13 12, 2021

Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’s Backstory

By |2021-12-11T21:22:07-06:00December 13th, 2021|Holidays|2 Comments

This time of year we hear the song “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” a lot. The story behind the song is fascinating.

In 1938 Bob May, a 34-year-old ad writer for Montgomery Ward in Chicago was exhausted and nearly broke. His holiday season held no comfort or joy. His wife bedridden, losing her two-year battle with cancer. His four-year-old daughter Barbara feeling left out, different.

Bob understood. He’d been a small, sickly boy, constantly picked on and called names. He wanted to show Barbara that being different was nothing to be ashamed of and created a bedtime tale about a reindeer with a bright red nose who found a special place on Santa’s team.

Barbara loved the story so much that she made him tell it every night. Because he couldn’t afford to buy her a gift for Christmas, Bob turned the story into a homemade picture book.

Bob’s wife died in early December. A few days before Christmas, he attended a Montgomery Ward company party where co-workers encouraged him to share the story he’d written. There was a standing ovation when he finished. Everyone wanted copies of their own.

Montgomery Ward bought the rights to the book from their debt-ridden employee. Over the next six years, at Christmas, the store gave away six million copies of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to shoppers. Every major publishing house made offers to obtain the book. In an incredible display of goodwill, the department store returned all rights to Bob.

Four years later, Bob May’s bedtime Rudolph story made him a millionaire. He remarried, had a growing family, and felt blessed by his good fortune. But there was more good fortune to come.

Songwriter Johnny Marks married Robert May’s sister. Marks set the uplifting story to music. Several popular recording artists including Bing Crosby all passed. Finally, Marks approached Gene Autry. Like the others, Autry wasn’t impressed with the song about the misfit reindeer. Johnny Marks begged him to give it a second listen.

Autry played it for his wife, Ina. The line “They wouldn’t let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games” touched her so she insisted her husband record the tune. Within a few years, the song became the second best-selling Christmas song after “White Christmas.”

As the years passed, the story’s popularity never waned. On Dec. 6, 1964, NBC broadcast the first Rudolph TV special and it has been broadcast every year since making it the longest-running Christmas TV special in history.

Rudolph lives through TV specials, cartoons, movies, toys, games, coloring books, plush toys, greeting cards, and even a Ringling Bros. circus act. The story symbolizes Christmas as much as Santa Claus, evergreen trees, and presents.

And, the backstory is wonderful. However, …

a fact check with Snoops says the often-quoted story is only partly true. Bob May authored the story for Montgomery Ward as part of this job as a copywriter in the PR department and “tested” it on his daughter. After Montgomery Ward had given away copies for 6 years, they looked for something new for their Christmas giveaways. That’s when May asked for his rights back and they gave it to him.

The success part of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” on the other hand, is completely true.

Enjoy Gene Autry singing his version with a 1953 Ed Sullivan Show audience.

6 12, 2021

Celebrating Christmas Texas Style

By |2021-12-03T09:12:31-06:00December 6th, 2021|A Writer's Life, Holidays|0 Comments

Christmas on the Texas Gulf Coast is a little different. No snow, no cold, and a few other traditions unique to the Lone Star State.

There’s our version of the classic Night Before Christmas to read. The Night Before Christmas in Texas, That Is by Leon A. Harris,  This tale has a definite Texas spin with buckboards and bunks. It has entertained Texas audiences for more than forty years.

From the inside cover flap:

A Western Santa Claus-decked out in Levis, a ten-gallon Stetson, a cowboy vest, and with a bandana around his neck-makes his Christmas journey on a buckboard piled high with presents.  Swooping in over the prairie to the amazement of sleepy residents and jackrabbits alike, a plump, jovial Santa parks his buckboard outside a peaceful ranch house. From boot-stuffing gifts to the faithful “hosses” pulling his “sleigh,” this is a Christmas tale rich in Texas tradition.

A must-read every holiday if you live in my house.

