Video Vault: Mister Jingeling gives out his 1,000,000th key

Santa's helper handed out keys at Higbee's in 1988

CLEVELAND - Earl Keyes as Mister Jingeling was the beloved elf and keeper of the Santa's keys for generations of northeast Ohioans.

It was a prized possession for youngsters to receive a cardboard or paper key in their visit Mister Jingeling.

Keyes was an original WEWS employee, but would go on to play the part on nearly ever other TV station in town. Keyes was a director at WEWS and took over the role of Jingeling in 1965.

He first began playing the character at Halle's, then Higbee's, Tower City and Lake Metroparks Farmparks in the years following the demise of the Halle's department store chain.

In 1988, WEWS reporter Rebecca Shaw covered a momentous event at Higbee's, the handing out of the one millionth Mister Jingeling key to a lucky child.

That lucky recipient was, as Shaw tells us, a third-generation Mister Jingeling fan named Todd.

In Shaw's story in our video player, she gets Todd's mother to sing a bit of the Mister Jingeling song, care to join along?

How do we know it's key number 1,000,000? Santa knows, he always does.

Keyes played the character into the mid-90s and died the day after Christmas in 2000 at age 81. His ring of keys were kept hanging next to the chimney in his Rocky River home until his wife Nadine's death at age 91 earlier this year.

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