Customs: But Once a Year

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The nether world of toys this year succeeds in making monsters more monstrous and expendable than ever before. The Great Garloo (Marx) is a sort of teen-age monster who picks things up and carries things around under remote control. Ideal's Robot Commando will fire rockets by voice command. War toys, too, are more realistic than ever. There are aircraft carriers that catapult planes from their decks, tanks that advance relentlessly until a well-aimed stone hits a vulnerable spot. One Civil War set comes with a firing mortar, exploding bunker and battle sound-effects record.

The population explosion in dolls this year is the best argument yet for birth control at the toy bench. They kiss, they suck thumbs, they wet, and of course talk, laugh, cry, wink, blink and nod. One specimen has three shifting faces: one with measles, one in a convalescent state, and one in smiling health.

∙MEMORIES & NIGHTS. As the calendar tolls off the last shopping days before Christmas, the real Christmas begins once more. In the Old Mexico district of Los Angeles, the fiesta will start and shattering piñatas will shower candy on shrieking children. The inevitable office party, despite reassurances of reformed dignity, will end when an overspirited employee tells off the boss—but not before someone has kissed the stenographer. In Yellow Springs, Ohio (pop. 4,167), the mayor and an aide will distribute 10 lbs. of flour and sugar each to every "worthy widow" in honor of ex-Slave Wheeling Gaunt, who left a small trust for that purpose 65 years ago.

Texas cowboys will fashion their Christmas trees from paint-sprayed tumbleweed, and in towns throughout the country prizes will go to the families with the best Christmas decorations. In Seattle derelicts from Skid Row will have their Christmas dinner at the "Millionaire Club" and exchange "gifts": a pack of cigarettes, a half-emptied pint of whisky, a thumb-worn magazine, some tongue-worn memories. In Long Beach, Calif., the whole town will turn out for the annual parade of Christmas floats on the canal. Little schoolchildren will come home brimming with gaiety, to show their flour-and-water pasted Christmas cards to the family, and countless little boys will shuffle into the 5 & 10¢ stores looking for "a diamond ring for Mommy."

In the suburbs of El Paso and Austin, householders will set out liminarios—sand-weighted paper bags containing lighted candles. The street and house lights will be turned off, and families in unlighted cars will cruise through the streets slowly to see the familiar transformed. And in a million other homes in a thousand other places, the carols will ring and the Christmas trees will shine for the season of giving and the ineffable memory of warm, lighted places.

*Last week Jackie Kennedy defied the isolationist D.A.R. by ordering ten boxes of Christmas cards from UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Fund). Jackie's choice, a splashily primitive drawing by Andre Francois (see BOOKS), was not one of UNICEF's best, which are generally bright, well done and inexpensive, have long been a staple money-raiser for UNICEF.

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