Hanging With Suzy Snowflake
A 1950s Regional Delight and the Only Winter Female Role Model On Chicagoland Kids’ TV
Anyone who spent any of their childhood years in the Chicago area in the 1950s more than likely can recall at least some of the entertaining and educational children’s television shows. WGN-TV, channel 9, seemed to have had the best programs: Bozo, Ding Dong School, The Blue Fairy, Garfield Goose and Friends, to name a few.
Although these shows were purported to be for “boys AND girls,” few featured a girl or woman. When a female was featured, she’d most likely fill a stereotypical female role. The best example of this perhaps is Miss Frances, the typical but kindly old maid schoolmarm who hosted Ding Dong School, a sort of televised preschool for us little ones stuck at home with mom. The Blue Fairy was another. She instructed us to drink all of our milk and to always tell the truth.
Nonetheless, the shows were entertaining. I’ve never been a big fan of watching television because much more interesting things were happening in the books I was reading. However, before I learned to read, I remember watching some television shows and cartoons that piqued my interest and awakened my sense of wonder and awe.
I remember watching these shows regularly beginning at about three or four years of age, long before I could read. Specifically, I recall a two-and-a-half-minute film short shown during the Christmas holiday season on Garfield Goose and Friends.
Garfield Goose, a puppet, was the self-proclaimed “King of the World,” and Frazier Thomas, a real live man, was Garfield’s prime minister. Here was a boy puppet and a man. No girls in sight.
And I was never as excited about the show as I was at Christmastime. Why? Because sometime during the program, Frazier Thomas would draw our attention to the “Little Theatre Screen” and would then show that delightful film, Suzy Snowflake, a song set to stop-motion animation. It was one of the first music videos, if you will.
Here it is:
Suzy Snowflake personified snow, and she was a metaphor even the youngest of us could follow.
AND, to my delight, she was a GIRL!
Suzy Snowflake was one of what I think of as the Christmas trilogy of film shorts shown on Garfield Goose.
The other two shorts were Hardrock, Coco and Joe (three of Santa’s helper dwarves — little men) and Frosty the Snowman (who, as we all know, is a man, even though he’s made of snow).
Here are those videos:
Suzy was the only girl among them, and she delighted me because she was not a stereotype but an archetype. Although I didn’t know the word back then, I * FELT * it. And also because she invoked the promise of winter fun (throwing snowballs, sledding, building snowmen, ice skating, etc.) and something else I can only describe as magical.
As I said, Suzy is the only girl in the Christmas trilogy on WGN-TV. It’s true that in Hardrock, Coco and Joe the lyrics speak of Santa bringing toys to girls AND boys. But no girls appear in the film — only Santa and his three little men.
It’s also true that the Frosty the Snowman lyrics speak of the children, and the film shows an even number of girls and boys. The distinction here is that the girls and boys play only a supporting role. The snowman gets top billing.
In comparison, Suzy Snowflake is the leading lady in her own film. Yay girls!
If you think back to when you were very young, you may remember how real everything, and I mean everything, felt to you. It was REAL to you. Puppets weren’t puppets, they were real ducks and lambs and dogs. Cartoons weren’t cartoons; they were real sailors (like Popeye) and fairies and monsters. So it was with me when I saw Suzy Snowflake. Suzy was REAL.
In the song, the singer tells us that Suzy comes to your window dressed in a snow-white gown and taps on the windowpane to let you know she’s here and would like you to come out and play, since she won’t be here long.
And I thought to my young self, Yes! I’ve heard here tapping at the window!
And Yes! I can see her snow-white gown!
And Yes! I’ve been outside playing with her!
And Yes! She’s beautiful!
But, my young self thought, I must look harder next time she comes, because I can’t see her face.
This quest to see Suzy’s face was a fun game, and I soon realized that it didn’t matter if I couldn’t see her face because she was right there in front of me and I was on a sled riding on her and I was building a snowman with her and all the while she was all around me in her snow-white gown. She reminded me that I, too, wore a snow-white gown — all fluffy and flouncy — when I was with her. I was a princess when Suzy was in town.
The personification of Suzy Snowflake, of course, symbolized the gentle side of Mother Nature. Suzy brought happiness to us kids. She wasn’t judgmental, she wanted all of us to come out and play with her. She wasn’t part of the family, but a kind and gentle stranger who visited periodically (you never knew when, so it was always a delightful surprise), and she always beckoned us to play. To me, this was an irresistible combination.
Now that I’m 70, it’s occurred to me that the sense of wonder and joy that often surfaces whenever I encounter metaphors and archetypes and fairy tales (both when I was very young as well as now, when I’m entering old age — which really is only a number) is a special gift. Whether I’m focusing on the story or thoughtlessly concentrating on the images it conjures in my imagination, it puts me into a waking dream of sorts, a joyful experience that’s a renewal of life, a healing. It reveals the true essence of who I really am. Of who you really are.
I’ve also come to realize that no story about a boy or a man has ever invoked such wonder and joy in me. Only girls and women can trigger these feelings. Hardrock, Coco, Joe, Frosty, Garfield Goose, Frazier Thomas, and even Popeye have never activated the magical feelings I experience when watching or reading about strong girls and women. And remember that it sometimes takes great strength to be gentle.
There’s something extraordinary and wonderful and natural about female power and energy.
And although men and boys contain parts of the feminine, just as women and girls contain parts of the masculine, the feminine in each of us is far less celebrated.
I wonder if men feel magic and awe in the presence of certain female characters? Maybe they do. Yes, I would think some of them do. But perhaps some of them also experience it as a threatening power. That’s another topic, and perhaps a misogynist one at that, so let’s not go there today.
Instead, let’s live in the enchantment of the divine feminine and remember that Suzy may have been a snowflake, but by no means was she or is she flakey.
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