Each year, around Thanksgiving, I highlight what has become a 73 year-old radio tradition – the 26-episode children's Christmas program called The Cinnamon Bear.
You can read the full Cinnamon Bear blog here.
But in brief, Its 26 15-minute episodes (with commercials) were designed to be aired six nights a week from November 29th to the grand finale on Christmas Eve.
Geared for the 3 to 8 year old crowd (not that adults couldn't enjoy it!), the plot involves the adventures of Judy and Jimmy Barton as they go to the enchanted world of Maybeland in search of their missing silver star that belonged on the top of their Christmas Tree.
Along the way they meet the Cinnamon Bear, a miniature stuffed bear with shoe-button eyes who would serve as their guide, and other characters like the Wintergreen Witch and Fe Fo the Giant.
The cast of Cinnamon Bear reads like practically a Who’s Who of OTR actors, including:
- Joseph Kearns (as the Crazyquilt Dragon) is best remembered for his role as Mr. Wilson in the TV series Dennis The Menace.
- Howard McNear (as the Cowboy, and Sammy the Seal) created the role of Doc Adams on radio's Gunsmoke, but the baby boomer generation knows him as Floyd the barber on the Andy Griffith Show.
- Gale Gordon (Weary Willie the Stork and Oliver Ostrich) was an accomplished radio actor as well, but is best known for playing Theodore J. Mooney on The Lucy Show.
- Frank Nelson (Captain Tintop) was Jack Benny's long time foil, appearing as a variety of rude salesclerks. His signature lines "Ye-e-e-e-s?" and "Oo-oo-oo-ooh, DO they!" are imitated to this day on shows like The Simpsons.
The shows are available for free download from a variety of sites, including:
and are rebroadcast each year by a great many radio stations around the world.
This year, we’ve another children's Christmas series which was launched a year after the Cinnamon Bear, in 1938.
While not as famous (or well regarded, for that matter) as the Cinnamon Bear, youngsters who have already enjoyed the bear might appreciate a different Christmas adventure this year.
Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on The Moon is also told in 26 12-minute adventures that were broadcast by stations in direct competition with the Cinnamon Bear show.
Unlike CB, I’ve been unable to find any reliable cast and production details for Jonathon Thomas. Perhaps by next year . . .
The Internet Archive has the entire Jonathon Thomas series available either as a single zip’ed file, or as individual episodes.
Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on the Moon (Full series)
In any event, either of these Christmas shows are sure to please the imaginative youngster, and are an ideal introduction for kids to the wonderful world of Old Time Radio.