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Christmas 1961 television brings memories of much simpler era

December 16th, 2013 10:13 am by Bob Cox

Christmas 1961 television brings memories of much simpler era

A collage of Johnson City Press-Chronicle Christmas advertisements from the late 1950s

Today’s column is a nostalgic TV Guide excursion back to a simpler Christmas in 1961:
“Westinghouse Presents” — Carol Lawrence and Robert Goulet star in “The Enchanted Nutcracker,” about a little girl who receives a wooden soldier for Christmas. After she places it under her pillow overnight, it comes to life in the morning and takes her on a guided tour of the magic Kingdom of Sweets. This show received top billing that year.
“The Lawrence Welk Show” — The bubbly band leader, with his characteristic “and-a-one and-a-two,” plays host to the families of his Music Makers for “Jingle Bells” and other holiday songs, including a rendition of “The Night Before Christmas.”
“The Jack Benny Program” — A Christmas party is thrown by skinflint Jack for the regulars on his television show (Don Wilson; Eddie “Rochester” Anderson; Dennis Day; Frank Nelson; and Mel “Bugs Bunny” Blanc, who was recovering from a near-fatal traffic accident).
“Our Miss Brooks” — “A Christmas Carol” is produced at Mrs. Nestor’s elementary school. The characters include Miss Brooks (Eve Arden), Walter Denton (Richard Crenna) and Mr. Conklin (Gale Gordon, who became a regular on “The Lucy Show”).
“Art Linkletter’s House Party” — Art and his family members show film footage of their trip to the Holy Land the previous year.
“The Millionaire” — A lonely, embittered man takes a very unlikely job as a department-store Santa, unaware that his life is about to get a financial boost from the generous Millionaire (Marvin Miller).
“Make Room for Daddy” — Danny (Thomas) attempts to teach his son,  Rusty (Rusty Hamer), the true spirit of Christmas. The cast includes daughter, Linda (Angela Cartwright) and wife, Kathy (Marjorie Lord).
“The Shari Lewis Show” — The famed puppeteer and her make-believe gang entertain with a Christmas party that includes Mr. Goodfellow and Jump Pup.
“The DuPont Show” — Fred Waring, the popular bandleader who became known as “America’s Singing Master” and “The Man Who Taught America How to Sing” and his group, the Pennsylvanians, entertained viewers with an hour of holiday music.  
“Pete and Gladys” — Aunt Kitty is coming for a Christmas visit unless the couple (Harry Morgan of “Mash” fame and Cara Williams) can figure out a way to prevent it. Many of us likely recall when this lady was on the Red Skelton Show in the role of a Raggedy Ann doll. She briefly came to life and danced in the park with a lonely Freddy the Freeloader.
“Leave It to Beaver” — Wally (Tony Dow) wants to ride with Lumpy Rutherford to a country club party, but the Cleavers (Barbara Billingsley and Huge Beaumont) insist that Lumpy is a reckless driver. Jerry Mathers portrays the Beaver.
“NBC Opera” — The annual Christmas presentation of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” featured a poor crippled boy being visited by the three kings on their way to pay homage to the Christ child.
“Bachelor Father” — In “Deck the Halls,” bachelor Bentley (John Forsythe) plans a different kind of Christmas for Kelly (Noreen Corcoran), his young niece.
“Lassie” - While walking thorough a snowy woods on Christmas Eve, Lassie, Timmy and his friend stumble upon an overturned sleigh with an old man pinned beneath it. They are convinced that Santa has had an accident.
“Dennis the Menace” — Mr. Wilson (Joseph Kearns), much to the delight of Dennis (Jay North), insists that the Mitchell family chop down a 15-foot Christmas tree in the nearby snowy woods.  
“Car 54, Where Are You” — Toody (Joe Ross) and Muldoon (Fred Gwynne, who later became Herman Munster) headed up the committee for the precinct’s Christmas party.
“Bonanza” - While the Cartwrights ride home through wintry mountains during the Christmas season, they encounter a young boy wandering alone in the snow.
And finally, “The Gift of the Magi,” a musical adaptation of the O. Henry story about a poor newlywed couple (Jeanne Crain and Farley Granger) who sell their cherished possessions, her hair and his watch, in an attempt to give the other a Christmas gift.
Ah, what pleasurable memories of Christmas 1961.

Email Bob Cox at boblcox@bcyesteryear.com or visit www.bcyesteryear.com.

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