Hear The Cinnamon Bear, the Classic Holiday Radio Series That Has Aired Between Thanksgiving and Christmas for 80 Years

Eighty years ago, just after Thanks­giv­ing, chil­dren across Amer­i­ca turned on their radios and heard a cou­ple of voic­es very much like their own: those of Judy and Jim­my Bar­ton, a sis­ter and broth­er eager­ly com­pos­ing their wish lists to send off to San­ta Claus. Judy asks for a veloci­pede, seem­ing­ly a hot item in 1937 but not even a rec­og­niz­able word to most of the chil­dren who’ve lis­tened to the broad­cast in hol­i­day sea­sons since. Despite the occa­sion­al such archaism, The Cin­na­mon Bear, the series in which Judy and Jim­my star, con­tin­ues to enchant not just gen­er­a­tion after gen­er­a­tion of kids, but also those grown-ups among us who savor the oppor­tu­ni­ties this time of year affords to more ful­ly appre­ci­ate time­less child­hood plea­sures.

The Cin­na­mon Bear fol­lows the adven­tures of Judy and Jim­my as they search for the lost sil­ver star that tops their Christ­mas tree. They first check the attic, there encoun­ter­ing the title ani­mal: Pad­dy O’Cin­na­mon, an Irish-accent­ed ted­dy bear with a ten­den­cy to great­ly over­es­ti­mate his own fear­some­ness but an inde­fati­ga­ble spir­it of ser­vice as well. He even helps the Bar­ton chil­dren “de-grow” to minia­ture size in order to take the hunt to his home of May­be­land, a hid­den fan­ta­sy realm inhab­it­ed by such eccentrics, harm­less and oth­er­wise, as the Crazy Quilt Drag­on, the Roly-Poly Police­man, the Win­ter­green Witch, Oliv­er Ostrich (pre­pared with a musi­cal num­ber about his love of scram­bled alarm clocks and bacon), a fly­ing hat, and even San­ta Claus him­self.

But Pad­dy O’Cin­na­mon and the kids don’t meet jol­ly old Saint Nick until the prop­er time: Christ­mas day, on which the orig­i­nal broad­cast of The Cin­na­mon Bear con­clud­ed. The first fif­teen-minute episode aired on Novem­ber 26, 1937, with the sto­ry con­tin­u­ing six days a week until the big hol­i­day. Pro­duced in Hol­ly­wood by radio syn­di­ca­tor Transco and writ­ten, songs and all, by the hus­band-wife team of Glanville and Eliz­a­beth Heisch, it ini­tial­ly found local spon­sor­ship across the coun­try from depart­ment stores, some of whom paid for many years of repeat broad­casts and even put up Cin­na­mon Bear-themed dis­plays and events along with their San­ta Claus­es. (The now long-defunct Lip­man’s of Port­land, Ore­gon got into it in a big way, estab­lish­ing the show as some­thing of a tra­di­tion in the city, where Cin­na­mon Bear Christ­mas riv­er cruis­es run to this day.)

With Christ­mas over, the chil­dren of 1937 had no choice but to wait almost an entire year before they could hear The Cin­na­mon Bear again. Grow­ing up myself about half a cen­tu­ry lat­er, I had the show as a box set of cas­sette tapes to which I binged-lis­tened on a few dif­fer­ent hol­i­day sea­sons. But now, with seem­ing­ly the entire gold­en age of radio freely avail­able on the inter­net, kids and any­one else besides can lis­ten how­ev­er and when­ev­er they like. You’ll find all 26 episodes of The Cin­na­mon Bear on the Inter­net Archive, as a Youtube playlist, and even as a pod­cast on iTunes. (You can stream them all above.) This year, on the 80th anniver­sary of the orig­i­nal broad­cast, why not “air” it for you and yours as those first lis­ten­ers heard it, once an evening except Sat­ur­days, until Decem­ber 25th? Though each episode may be in doubt as to whether Judy and Jim­my will ever recov­er the sil­ver star, it’s no spoil­er to say that, with the assis­tance of Pad­dy O’Cinnamon, they do find their way to a mem­o­rable Christ­mas indeed.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Christ­mas Car­ol, A Vin­tage Radio Broad­cast by Orson Welles and Lionel Bar­ry­more (1939)

Hear “Twas The Night Before Christ­mas” Read by Stephen Fry & John Cleese

Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christ­mas” Read by Date­line’s Kei­th Mor­ri­son

Wal­ter Benjamin’s Radio Plays for Kids (1929–1932)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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