If you ask a Milwaukeean of a certain age about their favorite Christmas memories, chances are you will hear about "Billie the Brownie".
Billie the Brownie was created in the 1920's by Schuster's Department stores to promote their toy department during the holiday season. In 1931, Billie branched out into radio and had a daily show that included updates on Santa's progress as well as a segment where Billie and his pal Larry would read letters to Santa sent in by area children. Boy, were those were different times! I've listened to a few of the shows and not only did Larry and Billie read out the kid's name, but also included their address! "....and here we have a letter from little Bobby Jones of 123 Main Street in Milwaukee...." Geez, talk about making things easy for the local pedophiles! Mostly though, they talked up the benefits of being good kids: More toys from Santa Claus! (read: Parents who will buy the toys at Schuster's!)
The radio show ended in 1955, so I never got to listen to it, but the lore of Billie the Brownie was still a big part of my own Christmas memories due my parents growing up with it. I learned that Billie was Santa's front man--it was Billie who reported back to Santa on who was good and who was naughty. Things would go like this:
Parent: "I think I just saw Billie the Brownie peeking in the window....so maybe you should go clean your room, be nice to your sister", or whatever was the naughty kid crisis of the moment. Billie even knew our phone number and called the house a couple of times! (In retrospect, I think it was really Uncle Bozo--but at the time I was convinced it was Billie.)
If you want to take a trip down memory lane or just hear for yourself the magic of Billie the Brownie, here are some links to audio files: Billie1 Billie2