What? No Rudolph?

rudolphWhat? No Rudolph?

My brother, sister and I grew up singing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ in the usual array of Christmas songs every year. I thought Rudolph was part of every child’s Christmas experience.

Not so.

Was I surprised earlier this week when I discovered that Rudolph wasn’t ‘born’ until 1939!

The young girls that created friendship quilt squares on muslin in 1934 for their friend Doris’ Christmas present didn’t know who Rudolph was. If they sat stitching together, they weren’t humming about anyone’s very shiny nose.

Poor things. No cell phones, no internet, no cable television, no indoor toilets … no Rudolph.

In 1939 Robert May, a Montgomery Ward employee, created the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a promotional give away for Montgomery Ward. He tested the story out on his four year old daughter, Barbara.

The corporate store turned the copyright over to May in 1947. May’s brother in law, Johnny Marks, developed the lyrics and melody. After many singers turned down the opportunity to sing this new Christmas melody, Gene Autry agreed to record the song. The song became the second best song behind White Christmas.

In 1964 the popular Christmas special was produced. I probably didn’t see the program that year. I turned six that year and I’m sure I looked forward to Christmas. But I doubt we had a television set then. My mother probably didn’t trust me with a needle and thread yet, so I didn’t sit stitching a quilt square that December. (But, at least we had indoor toilets by then.) I think I had an easier childhood than Doris, Betty Balch, Evelyn & Maxine Bownes, Darlene & Leona Booher and the others. And fifty years later, I still sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer every Christmas season!


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