical toys appeared slightly worn. In places the fuzzy felt was rubbed away to display sharp metal edges. I can only assume that the paint had extra lead in it. You can only imagine what all this meant to a little girl whose heart was set on a Breyer Horse and a Holly Hobby doll. Of course now, I'd kill to have any of those things sitting next to scary Santa bank.

Funnily enough, the day after Christmas all but the psychedelic kangaroo PJ holder had mysteriously disappeared. I guess Mom (or Santa) must have stepped in to protect the innocent. Dang it!

photo by Lori Nyx for LAist