Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Head on Dad’s Work Bench

Back in the days before the idea of luxurious man-caves was even hatched, the men of the Greatest Generation had no private oasis at home to which they could retreat in solitude. The only place where they could get a little peace and quiet away from their family was a corner of the garage or the cellar, where they could putter in peace at a workbench.

For years (at least until he and Mom became empty nesters), that’s all Dad had – his workbench in the basement. That was his private space. And that’s where many of the few personal items and knick-nacks that he accumulated during his life ended up.

Dad just didn’t have a lot of stuff. He didn’t collect anything, and never bought stuff just to have. The few items he saved were mostly things that had been given to him, or items he didn’t know what else to do with. Almost all of it would have fit in a shoebox.
One of the things he did save was this unmarked, grinning clay bust (above and at right). Dad told me that it belonged to Grandpa Esterle. It sat on or near his workbench for years.

For a long time, I had no idea what it was or what you were supposed to do with it. What was that hole in the top for, anyway? Eventually I figured out it was a predecessor of the popular Chia pet of the 1970s.

As he got older, Dad eventually starting giving away his stuff to us kids, and I ended up with the grinning head. From time to time, I display him on my bookshelf. Recently, I wondered: Where’d this thing come from originally? Who manufactured it?

Well, thanks to the internet, I now have a few ideas. Recently on a few different websites, I found the ad below for Paddy and his growing hair. There are other ads where he’s identified as Paddy O'Hair.

Dad’s bust isn’t identical to Paddy, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s his new name. They’re similar, but Dad’s has an indented ridge above his upper lip for a grass mustache. Dad thought that perhaps he’s supposed to look like Clark Gable.

Canadian illustrator Ian Phillips collects these “seed heads” and also has accumulated some cool vintage ads for them. (Click here to visit his blog.) This ad (below) from his blog shows some similar novelty items, which were manufactured right here in Ohio by the Robinson-Ramsbottom Pottery Company of Roseville, Ohio. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dad’s seed head was manufactured in Ohio as well.

Anyway, unlike Dad, I have way too much stuff and need to downsize, as a move is in my future. But somehow, I think I’ll always make room for Paddy.

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