Old News: Being the Easter Bunny

Ahhhhh, the Easter Bunny … the tradition, the joy, the mystery, and, yes, the horror.

There’s a lot more to the symbolically giant fluffy rodent with cartoon eyes in a fixed freaky stare and a head the size of one of the small children he visits on Easter. For instance, his head pops off. It’s also a sweaty death trap. Those are facts, people. I know. I was the Easter Bunny quite a few times.

So were many other poor souls on this holiday symbolizing rebirth. The rebirth for us Easter Bunnies was getting out from under that head as quickly as possible and possibly traumatizing kids who saw it pop off and get stowed away in a trunk.

Oh, the horror! The terror for us bunnies and, sometimes, the kids. Sometimes. I say that, because, quite a few of them, in my bunny travels, had the notion that it was their Easter-given right to torture the bunny, who, by the way, has limited vision and no ability to hop. Yeah, I was bunny bullied.

The head nearly rolled more than a few times. Pokes, tugs and prods were topped with swift kicks in the bunny gut that is really a leg or groin under that fluff. Yes, there’s a bully in every bunny crowd. And most of us bunnies will never go near that big head again, especially after the bully is a bee stuck on a sweaty brow with no escape. Yup. Bunny torture. It’s real.

Then there are those little loves who just snuggle right up to the scary rodent and smile, awestruck and appreciative. That’s enough to keep you in that sweaty, horrible head and make you a believer again that a bunny still leaves those chocolate eggs in your yard, not to mention the egg carton of bubble gum favorite. Secret’s out.

Hey, there have always been giant freaky mall, private party and egg hunt bunnies. The proof is in the pics from the Red Bank Register from over the decades. And, of course, there were those kiddies who were scared to death of the mammoth hopper.

There are many stories, but back in 1988 when reporters actually covered such events, a story about a mall bunny with pics event garnered this priceless quote from the question to a mom asking how the photo of her child on the bunny’s lap turned out: “Not bad. He’s crying. He looks like he bit the bunny.” He BIT the bunny?

Another mom said her kid touched the Easter eggs, but “wouldn’t sit on his lap. We had the same problem with Santa.” I’ll bet. It’s mystical in itself that parents just don’t get that this mandatory plopping of kids on some giant caricature’s freaky lap is a bit unsettling. And they keep on plopping!

Here’s the coup de gras: In 1959 on March 21 the magical rodent came by helicopter to Mayfair-Foodtown on Newman Springs Road. Ever witnessed something like that? The bunny landed on baseball field behind Foodtown in Red Bank and was then escorted to the store bringing “free jellybeans, fun and surprises.” Glad the bunny sprung for those beans.

The costumes, varying in color and features slightly, haven’t changed much. And, yes there have always been some adult hangers-on in belief.

I, for one, tend to think that maybe those magically delicious bubble gum eggs in that mini carton will appear. I do believe. And, back in 1963 in the Register’s By George column, a woman wrote in about her husband and his alleged problematic continued belief in the Easter Bunny.

It went like this:

Dear George: My husband still believes in the Easter Bunny. Do you have any suggestions on how to make a full grown man quit believing in the Easter Bunny? (signed) Concerned

Answer: Why shouldn’t he believe in the Easter bunny? The Easter bunny, insofar as I know, has always played straight with everybody — never pulled a shady deal or went back on his word. I’m afraid I don’t understand your problem, really.

Good answer! Priceless. And speaking of shady deals …

It may not be so shady, but strange advertising nonetheless for a bunny dollar sale of sorts. In the April 3, 1947 edition of the Register bunnies were for sale for $1 each at 89 Woodland Drive in Fair Haven.

Another ad from 1933 offered bunnies for 5 cents and “guaranteed singing canaries.” OK. Now, what would someone do if the canary wouldn’t sing?

Think on that one. While you are, sing a little Peter Cottontail ditty and hippity hoppity to happy holiday trails! Never forget the real Easter Bunny tale, though.

Ponder this, as I did a few decades back in an interview with kids about the bunny: Who is the Easter Bunny and what is his real job?

Be kind, be nice to the bunny and go find some eggs. Oh, and be sure to click on the images above for a close-up view of the horror!

Photos/Red Bank Register archives