Story from Joe Rao:
On Christmas Eve, 1966, the same evening that the Channel 11 Yule Log made its New York debut, another symbol of the Christmas season was literally enveloping the Greater New York Area.
According to the official Weather Service records, the storm dropped 7.1 inches of snow in Central Park. A similar amount of snow fell across Long Island and Coastal New Jersey. Inland, to the north and west, however, the snowfall was much heavier: up to 13 inches in the Lower Hudson Valley and as much as 20 inches over parts of Sussex County, New Jersey. One intriguing aspect of this storm was the numerous reports of thunder and lightning that were made when the storm was at its heaviest, which was right around the time that The Yule Log made its first appearance on television screens across the Tri-State area.
I remember that Christmas Eve as if it were yesterday. I was 10, and lived in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx. Down the block from where I lived was a guy by the name of Charlie Dunahee, who on this night was going from door to door taking up a collection for a local Christmas charity. Charlie was all decked out as Santa Claus, and believe me when I tell you that he didn't need any padding to play the part. What I remember most clearly was the moment when Charlie plodded his way up the steps to our porch and through our front door. My sister, Lisa, then only 7, had this expression of incredulity on her face. Wasn't Santa a bit early?
Charlie played the Santa role to the hilt. He told my sister he had parked his sleigh and reindeer a couple of blocks away, and was just there to make sure he'd “be able to make it through the snow when he came back later that night." After a getting a hot drink and an appropriate contribution for braving the stormy weather, he headed back out, and my sister and I watched as "Santa Charlie" literally disappeared into the whiteout conditions occurring outside of our doorway.
Soon afterward, we turned our television on to watch The Yule Log. It made an instant impression on me, because in those days there weren't too many shows that were broadcasted in "living color." I'd say about 60 to 70 percent of the shows were in black and-white; if a show was in color, the TV listings usually would put a big "C" next to the program, and TV Guide would have the word "COLOR" next to the program listing. To be sure, a program telecast in color in those days was a special event. And The Yule Log on Channel 11 in 1966 was indeed a special event! We were lucky to have a color television back then, an RCA Vista Color set with an oddly shaped screen: convex on the sides and flat on the top.
In all the years since then, I've been a fan of The Yule Log. And every time I see it replayed, it takes me back to that 1966 Christmas Eve snowstorm, the visit from "Santa Claus," our oddly shaped television screen, and that look of wonderment on my kid sister's face.
May the Log continue to burn for many years to come!
News 12 Meteorologist & Hayden Planetarium Instructor/Lecturer
Story from Susan Rasmussen:
I remember the first broadcast in 1966. We lived in Burlington, Vermont, and had only a black and white television, but that didn't matter. We lived in a small four-room apartment without a fireplace. We did have one of those cardboard ones that had to be assembled, but it wasn't even strong enough to hang our stockings on.
I remember that on Christmas, we had to go upstairs and get dressed for bed right after dinner. When we came down, our mother would have us four kids sit on the stairs, with the youngest on the bottom step and the oldest on the top. Then she would take our picture, and we would spend the rest of the evening doing Christmas crafts.
Normally, we weren't allowed to stay up past 9:00 PM, but on Christmas Eve, we begged our mother to let us stay up to watch TV. We had just gotten cable TV earlier that year, and because we only had 3 local stations at the time, the cable company gave us a few extra channels. One of them was WPIX Channel 11.
When The Yule Log came on, it was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. I still get teary-eyed just thinking about it. The music was the best ever. At the time, I had a lot of children's Christmas records done by generic artists, but to hear the songs done by the original artists was the best. I don't think any of us said a word during the broadcast, but we probably tried to sing along with the music. Normally, we would be horsing around like siblings do, but during The Yule Log, we were as good as angels.
