Punkinhead’s creation began when Eaton’s asked its employees to come up with a Christmas idea for the store to promote. Apparently an animal mascot was suggested. Eaton’s then approached Winnipegger Charles Thorton (See THORSTON Charles) to design a character and “Punkinhead” was the result. Punkinhead appeared not only in the Eaton’s Santa Claus parades in various cities but also in parades mounted by the civic groups in other communities.
Punkinhead was introduced in the story Punkinhead: The Sad Little Bear. He lived in the forest called “Bear-Land” but he was different. Unlike the other bears, he had a large tuft of blond hair on the top of his head. Because of this difference he was laughed at, called Punkinhead and ostracised and so very lonely and sad. Nothing he did could get rid of this tuft. Just before a Christmas when Santa, the fairies, gnomes and elves, on their way to from the North Pole to Toyland (Eaton’s) they stopped for a visit and honey soda drinks at Bear Land. One of the clowns who was very important part of Santa’s Big Parade drank to many hioney sodas and got a “tummy ache”. What to do? The Fairy Queen suggested that one of the bears take the clown’s special place in the parade. All of the bears tried to fill the role but the clown’s hat kept falling off each bears head. “’If only bears didn’t have such smooth heads on top’, said Jack Frost, ‘then the hat would stay on. Couldn’t the Fairy Queen wave her magic wand and make a lock of hair …? That would fix it…? The bears immediately remembered ‘Punkinhead, went to the other side of the forest where he was sitting and brought him back. The hat fit perfectly, and Punkinhead became an important part in the Santa Claus Parade (Eaton’s) in 1948, and was a regular feature thereafter.
He became much more than an addition to the parade. Each year following the first “Punkinhead” story, Eaton’s issued a booklet with another story gratis to the children visiting Toyland. Additional booklets were published and a whole range of merchandise, including wrist watches, clothing, furniture, decorator plates, toys became available.
In 1951, Bill Isbister, a prominent musician, conductor, arranger and songwriter based in Toronto, wrote “The Punkinhead Song” based on the original story. The sheet music was published by B.M.I. Canada Ltd. The recording presumably by Isbister sold 10,000 copies in the week before Christmas and 28000 in the three weeks after Christmas. It was later picked up by Wilf Carter for Victor, Ray Hetherington for Columbia, and Bill Long and His Ranch Girls (National Barn Dance program) for Capitol.
Part of the lyrics are: “No smile was on his face. They tried his hat on everyone, but none could take his place. Then, up stepped Punkinhead to try, and much to his delight, the mop of hair just held it there, the hat it fit just right. Now Punkinhead is having fun, he’s happy as can be.”
In 2003, the Punkinhead stuffed bears made by Merrythought Hygenic Toys of England from 1948 into the 1960’s were selling for between $1200 and $1500 with one Japanese collector paying $5000 U.S.
Cover & Content:
Punkinhead the Sad Little Bear. Presented with compliments of Eaton’s Ltd. , 1948.
Punkinhead and the Snow Fairy. Presented with compliments of T. Eaton’s Ltd., 1949.
Punkinhead in Santa’s Workshop. Presented with compliments of T. Eaton’s Ltd., 1950.
Punkinhead in Animal Valley. Presented with compliments of T. Eaton Co. Ltd., 1955.
Punkinhead and Jock the Jumper. Presented with compliments of T. Eaton’s Ltd., 1960.
Punkinhead and the Clock that Fell Asleep. Eaton’s, n.d.
DISC AUDIO 33rpm:
Christmas In Canada. Perf., Wilf.Carter. n.p.: RCA Camden, n.d.. CAL/CAS-889.
Produced in Taiwan circa 1970’s Produced in China purchase at The Bay 1994
Plates & mugs:
Royal Art Pottery, England. Date unknown.
Anna-Perenna Porcelin Company, Waldenburg, Bavaria, West Germany: 1985.
Cartoon Charlie: The Life and Art of Animation Pioneer Charles Thorson. Writ., Gene Walz. Great Plains Publications, 1998.
Eaton’s The Trans-Canada Store. Writ., Bruce Allen Kopytek. History Press, 2014: 322.
A Mile of Make Believe: A History of the Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade. Writ., Steve Penfold. University of Toronto Press, 2016:24, 58,5 9, 152.
The Santa Clause Parade Story: 100 Years Of Great Parades In Toronto.. Writ., Audrey Greer. J.B. Greer, 2006 :26.
The World Encyclopedia of Christmas. Writ., Gerry Bowler. McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2000.
“Closing Notes: Toys/ Punkinhead’s progress.” Writ., Shanda Deziel. Maclean’s, 31 March 2003: 58.
“He Rang the Bell.” Writ., unidentified. CBC Times, January 13-19, 1952.
“Huggable Punkinhead.” Writ., Jennifer MacMillan. Canadian Living, Date unknown: 94-102.
The Christmas Stories:
Punkinhead The Sad Little Bear, 1948: 8
Punkinhead The Sad Little Bear. 1948: 14
Illus., C. Thorson. Punkinhead and the Snow Fairy.1949: Front cover.
Punkinhead and the Snow Fairy. 1949.
Illus., C. Thorson. !949. Punkinhead In Santa’s Workshop.1950.
Punkinhead In Santa’s Workshop.1950.