Friday, April 18, 2003


As Hamilton’s Raging Grannies adjust their overwrought hats and their political button–festooned aprons and shawls outside the front entrance, shoppers heading into Toys R Us look on, amused.

The gaggle of six grannies are shifting through reams of song sheets before settling on their first ditty and the day’s theme. It goes like this: “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, war toys have got to go, take them off the shelves like good little elves, Hi Ho, Hi Ho.” New lyrics to familiar Christmas tunes are all the rage with the granny set as they take aim at violent toys and games.

Rambo, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Skeletors, Mortal Kombat, Doom, guns and tanks get the Grannies’ goat while roller blades, puzzles, books, building blocks, Lego, dolls, and cooperative games, are offered as positive alternatives.

Four short songs into the Raging Grannies songbook, a couple of employees from the Upper Wentworth store appear and inform the grand-motherly minstrels that they are expected to pack-up their act and move on.

The grannies inform the youngsters that the grannies are going nowhere, and if the store wants them to move they will have to call the police.

Big smiles from the grans. Scowls from the employees, who disappear back into the voluminous blue box of a store to, presumably, call the police.

Hardly missing a beat, the Raging Grannies are into their next song.

A steady stream of shoppers appear happy to receive a leaflet while the Grans sing in a light rain.

A man in a car requests a leaflet then laughs out loud: he expected ordinary Christmas carols but thinks the grannies reworking of the classics is just peachy. “You made my day!” he shouts, still laughing as he drives off.

The Grannies’ goal for the day is to raise awareness about violent toys, toys which, according to their leaflet, “teach that war is an acceptable way of settling disputes, encourage play at hurting and killing others, require children to use violence in order to win, depict graphic violence, create the need for an enemy, glamourize military life, combat and war, reinforce sexist stereotypes of male dominance and female passivity and depict ethnic or racial groups in a negative way.”

A few more songs and Toys R Us staff make another foray, telling the Grannies to move their sing-fest to a remote island of green in the massive parking lot, well away from the customers. The Grannies are having none of it. The suggestion that they are blocking costumers from the store is simply not true, so they dig in their sensible heels and sing some more.