Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Origins of the Christmas Squirrel- Part 2: A Hero is Born

Our Shrine to the Christmas Squirrel.  Thanks for the socks!

Origins of the Christmas Squirrel:  Part 2
Enter the Hero Squirrel 

America loves its heroes to come from humble origins. But who could have guessed that the squirrel who saved Christmas was a carnival sideshow reject?

Zippy the Squirrel was the youngest member of the famed “Amazing Bushytail Family”, a staple of the carnival sideshow scene in the Wisconsin Dells from 1906-1953. The Bushytails deserved their fame. In addition to their renowned prowess on the flying trapeze, one brother was a large carnivore tamer, two sisters juggled fire and miniature chainsaws and the oldest brother performed a strongman routine – once lifting a clown car with a complete complement of the visiting nineteen member Ringling Brothers' clown contingent.

Zippy, unfortunately, possessed only one somewhat unmarketable skill: he could run really fast.

It's not that the Dells' management didn't try to market Zippy. For awhile, he was the “Amazing Flash”; a gray blur racing around the three rings while the rest of the family was up on the high wire. Audience members that even noticed considered that act to be boring. They gave him skates and had him do Jammer duty during human short track competitions. He was too fast and the roller girls went on strike until he gave up the jersey.

Fortunately, what Zippy lacked in marketable athletic skills were more than compensated for by his charm and wit. During a fleeting flirtation with literature, audiences were enthralled when Zippy took on the title role of “Othello” on the side stage.

Zippy came to love the bright lights and Shakespearean intrigue. He loved the attention. More than anything else, he loved making the children in the audience laugh as he threw in a few off-script motions inspired by the great Charlie Chaplin. It looked like he had found his niche.

And then came the Santa market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression. Audiences who could still afford the carnival turned their attention to more dramatic and pedestrian fare such as staged cage matches between the Two-Headed Woman and the Tattooed Man.

While the rest of his family toiled to create ever more dangerous, and enticing, carnival fare, Zippy was relegated to the back bench. He assisted with ticket sales, kept the books and helped dole out money (when there was any) to the performers at the end of each week. He took his job seriously, but missed the bright lights and the feeling that he was actually accomplishing something. He was saddened to see that the few children who showed up were generally worse for wear. They were grubby and wore tattered shoes and socks nearly ready to fall off their feet. For these Depression battered kids, smiles were few and far between.

But it was in the back office that Zippy learned to love listening to the radio. While his personal misery increased along with the rest of the nations, he could take solace in the weekly radio dramas.

By 1933, the carnival was in pretty sorry shape. Zippy shared the near fanatical dedication of the owners to the cast and crew, but money could only go so far. So far, his families skills kept them from the fate of Henrietta the Dancing Pig (pork chopped) and Sid the Singing Horse (stew). He missed his friends and feared for his family. He desperately wanted to help. He wanted the carnival to go on...and he wanted to see children smile once again.

The year 1933 should be remembered as the year that everything changed, but it was a year that people prefer to forget. However, this was the year a new hero emerged. A hero who loved the radio. A squirrel who turned out to be the best and most willing audience for FDR's Fireside Chats.

In the Fireside Chat of August 22nd, FDR talked of the Origins of the Great Depression and attempted to soothe the fears of a public weary of Edison's annual September propaganda on the failure of the Sleigh of Holding. “Christmas will come!”, his voice practically boomed from speakers in living rooms across America. He announced the creation of the Sleigh Engineering Corps; the WPA's version of the manned lunar landing program of the 1960s. FDR spoke of patience and hope. “With the formation of the SEC, the formidable might of U.S. science and industry will solve the Santa problem by 1940. We will help put a present under every tree, provide clothing for babes in arms and a turkey for every table. No longer will Americans suffer through the indignity of squirrels in every pot.”

It was these words that triggered Zippy's moment of Genius. He saw in a flash that the real problem wasn't the lack of overall sleigh capacity. The problem was in the trivial, yet necessary, things that were placed in the sleigh along with presents that brought joy and hope.

It was in that moment that Zippy declared, “I shall bring them socks!”

In the dead of night, Zippy gathered his family together and shared his daring plan. He piled a knapsack full of nuts and with a cheery farewell darted off to the North Pole under an Aurora draped sky.

Hope Arrives

With the help of government mathematicians, Claus Enterprises calculated to the second when output and capacity would collide to yet again doom Christmas. The evening of September 21st found Santa well into his fourth eggnog awaiting the inevitable resonant blast of the steam horn announcing their annual bottleneck. He fell into a fitful slumber, face down in a Sears catalog.

