Book helps bring together memories of ‘Archie the Snowman’

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The cover of Joanna Wilson’s book, “The Story of Archie the Snowman”.

Eric Poston

A popular talking snowman now has his own book telling the story of how he became more than just a mall Christmas attraction.

Archie the Snowman first debuted at Chapel Hill Mall in 1968 and talked to children until 2006 when he was removed from the mall and then rebuilt at Lock 3 Park in Akron.  Archie stayed at Lock 3 Park for 2012 and 2013 winter seasons before returning to the mall in 2014.

The snowman currently stands 17 feet tall and interacts with children asking them what they would like for Christmas.

The author of the book, “The Story of Archie,” Joanna Wilson, said she wrote the book because she loves researching and writing about Akron’s history.

“I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls and visited Chapel Hill Mall each Christmas just like thousands of other local residents,” Wilson said. “Archie has been an important part of my Christmases even if I was frightened of his glowing red eyes. Archie is such an Akron icon, I’ve followed along with his story the past several years including the social media movement to bring back Archie in 2011 and Archie’s return at Lock 3 in 2012.”

Wilson’s first novel about local history is titled “A is for Akron” and she felt the tale of Archie would be an interesting one to share.

“One of the most fascinating aspects of the story of Archie is that Akron has a long, rich history of Christmas attractions including the downtown department store window displays, in-store walk through Santa Lands, celebrity appearances, and amazing arrivals of Santa Claus,” Wilson said. “It is from this context that Archie was created in order to compete with the many attention-getting Christmas attractions throughout the greater-Akron area.”

The book tells the story of the people who helped create Archie and the role the snowman played in Akron’s history.

“Archie’s story would not be complete without an accounting of Akron’s rich history of downtown Christmas attractions including the yearly window displays put out by the department stores Polsky’s and ONeil’s,” Wilson said. “This competitive retail environment led to an escalating demand for shoppers’ attention by malls such as Chapel Hill, Summit Mall, and Rolling Acres which in turn created their own eye-catching, breathtaking annual Christmas attractions, including Archie the Talking Snowman.”

Wilson said Akron residents have experienced quite a few changes over the decades, but Archie has remained a tradition of the past.

“I think Archie the Talking Snowman is important to the people of our area because he reminds them of warm memories of their childhoods and he’s become a symbol of how people can successfully come together and accomplish meaningful change,” Wilson said.

Tommy Uplinger was one of several people who worked hard to bring Archie back after the mall retired him. Uplinger has been an Archie fan since the 1970s and looked forward to his son having the same experience as him with the snowman.

“I met Wilson while she was working on her book ‘A is for Akron’,” Uplinger said. “She had met with me at a coffee shop and we both expressed our passion for our childhood holiday icon. I told her my story and with her fantastic writing and researching skills, she created an amazing book that I am proud to have read.”

With the return of Archie, visitors of Lock 3 are reminded that two corner windows of the Polsky Building are decorated each Christmas with mechanical display pieces from the former O’Neil’s department store collection.

Copies of “The Story of Archie” can be purchased online at www.StoryofArchie.com.

Those interested in the book can also follow along on Facebook on the Story of Archie the Talking Snowman page to find out about local book signings and upcoming events.

“If you know where to look, Akron’s Christmas cultural history returns each year at holiday time,” Wilson said.

Archie the Snowman is expected to once again be at Chapel Hill Mall this upcoming holiday season.

Eric Poston is the construction reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]