Fascinating True Stories From the Flip Side of History

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How To Fill A Giant Christmas Stocking?

The Guinness Book of World Records claims that the world’s largest Christmas stocking was created in Cararra, Italy on January 5, 2011. It measured 168’ 5-21/32” (51.35 m) long and 70’ 11-9/16” (21.63 m) heel to toe. It was created to raise money for the elderly and, since the stocking had to be filled with presents, they filled it with balloons that contained sweets.

But, I think Guinness may have gotten it wrong. I came across a series of articles that appeared in newspapers in December 1965. Basically, WDGY, a Minneapolis, Minnesota radio station, held a contest to fill the largest stocking it received with prizes.

One needs to be careful of what one wishes for. Three college students from St. Paul – Phil Cunnien, Ron Mondo, and John Hintzen – submitted a stocking that measured 840 feet (256 m) in length. The three invested $150 ($1,250 today) into the project and spent an estimated 300 hours sewing the fabric together.

The first problem that the radio station had was finding a simple way to measure the stocking. Program Director Scott Burton came up with the ingenious idea of having a helicopter lift the stocking up and place it beside the station’s radio tower, which was of known height.

Next, they needed to find a way to fill such a large stocking without breaking the bank. Like the supposed record-holders in Italy, they opted to fill the stocking with balloons. But, instead of placing candy inside of each balloon, the station placed a $1.00 bill inside of each. That would guarantee the winners of at least $500 ($4,170 today) in total.

Yet, that wasn’t the end of the story. Ten students from Macalester College won the second prize, which was a “cheap transistor radio of foreign make,” a coupon for ten hamburgers, six promotional phonograph records, a carton of soft drinks, and five coupons for two quarts of “Beep for Breakfast,” which was a once-marketed vitamin-enriched breakfast drink.

The Macalester students claimed that they had won the contest because their stocking had a much larger volume than the one that was declared the winner. They claimed their stocking could hold 7,500 of the dollar-filled balloons. Their argument was that there was a big difference between the largest, which the contest specified, and the longest, which the winning stocking was, even though it was much smaller in volume.

So, they hired a lawyer and sued the radio station. They requested the $7,500 that all of those balloons would have held in cash plus an additional $5,000 for the embarrassment that they suffered in their loss.

I was unable to find out how this lawsuit was settled, but my guess is that the students and the radio station came to some sort of a financial agreement.

Which leaves us with one big question: Was that stocking in Cararra, Italy really the largest? You’ve just heard the evidence and I’ll leave that for you to decide.

1873 sketch of stockings hanging from a fireplace mantle.
1873 sketch of stockings hanging from a fireplace mantle. Image appeared on page 186 of the book St. Nicholas.
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