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Highlights Archives

Meinhardt Raabe (1915-2010)

Meinhardt Raabe dressed as the coroner from "The Wizard Of Oz" shaking hands with a man in a hat (from Raabe's scrapbooks, held by the Wisconsin Historical Society)
WHI 26111

Meinhardt Raabe, one of Wisconsin's best-loved media personalities, died on Friday in Orange Park, Florida, at the age of 94. For almost three decades Raabe played Little Oscar, "the World's Smallest Chef," driving the Oscar Mayer company's Wienermobile and appearing in countless advertisments and promotional events.

Memorable Words

He is best known, however, for playing the Munchkin coroner in the film, "The Wizard of Oz." He appeared only briefly, officially confirming that Dorothy had killed the Wicked Witch of the East with the following memorable words:

As coroner, I must aver
I thoroughly examined her.
And she's not only merely dead,
She's really most sincerely dead.

The Wizard of Oz Premieres in Wisconsin

It's possible that Raabe also could have had something to do with the movie being shown for the first time in Wisconsin. According to the fan site, "The first publicized showing of the final, edited film was at the Strand Theatre in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, on August 12, 1939. No one is sure exactly why a small town in the Midwest received that honor." It showed the next day in Sheboygan, Appleton and Rhinelander, according to local newspapers. "The official premiere was at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on August 15, attended by most of the cast and crew and a number of Hollywood celebrities."

Raabe (pronounced Robby, according to his obituary in The New York Times) was born on September 2, 1915, in Watertown, Wisconsin, and graduated with a degree in accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 1937. He later earned a master's degree in business from Drexel University. During World War II he served in the Civil Air Patrol, piloting military aircraft to stateside destinations.

Raabe Donates His Memorabilia to the Wisconsin Historical Society

In 1986 he moved to Florida, donating his surviving scrapbooks and other archives to the Wisconsin Historical Society. Selections from them, including images of Oscar Mayer promotions, his Oz costume, and his CAP pilot's certificate, are online at Wisconsin Historical Images.

:: Posted April 12, 2010

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