GRAND Magazine - November/December 2018 - 16

holiday inspiration

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer (a true account)
BY EVELYN HORAN

W

hen he was
young, life
was difficult for Bob May. He was
often bullied by other
boys, and at the time, he
was too little to compete in
sports. Sometimes, he was
called names and he didn't
seem to fit in.
When Bob completed college,
he married and was grateful to get his
job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward
Department Store. Then he was blessed
with his little girl, Barbara. But his wife's illness took all their savings, and now Bob, his
child, and wife lived in a small apartment in
Chicago. His wife passed away, a few days
before Christmas in 1938.
Montgomery Ward had asked Bob to
write a "cheery" Christmas book that they
could give away at Christmas to shoppers
and asked that an animal be the star of the
book. Due to the loss of her mother, Bob struggled
to give hope to his child. He decided to make a storybook, as suggested, with a deer character, especially since
Barbara loved the deer in the Chicago zoo.
Bob drew on his memories of his childhood struggles,
and not fitting in with the other children as he wrote the
book. The character was 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.
16 GRAND

NOVEMBER DECEMBER 2018

The Rudolph Poem Booklet was distributed by
Montgomery Ward during the 1939 holiday season.
Montgomery Ward offered Bob May a small fee to purchase the rights to print the book, and Wards went on to
print, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to
children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards
had printed and distributed more than six million copies of
Rudolph.
In a gesture of kindness, the president of Wards returned
all rights back to Bob May. The book became a bestseller.
Many toy and marketing deals followed, and Bob May
became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his
grieving daughter.
Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. It was recorded by the singing cowboy,
Gene Autry. "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was
released in 1949 and became a great 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.
Evelyn Horan is a former teacher
and counselor with a master's
degree in education


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GRAND Magazine - November/December 2018

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