2009.06.03 "Miracle Teddy" joins childhood bear in my fantasy world

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

Long time readers of this column will remember the story of Teddy, my childhood bear, who was beheaded by my brother. Luckily for him (and me), my mother was able to re-attach his head, a feat still not duplicated by trained surgeons to this day. Another local man was not so lucky.

After reading Teddy’s story, he shared an experience from eighth grade and his first “kind of” girlfriend. He had won a teddy bear at a school fund raiser and promptly gave it to the girl. The next day, he and a pal walked out to North Morenci to see her.

She decided that she preferred his friend and was finished with him.  “To express her feelings,” he wrote, “she ran over the bear with a riding lawn-mower. It was a long walk back to Morenci.”

What a sad story. Even my mother couldn’t have saved that poor, defenseless bear. I hope he bought another bear (and found another girlfriend). Sometimes that’s harder than it sounds.

I have been looking for more information about Teddy for years without success, even though there are countless articles and books about collectable bears out there. I’ve even had searches registered on eBay for several years under every possible item title I could think of for a similar bear. Last month, I finally hit the jackpot.

Someone listed an item titled “Vintage Rubber Gerber Bear Baby Toy Advertising Doll,” a broad enough description that I received three emails from eBay informing me of its listing. The item matched my searches for vintage rubber bear, vintage Gerber bear and Gerber rubber bear. Better yet was the picture with the item listing.

Looking back at me was a cheerful, smiling face just like Teddy’s,  except it belonged to another bear. He wasn’t white like Teddy, but more of a yellow/orange. The seller said he got him at an estate sale in an old plastic bag, and that the bear was VERY sticky and oily feeling.

I wondered if someone decided to coat him in STP to preserve him, thus explaining the yellow color. Teddy himself occasionally gets a bit sticky, but a gentle dish washing liquid usually takes care of it. I figured that I could probably clean the bear up with no problem, and hopefully, the description would cut down on the number of bidders.

I made a copy of the auction listing at the library, giving the librarians on duty a laugh when they saw what I wanted to buy. The story got even stranger after I did a little more research.

The seller of the bear lives in Stella, Missouri, which boasts a population of 178, according to the state map. The big shock was when I looked up the location of the town. Stella is only about 20 miles from where my mother and the aunts who gave me Teddy grew up. Even though Aunts Sue and Liz later moved to St. Louis, they often traveled back to southwest Missouri where many relatives remained. Did my aunts buy Teddy for me during a trip back home? Both bears were from Missouri, could they have come from the same small area?

Even weirder than that, Stella is less than five miles from the former Army base where my parents met during World War II. More than 40 years after my mother came to Teddy’s rescue, it seemed odd that the only similar bear I’ve ever found came from the same small area that she not only grew up in, but met her husband in. That settled it, I had to unite those two bears.

I made a somewhat insane bid on the bear to ensure I won it, but in the end, it wasn’t needed. Every time I visited the library, Sally Canfield asked if I was winning the auction. Each time I checked, there were no other bidders as the sticky, oily description seemed to stop other bids. I won the bear for the minimum bid of $9.99.

When the bear arrived, I discovered evidence that he had never been played with. It turned out he was naturally yellow with orange ears. That means there may be other colors to search for. He wasn’t as sticky as I expected, but I wonder if people throw them out when the rubber starts to “sweat.” That could explain why they’re almost impossible to find. But that won’t stop me from searching for more.

Teddy and his new companion, named “Miracle Teddy,” have already visited the library. Now, I want to find a Radio Flyer wagon like I gave Teddy rides in as a child. I’m sure Miracle would enjoy a ride, too. Aren’t second childhoods fun?

  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
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  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
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  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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