Sure, we had TV…Hell, once the 80’s hit we had cable and VCR’s. But as a child, I listened to a lot of records.
I don’t know if they have any modern variations, but in the 70’s and 80’s, every cartoon special, be it Easter, Christmas or Ground Hog Day, was turned into an audio record.
Usually, that meant they simply took the audio track of the cartoon and pressed it on vinyl.
Back before cable and VCR’s we had one very small window to see our favorite specials—they weren’t played constantly, day in and day out. Charlie Brown was on once and if you missed it, well, tough shit. Listen to the record.
Now, I never missed a Christmas special growing up. I had a rainman-like memory when it came to the TV schedule that time of year. I couldn’t read a TV Guide, but I knew when Rudolph would be on…
…But I still listened to the records. It was like listening to a radio show, the television of the 40’s.
I drew the cartoon in my head as I listened to the record.
Perhaps that’s why I have such an (over)active imagination.
One of my favorite records/Christmas specials was Santa and the Three Bears. Every holiday season, my sister and I would nestle onto the couch next to the tree and listen intently as two bear cubs learned about the wonders and spirit of Christmas.
I heard the record years before I ever saw the actual cartoon.
Santa and the Three Bears was a cartoon released in 1970, written by Tony Benedict, famous for penning episodes for cartoons like the Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and the Pink Panther, among others.
It featured the Voice talents of Hal Smith as the (only) Ranger in Yellowstone Park, and Jean Vander Pyl as Nana, the mother bear.
Jean Vander Pyl is best known as the voice of Wilma Flintstone on the Flintstones and Rosie the Robot on the Jetsons.
The plot centers around two bear cubs that aren’t ready to hibernate, and happen upon Ranger Smith chopping down a Christmas tree from the National Park, which I’m fairly certain is illegal.
The cubs, Nikomi and Chinook, ask the Ranger what he’s doing, and he tells them all about Christmas—and the fat man in red.
As any kid should be, bear or human, the cubs were excited and wanted a Christmas of their own, complete with a visit from Jolly Old St. Nick.
From there a series of hijinks and comical interludes, mixed in with a little bit of drama and a lot of really bad songs ensue as the cubs try to stay awake for a visit from Santa.
I would always pretend my sister and I were the bear cubs—every year we fell head first into the story, becoming a living part of it.
Now, my sister wasn’t always the kindest, most gentle variety of sibling. She was fairly cunning all her life. She once traded me a rock for all my toys, and she did it so well, I walked away from the deal thinking I made out like a bandit.
Don’t get me started about the Clown Make-Up Business she tried to start when I was eight. That one left some (mental) scars.
In a nutshell, mine was your average older sister, capable of the most devious of plots at any given moment in time.
Except when we listened to Santa and the Three Bears.
For that brief 45 minutes, she was Nikomi and I was Chinook. It was a strange bond that always formed at Christmas, not unlike when the Brits and Germans took a break from World War I to play soccer (football) one cold Christmas morn.
For that brief moment in time, I could let my guard down, put my head on her shoulder and enjoy being her brother.
The torment my sister unleashed as a child was nothing severe or out of the norm for an older sister. In almost every case, these moments have become some of my fondest childhood memories.
We’re both old now—she has kids of her own, already past the age of Christmas Specials and Santa Claus. Our relationship matured over the years, and she became that sister who gave me dating advice, tried to teach me how to dance and always seemed to have my back when it mattered most.
I’m no longer the innocent victim of an evil mastermind, but sometimes I still like to put on Santa and the Three Bears, close my eyes, and just listen—pretending my sister and I are two innocent bear cubs discovering Christmas for the first time.
I think about the rock that cost me my toys, the clown make-up fiasco which will require some therapy down the road and most fondly, those Christmases of my youth sitting on the couch, snuggling with my big sister listening to that record.
Tags: (retro)spect, christmas, christmas memories, christmas specials, flintstones, holidays, huckberry hound, jetsons, memory, nostalgia, records, santa and the three bears, sibling, sister, vinyl, wilma, yogi