Tue December 25, 2012
Christmas in Memphis
When you ask Memphians of the certain age to talk about the Christmases of their childhoods, they often mention a train, a puppet, and the circus.
Goldsmith's Department Store had a wonderfully elaborate electric train that ran through an enchanted Christmas scene. Parents brought their children to visit and be photographed with Santa, and then to see the train.
After Goldsmith's closed the Main Street store, the train was moved to Oak Court Mall for several years, but it was never the same.
Then, there was Mr. Bingle. He started life as a puppet who was a Christmas mascot for Lowenstein's Department Store.
Mr. Bingle became a popular local TV star in the 1950s and 1960s, and he was also a much beloved plush toy. He even had his own theme song that began "Mr. Bingle makes you tingle with his joy and cheer. When he comes to town, Christmas time is near."
And, finally, there was the Clyde Parke Circus.
Every season Mr. Parke dismantled the circus, took it from his attic, and rented it to a store or group that would put it on display.
Styles and tastes change, but if you would like to go back in time for a few minutes, there is a place where you can see Mr. Bingle, the Clyde Parke Circus, and, though not with the original train, the LeBonheur Enchanted Forest Festival of Trees: the special Christmas exhibit, which will be on display at the Pink Palace Museum until December 31.
Special thanks to Kerry Crawford and the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau for Kerry's excellent I <3 Memphis blog for use of her photo with Mr. Bingle and for a little more background on her adventure to find him in her post "Found: Mr. Bingle."