Vintage Television

Vintage TV: A WGN Christmas

This Christmas memory was originally posted in 2009.

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 Netflix. 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!

Next: The real value of Christmas.

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14 thoughts on “Vintage TV: A WGN Christmas

  1. ryoko861 says:

    The only time I’ve ever heard of Suzy Snowflake was the song sung by Rosemary Clooney on one of my Christmas albums (did you know George Clooney was her nephew?). And didn’t even know it was a tv special! Our “Frosty The Snowman” was a bit different as far as cartoon drawings go. They’re always fun to watch now. They’re just not for kids!

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    • I did know about the Clooney link! There’s also Nick Clooney, George’s dad, who was a TV news anchorman. These shorts were not made for TV but they did get considerable fame in Chicago on TV. The Frosty the Snowman short was done by UPA, which was a pioneer of that style of cartooning.

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      • Dani says:

        Nick Clooney also hosted a local variety talk show out of Cincinnati. Mom used to watch it, along with Phil Donohue’s show which had its start in Dayton, OH. And, of course, the Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas shows. Those were the days, but I digress…

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  2. Jennifer S says:

    I love these… no wonder you have such fond memories. How lucky to grow up around Chicago, where TV stations were big and powerful and had the resources to make special children’s programming like this! The quality is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing… and Merry Christmas to you!

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    • We got cable in 1972 so Dad could watch his beloved White Sox on Chicago’s channel 44, or I would have missed out! Chicago was juuuuuuust far enough away that you needed either cable or a big rooftop antenna to draw its stations.

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      • Yes. Yes, I do, Jim. I grew up with these on Garfield Goose and then Ray Rayner, and my own children watched it on “Bozo.” sigh. Lovely childhood memories, eh? I post them on my own blog so those who were unfortunate not to enjoy these classics can now do so. :) I don’t know how they grew up without them!

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        • I watched Ray Rayner every morning before going to school while I was little boy. I dimly, dimly remember seeing these shorts on Garfield Goose. There is a great website about classic Chicago television, with a large video library, at fuzzymemories.tv. Unfortunately they have very little of Ray Rayner or Garfield Goose, largely because WGN strictly enforces its copyrights on those shows. But there’s plenty of other great stuff there.

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  3. I had never seen these before. Thanks for sharing them. I still do think there is something nice about only being able to experience somethings at only a certain time. For some reason I have noticed some of the Christmas Classics more this year. It is funny to see stories in the news about how popular shows like Rudolph, and Charlie Brown’s Christmas are, which I remember seeing the first time they were shown.

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    • I came along a few years after those programs were first shown, but still have excellent memories of being excited all day knowing that they would show that night.

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