IT'S THE CINNAMON BEAR!
By Melanie Aultman © 2008
(From Radio Recall, December 2008)
During this holiday season, I’d like to remember #1 Cinna-fan Dennis Crow, who first brought this lovely drama to my attention. As a relative newcomer to the OTR hobby in 2005, I took Dennis up on his generous offer, posted on the OTR Digest, to send me a copy of the songs from The Cinnamon Bear series, as well as a map of Maybeland. Though available now on the Internet, and perhaps even at that time, Dennis gladly shared his materials with all comers at no charge.
In the beginning, part of the appeal of this series was its brevity. I was looking for series for which most or all episodes were available and for which it was possible to appreciate in its entirety. Dennis’ relentless enthusiasm and persistent nudging (in a good way) made it impossible to resist giving The Cinnamon Bear a listen. I’m so glad I did.
Author Glanville T. Heisch’s background as a radio production manager came in handy when, in 1937, he and his wife Elisabeth penned this series in six weeks as a response to a request for a children’s syndicated promotional show to run at Christmas time. Based on a toy of his youth and a poem written for his first child, The Cinnamon Bear was produced by the Transcription Company of America (TRANSCO) in only a week, and the Heish’s received $25 per episode. Some cast members went on to star in well-known OTR series, including Hanley Stafford, Gale Gordon, Howard McNear, Elliott Lewis, Verna Felton, and Frank Nelson, among others.
Some perhaps little-known facts: actor Buddy Duncan (Paddy O’ Cinnamon) was a little person and Barbara Jean Wong, an actress of Asian descent, played Judy. The name of the actor who played Jimmy is still a mystery which will hopefully be solved one day.
Principally in the Oregon and Chicago areas, this story has been kept alive through the years as various radio stations play the 26 episode 15-minute cliff-hanger show. Costumed Paddys have graced parades, schools and hospitals, and been seen at department store and mall events. Wieboldt’s Department Store in Chicago and Frederick & Nelson Department Store (formerly Lipman, Wolfe & Co.) in Portland, OR were often sponsors. A Cinnamon Bear Breakfast Show was held by Frederick & Nelson for at least 23 years! For a short time there was even a TV program featuring puppets with the original radio transcriptions as background.
Nowadays, one can listen to the entire series on computer. Episode synopses, map of Maybeland and song lyrics along with music are available as well. OTR dealers offer cassette, CD and mp3 formats for sale.
In 1987, newspaperman Don Jensen began editing the yearly “Bear Facts,” a newsletter of the “Cinnamon Bear Brigade”, loyal fans all. It featured a background history of the series, with recent happenings, unabashed praise as well as remembrances of the show and information on how to access copies of it. Carolyn Kolibaba took over editorial duties in l989 until the last issue in 1990. The year 1987 also saw the publication of The Cinnamon Bear Book by Chuck Schaden along with Brian Johnson (Hall Closet Publications, Morton Grove, IL). Kathryn Bishop, agent for the Heisch family, published The Cinnamon Bear: The Missing Star with Zack Press in Los Angeles in 1991. In 2007,The Cinnamon Bear: In the Adventure of the Silver Star, was released by Beautiful American Publishing Co, Woodburn, OR, authored by Rick Lewis, Veronica Marzilli and Jerrel McQueen. It can be ordered through the Portland Spirit website <www.portlandspirit.com>
Portland Spirit still offers two-hour Cinnamon Bear Cruises, and, as of this Fall, their gift shop lists six related items for purchase: the book, Cinnamon Bear and Crazy Quilt Dragon dolls, a silver star ornament, a five CD set of all 26 episodes of the original old-time radio show, and a premium package which includes all five items.
The book’s availability does help increase the likelihood of extending the longevity of this holiday tale. But the recorded version, full of background music, sound effects, and charming characters that have been omitted in the written form would be a shame to miss.
In the spirit of the holiday, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and say that I have bullied some one (er, had them agree to) make this seasonal experience their Christmas present to me. Most cost effective during these troubled times, no? I am also pledging to purchase a copy of the 2007 children’s book for placement in our local public library. Those with internet access can discover or get reacquainted with this tradition online. Patronizing our OTR dealers is always a good idea.
If the bear is just not your thing, Dennis Crow’s Johnny Appleseedesque lead can still be followed by promoting your favorite program(s) to current as well as new OTR fans. You may preach to the occasional choir, but hey, at least you’d be in concert!
And finally, Dennis, for your boundless appreciation of and enthusiasm for The Cinnamon Bear, and for leading by example, we are “much obliged to you!”
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Cinnamon Bear Quiz (answers at the bottom of this page)
1. What is the assumed ethnicity of the Cinnamon Bear?
2. What color is the ribbon around his neck?
3. What must the Cinnamon Bear have in order to be ferocious?
4. Who cannot resist the shiny silver star?
5. Who says, “Gee Willikers!”?
6. What is the ocean in Maybeland made out of?
7. What is the pirates’ treasure?
8. How many wishes does the group have from the wishing well?
9. What should you never say to a crazy quilt dragon?
10. Who is the ruler of Maybeland?
Extra Queries for Experts:
a) What do Presto the Magician and Snapper Snitch the Crooning Crocodile have in common?
b) What caused the bad dolls to be bad?
c) What was the final fate of the Wintergreen Witch?
d) Why did the Cinnamon Bear agree to help Jimmy and Judy go after the Crazy Quilt Dragon?
CINNAMON BEAR QUIZ:
l) Irish 2) green 3) honey and cinnamon buns 4) Crazy Quilt Dragon 5) Jimmy 6) root beer
7) candy 8) one 9) BOO! 10) Queen Melissa
ANSWERS FOR EXPERTS: a) They both take correspondence courses. b) bad batch of sawdust stuffing c) She was made into a wreath
d) Because they pretended to be afraid of him when he growled.