Did you know that the very first Mr. Jingeling was a Cleveland Police Officer?
Seems that back in the day, many of the department stores in downtown Cleveland used Police Officers to fill the role of Santa Claus. They were already on the store payroll working store security part time and the Officers were more than willing to put in a few more hours to have that extra money to spend on their kids for Christmas. The Halle Company’s policy of hiring police officers to portray Santa Claus also extended to his elves.
Mr. Jingeling was created in 1956 by Frank Jacobi of Jacobi Advertising in Chicago to promote the toys sold at Halle’s Department Store. He was a friend of Walter Halle who was the president of the Halle Brothers Company Department Store which closed in 1982. The two exchanged regular correspondences during Mr. Jingling’s formative years. This was originally planned as a one-time promotion for the 1956 holiday season, but was immediately popular and became an annual tradition.
The Jingeling history thus unfolded: He was a locksmith who made keys for castle doors, and while he worked, he would entertain local children with stories and songs. Then one day, Santa burst into Mr. Jingling’s little shop, crying out that he’d lost the key to his Toyland workshop. So as not to disappoint the children of the world, who were counting on Santa’s visit, Mr. Jingeling sped to the North Pole to let Santa back into his workshop. From then on, he was the man in red’s most important elf, the “Keeper of the Keys to Toyland.” He counted down the days from Thanksgiving to Christmas for Santa. He wore a green and gold costume with a wide black belt and carried a large keyring with all the keys for Santa’s workshop. He had white hair like Santa, but was bald on top and had no beard.
The first Mr. Jingeling was Cleveland Police Officer Thomas V. Moviel, Badge Number 1575. Officer Movile was assigned to the Jail Unit and brought several jail cell keys to use as “props” as part of his costume. These keys actually were kept on a large metal key ring and used to lock and unlock cell doors. The idea was so successful Mr. Jingeling was invited to do short segments on the Captain Penny television show. In order for Officer Moviel to appear on TV, he would have had to join the Actors Guild. He had seven children and just could not afford the union dues. He continued as Mr. Jingeling in the store that year but was replaced the next season.
Officer Movile passed away in 1973. His family amassed all of the memorabilia they could. Unfortunately the original jail keys disappeared. His daughter, Rose Moviel, believes her father may have been on television a couple of times, but after that, he portrayed the character only in personal appearances. “We have lots of pictures from that time,” she says. “I even have the original ornament Halle’s presented to my father. It looks ancient.” The family provided a number of the photographs of Mr. Jingeling to the Police Museum.
Mr. Jingeling’s theme song:
o Mister Jingeling/How You Tingeling/Keeper of the Keys
o On Halle’s Seventh Floor/We’ll be Looking for/You to Turn the Keys
o He Keeps Track/Of Santa’s Sack/And Treasure House of Toys
o With Wind Up Things/That Santa Brings/To All Good Girls and Boys
Portions of this article were provided by Kathryn DeLong’s article in Cleveland Scene Magazine, 1999. Many of the photographs were donated to the Cleveland Police Museum by Rose Moviel, Tom’s daughter.
Written by Cleveland Police Historical Society and Museum volunteer Commander Robert Cermak, Ret.