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Kelly's carol parody has obscure origins

Walt Kelly's most well-known nonsense verse is "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie," based on the Christmas carol "Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly." It first appeared in the daily strip on Dec. 22, 1948, only two months after the strip had begun running in the old New York Star, and made periodic appearances thereafter.

Its origins are obscure. In his memoirs, an employee of Simon & Schuster, Kelly's book publisher, advanced a highly imaginative and unlikely explanation. He said it was full of references to the life of prisoners, with whom Kelly had great sympathy.

Kelly himself said the explanation was simpler. He wanted to parody the nonstop commercial use of carols at Christmastime. When the parody caught on, and there were protests that it violated a holy season, Kelly pointed out that it was a non-sacred carol that merely celebrated winter.

R.C Harvey says he went on to write six verses, though in the strips collected here, little more than the first four lines are sung. Here are the most quoted lines:

"Deck us all with Boston Charlie

"Walla Walla, Wash., and Kalamazoo!

"Nora's freezin' on the trolley,

"Swaller dollar cauliflower Alleygaroo!

"Don't we know archaic barrel,

"Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou.

"Trolley Molly don't love Harold,

"Boola Boola Pensacoola Hullabaloo!"