The Cinnamon Bear


Jerrel McQueen and Timothy Holmes illustrated this book published in 2007 by Beautiful America Publishing Company.
The Cinnamon Bear is an old time radio program produced by Transco (Transcription Company of America), based in Hollywood, California. The series was specifically designed to be listened to six days a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It was first broadcast between Friday, November 26 and Saturday December 25, 1937. Some markets like Portland, Oregon jumped the gun, debuting the program on November 25, Thanksgiving Day. In the first season, Portland broadcast the program on two stations, KALE at 6:00pm and KXL at 7:00pm.

When syndication problems arose at Transco, the program was not officially broadcast in 1940, although some stations might have aired previous transcriptions. No program aired in Portland that year. In 1941, Transco programming was sold to Broadcasters Program Syndicate, and The Cinnamon Bear was on the air nationally once again. In the 1950s, syndication was taken over by Lou R. Winston, also based in Hollywood.

An original Lipman-Wolfe & Company newspaper ad from the Portland Oregon Journal, November 25, 1937 read:

Introducing Paddy O’Cinnamon, Santa Claus’s right-hand man! Meet him with Santa in Toyland at Lipman’s… and don’t miss his exciting adventures with Judy and Jimmy (two of the nicest playmates you could ever want). and some nights you’ll be so anxious to hear how they got the Silver Star back from the wicked Crazyquilt Dragon that you’ll listen twice! And here’s a secret… the Cinnamon Bear is just as excited about meeting you as he can be.

The story focused on Judy and Jimmy Barton who go to the enchanted world of Maybeland to recover their missing Silver Star that belongs on their Christmas tree. Helping on the search is the Cinnamon Bear, a stuffed bear with shoe-button eyes and a green ribbon around his neck. They meet other memorable characters during their quest, including the Crazy Quilt Dragon (who repeatedly tries to take the star for himself), the Wintergreen Witch, Fe Fo the Giant and Santa Claus.

Episodes began at Thanksgiving and ended at Christmas, with one episode airing each night. The show was created by a group of merchants as an advertising promotion, and was recorded in only a few weeks. It was produced by Lindsay MacHarrie, who also provided the voice of Westley the Whale and several other characters.

Cast and crew

The voice of The Cinnamon Bear was provided by Buddy Duncan, a midget and vaudeville comedian. Many notable radio voices lent their talents, including:

Barbara Jean Wong as Judy Barton
Unknown as Jimmy Barton
Joseph Kearns as The Crazy-Quilt Dragon
Verna Felton as Judy & Jimmy’s mother
Lou Merrill as Santa Claus
Martha Wentworth as The Wintergreen Witch
Gale Gordon as Weary Willie the Stork and Oliver Ostrich
Rosa Barcelo as Queen Melissa
Elvia Allman as Penelope the Pelican
Joe DuVal as Fe Fo, the Giant
Frank Nelson as Captain Tin Top
Hanley Stafford as Snapper Snitch, the Crooning Crocodile
Howard McNear as Samuel the Seal and Slim Pickins, the Cowboy
Cy Kendall as Captain Taffy, the Pirate, and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer (Indian Chief)
Ted Osborne as King Blotto the Third and Professor Whiz, the Owl
Elliott Lewis as Mr. Presto the Magician
Ed Max as the Inkaboo Assistant Executioner
Dorothy Scott as Fraidy Cat
Lindsay MacHarrie as Westley the Wailing Whale, the Grand Wonkey, and others
Eddie Collins as Rhyming Rabbit

It is not known for sure who played Jimmy Barton. Old time radio fans think it was either Walter Tetley of The Great Gildersleeve and The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, or Tommy Carr of the radio show, Magic Island. Radio announcer Bud Heistand served as the narrator. Lindsay MacHarrie was also the producer of the show.

Both actors Gale Gordon as Weary Willie the Stork and Oliver Ostrich and Joseph Kearns as The Crazy-Quilt Dragon would later go on to work on the 1959 television show Dennis the Menace. Gale Gordon was under contract to play John Wilson (after the death of Joseph Kearns, who played George Wilson) on Dennis the Menace.

The story and all the songs were written in six weeks’ time by Glan Heisch, aided by his wife, Elisabeth A. Heisch (1908–2003). He was specifically directed to create something in the style of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Public reception

The radio show proved to be so popular that the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club says it has been broadcast by a station somewhere in the world every year during the holidays, even today. Many malls had a Cinnamon Bear that children would tell what they wanted for gifts instead of a Santa, and he would show up in Christmas parades. The Cinnamon Bear has remained especially popular in Portland Oregon, which was often cited as a “Cinnamon Bear hotspot.”


In 1951, for a Cinnamon Bear television series, the characters were hand puppets, and the radio program provided the soundtrack.


The copyright is now held by the eldest child of Glan and Elisabeth Heisch, Catherine Borchmann of Rockford, Illinois. Catherine inherited the property following the death of Elisabeth Heisch in 2003. There was a lengthy legal battle in the early 2000s in which the heirs of Glanville Heisch (who died in 1986) prevailed, and the copyright of the radio play was returned to the family.

No Sound Recordings prior to 1972 are protected by federal copyright law. State common law copyright applies. The safe position is that no sound recordings are in the public domain because state common law doesn’t have legislative limits.

A federal trademark for the Portland Spirit Cinnamon Bear was filed and registered in 2004.

Books and publications

In 1987, upon the 50th anniversary of The Cinnamon Bear, a fan of the show started an annual newsletter called “Bear Facts” and put out by “The Cinnamon Bear Brigade,” which ran for five years.

The Cinnamon Bear in the Adventure of the Silver Star (2007) by Rick Lewis and Veronica Marzilli was published during the 70th anniversary of The Cinnamon Bear. Jerrel McQueen and Timothy Holmes provided the illustrations.


Timothy John, a proposed radio serial by Carlton E. Morse, featured a teddy bear who spoke with an Irish accent. As noted by Martin Grams, Jr., Morse’s unused plot synopsis was obviously inspired by The Cinnamon Bear.

Lipman’s is probably best remembered for the Cinnamon Bear, a popular Portland Christmas time tradition since 1937. The Cinnamon Bear was introduced as a Lipman’s-sponsored radio story character, meant to count down the days until Christmas. Along with Santa Claus, his costumed likeness appeared every Christmas at Lipman’s stores, handing out cookies to children. Frederick & Nelson continued the practice after absorbing the brand. The Cinnamon Bear survives today as a souvenir at the Fifth Avenue Suites. To this day, the Cinnamon Bear is aired during the holidays on K103. The Cinnamon Bear radio show can also be heard on Kool 99.1 in Eugene, Oregon every Christmas

Portland Spirit Cruises developed the first Cinnamon Bear Cruise in 2005, based on the radio show by Glanville and Elizabeth Heisch’s memorable characters and the radio show. Becoming a family tradition in Portland, Oregon, the cruise entering its 5th year in 2009, sells out to thousands of family members during the month of December. On board, children of all ages meet Queen Melissa, Cinnamon Bear, Crazy Quilt Dragon, Presto the Magician, Captain Taffy and the Candy Buccaneers and numerous other magical characters from the radio series.

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