Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Seven): The Cresta Bear

What the **** were they thinking?

As a special treat, my father came back from Fine Fare with a bottle of Cresta. As it happens, the gigantic store off Mottram Road was doing an offer. He couldn’t pull the wool over my eyes as I saw the full page advert in this week’s North Cheshire Herald.

Then he told me that the bear himself (you know, the one you see in the adverts between Runaround) would be coming on Saturday. ‘Yippee!’ I though as that was our normal shopping day. So Dad’ll be sat in The Sportsman with a pint of Chesters’ Mild whilst my Mum and younger brother will be carted ’round Hyde Market, Tesco, Gateway and Fine Fare. Then we’ll catch the 346 together (better since I can go all the way to Ashton from Newton – thank you Greater Manchester Transport!) back to Shaw Hall Estate.

Then I was disappointed to find that the Cresta Bear wasn’t six feet tall. He didn’t even say “frothy, man”. It was saggy and bit baggy at the seams.

Gwen Toys’ Cuddly Cresta Bear

In a era before political correctness, we thought nothing about laughing at racial stereotypes when served up on ITV betwixt a post-match potato pie. Similarly, there was no outcry over trying to shift cuddly toys which endorsed fizzy drinks. Owing to a child friendly advertising campaign with an animated bear, Cresta must have been the bane of dentists and child psychiatrists. Enough to inspire Half Man Half Biscuit to end The Unfortunate Gwatkin with the line, ‘Cresta, what the **** were we drinking?”

The Cresta bear was a polar bear with a penchant for shades and singing cod-Elvis style. ‘It’s Frothy Man’ was inspired by The King’s ‘Teddy Bear’. Our bespectacled hero/whore for sickly soft drinks would be supported with several other polar bears, sometimes as backing singer. He would make a weird noise before stating “it’s frothy man”.

Cresta was a Schweppes brand launched in the early 1970s. There was five different flavours, all in bright colours. They came in orange, strawberry, blackcurrant, pineapple and lemon lime flavours. Besides its television advert, there was numerous competitions and comic strips. Numerous promotional merchandise included T-Shirts and badges, and the Cresta bear itself.

Gwentoys was formed in 1965 with cuddly toys its speciality. They were based in Pontypool and formed by three former managers of the Chiltern group. The company merged with Deans Childsplay in 1972 and became the Deans/Gwentoys Group. By 1980, Deans’ Rye factory closed with all production moving to Pontypool. 1986 saw a takeover by Plaintalk, with the Gwentoys name discontinued.

Cresta would still be seen on supermarket shelves till 2007. Gwentoys’ successors live on as the Dean’s Ragbook Company (1903) Ltd. This time they are based in Hereford and have their own website (www.deansbears.com) with full e-commerce facilities.

  • Argos Catalogue edition: Autumn/Winter 1978;
  • Page and item numbers: page 9, item 9;
  • 1978 Prices: £6.25 (£7.95, RRP);
  • 2014 Prices: £33.94 (£43.17, RRP).

S.V., 07 December 2014.


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