FEATURED COLUMN by John McDonald: Christmas past

By John McDonald

The other day I was out in the barn looking over some abandoned gifts from Christmases past, and I began to wonder what ever happened to Ronco and all those clever Ronco ads that used to pollute the airwaves around this time each year.

Time was, if it weren’t for the clever folks at Ronco, some people would have had no Christmas at all.

Scanning the old Ronco gifts packed neatly against a wall in the barn, I first noticed my ingenious Pocket Fisherman. Remember those clever things? The friend who gave it to me for Christmas many years ago said after watching their clever ads on TV he was convinced that the reason people like me weren’t able to catch any fish wasn’t because I had no clue as to what I was doing.
No siree. My failure as a fisherman, he said, was directly related to the fact that I had one of those long, old-fashioned fishing poles that were difficult to transport. My friend thought if only I had a versatile pole that could fit easily into a small carrying case or my glove compartment – or better yet, my pants pocket.
Well, my fishing buddy got me a Pocket Fisherman for Christmas and on opening day the following April things sure did change. I was transporting that Pocket Fisherman around easier than I had ever transported a fishing pole in my life. I was able to take a fishing pole to places I had never even thought of taking a fishing pole. It was fantastic.
My fishing skills, of course, didn’t improve a bit, and I was forced to admit that my failure as a fisherman had nothing to do with the portability of my fishing pole. So, after a few weeks of carrying my Pocket Fisherman on my belt and in my pocket and then my glove compartment, I got sick of the stupid thing and took it out to the barn – the resting place for all abandoned gifts. Next I spied the Ronco bottle and jar cutter that Mother bought me one year for Christmas. The ad said we could turn all our old bottles and jars into “decorative glassware, center pieces and thousands of other useful things.”
It wasn’t until Mother bought one for me and I unwrapped it that we realized how little we needed a thousand other glass things around the house, decorative or otherwise. That glasscutter was in the barn before sundown that Christmas.
Next went the glasscutter, my Ginsu knives and, next to them, the incredible Veg-O-Matic, considered by many to be the greatest food appliance ever hyped over the airwaves of this great country. It was a gift from the in-laws that we could never get to work for us.
I can hear you saying, “But John, the Veg-O-Matic could slice a whole potato into uniform slices with one motion and you adjust the ring to go from thick to thin slices.” You don’t have to tell me. I know all about it, and after making thousands of French fries in a minute, you could change from slicing to dicing in seconds to make mountains of delicious diced onions.
Believe me, I know.
But once we got it, we realized how seldom it was we had the urge or the need to go — in seconds — from slicing to dicing, and we didn’t like having mounds of French fries and mountains of diced onions piling up around the kitchen, either. So out to the barn it eventually went.
I don’t know what this year’s pile of Christmas gifts will bring, but I hope they last a day or two in the house before being banished to the barn to join the gifts of Christmas’ past.

John McDonald has a program of Maine stories for your company’s next banquet, conference, convention or special event. Call 207-240-8324 or email maineauthorjohn.mcdonald@yahoo.com.