The calendar presented a quirky collection of bad jokes, ideas for presents and decorations, games, and party entertainment from annuals and books that children could have found in their Christmas stockings around seventy years ago.
Did you like the idea? You might not have liked it every day, but that was the point really. I love the way that headings and descriptions in the Rainbow annuals like ‘The Jolliest Picture Paper in the World’, ‘This Way for Laughter’, ‘Invite Yourself to Jollity House’ and ‘Merry Times in Cheery Town’ can sit above such terrible jokes and poems.
All the calendar content was cut and pasted from existing material to fit the new format. There are illustrations in the School Friend annuals (source of ‘That Baffling Bungalow on Wheels) that are crying out for captions in the way that Glen Baxter has perfected as an art form using this style of illustration. For example he sums up the frustration that can result from different attitudes, tastes and opinions in the world of art and design with these two images (reproduced by kind permission).
Take a look at is his website at glenbaxter.com. He is a genius. It is a great approach to have in mind when looking at old annuals yourself. As it says at the top of the calendar: 'Support your local charity shop and find your own hidden gems'.
Some of the content in the books is surprising and couldn’t be included, having come from a different age of attitude of what is and isn't socially acceptable. Often words have different meanings today. I kept finding features full of innuendo, sometimes going much too far.
I included the ‘Three Useful Things to Make for Mother’ to be laughed at, not to be annoyed by, as it is so sexist. The illustration comes from ‘100 Things a Boy can Make” which is said to be a handy guide for handy boys of all ages’. The ideas range from making a model aeroplane, to making waterproof matches, to making coconut ice, and also such things as putting a new washer on a tap or making a small repair to a gas fitting. I imagine mum would have been quite concerned about it all if she had time to look at the book her son was reading.
Remarkable pieces of advice, codes of behaviour and suggestions come through these old books and some ideas are so wonderfully silly. The ideas for table decorations and disguise all come from a book with the title ‘Fun for One’. This was ahead of its time in 1943 as it does seem to be trying to be for all lonely children - girls as well as boys. The girls would have had to want to disguise themselves with strange beards and moustaches as well though.
Finally, having spent a lot of time years ago inventing activities with cut-out shapes and paper fasteners, it was too hard to resist trying out the digital application of the paper fastener on Christmas day. I hope it gave you a lot of jolly fun.
THE MAN WHO WALKS (see window 24 for instructions)
You can find the calendar at www.workspacegraphics.co.uk/counting2xmas/
The Rainbow Annual, ed. Mrs Bruin, (The Amalgamated Press, first appeared in 1940). Pictures and stories for girls and boys.
Fun for One, ed. E.M.Goodrick, (Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1943)
School Friend annuals (The Amalgamated Press, first appeared in 1927)
100 Things a Boy can Make (Foulsham)
The Sunshine book for girls (Fleetway Publications)
Santa cardboard Christmas decoration, early 1950s