Santa and Mr. Bingle on the Maison Blanche Building
Mr. Bingle was the Christmas mascot of Maison Blanche, once a flagship department store in New Orleans. Created in 1947 by display director Emile Alline, Mr. Bingle was figured prominently in the large and elaborate yearly Christmas window display. From the Mr. Bingle fan page:
This special little character’s snowman body was adorably adorned with an ice cream cone hat, candy cane in hand, red ribbon with bells and holly wings. The holly wings were so he could fly. He was created as Santa’s helper. His voice was the most magical of all. He had a characteristically high pitched squeekey, raspey (sic) voice that captured the hearts of many a child and adult alike.
I took a picture with Santa and Mr. Bingle. In the photo, I am six and shy in my pigtails and with big eyes. I’m a year away from getting glasses for my nearsightedness. I looked away from the camera with a little smile.
Eventually, Mr. Bingle graduated to both radio and television. Before the 5:00 p.m. news, and just before the cartoons ended, Mr. Bingle would appear in a daily fifteen-minute story segment with puppeteer Edwin “Oscar” Isentrout and other puppet friends, and would always put in a plug for shoppers to come to Maison Blanche. Mr. Bingle was also featured at other puppet show venues, especially in hospitals, and even appeared at the Citrus Bowl in 1989. However, when Isentrout died in 1985, Mr. Bingle’s voice was silenced.
Later, the Dillards chain acquired both Maison Blanche and Mr. Bingle. The store building on Canal Street, where this photograph was taken in the late 1940s-early 1950s, became Dillards, but it was eventually sold off and converted into the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans.
After Katrina, a gigantic figure of Mr. Bingle placed in City Park became a symbol of hope for many the first Christmas after the storm.
This was his theme song:
Jingle, jangle, jingle/
Here comes Mr. Bingle/
With another message from Kris Kringle/
Time to launch your Christmas season/
Maison Blanche makes Christmas pleasin’/
Gifts galore for you to see/
Each a gem from MB!
The initials of Maison Blanche (“white house” in French) and Mr. Bingle are the same.
Yes, I do have Mr. Bingle Christmas ornaments, but not the dolls. You can find them at eBay.
Here are links about Mr. Bingle. (The broken one to Dillards has been replaced with yet another.) These links also include other photographs and even audio excerpts:
- Maison Blanche Reveals its New Years Eve Menu (immigrationsarasota.com)
- Celebration in the Oaks 2012 – A Top Thing to Do in New Orleans at Christmas – Video (notesonneworleans.net)