Christmas morning 1936 was a very special day for a 5-year-old little girl called Avril, because when she woke up, she found Bruin the Bear sitting on her bed. He is a brand of bear called a Chiltern Hugmee from the Chiltern Toy Works in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. Bruin was a very large bear, and he used to wear Avril’s little brothers outgrown clothes. Avril and Bruin played together right through Avril’s childhood, and they have now been together for 85 years, so Avril has a lifetime of memories of her bear.
During the war, Avril had to leave her house in London for the night with her family during the blitz. She was not able to take Bruin because they had too much to carry already, so he was left guarding the house. When they returned the next day, Bruin was still guarding the house, which was fortunately undamaged.
When Avril got a job as a doctor in Aberdeen in the late 1950s, she sent Bruin from London to Scotland on his own, packed in her trunk on the train: luggage was often sent in advance in those days. Fortunately, the trunk with Bruin inside arrived safely, and Avril followed as soon as she could.
Later, after Avril was married and had children of her own, Bruin moved with the family back to London. At the end of Avril’s career, the two of them moved again to Prestwood, Bucks. His last move has taken him to St Helens, Merseyside, to a nursing home near Avril’s daughter.
Bruin has been showing his age, as we all do by the age of 85! Many years ago he had his velvet paws replaced at a different toy hospital, but because he has always been carefully loved, that is all the repair he has needed. Recently, a hole in his nose started to get bigger and bigger, and clearly needed professional attention. Avril’s granddaughter lives in Edinburgh, and she suggested sending Bruin to Leith Toy Hospital. So Bruin took a journey to Leith, where he has had his nose patched and re-embroidered, and some stuffing replaced in his arms and neck.
One day Bruin will be passed to the younger generation. Avril has two daughters, two granddaughters and a great grandson, and so Bruin will always be kept and well looked after.