He was surprised to be awakened by the Chief Elf shaking his shoulder. He was shocked to see the time: 2:00 AM tomorrow! Yes, it was September 22nd and, like magic, the Sleigh of Holding was still accepting a tremendous volume of goods running off the main plant's conveyor.

The Chief Elf could hardly contain his excitement as he informed Santa that the sleigh had been remeasured and that new calculations indicated it would keep up with the assembly lines until Christmas Eve!

Santa straightened his hat, squared his shoulders and picked up the red phone to call the President. By sunrise, FDR had signed the controversial Executive Order mobilizing the National Guard to stop the presses and forever end the distribution of the annual “Santa Fails” edition of newspapers across the country. He took to the airwaves on September 24th to deliver the good news and decry the excesses of the media barons in what later came to be known as the “Tesla Was Right!” Fireside Chat.

Christmas was coming. And hope had arrived.

There Will be Heroes

In the rush to get ready for Christmas, Santa did not have the time to contemplate exactly what might have happened with his sleigh. Given the past four years of misery, he was quite content to be thankful for miracles.

Christmas Eve arrived and Santa launched with a full sleigh and a long and blissfully complete address list. Imagine his surprise during his first delivery of the evening. Up on the roof, he started unloading and checking items off the “good” list:

A chainsaw for Dad. Check!
A new dress for Mom. Check!
A violin for little Susie. Check!
A BB gun for little Billy. Check!
New socks for all... “What!”

“What?”, Santa almost shouted. “No socks! Surely the elves packed socks for them!”

But as he rummaged frantically through the sleigh, he discovered that not only were there no socks for the Aaronsons of Eastport, Maine, there were no socks at all! None! The sleigh was absolutely barren in the sock department.

Santa vacillated between shock and anger as he dropped down the chimney. His feelings turned toward pure shock when he found that the Aaronsons' hearth was already adorned with neatly arranged, brand new socks!

The pattern repeated throughout the evening. Every house already had warm, comfy socks under Christmas trees, on mantles and tucked neatly in stockings.

Santa was high over Omaha when he finally started to put two and two together. “Hmmm...maybe it wasn't Tesla after all...”

On a normal Christmas Eve, Santa's long journey would end in Ozette, Washington before turning north and home. But this was no normal Christmas and Santa saved a special transcontinental sprint for his last stop. Onward to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue he flew with the jet stream to his back.

He was greeted by a grateful FDR in a strangely dark and quiet Oval Office. But Santa had to break a bit of bad news while celebrating the good. Few people knew of FDR's paralysis; one side effect being that his feet always felt cold. “I am sorry good sir.” Santa said in a sad, quiet voice, “But I don't have any new woolies for your feet.”

As if on cue, they heard a skittering sound cross the roof and then come down the chimney. And there, emerging from the fireplace, came an ash and soot covered bushy tail followed by the rest of Zippy with two pairs of hand-woven goodness clamped firmly between his teeth.

And that, dear readers, is how Zippy Bushytail saved Christmas. With new found optimism, the American people dug in and started to turn the economy around. But that Christmas evening in 1933, FDR, Santa Claus and the Christmas Squirrel agreed that the country was still hanging by a thread and that some secrets are best well kept. The Executive Order directs the Secret Service to scatter fresh acorns on the White House roof every December 24th in perpetuity. It also allows this particular state secret to be unsealed on December 25, 2133.

State Christmas Secrets are well protected in an undisclosed location.  Thanks to Wikileaks for helping liberate the true story of the Christmas Squirrel.  Otherwise, this vault will not be opened until Christmas, 2133.
 On the latter subject, you will have to pretend you have never seen the true story of the Christmas Squirrel. You will certainly have to deny knowing its source. So, from the author, I wish you a hearty Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!

Now, please move along. Nothing to see here. ;-)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the whole crew at vintagetechobsessions!


  1. Great post and wonderful old toys also.

  2. Captivating story.

    I bet it's ALWAYS Christmas at your house, in one form or another.

  3. Thanks for the read. I do a lot of dry technical writing as part of my job and it is great to cut loose with a little nonsense. Not that the Christmas Squirrel is nonsense. But some of the facts were slightly altered to protect the innocent.

    The toys are just part of the obsession. If you look really close you can also see the carcass of a non-repairable Royalite in the background.

    I can't say it always Christmas, but my family is fun.

  4. I really enjoyed this. I guess I wasn't yet following you last year. Well done!


Dang. My blog was hit by Spam comments. Comment moderation has been turned on for some time yet to be determined.