Mr. Jingeling On The Brain

The human brain is strange.  Why is it that I sometimes struggle to remember the names of people at my office but can recall — with sharp, striking clarity — every word to the stupid theme song of Mr. Jingeling?

If you lived in northeastern Ohio during the early 1960s, you knew Mr. Jingeling as a guy who appeared on TV around Christmas.  He was Santa’s top assistant, and he had a prissy hairstyle like that of the guard who answered when Dorothy and friends knocked on the door to the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz.  He carried a large key ring at all times, for reasons his song explained:

Mr. Jingeling, how you ting-a-ling,

Keeper of the Keys!

On Halle’s seventh floor, we’ll be looking for

You to turn the Keys!

Keeping track of Santa’s pack

And Treasure House of toys,

Wind-up things that Santa brings

To all the good little girls and boys

Mr. Jingeling, how you ting-a-ling,

Keeper of the Keys!

On Halle’s Seventh floor we’ll be looking for

You to turn the Keys!

It is mildly disturbing to realize that, indelibly imprinted deep within the crevices and synapses of my brain, is a theme song about a fictional Christmas TV character on a show that has been off the air for decades, sponsored by a long defunct Cleveland department store.  What the hell else is buried in there — that is, aside from the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies?

Dorothy Fuldheim

As great as Ghoulardi and Barnaby and Captain Penny were, no recollection of Cleveland TV personalities of the ’60s would be complete without some comment about Dorothy Fuldheim.

Dorothy Fuldheim was a legend of Cleveland television.  By the late 1960s, she had already been the undisputed leader of Cleveland TV newscasting and commentary for 20 years.  She had interviewed major historical and cultural figures, from Adolf Hitler to John Kennedy to Muhammad Ali, and even though she was well into her 70s she gave a nightly commentary on what was going on in the world. And she continued to do so long after our family moved from Akron to Columbus and left the Cleveland broadcast area.  Fuldheim did not retire until 1984, at age 91.  She died five years later.

As a kid watching those broadcasts, I never gave a thought to the fact that Dorothy Fuldheim was female and a true trailblazer for women broadcasters.  She was just Dorothy Fuldheim, on the air as she always was, giving her opinions with an absolute, unquestioned air of conviction and authenticity.  It was obvious that she meant everything she said; she was Dorothy Fuldheim and didn’t need to cowtow to anyone.  And her voice!  There was a depth and genuineness to it.  It was like the voice of the whole Midwest, coming from this one red-haired woman sitting behind the desk.  It is no wonder that her career lasted as long as it did.

The YouTube clip below, in which Dorothy Fuldheim commemorates her 86th birthday, is a good example of her unique talents.