Old Time Radio, that is. I have been absent for some time here for good reason. I have been transcribing my Cinnamon Bear!
Yes, I have been typing word for word the script to my beloved Cinnamon Bear, so we can have a super fun series at the end of November. From November 26th to December 24th, we will be listening to this really special Christmas classic that needs more widespread attention. It is a 26 episode children’s serial about twins Judy and Jimmy Barton and the quest for their silver star that belongs at the tip-top of their Christmas tree. They meet Paddy O’Cinnamon, a little cinnamon bear only four inches high, who takes them to Maybeland in search of their silver star that was stolen right out of their attic by the Crazy Quilt Dragon. They simply must get their silver star back in time for Christmas, because if they don’t…. Well, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas, that’s all. I don’t want to give too much away at first, because it’s really something wonderful that you need to experience for yourselves. I hope you will join me.
I have discovered that I really, really love doing this transcribing thing. It is lots of work, but I didn’t get bored of it at all! Each eleven to twelve minute episode took about an hour or two depending on how wordy each character happened to be. Now that I am finished transcribing The Cinnamon Bear, I’m going to have to start with another. If you have any suggestions, they are welcome. Serials will be the most interesting to me, because most of what I have listened to are the 30 minute episodes of more well known old time radio productions, and I am interested in branching out to littler (is that a word?) known shows.
The Cinnamon Bear was first aired in Portland, Oregon, starting in 1937, and can be heard every year at Christmas time to this day. There is even a Cinnamon Bear Cruise, as well, aboard the Portland Spirit! Exciting, right? I think it is so wonderful that they keep the Cinnamon Bear’s memory alive with this fun little activity. Oh, how this child at heart wishes she could go and attend this 2 hour cruise and meet the Cinnamon Bear characters! I promise, I don’t work there. I live clear across the country, almost as far as you can get from it!
Even nearly 80 years later, this timeless classic still holds up. It has adventure and heartwarming characters, and 11 cute little songs. The Cinnamon Bear was created by Elisabeth and Glanville Heisch, and was meant especially to be listened to six days a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, ending on Christmas Eve. It was originally promoted by a now defunct department store in Portland, Oregon called Lipman-Wolfe. The original flagship store has been placed on the Register of Historic Places. Lipman-Wolfe would have a Cinnamon Bear instead of a Santa Claus, and children would tell him what they wanted for Christmas.
The actors who voiced the characters in The Cinnamon Bear featured many famous radio performers, one being Verna Felton as Judy and Jimmy’s mother. This name is a particular favorite of mine, because she voiced Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and Flora the fairy from Sleeping Beauty. She was already a veteran of radio, and my very favorite performance of hers is of Junior’s mother in the Red Skelton Show. The first time I heard The Cinnamon Bear years ago, I recognized her voice immediately.
Aside from The Cinnamon Bear being a charming, heartwarming, fun and interesting radio serial, it is very well acted. I feel like Judy and Jimmy Barton really exist, and that I can truly submerse myself into the action. One feels that they are going through the adventures with Judy and Jimmy and the Cinnamon Bear. We are in it for the long haul with our new friends, and by the end, we are inseparable. We love them just as well as if they were real truly live family members.
The Cinnamon Bear is not without its mystery. What we do know is that Judy (my favorite character, I might add) was voiced by Barbara Jean Wong, a thirteen year old fourth generation Chinese-American. It seems that The Cinnamon Bear was one of, if not her first gig in radio. Her expressive voice made me love her, and I feel like her delivery in The Cinnamon Bear is very similar to Judy Garland’s character Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, that hit theaters only two years later. (Oh, and I just realized at this very moment, by pure coincidence, of course, Judy Barton… Judy Garland… Judy/Judy!)
What we aren’t sure about is who voiced Jimmy. There are speculations, and there are people who think they are sure, but there is no documentation as to the actor’s name who voiced Jimmy Barton that was have discovered as of yet. Originally, the names of the three main voice actors were not released, because they “always want these three swell people to remain in the minds of those who listen to them just as Judy and Jimmy and their little friend the Cinnamon Bear.” This is what was said in the promotional record that was sent out to radio stations. That is why they didn’t publicize the names of those who played the parts. I think it is sweet that they wanted to do that, but it didn’t do any favors for the future listeners and fans of old time radio who want to give credit, even posthumous credit, to the actors in this magical radio show. Jimmy is the only voice actor that is not known for sure. Most old time radio experts believe that Walter Tetley, who became a notable voice actor himself, is the voice of Jimmy. For example, he voiced Sherman from the cartoon Peabody and Sherman, as well as many other voices in radio. I am still not sure. I can justify it, and can see why people think this, but I’m not one hundred percent convinced.
The aforementioned promotional record is available to download, but I strongly suggest that you do not listen to it until after you have listened to the full series of The Cinnamon Bear for the first time. The first side of the record has some very interesting background about the show, but the second side has a promo with Judy, Jimmy, and the Cinnamon Bear, and, although it is cute and interesting to hear them talk outside of Maybeland, it gives away way too much of the plot and spoils a lot of the adventures for the listener. If you are interested in listening, only listen till about halfway through. I am warning you: Listen at your own risk with this promo record. It was not meant for a regular listening audience.
More information about the Cinnamon Bear will follow as the time comes to start listening to this beloved radio serial. I’m very excited about this! I hope you are too!
Edit, November 2021:
Since this article was written, a lot has been discovered about the cast of The Cinnamon Bear. Karl Schadow, radio historian, has revealed his research from The Library of Congress. A 32 character cast list has been revealed, shedding some light on new cast names, turning the world of The Cinnamon Bear upside down. Much information on actors that were previously believed to do various characters has been corrected, and, finally, at long last, we know who played Jimmy Barton’s character. It was Bobby La Manche, a TRANSCO stock member at the time.