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Easter brings back memories of rare toys and a giving mother

Jan Hearne • Apr 9, 2012 at 8:41 AM

The last Easter gift I received as an Easter Bunny believer was a Mighty Manfred stuffed toy. For those who don’t know or don’t remember, Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog was Tom Terrific’s sidekick. Manfred was large and lazy, barely able to keep his eyes open. Obviously, I was a fan, though I had to go online to jog my memory about Mighty Manfred and Tom.

Tom Terrific was a crudely drawn cartoon series created for the Captain Kangaroo show. It ran in five-minute segments beginning in 1957 and continuing for many years. I think it was about 1959 or 1960 that I received Manfred, and shortly after, the bad news about the Easter bunny. Mom, a multitasker, told me the truth about the Tooth Fairy at the same time, so it was a double whammy. It would be years later before she clued me in about our chubby friend from the North Pole. I didn’t handle the first revelations very well. I think there were tears.

Tom Terrific lived in a tree house, an idea that still appeals to me. Mighty Manfred was his sidekick, and Crabby Appleton (I love that name) was Tom’s arch rival. “I’m rotten to the core!” was Crabby’s slogan. Crabby did selfish things, like steal all the holidays from the calendar so kids had to go to school every day.

Tom could turn himself into anything he wanted by using his magic “thinking cap,” which looked like an upside down funnel. Tom could be a train, a plane, a bee or a lightning bolt — he was that versatile.

Caught up in nostalgia, I typed “Mighty Manfred toy” in the search line at eBay, knowing the toy was probably rare the year I got it. All that turned up were Manfred Mann records and memorabilia.

That was the thing about my mom: If one of her kids asked for something, she would turn the shopping world upside down to find it. A plush Mighty Manfred toy — how easy could that have been to find? I remember it was an odd color, salmon-ish, though the cartoon character appears to have been pink. Of course, the cartoon was in black-and-white.

I guess I should admit I also asked for a monk doll one Christmas and found a tonsured-haired, brown-hooded, rope-belted doll under the tree on Christmas morning. Where in the world did mom find that doll?

Maybe Mighty Manfred did her in. Maybe that’s why she spilled the beans about the Great Rabbit for fear I’d come up with an even more impossible request the next year. We had gone from sold-at-supermarkets-only stuffed bunnies to obscure cartoon characters. Perhaps she dreaded the day when she couldn’t find the key to my momentary happiness.

I’m glad Mom retired a winner from Easter bunny duties. The baskets and candy and colored eggs continued for years, but Mighty Manfred was the last toy..

I don’t miss him one bit. But my beautiful, young mother, who smelled of loose powder and Chanel No. 22 ... oh, I miss her something fierce.

Jan Hearne is Tempo editor for the Johnson City Press. Reach her at jhearne@johnsoncitypress.com.

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