Gene Autry recorded the poem for Columbia Records in the 1940s or 50s. My copy of the original 78 release is still around somewhere. Take a listen to a later release:

Other Lone Star Christmas traditions are not strictly Texan, but unique to customs of the southern states.

Hanging a pickle on the Christmas tree

Lining our sidewalk with Luminaries

Eating tamales on Christmas Eve

But it’s definitely not Christmas in Texas unless we sing “Merry TEXAS Christmas, You All.”

Gene Autry recorded the song on the flip side of “Night Before Christmas” Click on the link to hear him singing:  https://youtu.be/onGs1BaA7co

4 12, 2017

Home for a Texas Christmas

By |2017-12-03T14:42:46-06:00December 4th, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

The snow and cold in Colorado we enjoyed so much during Christmas will be missing this year. We’re back in Texas for our most favorite holiday.

Our oldest granddaughter, Catherine, is ecstatic that we’ve returned home to our roots. Her fondest memories are Christmas Eve at Nana and Pepa’s house. And, at her special request, we’ll restart the family traditions this year.

One of those Texas Christmas traditions is reading The Night Before Christmas in Texas, That Is by Leon A. Harris, a children’s picture book that has entertained readers for more than forty years.

You’d recognize the familiar “Night Before Christmas” poem with a definite Texas spin. Santa’s all decked out in Levis, a ten-gallon Stetson, a cowboy vest, and a bandana around his neck. His faithful “hosses” pull his buckboard “sleigh” piled high with gifts and boot stocking stuffers.

As a child I spent hours listening to Gene Autry read the poem. That original 78 record is floating around in storage some place. We’ll have this YouTube version playing as we decorate.

Come Christmas Eve, we’ll munch on baked ham sandwiches on pumpernickel rye bread, homemade mustard potato salad, and cutout Christmas cookies. I’ll be the only one eating fruitcake, which is so sad but no one else in the family likes it.

There might be a plate of tamales too. It wouldn’t be Christmas without tamales, a true Texas tradition. Read all about it here.

In true homage to our German roots, some lucky child might find a pickle ornament hidden on the Christmas tree and gain good luck for the New Year. Learn about the Weihnachtsgurke legend here.

And before our holiday time together ends, you’re sure to hear.

Yes, Catherine, we are as excited as you are that we’re back home with all the wonderful, unique Christmas traditions of the Lone Star State.

See you on Christmas.

19 12, 2013

Christmas in Texas

By |2021-12-03T06:44:12-06:00December 19th, 2013|Holidays, one word Wednesday|0 Comments

Celebrating Christmas in Texas is different. No snow, no cold, and a few other traditions unique to the Lone Star State.

We’re excited to be where we have both snow and cold this year, but memories of our Texas Christmases linger.

A Christmas classic story to read was The Night Before Christmas in Texas, That Is by Leon A. Harris,  Based on the well-known “Night Before Christmas,” this tale with a definite Texas spin has entertained audiences for more than forty years.

From the inside cover flap: A Western Santa Claus-decked out in Levis, a ten-gallon Stetson, a cowboy vest, and with a bandana around his neck-makes his Christmas journey on a buckboard piled high with presents.  Swooping in over the prairie to the amazement of sleepy residents and jackrabbits alike, a plump, jovial Santa parks his buckboard outside a peaceful ranch house. From boot-stuffing gifts to the faithful “hosses” pulling his “sleigh,” this is a Christmas tale rich in Texas tradition.

Gene Autry recordGene Autry recorded the poem for Columbia Records in the 1940s or 50s. I have a copy of the original 78 record.

Take a listen to a later release:

These are some other Texas Christmas traditions we’ve brought to Colorado with us:

Hanging a pickle on the Christmas tree

Lining our sidewalk with Luminaries

Eating tamales on Christmas Eve

Christmas is next week. I’ll be taking a break to enjoy my family and friends.

Before I go, though…

You can take the gal out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the gal.

While I’ll be celebrating Christ’s birth in the snowy woods of SW Colorado this year, I’ll be singing…

And that’s my wish for all of you — MERRY CHRISTMAS, Y’ALL! See you next year.

Go to Top