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THE DUKE & DUCHESS OF PORTOBELLO

June 2012                                         by Terry & Doris Michaud
 
BEARS REPEATING chapter summary

A reasonably large number of antique teddy bears in the Michaud collection are of British origin.

I commented to Doris on one occasion that I was a bit surprised we did not find more German teddies, and she pointed out to me that since we did a large part of our searches in England, you should expect to find British bears.

"If you want German bears, perhaps you need to shop in Germany" she added. We actually considered that at one point, but decided that it would have to wait until we have seen everything we want to see in the British Isles, and after something like 26 years of conducting Teddy Bear Tours, we never reached that point.

We made our first venture to Britain in 1975 to celebrate our 25th anniversary, and we were so elated with the country that we made several subsequent trips in 1977, 1980 and 1983 before starting our annual British Teddy Bear tours.

During our 1980 visit, we made a stop in London at the famous Portobello Antique Market held every Saturday. It runs for several blocks, with vendors filling buildings on both sides of the street as well as a host of tables set up at curb side.

On this particular trip we had our daughter Kim and her friend along with us, and as teenagers, they were reluctant to spend the day at an antique market, but we pointed out that there would likely be a lot of teenage British boys there, so they joined us.

Doris and the girls entered one building at the front door while I entered from a side door. Doris immediately spotted The Duke of Portobello (named by us in honor of his place of discovery) and scooped him up from the dealer's stall and instructed Kim "Go find your father!!"

By the time I arrived, she was already putting her wallet back in her purse and had the bear cradled under her arm, not an easy task as he measured

28 inches in length.


A few days later we had the pleasure of meeting with the late Peter Bull, a British actor and author of early teddy bear books, that are credited with sparking the rage for collecting teddy bears.

He inquired if we had found any bears yet, and when we described The Duke of Portobello to him, he asked where it was. We informed him that he had been packed up and shipped back to the States already, and Peter's response was "Well he certainly won't like that, you know!"

The bear made the trip just fine, but we were overcome with fear that such shipments could be lost, so after that we decided to ship back things like dirty clothing, gifts, etc. and carry the bears with us personally!

An exciting discovery in the Duke's story took place back in the United States, or "the colonies" as described by some.

At a doll show in Detroit, Michigan I spotted a wool sailor suit that was of a proper size to fit the Duke of Portobello.

After purchasing the outfit we were further pleased to discover a label that stated it was made in London, England!

Some months later he also acquired a proper British sailor hat to compliment he outfit.


The Duke of Portobello seem to adjust well to his new life in the Michaud collection, but there were signs of being homesick.

For instance, he insisted on afternoon tea at 4 O'Clock every day.

We decided that the Duke needed a companion, so on a subsequent trip we discovered the perfect mate - a 23 inch teddy in a pale gold long mohair, complete with a label on her right foot pad that stated "By appointment to H.M. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother - Toymaker - The Chad Valley Co. Ltd."

She was outfitted in a beautiful lace collar held in place by an English cameo brooch. She lacked but one added touch, and Doris knew immediately what it was.

Years ago she had put away a lovely tiara that was once worn by her Mother for special dress-up occasions in the 1930's.

My Lady Camden (purchased from the late Pam Hebbs at Camden Passage market in London) was so pleased to acquire the tiara that she has worn it ever since, and became a constant companion to the Duke of Portobello.


Once we started taking guests to Britain searching for teddy bears and other collectibles, we made a cardinal rule that our guests would have "first dibs", with any teddy bear discoveries only considered for purchase if it was not of interest to our guests.

While you might expect that a dispute could break out between two guests, we never witnessed such an occasion, and I suspect that is due to the fact that, in our experience, teddy bear collectors are a fun and sharing bunch who thrive on each other's company.


Speaking of a fun bunch, we seem to spend a good part of our tours laughing and have the best fun times.

On a visit to Walmer Gardens last year, Doris and I found a spot to sit on a garden bench, and one of our guests decided it was a photo opportunity.

On viewing the photo, someone labeled it "The Dork and Dorkess of Walmer" and another guest corrected them and said "it looks more like the Dork and Dorkess of Walmart!"

The name was proudly accepted by Doris and me.

While this episode took place long after the book was published, we felt it fit in nicely with the story of the Duke and Duchess of Portobello.

 

Terry & Doris Michaud

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