Vintage TV: A WGN Christmas

(Originally posted 24 Dec 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 its temporal nature 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 stream it on Amazon Prime 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 during its golden era probably remembers watching three animated shorts every year at Christmastime: Hardrock, Coco, and Joe โ€“ 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 Garfield Goose aired these shorts 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 millennium 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!


13 responses to “Vintage TV: A WGN Christmas”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    My claim to fame as a kid living in Chicago, was not only watching Garfield Goose, but meeting Frazier Thomas, who lived down the block from my aunt in Willmette! As a jazz lover, always loved the Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Stuff, and in most cities you can find a live performance of this at your local jazz club, a big event where I live now…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      How fortunate that you got to meet Frazier!

  2. sonny rosenberg Avatar

    Those are charming! I’d never seen or heard of them. A while back I used to work in stop-motion animation, but in a much different genre. It was a gory show for MTV called Celebrity Deathmatch. A little different than these!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I remember Celebrity Deathmatch! Wow!

  3. sonny rosenberg Avatar

    Jim, that may or may not be a good thing!
    On an unrelated note, can you recommend anyone to do some web site work at a not too extravagant price? I just switched my blog to Hostinger, and while it’s much less expensive and more flexible for me. I suspect it’s meant for someone much more knowledgable than I am. I just need to do what I “think” is simple stuff, enabling comments and subscriptions, getting my email to work, etc. Thanks!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m afraid I don’t. I do all of that work myself on my own site because I’m a nerd who works in the software industry. The forums might be able to help you do it yourself.

  4. sonny rosenberg Avatar

    Thanks Jim, I’ll try that!

  5. Suzassippi Avatar

    Well this was a fun watch on Tuesday morning!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’re welcome!

  6. Greg Clawson Avatar
    Greg Clawson

    Great subject matter Jim!
    This was fun to watch. Here in west central Indiana we didn’t get cable until 1976 so no Bozo’s circus or Suzy Snowflake.
    We did have Frosty, Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and my favorite the Grinch. ๐Ÿ˜. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We were fortunate to live close enough to Chicago that a big antenna on the tallest hill in town was enough to bring it in, with coax delivering it to subscriber homes. We also got at least one Kalamazoo station this way.

  7. jimhanes Avatar

    I lived in Harvey until I was 9 years old and watched Garfield Goose daily. I think Bozo was on channel 9, also. Frazier Thomas also had a show where he covered classic literature, but I can’t remember the name of it. Watched a lot of NASA Space Program coverage and of course, the JFK assassination, too.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yep, Bozo was on 9. My mom kept the TV off in our house at noon for a whole bunch of reasons, one of which was that she didn’t like the Bozo show!

      The Frazier Thomas show about classic literature was Family Classics. Here’s the open from a 1978 episode:

Leave a Comment

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

Sign up for my newsletter!

Sign up for my monthly newsletter,
Back Roads, and be the first to know
what I'm working on!

%d bloggers like this: