Thursday, December 27, 2012

174: The Self-Empowered Woman: Rudolph and Robert L. May

Dear Followers,

Sorry to  have not posted a blog during most of December, but--as a good friend just reminded me--the holiday season has a timetable of its own. Now that all the celebrating and socializing have come to an end, I wanted to share a special story with you.

Everyone who knows me is well aware of my fondness for "underdog" stories. I love nothing more than seeing overlooked or underestimated people triumph (13: More Than Meets The Eye).  So when I received this story from my (wonderful) late father-in-law's widow, Helen Willison, I just had to share it with all of you.  Even though the Christmas china had already been packed away and the Season's photos placed in the album, reading this story made everything feel like Christmas Eve all over again.  Hope you enjoy this as much as I did...

** True Story of Rudolph**

A man named Robert L. May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.

His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing because Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her Dad's eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?"
Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears because her question brought waves of grief, as well as anger. It had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob. Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports, and he was often called names he'd rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.

Bob did complete college, married his loving wife, and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl, but it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings, and now Bob and his little daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.

Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938, and Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined a make one – a special storybook!

Bob had created an animal character in his own mind, and he told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. .Again and again, Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story all about?

The story that Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit, outcast just like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose. Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day.

But the story doesn't end there.

The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. The store went on to print, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus at their locations. By 1946, Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May.

The book became a best seller, and many toy and marketing deals followed. Bob May—now remarried with a growing family—became wealthy from the story he’d created to comfort his grieving daughter.

But the story doesn't end there either.

Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas."

The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.

Looking forward to your comments…

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Very heart warming and a story to pass on and remember every year!