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Animatronic Bears from Pogue's Return to Windows in Newport

The life-size animatronic bears that once thrilled shoppers at the old Pogue's department store in Downtown Cincinnati are back in the holiday window display business.

The thirteen bears were designated for disposal a few years ago when they were acquired by the City of Newport which displayed them at an empty storefront at the corner of Eighth & Monmouth Streets. This year, the bears are in the windows of the Monmouth Street Antique Gallery and thanks to students from Gateway Community & Technical College in Florence, many of them move again.

"I think it's a way for people to come bring their kids to see a part of history, almost lost history," said Steve Strain, owner of the shop.

"It's passing on that tradition," said Bev Holiday, Newport's community liaison coordinator. "It seemed appropriate to bring them to an antique store since they are antique bears."

Both Strain and Holiday remember seeing the bears decades ago at Pogue's. 

It was a lot of work to dust off the nearly forgotten bears and return them to working order. Students in Gateway's robotics program brought several of them back to life, though some of the others are missing key instruments needed for movement. Store manager Betty Applegate and her daughter "lived in the windows for a couple days" preparing the display, Strain said.

"Dressing them was the most fun," Applegate said. "They did not come with clothes." Applegate said that because of the position of some of the bears it was difficult to get clothes on them, so many of them have been made female since dresses were easier to slip on.

Moving the display from an empty storefront (which was rented recently) to the antiques store will also add to the enjoyment, Holiday said. "You've got people around you so people can really appreciate them," she said. 

The display isn't finished either. Strain promises to move the characters around throughout the holiday season. "We'll move them around a bit to surprise people," he said. 

Another surprise for visitors will be to see what costume Strain dons each Saturday. At the display unveiling on Friday, he was dressed as an elf and promises other costumes throughout the season. 

Monmouth Street Antique Gallery is at 822 Monmouth Street in Newport.

Story & photos by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

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