Holiday pals regain voices

Bow and Tinsel, reindeer from Hutzler's, make a comeback

Baltimore ... Or Less

December 07, 2003|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Sun Staff

At age 18, Matt Musgrove has a precocious appreciation for the glory days of Baltimore's department stores.

He was scarcely out of toddlerhood when Hutzler's in Towson closed its doors in 1990. But Musgrove grew up hearing captivating behind-the scenes accounts of the store's operations and intrigues from his grandmothers, both of whom had worked there.

Musgrove, a sophomore at Villa Julie College, collects Hutzler's artifacts, including hangers, boxes and books issued on store anniversaries. And last year, the Cockeysville resident made it possible for Bow and Tinsel, Hutzler's fabled reindeer couple who once anchored the store's holiday display, to speak again after a long period of silence.

Today, in the basement of The Shops in Towson Circle, the site once occupied by Hutzler's, Bow and Tinsel's friends may converse with them at a benefit for the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, organized by Musgrove.

The reindeer were resurrected in 1999 by Heritage Properties Inc., which bought the Hutzler's building in 1996 and opened it as Towson Circle. But the reindeer stood mute.

"I thought it was sad that they didn't talk," Musgrove says. He wanted those who had childhood memories of reindeer chat to share those magical moments with their own children.

Musgrove and his father, Richard Musgrove, repaired the internal pulley system that allowed the reindeer heads and mouths to move. And last year, at a holiday event orchestrated by Musgrove, the reindeer found their voices again.

Crouching behind a mock barn front constructed by Musgrove, a human being operated the pulleys (accessible through the reindeer's derrieres) and through a microphone, chatted with spectators in high (Tinsel's) and low (Bow's) voices. "One person does both reindeers," he says.

Musgrove has provided his secret reindeer voice with suggested holiday patter. "I looked online and got different jokes for kids," he says.

In his sleuthing for Bow and Tinsel intelligence, Musgrove traced the whereabouts of another reindeer pair that once enchanted shoppers in Hutzler's Glen Burnie store to the Grant A Wish Foundation. But no one has been able to say when the reindeer first joined Hutzler's Christmas panorama.

Musgrove has tracked down a couple of women who once gave voice to the reindeer. Last year, Terry Voultepsis of Timonium visited Bow and Tinsel with her three grandchildren and signed Musgrove's memory book. Voultepsis, once a part-time Hutzler's employee, remembers filling in one day in the late 1980s when one of the reindeer voices didn't show up.

She "sat in back of the reindeer only for half an hour." Just the same, "It was fantastic" to see them again last year, says Voultepsis, 66, who plans to return with her grandchildren today.

Another former reindeer personality named Shirley Brewer wrote an account of her experience for the New Bay Times in 1999. She told of "mandatory attendance at reindeer training school on the top floor of the old Hutzler's store in downtown Baltimore, where the deer lived off-season."

Both of Musgrove's grandmothers will be present at today's benefit, which takes place from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Visitors may have their photo taken with Bow and Tinsel at no charge. A silent auction of items donated by area businesses will take place. There is no admission fee, but donations for the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, a sports education program for disadvantaged children, will be accepted.

And if you miss Bow and Tinsel today, they will be on display through the holidays at the bottom of Towson Circle's escalators. But after today, they will be silent once again. Until, perhaps, next year.

Bow and Tinsel, with voices, will be appearing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at The Shops at Towson Circle, at York and Joppa roads.

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