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Radio Legend Walter Winchell Remembers The Christ of Christmas

Photo of Walter Winchell via Wiki Commons

Radio Legend Walter Winchell Remembers The Christ of Christmas

By Movieguide® Staff

In 1949, radio legend Walter Winchell famously offered his audience the true meaning of Christmas in his witty, fast-paced reporting style.

“Personally? It means the birthday of the Man Who, when asked, ‘What shall one do to be saved?,’ answered, ‘Thou shalt love thy God with thy whole soul and thy whole mind and thy whole heart—and love thy neighbor as thyself,’” he explained in an article published with Guideposts. “That ticket’s right with me, for any man’s, or any nation’s, aim.”

“As your reporter? It means a day when across the nation and throughout the world men give pause to salute, each in his own fashion, all that is noble and good,” he added.

Winchell proceeded to rattle off several stories about the honorable actions that deserved recognition.

“Last Christmas Eve only one officer remained on duty at Camp Kilmer. His name: Capt. Sammy Klause,” he said.

“Probably the most memorable Yuletide wordage is the beloved poem, ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas.’ It was written by Clement C. Moore, who taught Hebrew,” he added.

“Christmas makes this tale propitious: An agnostic challenged a nine-year-old: ‘I will give you an orange if you tell me where the Lord is.’ The youngster replied: “I will give you two oranges if you will tell me where He is not,’” he continued.

Winchell also quoted president Woodrow Wilson and author Don Marquis.

“When Woodrow Wilson was asked what’s the best way to prove the greatness of Christianity, he said simply: ‘Try it,’” Winchell said. “Don Marquis wrote: ‘The exchange of Christmas gifts should be reciprocal rather than retaliatory.’”

“Cardinal Spellman’s Christmas gift for the mind: ‘The joy of Christmas is a joy that war cannot kill, for it is a joy of the soul and the soul cannot die. Poverty cannot prevent the joy of Christmas, for it is a joy no earthly wealth can give. Time cannot wither Christmas, for it belongs to eternity. The world cannot shatter it, for it is a union with Him who has overcome the world.’”

Winchell not only recognized honorable words, but also honorable actions.

“In Tulsa (Okla.), Chauncey Moore operates a bureau to place needy children in various homes during the Christmas season. Two years ago a 50-year-old widow called and asked if he could place her; while she wasn’t a child, she was very lonely. Could Mr. Moore help? He called a bachelor friend who called the lady. They made a date for Christmas dinner, church and a show,” Winchell shared.

“The Salvation Army used to award baskets each Yuletide indiscriminately. But 7 years ago they decided to give people checks, instead of food and toys, with gratifying results. One father said gratefully; ‘It makes me feel like a man again, to be able to go out and buy things for my kids,’” Winchell added.

At the end of Winchell’s report on the meaning of Christmas, he circled back to Christianity.

“Christmas Bells: J. Lorimer: ‘Religion hasn’t failed. It hasn’t been tried.’ … Billy Sunday: ‘Going to church doesn’t make you good any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.’ … R. L. Stevenson: ‘Christianity believes in people even if people don’t always believe in it.’ … Disraeli: ‘Christianity is completed Judaism, or it is nothing.’”

He concluded with a Christmas poem by Avery Giles, which reads:

There was no room within the village inn,
The night that gentle Mary’s Son was born;
A manger cradled royal David’s kin,
Where shepherds worshipped that first Christmas morn.
Nearly two thousand years have passed and gone,
And hearts are hard and doors barred as of yore;
Let us remember that far distant dawn,
When wayfarers seek shelter on our shore.
Forget not the small Infant in the stall;
A Displaced Person come to save us all.

Winchell was a friend of Movieguide® Founder and Publisher Dr. Ted Baehr’s, father whose stage name was Robert Allen. Winchell wrote about Ted Baehr ’s birth when his father was starring in SHOWBOAT on Broadway. As a young boy and teenager, Ted would often meet and chat with Walter at Sardi’s. Walter was a friend.