Originally published on Monday, December 21, 2015 – For those of us who grew up in New Orleans and are now in our 50s, 60s and 70s, Mr. Bingle was a large part of our New Orleans Christmas. This amazing little guy is making a comeback and today’s children are learning about him and he is entering their life this Christmas. When we visited Celebration in the Oaks an oversized version of this little guy was on display! That one is probably not as large as the version that hung from Maison Blanche (an upscale department store from that era). Here’s a bit about how Mr. Bingle came to be and some pictures from old times and present times.
The History of Mr. Bingle
Since 1948, a little white snow fairy named Mr. Bingle has been a magical part of the Holiday Season for children and adults in New Orleans and throughout the South.
Created by Mr. Emile Alline, a window decorator at the former Maison Blanche Department Store on Canal Street in New Orleans, Mr. Bingle came to life as a miniature snowman with an upside-down ice cream cone for a hat, holly-leaf wings on his back, a red ribbon and bells around his neck, red-striped mittens on his little hands, cherries for eyes and a licorice smile.
Mr. Alline also dreamed of presenting elaborate puppet shows with the doll, and for the task, he recruited Mr. Edwin H. “Oscar” Isentrout, an eccentric puppeteer who had been performing with his puppets at (of all places) a Bourbon Street burlesque club. With Isentrout providing movement and a squeaky voice for the character, legend has it that Mr. Bingle truly came to life, if only in the imaginations of the thousands of children who adored him.
Each year at Christmas time, Maison Blanche would erect a giant paper mache mannequin in front of the store, and Isentrout would perform four shows a day on the s tore’s third-floor stage. With the advent of television, Mr. Bingle began a daily 15- minute show that aired each weekday just before the evening news. He made frequent visits to Children’s Hospital to bring cheer to many sick or terminally ill children. For many, Mr. Bingle was their first TV friend, and he even had his own theme song:
Jingle jangle jingle,
Here comes Mr. Bingle,
With a message from Kris Kringle…
As the Maison Blanche chain spread, so, too, did Mr. Bingle’s popularity, at one time reaching as far as Tennessee and Florida. Mr. Bingle has even made an appearance at the White House as well as at the 1989 Citrus Bowl in Florida. Aside from the popular stuffed dolls, Mr. Bingle’s image could be found on everything from Christmas ornaments to coffee cups to clothing.
The Dillard’s Department Store chain bought Maison Blanche in 1998 and closed the Canal Street store shortly thereafter, but Mr. Bingle still lives on at the Dillard’s in Lakeside Shopping Center. Although his reach is limited to the Greater New Orleans area, he still makes the rounds to Dillard’s stores on the Westbank and across Lake Pontchartrain in Slidell and Covington.
Mr. Bingle’s creators, however, are no longer with us. Oscar Isentrout passed away in 1985 at the age of 61, and Emile Alline left us in 1998 at the age of 81. But these men, together, have left a gift that will endure forever in the hearts of all the children who have come to know Mr. Bingle.
The first photos below are from many years ago when only black and white photos were available. This is the Mr. Bingle era I remember as a child. The color photos are from later years and current years. Mr. Bingle made us smile and put joy in our hearts.
THIS YEAR’S MR. BINGLE
The Story of Mr. Bingle
by Emile Alline
When Santa left his shop one day
He found a snowman near his sleigh.
“You’ll be my helper now,” he said,
And tapped the little fellow’s head.
The snowman found that he could talk—
“Look, Santa, I can even walk!”
And then he gave a little sigh…
“Oh, how I wish that I could fly!”
So, Santa gave him holly wings,
Then, looking through his Christmas things,
Found ornaments the very size
To make a pair of shining eyes.
Then Santa said, “You need a hat;
An ice cream cone’s just right for that.
And keep this candy cane with you,
You’ll see what magic it can do!”
The snowman laughed and sang a jingle,
So Santa named him “Mr. Bingle.”
That’s how it happened. Now he’s here
With us at Maison Blanche all year.
I hope I’ve accomplished what I set out to do, introduce you to Mr. Bingle! He did add an amazing element to the wonderland of Christmas in New Orleans. He didn’t however ever take the place of Jesus’ birth in our hearts. I hope, as you and your family approach the day we celebrate his birth, that you will once again turn your focus to the true meaning of CHRISTmas!
We worshiped with our church family yesterday morning at Trinity Baptist Church and will do so once again on Christmas Eve. George Martin sang “Mary Did You Know” which spoke directly to my heart. Our Christmas Eve worship service is at 6:00 pm. The church’s address is 42062 Pumpkin Center Road, Hammond. About a mile off of I-12 on the Pumpkin Center/Baptist exit. Even though we are Baptist you actually go in the Pumpkin Center Road direction. If you and your family do not have anywhere to worship on Christmas Eve I invite you to worship with us! What a perfect way to focus on the true meaning! Family, friends, everyone is welcome!
Ya’ll come back now, ya’ hear!