Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Book: The Story of Archie the Talking Snowman

(Book cover)

Book Release: The Story of Archie the Talking Snowman
by Joanna Wilson

I don't just blog about my favorite Akron events, retailers, bands, and organizations.  I'm also a book author with an interest in Akron history/arts & culture.  I found a tremendous amount of support and had fun co-authoring A is for Akron last year.  So you can imagine my excitement with my new book project The Story of Archie the Talking Snowman

I too grew up visiting Archie the Snowman at Chapel Hill Mall.  My research into Archie's story led to a long and complex history of Christmas attractions in Akron.  From the back cover of the book:

"If your childhood Christmas memories include visiting a twenty-foot-tall talking snowman with flashing red eyes, then you undoubtedly grew up in Akron, Ohio.
The Story of Archie the Snowman is the story of the people who helped make Archie more than just a store Christmas attraction.
It’s also the surprising story of Akron’s hundred-year history of elegant, extravagant, and occasionally plain weird retail Christmas attractions--from the enchanting downtown windows of O’Neil’s and Polsky’s, to talking Christmas trees, trained animal acts, and Santa arriving by satellite. It’s the fascinating context for how and why Archie came to be."

(back cover)
Want to know more?  Let me share an excerpt from the book's introduction:

"Tom the Talking Horse? A nine foot-tall Raggedy Ann doll? A walk-through zeppelin “ride” to the North Pole? A Santa that arrives by helicopter to Polsky’s downtown parking deck? For nearly a century, young Akronites have witnessed these fantastic magical Christmas experiences. A giant talking snowman named Archie doesn’t seem that far fetched or even out of the ordinary.
Yet he is.

Akron was an extremely competitive marketplace at Christmas each year as downtown stores, and eventually plazas and suburban malls joined the contest. The unique competition over the attention of Akron’s shoppers benefited us all with an ever escalating build up of Christmas enchantment and entertainment. During our city’s long history, luxury shopping in the downtown city center rivaled that in other large cities including Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis and Denver. The shopping was at a level with larger cities, and the windows were extremely good too. Although New York City has been considereddeservedly so—the source of the highest quality in Christmas window displays, I’ve found that Akron also created incredibly extravagant window displays and utilized nationally known window display designs that were available in New York and throughout the country, including markets much larger than ours. Many people in Akron still remember the fantasy and magic of O’Neil’s and Polsky’s Christmas window displays. 
Akron’s retailers didn’t just create awe-inspiring Christmas window displays, the competition for shoppers’ attention also included in-store attractions with fanciful Santa Land walk-through experiences, live clowns, organ grinders, and TV celebrity appearances. Holiday parades with giant balloons marched down Main Street, puppet shows by nationally touring troupes entertained the crowds, and Santa Claus’ arrival at downtown stores became a special event worthy of front page coverage in the local newspaper." 

Newspaper ad for holiday windows--with marionettes--for the Akron downtown retailer Polsky's in 1946.

The book is due for release on Saturday, July 25th--a Christmas in July treat!  You can order the book online through the publisher 1701 Press at this link.   If you live in the greater Akron area, you are invited to the book release party on Sat. July 25th, 6-9pm, on the 3rd floor of Summit Artspace (140 E. Market St.) in downtown Akron.  The party will be the first chance for anyone to get a peek at the new book!  I'll also be there signing books, if you like.  

For more information, check out the following links:

Facebook page for the book: Story of Archie the Talking Snowman
Event details: Book Release Party for the Story of Archie
Book website: http://www.StoryofArchie.com

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