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The Teddy Bears’ Picnic—Serene gathering or secret coven? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephanie Finnegan   
Monday, 24 March 2014 09:19
I think many of us collectors hibernated this winter. It was a bear of a season.
This grizzly bear is enjoying a lovely spring day. (Picture, courtesy of Voice for Yellowstone org)
Michelle Lamb’s “Belladonna” conveys the spirit of spring.
“Hattie,” made by Donna Griffin, is perfect for the warm weather.
The Bearington Collection’s array of bears bloomed with their sweet “Tori Tulip” design.
This jigsaw puzzle from Orchard Toys illustrates a teddy bear picnic. Friendly or fierce?
Bing Crosby loaned his baritone pipes to the “Teddy Bears’ Picnic” lyrics. (Spelled as “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” on the label.)
Kim Kardashian, decked out in a teddy-bear-looking coat, carries her baby, North, swaddled as a cub. Survivalist technique? (Image courtesy of Splash)
Don’t laugh. Kardashian’s outfit definitely resembles the fur of “Julie,” created by Chantal Bears.
I think many of us collectors hibernated this winter. It was a bear of a season.
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I really like teddy bears. That’s no secret. I have my favorites—certain ones I connect with more than others. However, I never thought that I was actually LIKE a teddy bear—or, more to the point, an actual living, breathing bear!
My surprise revelation came when I looked at the calendar and realized I’ve been hibernating this winter. Having gotten busy with other obligations, and the mental/physical sluggishness brought on by a very, very bad winter, caused me to burrow into my quilts and shun my blogging duties.
Now, with the promise of spring—it hit 55 degrees today—and the sky a radiant blue, my inspiration has perked up like a bear emerging from its months-long hibernation stint.
So, what better topic to tackle than spring and what it means for teddy bears and the folks who love them! First off, one of the most famous anthems of all time centers on the notion of bears unwinding in the gentle breeze of a hidden woodland enclave. Yes, “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” was first recorded this very month, in March 1908 by the Edison Symphony Orchestra. It was produced by Edison Records and immediately gained a huge following. (And by Edison, we’re talking the real-life Thomas Alva Edison! He selected the song to be recorded and was on site as it was played. More about Edison and his connection to teddy bears in a later blog.) When it was released, the song didn’t have lyrics; it was simply an instrumental.
In 1932, the lyrics—slightly whimsical, slightly ominous—were added by Jimmy Kennedy. These have been a source of controversy. Are the bears a gentle, friendly group of critters that are simply having an outdoor get-together free of their owners? Or are they a bunch of malevolent mohair bears that are prepared to attack anyone who finds their secret lair?
With the sun shining, my mood lifting, and a row of stuffed panda bears stoically watching me type, I prefer to think the teddy bears in question wouldn’t harm a pedestrian who wandered into their midst.
But check out some of these lyrics:

    If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise
    If you go down in the woods today, you’d better go in disguise
    For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
    Because today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic
    If you go down in the woods today, you better not go alone
    It’s lovely down in the woods today, but safer to stay at home
    For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
    Because today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic

Hmm, what the heck is meant by “safer to stay at home” and “you’d better go in disguise”? Is the songwriter suggesting that if teddy bears ever spring to life, we’re all in for a rough patch of rebellion? Is our only way to survive a teddy bear confrontation to camouflage ourselves in a plush costume—sort of like Lady Gaga and her meat dress? Well, not a meat dress. That would be an awful disguise where bears are concerned. Are we to hide ourselves in a head-to-toe teddy bear get-up? Kim Kardashian did, with mixed results, as you see in the blog slide show.
Such famous personalities as Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt), Jerry Garcia, and Ashton Kutcher have sung this tune. Each has put his or her spin on it. Some sang it more like a syncopated jazz song and others like a folksy bluegrass tune. Some delivered it as a light, childish melody; others with a tinge of terror.
I’m voting on the friendly and frolicsome teddy bears. After all, good thoughts and happy memories are the stuff(ing) that Teddies are made of. (I hope.) What do you think?
Happy spring!