Eight years after his untimely death, Archie the Snowman will return to life at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the basement of the former O’Neil’s department store, right next to Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron. Your favorite columnist swung by Archie’s new digs to chat him up.
Bob: Long time no see, dude!
Archie: Pardon me … have we met?
Bob: Well, no, not really. But I feel like I know you.
Archie: I thought I had met everyone in Greater Akron. How did you manage not to meet me?
Bob: I didn’t grow up here. Although you and I overlapped for many years, you didn’t mean anything to me.
Archie: Boy, you’re a real charmer.
Bob: Let me finish, frost face. Even though you’re not included in my personal childhood memory bank, I am well aware that tens of thousands of Greater Akronites worshipped at your big, snowy feet. When Chapel Hill Mall was sold and the new, out-of-state owners melted you down in 2004, people went bananas. One guy set up a Facebook page that reportedly had 6,500 members.
Archie: Well, at least you’ve done your homework, column boy.
Bob: That’s why they pay me the big bucks.
Archie: So what brings you around after all those missed opportunities?
Bob: The reason I treasure you, even though I don’t really know you, is that, in Akron, you are synonymous with the holidays. You transport local folks back to their childhoods, when life was simpler and a lot more fun. But before your oversized head gets any larger, keep in mind that every town has its own Archie.
Archie: Blasphemy! How can you say that?
Bob: I grew up in suburban Cleveland. Ever hear of Mr. Jingeling?
Archie: Mr. Gigolo?! That hardly seems appropriate for children!
Bob: No, no, no. Jingeling. Like jingling a set of keys. This guy even had his own theme song. Every baby boomer who grew up in Greater Cleveland can still sing it:
How you tingeling
Keeper of the keys
On Halle’s seventh floor
We’ll be waiting for
You to turn the keys
Archie: Some song. The only thing they could think of to rhyme with “keys” was “keys”?
Bob: OK, so the lyrics weren’t written by Irving Berlin. But to little kids of that era, Mr. Jingeling held the keys to the kingdom. When you heard that song, you knew Christmas was right around the corner and you were gonna feel warm and snuggly and get lots of presents. Mr. Jingeling was on TV for 30 years.
Archie: Same guy?
Bob: No, three different guys. The first guy died, the second guy did it for one year and the third guy had to find a new place when Halle’s folded in 1982. He moved to Higbee’s for a few years, but it wasn’t the same. Today they’re all dead. Now a couple of guys do personal appearances, but nobody pays attention.
Archie: Not the best bloodlines for an alleged icon.
Bob: You should talk. You’re third generation yourself, and you don’t have one iota of the original Archie’s DNA in your entire plywood and hardware-cloth body.
Archie: Not my fault. Those bozos at Chapel Hill literally threw me out in the trash because I was taking up too much of their precious floor space.
Bob: Which begs a question. You existed for 36 years, then you were dead for eight years. Does that mean you’re now 37, or are you going to take credit for being 44?
Archie: I prefer to think of myself as timeless.
Bob: I’m sure you do. But you weren’t even the first department store hero in Akron. Before you showed up, Polsky’s had Tom the Talking Horse. He was the main attraction during the 1940s. When kids would walk by, he’d say, “Come here, little boy!” or “Come here, little girl!”
Archie: Not sure I could get away with that approach.
Bob: Exactly. The world has changed. Just like you. You used to have menacing red eyes, and now they’re blue. You’ve shrunk from 20 feet to 15. And you’ve gone from 800 pounds at birth to 1,800 pounds when you were rebuilt in 1973 to 1,200 pounds today.
Archie: Whatever. At least I’m back. And the kids can visit me Friday from 7:30 to 10 p.m. — and, after that, from 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays, noon to 8 Saturdays and noon to 6 Sundays.
Bob: I guess you know a thing or two about self-promotion, eh?
Archie: A snowman can’t come back from the grave without knowing something about self-promotion. And you are talking to me about self-promotion? At least I didn’t fabricate an entire column and use my name all the way through it.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.