By Ed Brock
Larry Cox was in his mid-20s when the animated "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" Christmas special first aired in 1964.
But Cox, now a 63-year-old truck driver living in Stockbridge, has in his later years become an expert on the famous children's show that will celebrate its 40th anniversary Dec. 17 on CBS at 8 p.m.
"I've got a bunch of grandbabies. I watch it all the time," Cox said.
That knowledge made him the first winner of the "12 Days of Rudolph" trivia contest Southlake Mall in Morrow is holding in honor of the anniversary. On each day of the contest shoppers will be presented with a different question on a sign at the mall's information center. A drawing is made each day from the entries bearing the correct answer to the question, and the winner gets a large plush Rudolph.
On Wednesday, the first day of the contest, Cox was at the mall to buy some Estee Lauder products for his wife when he came across the sign advertising the first question in the contest. The question was what is the name of Rudolph's elf friend, and the answer as all fans of the show know, is Hermey.
In the show Rudolph and Hermey flee Christmastown together because they are considered oddballs, Rudolph for his glowing red nose and Hermey because he would rather be a dentist than make toys like the other elves. On their journey they encounter a new friend, Yukon Cornelius, travel to the Island of Misfit Toys and do battle with the Abominable Snowmonster.
They return to Christmastown to become heroes when Rudolph is asked to use his beacon-like nose to guide Santa's sleigh on a foggy Christmas Eve.
The show features a soundtrack by Johnny Marks and the voice of Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman.
"Many of us grew up on this holiday classic," said Southlake's Marketing Manager Andrea Brinkman. "We're definitely going to have fun with the questions and we know our shoppers will too."
Brinkman said she expects the winners to be of all ages because so many generations have watched the show. By Friday they were averaging 30 to 50 entries a day, most with the correct answer to the question. Since the questions are posted on the mall's Web site, www.southlakemall.com, Brinkman said she suspects most people research the questions before coming in to fill out the entry form.
On Friday 14-year-old Dionna Valdez of Jonesboro was a bit stumped by that day's question, "Who was Rudolph's father?"
"I say Donner," Valdez said without much conviction.
She was right, however.
On Friday Cox came to the mall to pick up his prize, which he will display proudly on his porch for when the grandchildren come to visit.
"They're going to love this thing when they see it," Cox said.