Who? What? is a Mr. Bingle you say?

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Well,either you already know very,very well or you have no clue at all. That's ok because we're going to tell you all about him.

Once there was a Department store named Maison Blanche.The store was founded in 1897 by Isadore Newman.He was once a penniless merchant.The store , located on Canal New Orleans(no longer in business) is now owned by Dillards Dept.stores. It has since turned in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel .Maison Blanche "MB" decided that they wanted to find a special little character to use for their advertising purposes.Emile Alline was a display director of Maison Blanche and employee since 1937.He had taken a trip up to Chicago in 1947 and noticed a character in a department store called "Marshall Fields" called Uncle Mistletoe .He was a scraggely haired Dickenson character.Although very different from Mr. Bingle ,that character became the inspiration for Mr.Alline's newest creation(Mr. Bingle)Actually ,he was first called the "Snow Doll "by Mr. Alline.Mr.Herbert Schuartz MB President wanted the new character to have MB in the name so thus became Mr. Bingle. There was even a Mr. Bingle museum on the third floor.

Mr. Alline also wanted to have special Christmas puppet and marionette shows in the huge dress display windows, so he found a man named Edwin Harmon "Oscar" Isentrout who was a master puppeteer in New Orleans working in the French Quarter at the time.He was named "Oscar" according to some because someone started calling his shows "Oscar and the little Woodenheads."Mr. Isentrout was also the voice,movement and some say the spirit of Mr. Bingle.Together they worked together to bring these special shows to New Orleans area year after year for like 37 years since 1948 and Mr. Bingle became infinitely famous.Oscar once had this to say about his little friend:They cannot divide him or the Christmas cheer he spreads. They just keep multiplying him.Now there's a'lot more of Mr. Bingle to go around When you saw Mr. Bingle downtown,you knew Christmas was near and it was difficult not to say Mr. Bingle and Christmas in the same sentence. This special little character's snowman body was adorably adorned with an ice cream cone hat, candy cane in hand, red ribbon with bells and holly wings.The holly wings were so he could fly.He was created as Santa's helper.His voice was the most magical of all.He had a characteristically high pitched squeekey ,raspey voice that captured the hearts of many a child and adult alike.

Eventually Mr. Bingle had his own little tv show locally and was on the radio .Remember Rose Mae and Penquin Pete?.Mr. B also appeared as a guest on other TV programs,and made frequent visits to Children's Hospital to bring cheer and hope to many sick or terminally ill children. He was our first local childrens tv hero in a time when anything that moved on our one television channel was breathtaking! It was an era of simpler things and all the high tech gadgets of today were not even fathomed yet.Kids were content and ecstatic if they got one doll, a pair of skates or a toy train.Try that today!Mr. Bingle also made an appearance one year at the Citrus Bowl in Florida in 1989 and has appeared according to my research at the White House.

Every year parents would bring their children downtown to see the puppet shows.We inched our way through the crowd and pressed our noses up against the thick cold glass to get a quick glimpse of our hero ,then it was off to see the most authentic Santa on the 3rd floor of MB and probably get your picture taken.. Mr. Bingle has his own jingle song and there is even a story about Mr. Bingle and Santa and how he came to be.It became a New Orleans southern tradition. He is not on Canal Street any more however. He has moved to the suburbs and those big shopping centers that crept seemingly overnight like something out of a science fiction movie.Then stores began multipling and began appearing everywhere. When Mercantile stores bought them out years previous,he was also used at a store called Lowensteins in Memphis,Tenn. They also had a television show with him for many years.I know he was also in some stores in Florida.He may have journeyed to more places but that's all I know about so far. Mr. Bingle is a New Orleans cultural icon as famous as Mardi Gras,Red Beans and Rice,Gumbo,and Beignets.If you grew up in New Orleans there is no way that you cannot know who he is and was.Mr. Bingle has impacted many childrens lives who are now grownups and is still sending his special Christmas message to a newer generation.

There was a huge Mr.Bingle paper mache figure that also hung outside the building every year .It measured approxiamately 50 feet tall and 35 feet wide mitten tip to mitten tip .It took two huge flat cars to move him from Chicago where he was created to his new home in New Orleans.He was first mounted on the Maison Blanche Building in November,1949.

Once Santa and Mr. Bingle made a grand entrance appearance on Canal St. via helicopter.It was quite a spectacle.The police went zooming everywhere.It appeared they didn't know that they couldn't fly so low in a commercial district.Then one day after years and years , this huge Mr. Bingle fell and pieces of him went everywhere,as far as I know no one was hurt,but New Orleanians were deeply saddened.He was replaced eventually but his new look was not exactly the same one we always remembered, but we continued to love him nevertheless.

There were many stuffed plush dolls,jewelry,candy boxes,puppets and soap with Mr. Bingle.There was also clothing with his special icon,and lots more.The dolls especially; went through many changes over the years but I'll get into dolls and memorabilia later. There is nothing especially elaborate about him.He didn't light up,was not especially talented or anything dazzling,but to many of us who grew up with him; he was our hero.He represented a slower ,kinder,more gentler time in our wonderful city we call New Orleans and we will always remember him; especially at Christmas time!

Saddly Mr. Isentrout" Oscar" is no longer with us.He passed away in 1985 at the age of 61.He pulled the strings for many years bringing his character to life and creating smiles and joy. He did not however allow the strings to get pulled on him if he could help it.He was his own private, quiet kinda person ,who gained happiness through the simpler things in life and not being in the spotlight. He was content being behind the scenes,doing his job and probably feeling very good about it. I think he smiled during the era when Mr. Bingle the marionette and dolls had no mouth and could not smile for themselves.Thanks Oscar! You are missed!

Emile Alline Sr.,also a very special man who also dedicated most of his life work to MB and the creation of Mr. Bingle and his family is also not with us.He prided himself on all of his work and his many creations and inventions.He loved talking about Mr. Bingle and cherished him till the end.He was born November,27,1917 and died December 6, 1998 .He was 81 years old and we will miss him also! Thank You for creating Mr.Bingle!

written by: Lauren Brown

If you would like to make a voluntary 2.00 contribution to help support this site.It would be appreciated.If so click here .All contributions above that go to the Spirit of Mr. Bingle Tree Program. The Spirit of Mr. Bingle Tree Program each year at Dillards helps provide toys to underpriveleged children.It is put on by the Salvation army.I am not a non -profit organization but I do participate in the tree program and will publish on the site after Christmas what was made possible by the efforts of this fan club site contributors.This is strickly voluntary.Or you make go to Dillards and participate yourself if you like.Keep checking local New Orleans paper for dates of this event.I believe it is in November and I'll keep you posted on the message board.

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