Santa and Mr. Bingle on the Maison Blanche Building

If you lived in New Orleans from the 1950s through the 1980s, you would know who the elflike, snowman figure beside Santa Claus was.

Mr. Bingle in action with Al Shea, a NOLA TV mainstay who is also voicing and working the puppet Pete the Penguin. Oscar Isentrout is unseen voicing and manipulating Mr. Bingle (Courtesy:Toulouse Street)

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!

Mr. Bingle will be rolling in the local Christmas parade down Canal Street this Saturday, December 3.

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 is a link about Mr. Bingle below, which includes other photographs and even audio excerpts:

Mr. Bingle Fans


One Response to “Santa and Mr. Bingle on the Maison Blanche Building”

  1. I have fond memories of Mr. Bingle as a kid in the mid to late 60’s Maison Blanche was always cool. I can remember an electric train that ran by putting your hand on the storefront window. and Mr. Bingle was always there at Christmas


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: