For generations of New Orleanians, the arrival of the holiday season was heralded not just by chilly weather and festive decorations but by the appearance of a charming little snowman with an ice cream cone hat, holly wings, and a big, jolly grin. This snowman, Mr. Bingle, became an emblem of holiday magic in the city, closely tied with the iconic Maison Blanche department store.
Maison Blanche: The Crown Jewel of Canal Street
Before we delve into the wonder of Mr. Bingle, it's essential to understand the cultural significance of Maison Blanche. Founded in 1897 by Isidore Newman, Maison Blanche, which translates to "White House" in French, quickly rose to prominence as one of Canal Street's most elegant and influential department stores.
The store became a shopping mecca, offering everything from high fashion to furniture, all presented in an environment of opulence. The grandeur of Maison Blanche was not just in its merchandise but also in its architecture, with its Beaux-Arts façade and lavish interiors.
The Birth of Mr. Bingle
In the 1940s, Maison Blanche's display director, Emile Alline, conceived of Mr. Bingle as a mascot for the store's holiday promotional campaign. Crafted with Christmas ornaments for eyes and a red ribbon around his neck, Mr. Bingle captured hearts from the moment he made his debut. He wasn't just a store mascot; he became synonymous with the holiday spirit in New Orleans.
Throughout the years, Mr. Bingle starred in puppet shows, radio spots, and TV commercials, each time narrating magical tales from "The Land of Snowy Winters." His jingle, which began with "Jingle, jangle, jingle, here comes Mr. Bingle," is nostalgically etched in the memories of many.
A Tradition Beyond a Store
The magic of Mr. Bingle went far beyond the confines of Maison Blanche. Huge replicas of Mr. Bingle would adorn the front of the store and other city landmarks. For many kids, the holiday season was marked by a visit to Maison Blanche to see the Mr. Bingle puppet show, an experience that became a cherished annual tradition.
While Maison Blanche was acquired by Dillard's in 1998 and the original building no longer houses the department store, the legacy of Mr. Bingle endures. Dillard's has continued the tradition, ensuring that new generations experience the magic of Mr. Bingle.
In Reflection: More Than Memories
Mr. Bingle and Maison Blanche represent more than just bygone retail traditions. They evoke a sense of community, shared experiences, and the unique cultural tapestry that makes New Orleans such a remarkable city. The story of a small snowman and an elegant store reminds us of the joy, wonder, and shared memories that bind communities together. In the heart of every New Orleanian who grew up with Mr. Bingle, there's a jingle-jangle that keeps the spirit of holidays alive, year after year.