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