Tag Archive | 1980

Hallmark Ornaments

Not A Creature Was Stirring, Not Even Chris Mouse

December 8, 2020

When Hallmark introduced these in 1973, no one could even begin to imagine how, over the next 40 plus years, the company would lead the industry through an unprecedented demand for Christmas ornaments.

A display in a Hallmark store, circa 2013

That first year, Hallmark only had 18 different ornament designs available for sale. Apparently buoyed by the success of sales that year, however, the collectible ornaments were expanded the next year. Betsey Clark – a popular artist featuring whimsical big eyed children- had two entries that year, up from one the year before. Seen also for the first time were scenes from Currier & Ives as well as an iconic Norman Rockwell holiday painting. The number of balls was tripled but yarn figures – prominent the first year – were only half of what they’d been in 1973.

It went this way for several more years with more and more Ornament balls being offered… but with a catch. A shopper could not just walk into a Hallmark store or retailer and purchase the exact same ornament they saw the previous year. Each ornament incorporated the production year into the design. Once the baubles were sold out, that was it.

The introduction of annual orament series spurred interest. Each fall, collectors would rush to the store to snap up the newest one.

My sister’s 1978 Betsey Clark ornament

Surprisingly (at least to this author) is that the Infallible Wikipedia does not have a page devoted just to the Hallmark phenomenon. It does, however, offer up this information on a more generic page:

“In 1973, Hallmark Cards started manufacturing Christmas ornaments. The first collection included 18 ornaments, including six glass ball ornaments. The Hallmark Keepsake Ornament collection is dated and available for just one year. By 1998, 11 million American households collected Hallmark ornaments, and 250,000 people were member of the Keepsake Ornament Collector’s Club. There were as many as 400 local Keepsake Ornament Collector’s Club chapters in the US.  One noted Christmas ornament authority is Clara Johnson Scroggins who has written extensively on the topic and has one of the largest private collections of Christmas ornaments.

In 1996, the ornament industry generated $2.4 billion in total annual sales, an increase of 25% over the previous year. Industry experts estimated more than 22 million US households collected Christmas ornaments, and that 75% of those households collected Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments.”

And, according to the official Hallmark webpage, “What began as glass balls and yarn figurines has grown to more than 8,500 ornaments past and present, and a reputation for quality, craft, and above all, spirit.”

My first foray into the world of Hallmark ornaments began, coincidentally, the year I got married. During a trip into Hallmark I happened to go peruse the ornament section and, there it was, the perfect ornament to commemorate a couple’s first Christmas together.

Our first Hallmark ornament… the reverse says
“Christmas Is A Love Story Written In Our Hearts.”

I had to have it despite the fact that it was an extravagance not in the budget. The hubby was okay with the purchase of it and even another one which featured everyone’s favorite Christmas mouse, Mickey.

From that initial addictive purchase came more. Two more Hallmark ornaments were acquired in 1981. It was 1985, however, when things started to ramp up in my household.

That year saw the introduction of an ornament titled ‘Chris Mouse.’

Mr. Mouse was just about the most adorable creature you’d ever seen. His tiny little self was wearing what looked to be a sky blue night shirt and a red night cap. In his teeny hands he held a hunter green book with ‘1985’ on the cover in gold. But best of all was that he was sitting at the base of an old fashioned gold candle holder, leaning against a 4 inch tall red candle. At the top of the candle glows a yellow ‘flame’ which, when the ornament’s cord is plugged into a socket on a string of Christmas lights, is lit up.

I was enchanted and had to have that ornament.

Chris Mouse #1 who captured my heart

Soon I discovered that my Chris Mouse was only the first in the series. I eagerly looked forward to the next year’s entry. When it arrived in the stores the next fall I wandered in one day to take a look. Like the previous year, it was cute and this time featured Mr. Mouse asleep in a pinecone house, a tiny night light adding to the magic. I didn’t like it quite as well as the first one so I decided I might wait until after Christmas to buy it, maybe even find it on sale.

Sometimes, however, things work against you and such was the case in 1986. Just before Christmas I came down with a bad cold and was laid up for several days including on Christmas. The mouse was forgotten until, a few days after the holiday, I ventured out to the stores to do some bargain hunting. Alas, the second in the series was nowhere to be found.

In the following years, my lesson learned, I always purchased the ornaments I wanted well before Christmas. The Chris Mouse series? Ended up being 13 ornaments in all, each starring the adorable mouse in the blue nightshirt and red cap, each time doing something which featured a lovely little lighted object. It just so happened that I only had 12 of them and, every Christmas, I lamented not having the missing ornament.

Chris Mouse #2 who took years to join the line up

That was until a few years ago when there, under the tree for me one Christmas, was an unexpected surprise. Santa’s helper – who I call hubby – had located the missing Chris Mouse and bought it for me. The prodigal rodent joined his brother’s on the tree, the series now complete.

It takes several large Rubbermaid totes to house all the Hallmark ornaments in their original boxes. One bin is full of the lighted and motion ornaments, the other primarily a collection of whimsical critters. A third tote holds glass balls but only a dozen or so are part of the Hallmark collection.

By the late 1990’s with more than enough decorations to fill at least two trees, I stopped buying ornaments.

2020, however, seems like the perfect excuse to purchase a new bauble with which to commemorate this unusual year. An online search revealed that my local dealer is just down the hill. Time for a shopping adventure.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_ornament

https://www.hallmark.com/ornaments/

A Blast From The Past

March 27, 2018

Mt. St. Helens March 1980It was on March 27, 1980, that the first plumes of steam escaped from Mt. St. Helen’s. Just over seven weeks later, the mountain experienced a 5.1 earthquake which caused the north side of the volcano to slide away and triggered the largest debris avalanche in recorded US history.

