Here’s one for you: Remember when the Christmas season started the day after Thanksgiving and ended Jan. 1? My wife, Janice, and I track the first mention of Christmas every year (a Wal-Mart ad on Labor Day this year) and then see how long it takes before every last decoration is taken down. Even so, we love the holiday season and all the memories that come with it.
Local TV and radio gener – ated a lot of those memories. WEWS was the first TV station in Ohio, and its first broadcast in 1947 was the annual Cleveland Press Christmas Show from Public Hall. They brought out the big guns, too. Jimmy Stewart, the star of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” hosted, and word is it was a spectacular show.
A TREE AND A KEY Those were the days when people went to downtown Cleveland for first-run movies, nightlife and shopping; the Christmas season kicked it into high gear. You saw the giant tree at the Sterling-Lindner Davis department store, got lunch in a little toy stove at Higbee’s Silver Grille, and then a visit to the “Keeper of the Keys,” Mr. Jingeling on Halle’s seventh floor.
Starting in the mid ’50s, Halle’s ran a Mr. Jingeling segment on Captain Penny’s show on WEWS every day beginning the day after Thanksgiving and usually ending a day or two before Christmas with an hour-long special.
It was a daily story with Mr. Jingeling and the Play Lady spinning some sort of a tale that involved the latest toy. Remember, this was live TV, and after the show, Max Ellis, Earl Keyes or one of the other actors who played Mr. Jingeling headed back to Halle’s to meet fans and hand out special paper keys.
It was so cool to be a kid in Northeast Ohio back then....