Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Music of Christmas - Part Two

This is me, Christmas, 1962. I was 13 months old and this is my first ever picture with Santa Claus. That Santa, though. Not the jolly old elf you often see depicted in ads from that time. As young as I was you can see the look of hesitation on my face. It reminds me a little of the expression on Macaulay Culkin's face when he splashed the aftershave on his face, right before he . . . . SCREAMED! :)

This was taken at Cox's Department Store in downtown Fort Worth, Texas.  My first three pictures with Santa were taken there, afterwards at Montgomery Wards after a new mall was built closer to our home. I actually still remember the elaborate set up that Cox's set up, and this was back in the day when most department stores throughout the country decorated their store windows with holiday displays, much like the one below. Awww Christmas in the 50's and 60's, perhaps I'm showing my age here, but at least in my lifetime, there was never a more magical time to a kid. Some of the holidays songs, movies and television specials came out of that era that we fondly enjoy to this day
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer made his television debut in 1964, A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 1966. I also loved the holiday specials hosted by Bing Crosby and Andy Williams, there were Christmas staples in our home for many years.. Though they were released before I was born my favorite Christmas movies are all from the 40's and 50's, Christmas in Connecticut (1945), It's A Wonderful Life (1947), and a little known gem released that same year, It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947), and finally White Christmas (1954).

Part of what made these tv specials and movies so enchanting was the music, and that was certainly true of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sung by Gene Autry. Though the song and album was released 15 years before Rankin Bass immortalized the story in 1964. But it was because of this holiday special and my fondness for the song that I was introduced to Gene Autry. My dad bought me the album one year for Christmas and it quickly became my all time favorite. That album was played so many times during the holidays that I eventually had to staple the cover back together. And while I loved Rudolph, there were a few other songs on this album that quickly became my favorites, including Here Comes Santa Claus, Up On The Housetop and Santa Claus is Coming To Town. From then on and perhaps to this day Gene Autry was the voice of Christmas, or at least, the Christmases of my childhood.

Last week I mentioned my dad's love of Christmas and for turning out all the lights, lighting up the tree and listening to Christmas music. Typically we would listen to one album all the way through and more often than not my dad let me or my brother choose, and this album was one we both chose often. I still own the well worn gem with the stapled cover, though these days I listen to almost all of my music on Spotify. But in honor of Gene and the fond memories of those cozy nights by the tree, here is my all time favorite Christmas song from my childhood, Up On The House Top by Gene Autry. What was your favorite Christmas song when you were little?

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