FORT WORTH, Texas, December 19, 2012 — There are still some things we do only during the holiday season and watching favorite Christmas TV and movie specials is one of them. “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s A Wonderful Life,”” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “A Christmas Story” are all cherished favorites.
Long ago, December was the only time you could see them — before the days of video and DVD recorders. If one missed “Charlie Brown,” you were out of luck and had to wait an entire year to see it again.
The first three movies were annual favorites when I was a kid; the latter came out and has been a favorite since the early 80’s. The number of TV channels has increased exponentially since then and with that came the demise of locally made TV shows — except maybe for the news.
Once upon time local TV stations made their own programs that ran side by side with shows from the three major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC. There was no TNN, TNT, FOX, or USA networks.
Once Upon a Time Chicago Did Its Own Programs
Originally from Chicago, I think we had the very best local programming of the period. Ask any Baby Boomer from the area and you’ll probably get a smile and some happy commentary if you mention “Bozo’s Circus,” “Ray Rayner,” “Garfield Goose,” “Creature Features,” “Screaming Yellow Theater,” “Family Classics,” or “The Magic Door.”
There were also shows within shows that were favorites like “Clutch Cargo,” “The Funny Company,” and “Ark in the Park.”
But during the holidays it just wasn’t Christmas until Frazier Thomas (host of “Garfield Goose and Friends”) showed “Hardrock, Coco & Jo,” “Suzy Snowflake” and a jazzy version of “Frosty the Snowman” on WGN-TV channel 9.
So Many Children’s Shows Are Boomer Cult Classics
The first two movie shorts are among the first stop-action animation ever made. “Frosty the Snowman” was sung in a cappella. All three are now cult classics.
Research led me to the Oak Lawn Patch. Editor Lorraine Swanson wrote an article in 2011 called, The Truth About Hardrock, Coco and Joe. In it she reveals that these three classic shorts also aired on WJAC-TV in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
For anyone who still loves those old classics, it is a “must-read.”
Ms. Swanson not only gives the history but lists little known facts about the film and interviews Rankin-Bass historian and HCJ expert Rick Goldschmidt.
Other research shows that in addition to “Frosty the Snowman,” “Hardrock, Coco & Joe” and “Suzy Snowflake” had their roots in music too.
Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys were the first to record “Frosty the Snowman” in 1950. Autry was in search of another seasonal hit after the success of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Stuart Hamblen, writer of “This Ole House,” “It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)” authored “Hardrock, Coco and Joe – The Three Little Dwarfs.” Gene Autry recorded it as well.
“Suzy Snowflake” was the flip side to “Little Red Riding Hood’s Christmas Tree,” a single record by Rosemary Clooney in 1951.
In 2005 WGN-TV created and produced a TV special: “Bozo, Gar and Ray WGN-TV Classics.” It features many of the Baby Boomer favorites including the beloved Christmas film shorts we all loved to watch. It airs next on December 24 at 10:00 p.m. (CDT).
And now, thanks to WGN-TV we can enjoy them for many years to come.
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Read more of Claire’s work at Feed The Mind, Nourish The Soul in the Communities at The Washington Times, her blog Sustenance For The Mind, and the writing group she belongs to at Greater Fort Worth Writers Group.
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