Sunday, December 27, 2009

Frosty in the 50s

Frosty the Snowman became a Christmas icon in the 1950s, so my early boomer generation was the first to have him in our childhoods. The song was first recorded by Gene Autry in 1950, and was done many times afterwards by just about everyone--I recall the Burl Ives version and the 1957 Perry Como, which got on the hit record charts. Frosty and his song have also appeared in several TV versions, but this one--permanently archived at station WJAC in Johnstown, PA--is the one my generation probably saw. (Although only a little of it looks familiar, I know I must have seen it, because WJAC broadcast it a lot, and that was one of the few TV stations we always got.)
I was reminded of all this when my partner Margaret played Frosty for a Christmas pageant at the local Friends Meeting. She kept going over her few lines, which are easier to sing than to say, and hearing them, I remembered how sort of spooky this song was. The story, after all, is about a snowman who magically comes to life, leads children in having fun in the snow, but has to hurry before he melts away. It was an early grappling with the idea and the emotions of death. It all came back again during Margaret's performance--it was a rag-tag event, but her last line, "Don't you cry--I'll be back again some day"--was so plaintive, that it took me back to that intimation of the mystery of not only people dying, but of absense and return. But most powerful tales told to children are like that, despite all the frosting we pile on to try to smother them.

No comments: