Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Dec. 10, 2014.
There are so many things that signify the holidays in Maine. Tree lighting ceremonies in downtowns. The jingle of Salvation Army bell ringers outside big stores. Santa arriving by truck, or boat, or more specifically by lobster boat. Sometimes even a helicopter. Big runs on ham and turkey and lamb at Hannaford. Your mom’s peanut butter balls, or rum balls, or Chex Mix, or fruitcake, or other seasonal goodie.
But there’s one thing that is so unique to Maine, so utterly symbolic of Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever way you choose to celebrate the season, so adorably festive, that hearing it brings back a flood of memories. I’m talking about the Bangor Savings Bank Christmas kitten commercial, featuring two little gray tiger cats destroying in the most delightful way possible all those presents it took hours to wrap, and knocking over Santa’s cookies and milk. Also known as the greatest commercial ever made.
According to the Bangor Daily News’ archives, these cute little fluffballs belonged to a woman named Barbara Harris, who loaned the kittens (named Willie and Waylon, little outlaws that they were) to the ad agency tasked with making a commercial for the bank. According to a Facebook post by Bangor Savings linking to the beloved ad, it was filmed in 1980. According to the person who uploaded the above YouTube video, Eric Jurgensen, who was the cameraman for the commercial, the concept was created by Maine ad man Jack Havey, who later took the kitties to his camp on Maranacook Lake. The kittens, who would now be 34 years old, are obviously not available for comment.
The ad ran for more than two decades until it was retired in 2006, since, despite it’s epic levels of cuteness, it’s pretty old-fashioned looking, and Bangor Savings Bank hasn’t called itself “The Source” for decades. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, however, those fuzzy little rascals can live on in perpetuity, and BSB has smartly brought the ad back each holiday season as a reminder that they made your childhood magical. And probably caused thousands of young Maine children over the years to beg, plead and otherwise manipulate their parents into getting them a kitten.