From the infallible Wikipedia:

“The magma in St. Helen’s burst forth into a large-scale pyroclastic flow that flattened vegetation and buildings over 230 square miles. More than 1.5 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide was released into the atmosphere. On the Volcanic Explosivity Index scale, the eruption was rated a five, and categorized as a Plinian eruption.

The collapse of the northern flank of St. Helens mixed with ice, snow, and water to create lahars (volcanic mudflows). The lahars flowed many miles down the Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers, destroying bridges and lumber camps. A total of 3,900,000 cubic yards of material was transported 17 miles south into the Columbia River by the mudflows.

For more than nine hours, a vigorous plume of ash erupted, eventually reaching 12 to 16 miles above sea level.  The plume moved eastward at an average speed of 60 miles per hour with ash reaching Idaho by noon.”

This information is, of course, widely known. As a young reporter for the weekly Eatonville Dispatch in South Pierce County, Washington, that first puff of steam was part of a rather amazing life experience.

At a distance of only 47 miles – as the crow flies so to speak – from the mountain, Eatonville residents soon noticed fine layers of ash dusting the community. Week after week I wrote stories about the impact of the ash fall and provided reports in the paper as to all the latest activity.

The most interesting event, however, began two months earlier with a rather odd story told to me by a young couple who were driving home from Ashford to Eatonville one winter night. They claimed that they were followed by three bright orbs which sped up and slowed down in concert with their car. These young people were visibly upset by the incident and believed they had been followed by UFO’s. The photo here is NOT from that event but is illustrative of what they described.Blue glowing Orbs over Oakland, CA 2013

Another theory, however, was posited in late March in conjunction with the increased earthquake and volcanic rumblings. And that is the phenomenon known as Earthquake lightning. It is believed that lightning can be triggered by earthquakes and that, perhaps, the presence of these lights was associated with the impending eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s.

Also from the infallible Wikipedia:

“The lights are reported to appear while an earthquake is occurring, although there are reports of lights before or after earthquakes, such as reports concerning the 1975 Kalapana earthquake. They are reported to have shapes similar to those of the auroras, with a white to bluish hue, but occasionally they have been reported having a wider color spectrum. The luminosity is reported to be visible for several seconds, but has also been reported to last for tens of minutes. Accounts of view-able distance from the epicenter varies: in the 1930 Idu earthquake, lights were reported up to 70 miles (110 km) from the epicenter.”

To this day I’ve never quite known what was or was not the truth with this account. I do know that when I was in the area where the phenomenon occurred in the two months prior to Mt. St.Helen’s awakening I was hyper aware and constantly scanned the rearview mirror for strange lights. I never did see any.

Dispatch article April 23 1980It was not until the April 23rd issue when I reported the first dusting of ash in Eatonville. Less than a month later the mountain blew.

As always, a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_St._Helens

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_light

Pac Man Fever

…and the Kong who was King

October 10, 2017

Arcade room gamesIt was in October of 1980 when the United States was truly invaded by the Japanese.  We are not talking about military here. No, this invasion featured four ghosts named Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde and a round yellow fellow with a huge pie shaped mouth dubbed Pac-Man. (There are articles which place the release date on October 10 but that date is disputed)

The game, which had been released in Japan a little over four months earlier, was an instant hit. Young people flocked to arcades and taverns where Pac-Man eagerly gobbled up their quarters.

Soon, Pac-Man merchandise flooded America as did other Japanese companies looking to capitalize on Pac-Man fever.

From the infallible Wikipedia:

pacman screen“When Pac-Man was released, the most popular arcade video games were space shooters—in particular, Space Invaders and Asteroids. The most visible minority were sports games that were mostly derivatives of PongPac-Man succeeded by creating a new genre. Pac-Man is often credited with being a landmark in video game history and is among the most famous arcade games of all time. It is also one of the highest-grossing video games of all time, having generated more than $2.5 billion in quarters by the 1990s.

The character has appeared in more than 30 officially licensed game spin-offs, as well as in numerous unauthorized clones and bootlegs.  According to the Davie-Brown Index, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character among American consumers, recognized by 94 percent of them. Pac-Man is one of the longest running video game franchises from the golden age of video arcade games. It is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.”

Donkey Kong PaulineMy hubby was hired by a CPA firm in Burien who had a client that needed an auditor. So they sent him out to do the job and thus began a seven year run with a different Japanese invader: Donkey Kong. While many think of Nintendo as a behemoth company, when Donkey Kong was first being sold into the US market they had six employees: two Seattle based salesmen, the company president, a couple of Japanese developer/engineers, and one American to make the build’s happen.

It was in 1982, after Donkey Kong’s popularity skyrocketed (and made the two US salesmen millionaires) that Gene was hired as the company’s US controller. Those were crazy days with incredible long hours but also a real sense of family within the fledgling company.

We hosted an April Fool’s day party several years the theme of which was bad jokes and to play video games.  We even brought in full size arcade games (borrowed from Nintendo) for the attendees to enjoy.

When he left the company in the late 1980’s we had acquired a variety of Donkey Kong themed items: mugs, cups, socks, both electronic and board games, shirts, a bulletin board, an aped shaped ‘bank’ and, the most prized possession of all: an electronic cocktail tabletop game.

Yes, we still have all those things including the game table. But, unlike the days of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong fever, quarters are no longer needed. All you have to do is plug the thing in, press a button to load the game, and escape back to the 1980’s when arcade games were king and the Japanese took the country by storm.pac man blinky

To read more about these two arcade phenomenon click here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pac-Man

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donkey_Kong_(video_game) (there are some errors in this article. Specifically, Nintendo’s first headquarters were in Tukwila, not Redmond, Washington)