Friday, December 11, 2009

In Search of Mr. Jingeling: Part One

Christmas in Cleveland hasn't been the same since 1956, when Mr. Jingeling jingled his way out of a Chicago advertising agency and onto Halle's seventh floor.

For the uninitiated, here's the speed-read version of Mr. J's official biography:

Mr. Jingeling was created in 1956 by Chicago ad agent Frank Jacobi, for the purpose of helping to boost Christmas sales at Halle's Department Store in downtown Cleveland. He was such a hit at Halle's that a local children's TV program, Captain Penny, picked him up as a regular character. The story goes that Mr. Jingeling was the Keeper of the Keys -- the keys to Santa's workshop, that is. The character, which was portrayed as a lovable, white-bearded elf in a fur-lined green suit, has been played by five actors since then (perhaps most notably Earl W. Keyes, a local actor who bought the rights to Mr. Jingeling after Halle's, and later Higbee's, went out of business).

From now until Christmas, I'll be posting a series of remembrances about Mr. Jingeling, from some of those people who knew him best. More than just mere Christmas nostalgia, I'll attempt to put Mr. Jingeling in context for younger people or those good folks who have adopted Cleveland as their hometown. In other words, I'll attempt to answer the question: "why the heck should we care about Mr. Jingeling?"

In the meantime, you can read more about Mr. Jingeling, Halle's, and Cleveland Christmas memories here:

Cleveland Memory Project: Cleveland's Golden Age of Downtown Shopping
History of the Halle Brothers Co. -- Wikipedia
History of Mr. Jingeling -- Wikipedia

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