1947-12-25 The Santa Claus of Bums' Boulevard

Some listeners may write off The Santa Claus of Bums' Boulevard as just a schmaltzy and obligatory Christmas program typical of the golden age of radio. It's not. It's a real Casey plotline, told and presented well. It has a real crime, but the main story is a spirit of redemption and generosity. Good but mysterious things occur, playing into Cole's interests in supernatural storylines, but this time they are explained by the magic of Santa and the religious nature of the holiday. Cole weaves many Christological symbols with Biblical aspects through the story.

ADC continuity notes...
Casey and Ann are assigned to secure a story about a mysterious grayhaired, poorly dressed man, who on several preceding Christmases, has appeared on a slum street, locally known as Bums' Blvd., where he has distributed new one dollar bills to the derelicts of the unsavory neighborhood. Nobody knows the identity of the man, and when his supply of money is exhausted he takes an abrupt departure. Somewhat late in reaching the corner where the Santa Claus of  Bums' Blvd. customarily makes his gifts, Casey and Ann find that the generous stranger has not yet appeared. The crowd of alcoholics, crooks who have gathered to wait his arrival are growing reckless and abusive, when an unprepossessing character called "Harry the Creep" excitedly reports that he has found Santa Claus. The Santa Claus of Bums' Blvd. has been struck on the head and his pockets rifled. When he is restored to consciousness he cannot (or will not) give any information about the thief who attacked him. In the thrilling search for the criminal that follows, Casey and Ann solve the exciting mystery of "The Santa Claus of Bums' Blvd."

The word "unprepossessing" is not in common use today; it means "not particularly attractive or appealing to the eye."

This may be one of the last times or years many of the actors worked on Christmas Day. Starting in 1948 the radio industry began to adapt recording tape in production and the resistance to playing transcriptions of network programs was starting to decline. Many of the New York actors were used to working on holidays, especially if they had a part in a Broadway show. For many, if you had to work a holiday, that meant things were going well for you.

Cole's draft records indicate he was Episcopalian. The specific nature of his personal religious practice is not known, but he was obviously familiar with religious dimensions of Christmas. The Christological references are related to the last years of Christ's life and Holy Week, and not Christmas. At this time in US history, even the non-religious had familiarity with Biblical themes and persons as they were commonly referenced in classical literature and everyday publications, even if in an allegorical manner. Religious Christmas music is used in this episode, which is far less common (or acceptable) today, with a preference for secular Christmas melodies.

1:55 Chittison is mentioned as being away, celebrating Christmas with his family. "Johnny Paul" is mentioned as subbing. I can't find any reference to him as being a popular pianist at the time, or a studio pianist for CBS. It's likely a pianist under contract for some other program who needed to be uncredited for this gig.

Throughout the beginning scenes, Cole's script is harsh in the language, description, and circumstances about Bums' Boulevard. This is a means to set up a stark contrast with the eventual inspiring conclusion that changes hearts and causes personal introspection by the characters, in keeping with the spirit of the season. The lack of family as the reason Casey, Ann, and Ethelbert are working rather than being with family as Chittison is, is also part of that contrast, as one of the messages of this episode is that people, whatever the circumstance, are part of a larger family community deserving of care and respect.

3:00 Casey refers to the alcoholics on Bums' Boulevard as "rummies." That would not be acceptable language today. Earlier, Ethelbert describes the area as populated by gin mills, flop houses, and bums, and that they would spend the money given to them on "cheap hooch." This is not as insulting as it may sound as what Ethelbert is saying is that the Blue Note is a much different bar, serving better brand drinks as a matter of professional pride.

3:30 Cole sets up the Christmas episode by having Casey cynically say that the holiday is a lot of malarkey. This prepares the listener for the stark contrast and change of heart Casey will have by the end of the episode.

3:50 Walter asked to bring up lemons. No verbal response. Must be a holiday for actors who double... they may be having dinner with their families... or Herman Chittison...

4:00 Casey and Ann are having what almost sounds like a marital spat about Casey running out of gas and needing to re-fill, causing them late to cover the story. This is another piece of Cole's foundation building toward a change of heart for everyone by the end of the story. They apologize to each other, and Ann thanks him for the bracelet Casey got her for Christmas. And then he says, "I wanted to get you a ring" to which there is surprise in Ann's voice "a ring?" to which Casey explains he could not find a birthstone ring. Amethyst is the birthstone for February. She sounds disappointed... saying she doesn't like amethyst rings. The implication is that she would have liked a diamond engagement ring. This is the most serious discussion between the two of them hinting around a desire for a long-term relationship beyond the usual flirtatious dialogue of convenience. "I wonder, mainly, Annie...the two of us..." says Casey. After Ann starts to respond, they get to Bums' Boulevard and the conversation ends, and is not continued.

