April 21, 2018
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A furry gift that keeps on giving

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

I really do like Christmas. I like the generous spirit in the air. I love the lights that brighten the otherwise darkest time of the year. I relish tradition and I really, really love to eat.

But I hate to shop and I hate stress and, unfortunately with three kids in the house, our Christmases involve a lot of both.

And so at times when the shopping and the stress and the stories of fatal department store tramplings get me down, I try to remember to take deep “yoga” breaths, relax and enjoy the little things. Like that terribly cliched and folksy kitten commercial that Bangor Savings Bank aired for 24 years. You know the one — with the kittens and the Christmas tree and the spilled milk all set to the BSB theme music.

But the kittens, it seems, are missin’, so I decided to set my highly tuned investigative journalistic skills to work to find out why that sweet, beloved ad was no longer a part of the Bangor-area Christmas season.

Back when those two mischievous kitties made their debut in 1982, BSB used the trade name “The Source,” as in “We’re the Source for You!” That name has long since been retired. And apparently two years ago, those in the highest of positions at BSB decided it was time to retire Waylon and Willie as well.

Waylon and Willie were the names of the kittens that were lent to the bank for three days by Barbara Harris so the commercial could be filmed. The commercial ran for 24 seasons, and some bank officials feel it may be the longest-running commercial in TV history.

Alas, Yellow Light Breen, BSB senior vice president and chief strategic officer, alerted me this week to say that Waylon and Willie are living on in perpetuity on the popular video Web site YouTube.

“Even kittens grow up, but here we can relive our sentimental moments. I think it’s a suitable new home to reflect the contemporary technological age we live in,” Breen wrote to me in an e-mail on the matter.

The decision to pull the ad apparently was not an easy one for the bank, and when it did so in 2006, the whole office headed over to the Sea Dog for a ceremonial toast in the kittens’ honor.


Anyway, since I don’t like to shop, here’s a little Christmas gift to you. It’s the link to the ad on YouTube. Here it is: Watch the kitten commercial.

Speaking of shopping and tradition, I thought I would share a gift-giving idea that has become a favorite in my family. My mother started it many years ago, when the economy wasn’t nearly as bad as it is today.

The idea was born from her love of a deal, her absolutely crazy obsession with yard sales and thrift stores, her joy of giving to her family and the very real truth that she can’t seem to stop going to yard sales even though she does not need anything else.

Each year, after all of the other presents beneath the tree are opened, my mother, in true Santa fashion, starts hauling huge gift bags out of the guestroom. Each bag is overstuffed and each person in the family gets one.

We call them our “Goodwill Bags.” You never know what might be in there. She starts collecting things for them as soon as the yard sales begin. It could be hats, gloves or fine-crafted sweaters that we would never be able to afford brand-new. There could be ski jackets, puzzles, ties or boots.

Like a lot of thrift store finds, some may have seemed like a better idea at the time of purchase, but in the lot there are always a few gems, and it is by far the most fun part of the day.

The absolute best gift my daughter ever received when she was little was a compilation of dress-up outfits that my mother spent a year collecting at thrift stores and yard sales. Even today, at least a handful of teenagers dig through that box every Halloween.

My mother probably didn’t spend $20 on everything together, but it was a cherished and well-used gift.

Goodwill Industries does good work. Don’t overlook it while you’re out finishing up your shopping.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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