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Issue Date: December 2013


Erick Trickey

One day, the Cleveland legend goes, Santa Claus burst into Mr. Jingeling’s locksmith shop, distraught that he’d lost the key to his Treasure House of Toys. Mr. Jingeling got the door open, liberated the toys and saved Christmas. A grateful Santa named Jingeling the keeper of all the keys at Santa’s North Pole. Invented at the Halle Bros. department store downtown in 1956, Mr. Jingeling became Cleveland’s beloved Christmastime icon. Clad in a green elf suit, with almost devilish triangles of white hair spiking up from a bald-pate wig, he reigned over downtown holiday shopping for four decades. Three men held the giant key ring before the aptly named Earl Keyes took over the role in 1965. Appearances on WEWS-TV5’s The Captain Penny Show drummed his theme song (“Mr. Jingeling/How you ting-a-ling … ”) into the memories of Northeast Ohioans. It’s said that Jingeling’s appearances in Halle’s seventh floor toy house were more popular than Santa’s on the ninth floor. Keyes last appeared as Jingeling at Tower City in December 1995. He passed away at age 81, on Dec. 26, 2000. Jingeling was “warm, humorous and a good friend to everyone,” Keyes told The Cleveland Press in 1981. “He loves children and never talks down to them. He’s a Santa type without the bluster.”

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