In Which I Remember Edward Bear

When Remembrance Day comes around each year we hear about a couple of WW1 Canadian soldiers who have added something significant to our culture.  One is Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae who wrote the poem In Flanders Fields.  The other is Harry Colebourn, a soldier from Winnipeg who had his pet bear with him in England and then donated it to the London Zoo when he returned home to Canada at the end of the war.  That bear was named Winnie, taken from his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba.  He left Winnie there because the bear was so well liked and seemed happy.  It was Winnie that A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin visited often and inspired Christopher to name his stuffed bear ‘Winnie the Pooh’ as he called it, or ‘Pooh Bear’ for short.  He started out as Edward Bear, but, after Christopher Robin saw Winnie at the zoo, he changed it to ‘Winnie-ther-Pooh’ but his father knew that ‘ther’ wasn’t a word so they would use ‘the’ instead.

Every Remembrance Day I haul out my old Winnie the Pooh story books and reread several of my favourites.  They still give me a good feeling which continues right through Christmas.  It was at Christmas that my dad spent a lot of time with me, and some of that was spent reading about Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh.  Those are good memories.

I, too, had a stuffed bear and I named him Pooh.  My mother sewed some clothes for my Pooh, similar to those that Winnie the Pooh wore in the books, when he wore anything at all.  That bear of mine was loved a lot and not much was left of it.

A few weeks ago we were looking through the array of unique shops that are located in the Inglewood area and came across one that sold many ceramic collections of caricatures and animals that have been in the movies.  Amongst the collections there were the characters from the Disney Winnie the Pooh movies including Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga, and Owl.  I was surprised that they did not stir up any memories.  What I finally figured out was that these Disney-designed characters did not represent the images I had in my mind.  What I remember are the Ernest J. Shepard pen and ink drawings that A.A. Milne had in his original books, which were printed back in the 1920’s.

When I came home from that shopping trip, I pulled out my A.A. Milne books again and was immediately taken in by those older sketches of the characters in the stories.  They are more crude than the Disney characters, but they represent my memories of Pooh and his friends to me.

E.J. Shepard’s drawings of Winnie the Pooh.  
My memories are connected to this image of Pooh.

Disney version of Winnie the Pooh

This got me to thinking about all the transitions that occur from generation to generation.  Each generation will remember different things from their childhood as they age.  While some may continue to read A.A. Milne stories to their kids, the present-day competition for memories with all the characters that are in the animated shows, versus something like the original Winnie the Pooh story characters, is overwhelming.  I have no idea what childhood story characters will remain in my grandchildren’s minds when they reach fifty years old.

A.A. Milne’s writing, however, is unique.  It is definitely related to life in England, but it is quirky, fun to read, and, I think, for the most part, timeless.  Even adults seem to enjoy reading the stories.  My Aunt Marg, who was in university in Saskatoon in the 1920’s, used to tell me about reading A.A. Milne.  The Pooh stories were being published for the first time then and evidently she and her friends at the university read them all.  She told me that each week they had a ‘Hummm’ that they all would recite to each other for fun.  Pooh’s ‘Hummms’ are mostly nonsensical, but some are thoughtful.  I think there is something about A.A. Milne’s writing that will remain popular forever, at least with some.  I’ll be rereading my favourite stories and looking at Shepard’s drawings again this Christmas.  I’ll be remembering good Christmases in the past with my parents and those nights when I read A.A. Milne with my young boys.

I did ask my older grandchildren, both boys and girls, who or what they remember from stories they were told when they were young.  I even expanded that to characters from movies or videos they may have seen.  They didn’t have any specifics, although one felt connected with Peter from the Narnia Tales and another has a fond remembrance of the animals in Good Night Moon.

To satisfy my curiosity, I also asked some older friends about their memories of characters from stories that their parents read to them when they were very young.  I learned, much to my surprise, that many didn’t remember having stories read to them by their parents.  However, those that did remember had good feelings about those times.

As a closing, I thought I would write out couple of Pooh’s hums.

A Silly Hummm
(one is Used to say with my boys when they were very 

The more it snows, Tiddely pom         And nobody knows, Tiddely pom

The more it goes, Tiddely pom           How cold my toes, Tiddely pom

The more it goes, Tiddely pom           How cold my toes, Tiddely pom

On snowing                                        Are growing.


A Thoughtful Hummm

“Some people care too much. I think it's called love.”