Writer’s Workshop: A Christmas Memory

I had a few false starts with this one. I was going to write about my favorite quote, but it led me down a rabbit hole and I ended up writing about politics. As I explained way back when I started this blog, I don’t like to write about politics, because I get angry and end up shaking my fist at the computer like John Cleese.

Instead, I chose this one.

Write a blog post inspired by the word: snowflake

I realize I’ve shared these videos before. They’re in the archives somewhere, I know. I’m just not in a mood to go digging them out. Anyway…

A harbinger of Christmas when I was growing up in Chicago was when WGN-TV pulled three Christmas animated shorts out of their vault and cycled through them on the Garfield Goose and Friends show until Christmas day.

The cast of “Garfield Goose and Friends”: Romberg Rabbit, Beauregard Burnside III, Garfield Goose, Mackintosh Mouse, Frazier Thomas, and Christmas Goose. (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

Two of these films were done with stop-motion animation, which Wikipedia tells me was done by Wah Ming Chang for Centaur Productions. One of them is “Suzy Snowflake,” which had been a Christmas hit for Rosemary Clooney in 1951. Not sure who sings this one, but the film was made in 1953.

The other stop-motion film is “Hardrock, Coco, and Joe – The Three Little Dwarfs,” also made in 1953. Gene Autry also recorded the song.

The third film is a cartoon version of “Frosty The Snowman,” produced by UPA, who also gave us Mr. Magoo, Dick Tracy, and Gerald McBoing-Boing. It was made in 1954, and features a rather swingin’ quartet singing it accompanied only by sleigh bells.

These shorts took on a new meaning for me, and probably my brothers, during the Christmas season of 1966. Dad went into the hospital the Sunday after Thanksgiving. He was in terrible pain, and we had no idea why. Mom spent every day at the hospital with him, so one of Mom’s sisters would come to the house and watch us until she came home, usually around bedtime. We’d come home and watch the kids’ shows on WGN until dinnertime, have dinner, do our homework, and get ready for bed. Some nights we were in bed before Mom got home. The one constant for me was these three short films: first “Hardrock,” then “Suzy,” then “Frosty.” Or maybe Suzy-Hardrock-Frosty, I’m not sure.

Christmas was on a Sunday that year, and the nuns kept us in school until the Thursday before. Shortly after lunch that day, Reverend Mother came over the intercom. “Mother Edwin Mary? Please send John Holton to the office with his coat and his books.” When I got to the office, my grandfather Hicks was there, and when Jim and Kip came, Hicks took us to the hospital to see Dad.

We only visited with Dad for a couple of minutes. He looked tired and sallow when they wheeled him into the lobby in a wheelchair, but was doing his best to put on a happy face. I think we followed him back to his room, and when he got into bed, we kissed him goodbye, not knowing it would be the last time.

Hicks took us to his house in Wilmette afterward, and we watched our shows while we waited for dinner. “Suzy Snowflake” was on Garfield Goose. That’s what WGN did during the Christmas season. I think we all knew, as we sat there, that things were about to change. But for now, Garfield Goose was on, and they were playing “Suzy Snowflake,” because they played “Hardrock, Coco, and Joe” yesterday, and would play “Frosty the Snowman” tomorrow. It was something to hold on to.

19 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: A Christmas Memory

  1. Hi John,
    We all remember that time so well. What a terrible thing for you boys to go through. The part about Grampa Hicks I never knew. I remember Cas bringing all of you to our house the day your dad died and the terrible storm. We walked to the funeral home every night because it was impossible to drive. I was 7 months pregnant with Dan. Did you know his middle name is William? We loved your dad!


    1. Funny, I don’t remember coming over the day he died. I do remember Cas took us to see him the first time, then we went to see the lights and decorations downtown before coming to dinner. I do remember the mess, though.

      I remember the day Dan was born. It was Good Friday, so we were off from school, and it was the day before my 11th birthday. I was on the back porch when Mom got the call.


  2. I never knew this part of the story. I never realized Hicks took you to the hospital. See, your memory continues to give us a better picture.


    1. At the time, it surprised me. I don’t think Mom told us what was going to happen. I think the decision to operate on Dad was made earlier that day, and it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to have us come and visit. I think I was freaked out seeing Hicks there; we NEVER saw Hicks around that time XD.


    1. Some things you never forget. I remember the day after he died, after it had been snowing, you and I walked to Bornhofen’s to pick up whatever food they still had available.


    1. Thanks. There’s a longer version I’ve worked on about the whole time Dad was in the hospital. The biggest snowstorm in Chicago history started the day he died.


  3. What a poignant memory! I would definitely see why these three shorts would stick in your memory so. (Although I grew up around Chicago and watched WGN around same era, I don’t remember Suzy Snowflake.)


    1. They played on “Garfield Goose” in the late afternoons, and did as long as I can remember. I have a mind for things like that to begin with, and definitely the circumstances help me to remember.


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