photo by Vance Lauderdale
Vintage Mr. Bingle memorabilia, including an original doll and one of his newsletters to children, were on display at the Memphis Potters Guild holiday show.
A surprising number of Memphians of a certain age can still remember the happy song that begins, “Mr. Bingle makes us tingle with his joy and cheer / When he comes to town, Christmas time is near.” But before you get the wrong impression of this Bingle guy, please remember that he — or it — was a cute little stuffed snowman puppet, adorned with an ice cream cone hat, holly-leaf wings, and a candy cane, who served as the holiday mascot for Lowenstein’s department store.
Originally conceived by the Maison Blanche store in New Orleans and later “adopted” by Lowenstein’s, since they ended up owned by the same company, Mr. Bingle had his own song, books, records, and even a tv show, co-hosted by Miss Holly (played by Joan White, a longtime Memphis advertising executive). Every kid in town, it seemed, wanted a Mr. Bingle plush doll or puppet for Christmas, and sometimes Santa obliged them. But Mr. Bingle “retired” when Lowenstein’s closed (or so we told the kiddies), and Memphians have had to rely on their memories of the little guy — until now.
The Memphis Potters Guild Show, held last weekend at Memphis Botanic Garden, featured Mr. Bingle himself. Shoppers got a chance to see one of the original puppets and other memorabilia that have been in storage for years, and guild members created special works in ceramics featuring his image, or in some cases his entire body. These were offered in a silent auction, with proceeds benefiting the Harwood Center, an organization founded in 1957 which works with children who have special developmental needs.
Although we don’t normally associate pottery with puppetry, it proved to be an interesting tie-in, and really we can’t see how anyone could have resisted a visit with this beloved and — hey, let’s face it — bizarre Christmas character. Why, just looking at him in the display case brought back fond memories of his little song, which ends like this:
Oh, Bingle, Bingle, Bingle, Bingle / Bingle, Bingle, Bingle, Bingle / Bingle, Bingle, Bingle, Bingle / We love Mr. Bingle!
His modesty is worthy of a Lauderdale, wouldn’t you say?