How It Ended… Originally

I grew up in the era before the VCR and mass syndication.  This means that if you missed a television broadcast, it was gone until they re-aired it again over the summer.  At best you only had two shots at seeing something before it was gone forever.

The only exception to this was the a holiday special.  While you only got to see the holiday specials once per year, there was always the possibility that you’d see them again and again over successive years.

This meant that every Christmas season after the mid 1960’s you could look forward to reuniting with Charlie Brown, Frosty, and Rudolph.  My Favorite holiday classic was Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, not because I liked Rudolph so much, but because it featured Yukon Cornelius.

He excited me because he had a pistol, a pick axe, and a pack of dogs!

For years I wondered what it was that Yukon Cornelius was doing out there at the North Pole all by himself.  From the evidence presented, I assumed that he was some sort of beatnik prospector looking for “Silver and Gold” just like everybody else.

At no time in any of my yearly viewings did I ever learn what it Yukon Cornelius was out prospecting for, or if he ever found it.

The only clue to what our friend was actually up to is found in the trademark flipping, and then licking, of his pick axe.


As a kid we had an ancient spoon in our drawer that tasted really funny.  Whatever you ate with it had a unique aftertaste, akin to sucking on a dime. (Who hasn’t done that while waiting for the church ushers to pass the Christmas Eve offering plate?)   My parents explained to me that the silver plating was coming off the spoon and I could taste the cheap metal underneath it- They didn’t tell me that the spoon was  slowly poisoning me.

Whenever Yukon Cornelius licked that pick axe I could taste that spoon.

It led me to believe the Yukon Cornelius was such a good prospector that he could tell whether or not there was Gold or Silver in the soil from the metallic flavor.

I was as weird a kid as you think I was.

In 1964 the folks at General Electric were looking for a way to draw customers into stores for the holiday season.  They combined with the folks at NBC and Sheinhardt Wig Company to produce a stop-motion animated musical that would feature advertisements for products from GE’s small appliance division.

The broadcast was a spectacular success; strong ratings ensured that many viewers saw the intended commercials.  The producers also reaped cash dividends by releasing the soundtrack album to the general public.  This further ensured that the songs would become holiday classics… each classic reinforcing the place that Rudolph, and General Electric, would have in our holiday traditions.

Executives immediately decided to air the program again during the next year.

There was only one problem.

Within days of the original broadcast, NBC began receiving a consistent complaint about the program:  Santa had never gone back to rescue the characters he’d met on the Island of Misfit Toys!

If you’ve watched the program recently you’re probably scratching your head…

…Because you remember Santa redeeming all of the wonderful Christmas misfits.

-But this isn’t how the program originally ended when it first aired in 1964.-

After sifting through the complaints, NBC realized that they couldn’t re-air a program in which Santa fails to deliver on his promises to the differently abled.

They immediately shot a scene of Santa returning to collect the toys, adding it to the program for the rebroadcast.  This meant that the running time of the program was significantly lengthened, and no one was going to ask the people who paid for the program’s production to cut some of the time allotted for commercials.

Scenes were trimmed from the original broadcast version to make room for the new ending.  Most of the changes made to the original version were musical:

-The instrumental breakdown, featuring the elf orchestra, was cut from “We Are Santa’s Elves” .

-Rudolph & Hermey’s reprise of “We’re a Couple of Misfits” was dropped, replaced by a shorter one called “Fame and Fortune”.

-The end credits, featuring the elves opening packages to reveal the names of the creative team, was trimmed.

There was one final cut, a short scene of Yukon Cornelius flipping his axe into the snow and pulling a treasure from the earth.  All of those years of prospecting the North Pole finally paid off when our bearded friend struck a powerful vein of… peppermint.

Yukon Cornelius’ peppermint mine hit the cutting room floor, leaving everybody who ever watched the rebroadcasts purchased by CBS to fill in the blanks about what our bearded friend’s purpose was.

I filled in the blanks about him based on what I knew about every other prospector… and my own experience with metal spoons.

This Christmas will be filled with a lot of different prospectors,

Each one wandering the Christmas season in effort to discover what it is that is important to them.

We each have the opportunity to be quite explicit about what the season actually means.

Leaving our search open to interpretation means that people will assume that we’re celebrating whatever they’re celebrating.

For the record, I’m celebrating Jesus.

One Response to “How It Ended… Originally”

  1. Jeff Patterson December 14, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Celebrating Peppermint Jesus with you.

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