(And, as for that, it has always sort of amazed me that on a lunch hour I walked into a rather old-fashioned pharmacy on Washington Avenue in Lansing and there, on the bottom rack of the magazines, was the very first issue of Rolling Stone -- how did it ever get to Michigan, I later wondered, and to Lansing, and to the last place in town you'd expect to find something so new, and which, naturally, I'd never heard of, but which, with a picture of John Lennon on the front, I had to have?)
In one or the other of those British magazines, a short article reported that John Lennon had designed a Christmas card for Oxfam (England's version of The Salvation Army), and that the cards would go on sale on such and such date (probably October 1st) at the headquarters of Oxfam's offices, and the address of this place was
provided. We got out our London A to Z book of maps; the place wasn't easy-to-find but we scouted it out ahead of the date the cards were to go on sale, noticing a sign on the door that listed the opening hour as 10AM.
At ten on the morning of the day the cards were to go on sale. Dennis and I were waiting outside the door.
I have a vague memory of there being some discussion amongst the two or three ladies there as to whether or not they were allowed to begin selling the cards. We said that it had been announced in a newspaper; we even had the paper with us, which we'd brought along to have the address, and we explained that we were from the states and had to return very soon, so we couldn't come back later after whatever the problem with whether or not the cards could go on sale was settled. I'm sure too that our faces and demeanors betrayed desperation, because we were desperate. We had to have some of those cards; our hearts would be broken if we walked out of there empty-handed. After further discussion amongst themselves, and with what seemed to be an amount of pity taken upon us, it was decided that they would sell us the couple boxes we each wanted.
At some point I wondered if these cards might be worth any money. I did a Google search on "John Lennon Oxfam Christmas Cards" and got some 77,600 hits; leave out the "Oxfam" and you'll get nearly five million hits. Of the Oxfam hits, every one of the many, many that I checked out was about a 1965 card design Lennon did for Oxfam, known as the "Yellow Fat Budgie" card. Over a period of time, I spent a lot of down-time at work searching through these google results, but could find not one single reference or picture of the cards Dennis and I had bought.
This led me to speculation. I imagined that final legal permission for the use of the card had not been procured, and that five minutes (or whatever) after Dennis and I walked out the door a phone call was received at Oxfam Headquarters from some barrister who announced that the cards must not be sold; indeed all stock on hand must be gathered for destruction. I fancy this as a screw-up amongst Beatle management (running amok as it often was, especially during this period), and some lazy-assed barrister who just didn't stay on top of things -- the note he or she'd made to legally assign Oxfam permission had been lost near the bottom of a stack of disorganized papers. I can not imagine the kindly John Lennon himself taking back permission for this charitable contribution; if you read a lot of books about the Beatles, as I have, you can well imagine that he was totally unaware of the screw-up; both their personal and their business lives were hectic beyond hectic.
I hope ... I really do ... that none of those two or three ladies who took pity on Dennis and me lost their jobs, or got their derrieres reamed out. "What are we going to do?" a worried Penelope might have said. Then, after a quick thought, "They're not going to count the boxes ... let's just keep it to ourselves. Here, Clarissa, take the money the boys paid and put it in the collection at next Sunday's services, so we don't have to account for it!"
Were Dennis and I the only ones in the whole wide world who owned one and more of these cards? If so, and the provenance could be established (simple enough; go to the British Library and locate the article that announced the cards, and then look at my innocent face), wouldn't one of those rabid collectors give me $100,000 for one? A million for one?
Well ... at least fifty bucks?
No, thanks, to any offers.
I don't remember, but there would have been ten or twelve cards in each box. I wonder who Dennis sent his to? (I can't ask him; my closest friend died in 1989). I wonder who I sent most of mine to? I wonder if any of the recipients saved theirs.
I saved two or three of mine as keepsakes. I had one framed about thirty years ago, and a year or so ago, I passed it on to someone I love who loves Lennon so much that, in emulation, he named his first born son Sean.
I came across another one amongst my papers about two years ago; I gave it to a co-worker named John who is way younger than me, and who delights me with his mastery of rock 'n roll trivia; indeed, for a birthday present, his mother -- herself an expert at rock trivia -- gave John a brick that is embedded in the plaza of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; it is inscribed with John's name and a designation as "Trivia King." What a cool mom!
|Detail copied on b/w copier; I colored the mistletoe berries with a red magic marker.|
It has occurred to me that I might send a copy of the card to Yoko Ono; she is known to have a vast amount of Lennon/Beatles material; maybe she has information about it, or would at least be interested in what I have. I will do that ... I will write Yoko a letter, She might answer. After all, when I read the excellent Jon Weiner biography of Lennon in 1984, I was so moved as to write a letter to Yoko, telling her how much I loved John Lennon, and expressing a wish that she would open a museum full of Lennon memoribilia, so that we who loved him could visit it and feel closer to him. I didn't write in a way that asked for a response, but she nevertheless was kind enough to send me a Christmas card that year; I framed it and treasure it.
And if I should run across another of those cards amongst my vast piles and files of papers, I could send it to Yoko if she doesn't have one, as seems likely. Then maybe I'd get another Christmas card from her!