For many years, we watched The Yule Log every Christmas Eve. After the broadcast, we would go to bed. Then, on Christmas morning we would open our presents, eat breakfast and get dressed and then walk over to our grandparents’ to open our gifts from them and have Christmas dinner at their house. We couldn't wait for The Yule Log to be broadcasted, because we knew that as soon as it ended, we would go to bed and when we woke up, Santa Claus would have been there. We moved to Mt. Kisco, New York in 1970 and were able to get WPIX-FM, making The Yule Log even more enjoyable. We were even able to get a color television for free. It was so beautiful to see The Yule Log in color and to hear the music in full stereo.
Since we were older, some of the traditions changed. We decorated the tree and the rest of the house, but we stopped doing our Christmas crafts. Even though we didn't believe in Santa Claus anymore, we still went to bed right after The Yule Log. We would still get up at about 6:30 AM to open our presents.
I believe The Yule Log music is what started me on collecting records, especially Christmas ones. I threw out the paper sleeve on a lot of my 45s and wrote on the record labels or put stickers on them. Not surprisingly, my records today are very scratched. and they skip. Though I don't have all the albums that the music of The Yule Log was taken from, I do have several. I could listen to Christmas music 24 hours a day, (if it didn’t make my significant other want to kill me!) and though I have always enjoyed listening to Christmas music, I believe The Yule Log inspired me more than anything to keep listening throughout the year.
I was very disappointed when The Yule Log stopped airing in 1990. Fortunately, I had had the foresight to record it onto a beta video tape in the 1980s, so I could watch it whenever I wanted. Now that it’s back on the air, it continues to enrich my Christmas every year.
Story from Christine Barber:
My father was the first lover of The Yule Log, and he and my mother introduced all seven of us kids to its magic back in our early childhood. Back then we had only three channels on our black and white television and they were controlled by the weather and an old rusted antenna that was stuck in the ground outside. The antenna had a thin black wire running to the TV that one of us always had to run out to and adjust while the rest of the family yelled instructions through the window.
Every Christmas Eve, my Dad would put on the TV, go outside, and adjust the antenna in the cold and snow so The Yule Log's music and magic would fill the air. The Yule Log always came in crystal clear, something that we always attributed to a Christmas miracle. As silly as it was, the fire always seem to make us warmer on that one cold winter night.
One of my sisters is deaf, and one year my father put her in front of the TV and tried to explain what was going on and why we had on The Yule Log. She sat there and stared at the fire, not hearing the music with her ears, but feeling it, with her hands on the TV. A few years later she surprised us by coming home from The Clark School for the Deaf over Christmas vacation with a new Christmas song. As always on Christmas Eve, we turned on The Yule Log, but for this one moment in time we turned down the volume and we listened to her recite the song "Up On The House Top" while she stood by the televised fire. The tears and the joy in the room were overwhelming. That year, my parents had their own Christmas miracle in the glow of the Yule Log fire.
I was lucky enough to tape The Yule Log one year before it went off the air, and have continued to play it every Christmas Eve since. Those treasured memories of family Christmas Eves with the black and white TV, the burning Yule Log's magic filling the air, and that one special Christmas Eve miracle are burned forever into my heart.
Story from Donald Herring:
I have mostly happy memories associated with The Yule Log. It played in our house for many years, even when it was off the air due to open reel tapes I had made during Christmas Eves past, years before the cassette became commonplace.
But one year in 1981, my dad lay gravely ill in bed on Christmas Eve. He would soon pass away from lung cancer on January 8. As hard as we tried, the Christmas spirit could just not overcome the pain we felt for our dad. The Yule Log music helped to soothe our grief. My Aunt Helen and my Uncle Pat hummed the comforting Christmas melodies, helping us get through the most devastating time of our lives. I am forever indebted to my relatives and to The Yule Log’s beautiful music for the comfort it brought to us during this most difficult time, and the good times as well. God Bless you, and thank you for these memories.
Stories are being accepted on an ongoing basis; so, if you have a story to share with us about your heartwarming memories of growing up with the Yule Log, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.