Looking Back - Dec. 2, 2012

History column

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

Here is a look back at Christmas through the alphabet. This week will be Christmas A - F.

‘A Christmas Carol’

• Charles Dickens first published “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” in 1843.

• It was Dickens himself that called this writing “the little carol”, referring to the chapters as staves.

• Dickens was concerned about the poor people of England, having been one, and wrote pamphlets and gave talks on the subject.

• The carol has been adapted to radio, film, television and stage. The most critically acclaimed film version remains the 1951 British “Scrooge” with Alistair Sim.


• To adore is to worship, to give divine honor.

• In the Christmas carol “O Come All Ye Faithful”, one line urges the singer and listener by saying “O come let us adore Him”, referring to the Christ child.

• “O Come All Ye Faithful” was believed to have been the favorite Christmas song of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

‘Babes in Toyland’

• Based on Victor Herbert’s 1903 operetta, “Babes in Toyland” is a 1934 black-and-white film starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

• Actors in the comedy incurred several injuries during the filming, including actor Kewpie Morgan, who played Old King Cole. The role called for continuos laughing and Morgan ruptured several muscles in his stomach.

• In 1961, the film was remade by Disney and starred Annette Funicello (an original Mouseketeer), Tommy Sands (a pop singer best remembered for marrying Nancy Sinatra), Ray Bolger (the scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz”) and Ed Wynn.

• This was the first live-action musical that Disney Studios produced. It was as heavily promoted as the studio’s other big films, but was a failure at the box office. It was one of the few Disney films never given a second run in the neighborhood theaters.

Chrismon Tree

• The word “Christmon” comes from the Latin ‘Christi Monogramma’, meaning monogram of Christ.

• The origination and development of the Chrismon tree is attributed to Frances Kipps Spencer (1917-1990).

• In the late 1950s, Spencer wanted to find a way to decorate the church Christmas tree that would be more appropriate for the sanctuary. She came up with the idea of ornaments to represent the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus.

• Chrismon ornaments are traditionally white decorated in gold. Examples for the Chrismon tree, often crocheted or made from fabric or wood, are angels, crosses, doves, stars and crowns.

• As the idea of the Chrismons spread and how-to requests increased, Spencer wrote and illustrated five books about decorating the Chrismon tree.

Department Store Santas

• It is believed that Santa Claus made his first not-on Christmas Eve visit to a dry goods store, J.W. Parkinson’s in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1841.

• In 1870, Macy’s in New York’s Herald Square, lured shoppers with illuminated window displays that have become a much-anticipated annual tradition. It was the same year that Macy’s hired their first Santa Claus, who listened to children’s Christmas wishes (then told their parents where to find the toys in the store).

• In 1937, Charles W. Howard, who played Santa Claus in department stores and parades, established the Charles W. Howard Santa School, the oldest continuously-run such school in the world. The school celebrates its 75th anniversary this year in Midland, Michigan. New student registration is $415.


• Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. In ancient times, people hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

• Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if trees was scarce.

• Some of most popular evergreens used as a Christmas trees include pines, spruces, cypresses, cedars and firs.

• The fir tree is mentioned several times in the Bible and was used for making musical instruments, in temple construction and for ship building.

‘Frosty the Snowman’

• Recorded in 1950 by Gene Autry and the Cass Country Boys, “Frosty the Snow Man” (original title) was written by Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson. “When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter” was on the “B” side of the record.

• Also in 1950, Little Golden Books published “Frosty the Snow Man”, adapted by Annie North Bedford and illustrated by Corinne Malvern.

• United Productions of America (UPA) released the first film version of the song in 1954 as a three-minute black and white animated short.

• In 1969, the Rankin-Bass company, in association with Mushi Production of Japan, produced a thirty-minute (actually 22 minutes) animated television special of “Frosty the Snowman” that featured the voices of comedians Jimmy Durante as narrator and Jackie Vernon as the title character.


• The fruitcake dates back as far as Roman times. During the Middle Ages, crusaders reportedly carried this type of cake to sustain themselves during long periods of time away from home.

• In the early 18th century, fruitcakes (also called plum cakes) were outlawed throughout most of Europe. They were considered sinfully rich.

• It was in 1935 that the American slang phrase was born and used in movies and in homes across the country: “Nutty as a fruitcake.”

• In the United States, the fruit cake has become a ridiculed dessert. Some blame the beginning of this trend with “The Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson. In December 1985, Carson joked that “The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”


blacksheep 2 years, 10 months ago

This, like much of your stuff, is just cutting and pasting. Maybe you could actually do some research on the area's history and let us know about what you find? It would make your column about a hundred times more interesting. Thanks.


stc1993 2 years, 9 months ago

I happen to like fruitcake, especially GA's own Claxton's.


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