Alan Reed played Fred Flintstone playing Santa Claus in “Christmas Flintstone” in 1965. But ten years before that, the pre-Flintstone Reed had a different, real-life role—playing Santa’s helper.
Network radio of the 1930s and ‘40s was good to Reed. He snagged regular weekly supporting roles as well as other work on major shows. When radio faded away in the ’50s, Reed survived on minor film and occasional television roles. He figured that he’d better find a source of regular income, and he got it by opening a novelty company. We talked about it in a Christmas season post a few years ago. The windfall days resumed in 1960, as he picked up a supporting part on the sitcom “Peter Loves Mary.” Oh, and there was also that cartoon show about a Stone Age family.
But in the days between radio and Fred Flintstone, Reed found time to help kids at Christmas. Daily Variety reported on September 20, 1955 that Reed would tour 43 cities to plug his group that collected toys and gifts for underprivileged children. The goal was to collect 8,500,000 toys. Here’s a United Press story with more on what Reed hoped to do.
TV Actor and Teddy Bear Shine as Helpers of Santa
By VERNON SCOTT
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 18 (UP)—Old Kris Kringle has two new assistants this year, one is a fluffy white teddy bear and the other is actor Alan Reed, best remembered as Falstaff Openshaw on the Fred Allen show and Finnegan of “Duffy’s Tavern.”
REED AND HIS miniature polar bear have formed the “Santa Claus Helpers’ Club” in 32 major cities. Purpose of the organization is to stimulate small fry into donating toys for other, less fortunate, children.
“Up to now toy collections have been aimed at adults,” Reed says. “The kids of the country have been overlooked as contributors. So I began the Helpers’ Club with the slogans: ‘A Christmas Toy for Every Child in America,’ and ‘Learning the Pleasure of Giving by Participation.’ ”
Symbol for the club is ‘Kewtee Bear’ who has made two recordings for Columbia Records and is the subject of a children’s book. Each child who brings a toy to collection centers is given a Kewtee Bear certificate and badge making him a member of the club.
“WE HOPE THE little white bear will become the spirit of giving and sharing for youngsters at Christmastime,” Reed says. “It’s important that they know how much fun it is to give.”
The stocky dialectician said he became interested in toy campaigns when he discovered the Marine Corps’ “Toys for Tots” program fell 2,000,000 toys short of its goal last year.
“At first I tried to organize the Santa Claus Helpers’ Club to work with the Marines or some other national group. But I found that each city had its own independent toy gathering agency. So instead of coming in as a separate and competitive agency we have become a part of a dozen different groups.
“In Cleveland we’re working with the fire department and Salvation Army,” Reed explained. “In Boston and Los Angeles it’s the YMCA, in Milwaukee the police department, and in a lot of cities it’s the Boy Scouts.
“We’re also working with the Cincinnati Post Our partner in New York is the Police Athletic League. Next year we hope to add twice as many cities to the list.”
THE HELPERS’ CLUB boosts toy campaigns with radio, TV and newspaper plugs. Disc jockeys play the Kewtee Bear records and then tell listeners where to take the toys. A three-minute film has been made for television.
“I have no idea how many toys will be collected this year,” Reed concluded, “but I have a feeling our club will help millions of little boys and girls believe there really is a Santa Claus when they look in their stockings Christmas morning.”
Reed’s tour might have been cut short; he began shooting “He Laughed Last” starring Frankie Laine for Columbia by the end of the year.
Tim Hollis’ book Christmas Wishes: A Catalog of Vintage Holiday Treats and Treasures has more on Kewtee Bear. You can read it HERE. And you can listen to the Reed record by going to this page. Cartoon fans will recognise the actress with Reed.
We now jump forward to 1965 and post a few background drawings with cycle animation of falling presents from “Christmas Flintstone.” Let’s not get into one of those “How was there Christmas in the Stone Age?” discussions. It’s a cartoon, not a documentary. Same with asking “How was there an Eiffel Tower or Leaning Tower of Pisa in the Stone Age?” or “Why can they speak American English in the Stone Age?” Just enjoy the drawings.