Vintage TV: A WGN Christmas

It may be hard to believe, but there was once a time when you couldn’t watch any TV show pretty much anytime you want. There were no videocassettes, no DVDs, no YouTube, no Hulu. After a program ended, that was it, at least until it was rerun in the spring. You could argue that the networks thus forced us to watch things on their schedule, or you could argue that television’s temporal nature made it more special. Never did television take better advantage of this than at the holidays. Those of us beyond a certain age remember how big of an event it was when CBS aired A Charlie Brown Christmas each year! Now, you can watch it anytime. It doesn’t make the show any less special, but audiences today lack the anticipation of it.

Anyone who grew up in range of Chicago television probably remembers watching three animated shorts every year at Christmastime: Hardrock, Coco, and Joe – The Three Little Dwarfs; Suzy Snowflake; and Frosty the Snowman. They were part of Frazier Thomas’s Garfield Goose and Friends, a daily kid’s show. The show, and this tradition, began on WBKB (which became WBBM) but soon moved to WGN, where they aired every holiday through the 1980s. Talk to someone who grew up in Chicagoland in that era and they are likely to gush over the good memories these shorts bring back.

Of course, in the new millenium these shorts are easy to find and you can watch them anytime.

The oldest of the shorts is Suzy Snowflake, a stop-motion animation made in 1951.

The same animators also made Hardrock, Coco, and Joe in 1951.

Frosty the Snowman came in 1954 from the famous UPA studios.

Several years ago WGN begain airing these shorts again every Christmas as part of a special called Bozo, Gar, and Ray: WGN TV Classics, a fond remembrance of WGN’s kids’ programming from that age. While these shorts are obviously available on the Internet, the rest of this program is not.

That makes it special. May your holiday be special, too!

And may your holiday create excellent memories! My trusty Polaroid camera captured childhood Christmas memories as I wrote last year.


20 responses to “Vintage TV: A WGN Christmas”

  1. Kurt Avatar

    Wow! Thanks for posting these….yes, certainly bringing back childhood memories watching the clips. Merry Christmas Jim.

  2. David Avatar

    Funny! That really must be a Chicago thing. A short time ago, Lin over at Duck and Wheel with String ran a couple of these clips.

    Merry Christmas, Jim.

  3. Roy P Avatar

    Thank you so much for posting this. I showed my father, and he remembers it from “back in the dinosaur age” hahaha. Great work buddy!

  4. Jim Avatar

    Thanks, everybody!

  5. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Man, that Frosty in the last clip looks like he should be helping the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man terrorize Manhatten in Ghostbusters. Scary! :D

    1. Jim Avatar

      Yet somehow thousands of people of a certain age who grew up in a certain place have fond childhood memories when they see it!

  6. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Er, Manhattan, D’OH! Why ain’t these things got erasers already?? :P :)

  7. Steve Avatar

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. It sounds cliche’d, I know, but today’s generation can never appreciate what an exciting event it was each year when those special shows had their annual airings.

  8. Tlynette Avatar

    Gush, is right!!! I grew up watching these, and today, even a week before my 49th birthday, I STILL LOVE ‘EM! You knew it was time for school when Frazier and Gar introduced “Journey to the Beginning of Time,” and you knew it was Christmastime when they rolled out these three classics. Kids today are shortchanged–so many gadgets and electronic stuff, they don’t know what a real ‘cheap’ thrill is anymore. Fun didn’t have to cost anything: this was FUN, and all it took was being up in the morning, getting ready for school–something you were gonna do anyway–to sing along with Frosty, Suzy and the 3 little elves. Nice memories!

    1. Jim Avatar

      You’ll get no argument from me there! My sons can watch any of their favorites anytime. So none of them are ever truly special.

  9. carol Avatar

    my granddaughter is the 5th generation of watching suzy, hardrock and frosty. it just isn’t christmas without them. lot’s of fond memories,thanks. any idea if they are available on dvd?

    1. Jim Avatar

      Couldn’t tell you if they’re available on DVD. You could try searching

  10. stephen bell Avatar
    stephen bell

    I am 74 years old,and grew up on the south side of Chicago. Last year I saw the Christmas special on thanksgiving day on Chicago channel 9 (wgn ). It took all my will not to cry. The special brought back the best memories of growing up in Chicago. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and seeing this special brought it all back.Thank you for writing this article,I love it…I now live in Las Vegas Nv where the tempture is in the 70s on Christmas day and I hate it. The children today have no idea what they missed by not living in the 40s,50s,and 60s. Thanks again and merry Christmas to you and yours.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Stephen, thank you so much for writing. There were many special aspects of growing up in or near Chicago at that time, to be certain.

  11. Deborah Greer Avatar
    Deborah Greer

    I grew up in Chicago (I’m 46 years old) and grew up watching The Ray Rayner Show and The Bozo Show (with Frazier Thomas as the host). I always anticipated watching these 3 Christmas cartoons right before winter school break. As a child you knew it was the start of Christmas after seeing these cartoons. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so much for posting these videos! This bought back great childhood memories of growing up in Chicago. I was smiling and crying (tears of joy) at the same time watching Frosty the Snowman. 😊

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’re old enough that I’m surprised you don’t remember watching Bozo hosted by Ringmaster Ned!

      My family wasn’t a Bozo family, but we were sent off to school every morning by Ray Rayner: “10 minutes to 8, don’t be late!”

      I’m so glad my post brought back good memories for you.

  12. Donald Hanke Avatar
    Donald Hanke

    I love these. Very kind of you to post them for us all to enjoy.

  13. Ken Edminster Avatar
    Ken Edminster

    At age 52 I still enjoy watching these shorts. They were a sure sign the holidays were not far away. Whether it was on Garfield Goode, Ray Rayner, or Bozo, it was great seeing these. Though I will admit that I was slightly disappointed when it would be Suzy Snowflake and not Hardrock, Coco, and Joe. I was fortunate to have videos of many Bozo programs so my kids grew up watching the program and these videos. (The show was off the air 11 years before the last of my kids figured out the show was on tape- they even sent in ‘at home player’ cards). These programs were part of what made growing up in that era great. Kids today will not have the same memories, and in today’s TV market they never will.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My kids have memories of Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. The stuff available today is much more polished than anything WGN could ever dream of. But that doesn’t make it any more fun.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.