6:36 A subway passes, and Casey bumps into a woman, whom he realizes is "Miss Arnold." She denies knowing him and walks away. Casey explains to Ann that it was Julia Arnold a former actress whom he heard had "hit the skids."

7:26 Casey meets an old timer named "Smitty" who asks for a dime, with the assurance he will spend it on food. They each give him a buck ($24 total in 2020 dollars).

8:23 Casey spots a despicable character "Boots Driscoll" the "boss" of Bums' Boulevard.

9:45 "Harry the Creep" finds "Santa Claus" knocked out in an alley, before he had a chance to hand out his $300 of dollar bills ($3600 in 2020 dollars).

10:52 "Santa" regains consciousness. This begins a number of specific Christological references used by Cole to build the idea that "Santa" is an appearance of a Christ amid the poverty and despair of Bums' Boulevard and its residents.

11:13 He refuses to identify or go after the person who mugged him. The first reference is a prodigal son type of reference, that the robber will return when he becomes aware that the money belongs to his neighbors. While not an exact duplication, it parallels Luke 15's prodigal son parable, where a son returns after his inheritance is given to him and wasted. He also mentions that not all thieves are bad, and that this might be a good thief (as mentioned at the crucifixion as in Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27-28, Luke 23:33, John 19:18).

12:03 Boots is asked if he would return the money if he had taken it, and he says "of course" which gets a chuckle from the audience. The skepticism is valid, but even Boots' heart is changed by the end of the episode.

13:15 Ann starts to interview "Santa," and he says his name is Shepherd, an obvious link to Christ's stating that he is the Good Shepherd (in John 10, but also used in Psalm 23). The group breaks up to bring Shepherd for some medical care. That leaves Boots and Creep behind. Boots threatens him to give him the money if he took it. The scene ends for the mid-episode commercial.

15:25 Having received treatment, Shepherd refuses to let Casey and Ann take him home, like the doctor had suggested. He decides to go back to Bums' Boulevard so the thief can find him to return the money.

16:20 Ann sees Creep walking in the street in a pained manner and they go toward him. He was beaten up by Boots who believed Creeps stole the money. He wants a drink, and Shepherd agrees that Creep's addiction is more urgent than his injuries. They all go into a nearby gin mill. At 17:50 Ann notices that Julia Arnold is there, too.

18:00 When they go to the bar, Shepherd is with them. (This ties in with Mark 2:15-17 and Matthew 9:10-12, and others, where Jesus was viewed with suspicion by having meals with tax collectors and others of ill repute). Both Casey and Ann turn down drinks. Shepherd is asked what he would like, and he says "plain red wine," a reference to the Passover meal and the Last Supper (Matthew 26:27-29 and others). Shepherd is still intent on forgiving the crime, despite the insistence of Casey.

19:15 Shepherd explains how little children can know more about life than adults (similar to Matthew 19:14). He explains "all the world is one great family," which ties in with the complaints of Casey, Ann, and Ethelbert made at the beginning of the episode.

20:00 Julia says she found the missing money. They decide to follow her from the bar to find where the money is, and it takes them back to the same alley where Shepherd was attacked. They follow her to a cellar, and Driscoll is there, too, and has a gun.

21:45 Julia insists she does not have the money. Creep finds them... and admits he had the money and hid it in the alley. His drink with Shepherd in the gin mill and the kindness Shepherd showed him made him think about what he had done and decide to confess. Creep went back to get the money to save Julia's life since he knew she would be in trouble. He also repented of trying to frame Julia.

23:35 Because of Shepherd's pleading with Driscoll to lay down his gun, Driscoll does, and Driscoll asks Casey to call the police so he can turn himself in. Shepherd says not to and asks them where the money should go. Creep and Driscoll agree to give the money to Julia since they both had wronged her. She says no, to give it to the really poor, that she still has skills to offer for her own well-being (Colossians 3:17).

26:30 In the Blue Note epilogue, we learned that Shepherd gave the money to Smitty, the most innocent of all of them. In turn, Smitty gave the money away, a dollar at a time, just like the Santa Claus of Bums' Boulevard did in years past. Casey and Ann lost track of Shepherd as they watched Smitty, and did not know where he went (Luke 24:31-32). Ethelbert asked if they found out anything about him, and Casey said Shepherd told him he was once a carpenter (Mark 6:3).

Casey 47-12-25 217 The Santa Claus of Bums' Blvd.mp3
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1947-12-21 St Louis MO Globe-Democrat
Casey, Crime Photographer - Page 5 1947-202

1947-12-25 Cincinnati OH Enquirer
Casey, Crime Photographer - Page 5 1947-201

1947-12-25 Mason City IA Globe-Gazette
Casey, Crime Photographer - Page 5 1947-200