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This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.

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The Cinnamon Bear
by Lennell Herbert-Marshall, ©2013
(From Radio Recall, December 2013)

One of the most enduring of holiday radio broadcast series is The Cinnamon Bear. This unabashedly juvenile Christmas story was first broadcast in 1937 and was continued annually until at least 1962.

The 26 quarter-hour chapters aired every weekday from Thanksgiving through Christmas each year. Even in this, the 21st century, several niche market stations still air this children's fantasy series.

There are many things that contributed to the success of this particular series. The 15 minute continuing chapters recognized the short attention span of children. A Cinnamon Bear coloring book allowed children to follow the exploits of Judy and Jimmy chapter by chapter. The promise of more-to-come-tomorrow undoubtedly contributed to many spirited and imaginative discussions among playmates and family.

The Cinnamon Bear was written by Glanville Heisch and directed by Lindsay MacHarrie. Music was by Felix Mills and songs were by The Paul Taylor Quartet.

The story was filled with references and situations depicting life familiar to children of that time period. What child did not have a crazy quilt in his or her home or a stuffed bear? Root Beer soda pop and taffy were treats that children dreamed of. And what home did not know the scent of Wintergreen? Every child knew, but dared not touch, their Mother's looking glass or their Father's inkwell and blotter.

The Cinnamon Bear provided a perfect advertising opportunity for local department stores. Their sponsorship ensured them a daily reminder to parents during the Thanksgiving to Christmas gift giving season. Recognizing the ability of children to influence purchasing decisions, several tie in products were offered. In addition to the Cinnamon Bear Coloring Book, a stuffed Paddy O' Cinnamon Bear was available. As with every kids' show of any merit, there was a fan club with the prerequisite club badge.

Not to be confused with other shows aimed at children, The Cinnamon Bear did not air throughout the year. It depicted a specific time of year and a specific holiday. It was a once a year offering. It was truly a Christmas Story.

The series follows the adventures of brother and sister, Jimmy and Judy Barton, as they attempt to locate and retrieve their Silver Star. The story begins when their Mother sends them to the attic for the Christmas decorations. Instead of finding the Silver Star, they find a stuffed bear who tells them that the star has been stolen by a Crazy Quilt Dragon who has taken it to Maybeland. And thus begins the adventure of a lifetime.

With the help of Paddy O' Cinnamon, the Cinnamon Bear, they learn to de-grow so that they can all enter the world of make-believe. They meet ink blotter soldiers, a Wintergreen Witch, a giant, a pirate, cowboys and Indians. Along the way they fly a soda pop powered plane and cross a root beer ocean. At the end of their journey, Santa Claus and his helpers see that they are safely returned to their home with the Silver Star.

The OTR performers (many of whom are familiar to us) who played all these characters included: Hanley Stafford, Elliot Lewis, Verna Felton, Gale Gordon, Joseph Kearns, and Frank Nelson, among several others.

While the 21st Century in many ways differs from the times depicted in The Cinnamon Bear, the need for fantasy and childhood wonder and excitement remains.

Audio copies of the entire series continue to be readily available. A reproduction of the coloring book can still be found. In addition, you can still purchase The Cinnamon Bear Book, along with a stuffed Paddy O' Cinnamon Bear, and even a stuffed Crazy Quilt Dragon.

Those who live in the Portland, Oregon area have the opportunity to take a two hour Cinnamon Bear theme cruise aboard the Portland Spirit. This fun filled adventure begins near Thanksgiving and continues until just after Christmas. More details can be found at www.cinnamonbearcruise.com.

Who among us cannot recall the words and tune of The Cinnamon Bear theme heard in each and every chapter? . . .

"I'm the Cinnamon Bear with the shoe-button eyes. And I'm looking for someone to take by surprise. I go prowling and growling each night after dark. But the folks say my growl's just a cinnamon bark. Though I growl - grr-rah! And I growl - grr-rooh! My victims only say. Oh, who's afraid of you?"

For those of us who still believe in the joy of a Maybeland adventure, I invite you to once again listen to The Cinnamon Bear.