CC Jukebox: The Little Skidoo that Saved Christmas

Christmas Eve has arrived, and children all over are excitedly waiting for Santa Claus to deliver his toys. We here at CC have a keen interest in cars, and many things motorized, Santa on the other hand has relied on his old trusty sleight and his eight (nine?) reindeer to get him around. While it’s hard to argue with the reliability of a simple sleigh pulled by reindeer, what happens if the weather is so fierce that it’s just too much for those poor hard-working reindeer?  There must be some modern machine that could help out?

Well that very thing has happened; well at least it did in the imagination of Edward “Bert” Collins. In 1967 he composed a children’s song with this very situation.  Poor Santa had to put his sleigh down in a farmers field because of an awful Christmas Eve blizzard.  But what about all those gifts to be delivered to the children? Who was going to help Santa and save Christmas?  That’s right, that trusty “Little Skidoo” came through and ensured Santa got his gifts delivered.

Mrs. Collins, Burt Collins, his daughter Julie and Ricki Lamoureux

The song’s writer and singer was the late Edward “Burt” Collins.  He wasn’t a professional musician, rather he had a 35 year career with Ministry of Transportation in Ontario (MTO).  Although he was a dedicated employee, Burt Collin’s real passion was for music.  He was talented musician who played the accordion, piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. His children described that every night they’d fall asleep while Bert would be playing the accordion and singing songs. Bert enjoyed writing songs, and wrote many over the years. Many of these he kept to himself, which included Little Skidoo.  Although he wrote it in 1967, it wasn’t until 1976 that it was actually recorded.

In 1976, Bert Collins was living in Sudbury, Ontario, and he met Ricki Lamoureux, a well-known musician in that area. He approached Ricki and told him that he composed music and he had a new song for him to listen to.  Ricki’s initial thought was “Oh no, not another one,” however, when he listened to Little Skidoo, he knew that it needed to be recorded. The song was recorded in the basement of Lameroux’s house by a university student.   With the freshly pressed 45, they went to all the radio stations in Sudbury, but most wouldn’t listen to the record.  However, the CBC Sudbury radio station (CBC is Canada’s public radio station) liked it and agreed to play it on air.   And once it played, the local station was inundated with phone calls for people looking where they can buy the record.

Within a few years, Burt and his family went to Tamarac Studios in North Bay, Ontario to record an album called imaginary friends, which included Little Skidoo. The song was a true family affair, with his children and wife singing along with him. He and his family toured every Christmas for 20 years, playing at schools, holiday parties and parades. Despite the fact that the song was never picked up by a major record label, the song is very well-known by most who grew up in northern Ontario. During my youth, my dad had the Little Skidoo record as part of his regular Christmas song rotation.  There isn’t much better than a song where Christmas was saved by a snowmachine for a young gearhead.

The term “Ski-Doo” has long been used as a generic term for snowmobiling, much due to the very successful Bombardier Ski-Doo, which was originally introduced in 1959. Joseph-Armand Bombardier may not have been the first to produce a snowmobile, but it is arguable that he produce the first modern snowmobile, shown above. This original ski-doo made 7 hp, while today they make 25 times that power. Interestingly, his snowmobile was originally called the Ski-Dog but a typographical error in the brochure printed it as Ski-Doo and the name stuck. Bombardier’s big success was capturing the recreational market, which proved to be much larger than the trappers, prospectors and surveyors.

By 1967 when the song was originally written, Bombardier had already made big advancements, as shown here with this Ski-Doo Olympique. Maybe this is what Bert Collins had in mind when he wrote his song? The brochure states that it came with three variations. There was the Chalet with a 165cc 7-hp engine that was good for 30 mph, the Olympique with a 250cc 10.5 hp engine good for 38 mph and the Super Olympique with a 300 cc 14.5 hp engine good for 48 mph. Which one helped out Santa?

Although the song was quite popular and pretty light-hearted, when Collins approached Bombardier about adapting and using his song, they weren’t interested. This is the reason for the difference in spelling of the word Ski-Doo. Collins was forced to change the spelling to “Skidoo” to avoid association with the company.

So, today as we gather with friends, family and loved ones to celebrate the holidays, if the weather gets a little frightful and the kids and/or grandkids are worried that poor old Santa won’t make it tonight, just play this song. Let them know, that the trusty old Little Skidoo will make sure Santa gets everything delivered.  I will end off by wishing all the CC readers, contributors, editors and our fearless leader Paul Niedermeyer the happiest of holidays!