Su Lum: Rudolph really did go down in history
December 25, 2002
I was in eighth grade when Gene Autry’s record, “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” hit the airwaves.
I remember it well because that December I had a birthday party, and the guest list alone almost gave me a nervous breakdown (a finite number set by my mother: who would be chosen?). Anyone who might wonder why I still shy clear of birthday celebrations needs only to look back to that day in 1949.
Two memorable presents I received at that party were a box of pine-scented stationery and a bottle of green ink for my fountain pen (ballpoints hadn’t been invented), and a 78-record of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Back in those days, there were fewer contenders for the Top-40 lists. A few years earlier, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” was the big seller. New single records were plugged on the radio (greased by payola), and they plugged the hell out of Rudolph.
The Rudolph tune was catchy and the theme appealing: Rudolph the underdog with his nose so bright saving the day for Santa ? but none of us took Rudolph seriously.
Despite the clearly worded prediction, “You’ll go down in history,” none of us would have believed that, 53 years later, three generations of kids would continue to view this new, impostor reindeer not only as Santa’s most revered reindeer, but the leader of the pack!
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Stop kids on the street today and ask them to name Santa’s reindeer, and hardly any of them will remember Comet and Cupid, but every last one of them will remember Rudoph. Thus history gets rewritten.
But we all knew that Santa’s eight tiny reindeer were Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen, and the introduction of a ninth reindeer, Rudolph, was as shocking as the sudden introduction of an eighth dwarf named SAM would have been.
Everything is relative. In the old days of the Grimm fairy tales, Snow White’s dwarfs didn’t have cute Disney names: Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, Grumpy, Doc, Happy and Bashful, but we were brought up on those names and didn’t know any better.
I was graduating from high school when “under God” got put into the Pledge of Allegiance. It used to be, “one nation, indivisible,” until “under God” was added during the Eisenhower administration.
And I can remember even farther back than that, when we were drilled, as we chanted, “I pledge allegiance to the flag,” to point our right hands at the red, white and blue at the exact moment we said “flag.”
This was a huge deal. “I pledge allegiance to the FLAG” ? POINT. Again. And again. FLAG ? POINT. Pay attention, students. Again now, FLAG ? POINT.
Then all of a sudden pointing was OUT. World War II was upon us, and pointing at the flag was too reminiscent of the Nazi “Heil Hitler” gesture. Then we had to be redrilled to hold our hands over our hearts for the duration of the pledge, and offenders who accidentally thrust their hands out at the word “FLAG” were chastised.
I’m not saying all change is either good or bad, but to keep in mind that nothing is written in stone, and changes can come out of the blue when and where you least expect them.
[Su Lum is a longtime local who guesses the flu shots this winter didn’t cover the Christmas Crud that’s going around. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.]
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