Christmas for many Detroit baby boomers wasn't complete without a trip to downtown Detroit's J.L. Hudson's building for a visit with Santa Claus. Everyone knew that the real St. Nick held court on the twelfth floor of that grand old building. Assisting Santa was a cute, pigtailed young girl named Christmas Carol. The character was created and portrayed by Maureen Bailey, a 15-year-old student at Little Flower High School in Royal Oak, Michigan.
A show-biz veteran by the time she played Christmas Carol, Maureen began her professional career at the tender age of three and a half singing on WXYZís Radio Schoolhouse, a quiz program hosted by Dick Osgood. By the age of seven she was acting on The Lone Ranger radio program. As a teen Maureen was a regular on WJRís Make Way For Youth, heard nationally on the CBS radio network.
Maureen Bailey (front row, second from the left), WXYZ's Radio Schoolhouse.
While attending Little Flower, the talented teen was told that she could pursue her performing career as long as she maintained a B+ average, which she did. In 1953 Maureen created the legendary Detroit character of Christmas Carol. With a small costume sketch and synopsis in hand, Maureen went downtown to J.L. Hudsons. Advertising department head Duke Fisher was very impressed with Maureenís talent and youthful enthusiasm and hired her on the spot.
The character of Christmas Carol was designed to be Santaís helper. Her duties began on Thanksgiving day, when both she and Santa would accept the key to the city from Detroit mayor Albert Cobo at the end of the Hudsonís Thanksgiving Day Parade. A special area on the 12th floor of Hudsonís was created just for Christmas Carol to receive the children before their visit with Santa. Christmas Carol also got a chance to showcase her lovely singing voice by performing holiday songs for the youngsters.
Maureen kept very busy the other eleven months of the year. She sang on Lunch With Soupy Sales, appeared in industrial films, did many television commercials and was a weather girl on WWJ and WJBK TV.
She continued her performing career, co-starring in West Coast and LA Music Center productions with John Raitt, Louis Nye, Phil Silvers, Ruth Warrick, Art Lund and Pat OíBrien. Maureen also was a regular in the 1966 NBC sitcom Occasional Wife, playing opposite Michael Callan.
A handful of women portrayed Christmas Carol after Maureen left Detroit, including Jeanie Daar, Toni Urso-Salvador and Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor. Christmas Carol's last appearance in the parade was in 1992. A forty year tradition ended in 1993 when The Parade Company, current producers of the parade, received complaints that Santa had a pretty young girl in his sleigh, while Mrs. Claus was relegated to her own float in the middle of the parade.