Jokester’s toilet humor inspires giving to toy fund

  • Bob Nolan, a lifelong Northampton resident, loved jokes and Christmas. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Published: 12/21/2016 11:23:31 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Sitting in the home her father built in the 1950s, Christine Nolan remembered the man who once gave his family a toilet seat for Christmas.

Wrapped in paper, Bob Nolan placed it under the Christmas tree and teased his family for weeks about the gift yet to be revealed, according to a poem, “The Joker,” by his daughter, Christine Nolan.

“Thus excitement and anticipation oiled the journey toward that Christmas day when at last we tore off the paper exposing his prank,” Nolan wrote. “How we recoiled and how angry we were. And yet how we laughed despite the disappointment and still do at the memory of it a half century later.”

The poem in honor of her father was written years ago for “30 Poems in November,” a literary fundraiser in celebration of immigrant literacy hosted by the Center for New Americans.

“It got used,” Nolan said of the poem’s inspiration. “Yes, absolutely. We must have needed one.”

Now, 25 years after Bob Nolan’s passing at the age of 69, the family donates to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in his honor.

“He had a wonderful sense of humor and love of Christmas,” she said.

According to Nolan, her father’s sense of humor was known by family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

For at least 10 years, Christine Nolan and her family have been making the annual donation.

“I’m giving because I know of the need here in Northampton and saw it as a teacher in this community that there were families with great financial struggles year after year,” Nolan wrote. “That awareness as an adult made me so appreciate what my parents were able to do for their five children.”

She added that she gives in her father’s memory because he loved Christmas and she wanted to spread some of his Christmas spirit.

As of Dec. 21, donations to the Toy Fund stood at $57,099 this season. Last year’s total was $77,830, $12,230 more than in 2014.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund provides certificates redeemable at participating local retailers to eligible families who can use them to buy holiday gifts at participating stores through Dec. 31.

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the fund distributes vouchers to families for each child from age 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett.

Christine Nolan was the fourth child of five. Throughout the years, Bob Nolan worked in food service management at various local institutions.

She said her father worked two jobs and both parents worked very hard to make sure the family had Christmas presents under the tree.

“All kids should have presents and feel special,” she said.

Berkshire Children and Families at 220 Russell St. in Hadley, verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers. Most families who receive assistance are referred by social service agencies.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, One Pearl St., Northampton; JCPenney, 341 Russell St., Hadley; The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Wilson’s Dept. Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; and Target, 367 Russell St., Hadley.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette at 115 Conz St. in Northampton, 01060, or made through Gazettenet at Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Emily Cutts can be reached at


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