Friday, June 6, 2014

Iris and Herringbone and Natalie Wood

In 1961, Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty came to the silver screen as Deanie Loomis and Bud Stamper in a great Hollywood movie known as Splendor in the Grass.

Anyone who's seen the film is familiar with the story, so we're not going to go into that here except to say that it takes place in 1928, just prior to the Great Depression. The setting will be an important and critical fact later in this post.

As the movie unfolds, there is a scene in Deanie's dining room that we need to examine in detail. The scene opens and the camera reveals a beautifully set dining room table in the Loomis home. Each place setting on this table has a beautiful tumbler placed in the correct position. These tumblers are our area of interest.

These glasses were manufactured by the Jeanette Glass Company of Jeanette, Pennsylvania. The pattern on them is well known to Depression Glass collectors. It's called Iris and Herringbone. They are a popular collector's item today and are still available at antique shops and ebay. And, I must admit, if my wife and I didn't collect Depression Glass, I never would have noticed this faux pas in the film.

Jeanette manufactured the Iris and Herrington pattern from 1928 through 1932. So glasses, in this pattern, would have been available at the time our movie takes place. However, there's one glitch. The Iris and Herringbone pattern items created in 1928 were only available in the "crystal" version. They were clear.

When we view the film, we notice that the tumblers on the Loomis table have an iridescent finish on them, just like the photo at the beginning of this post. Jeanette did manufacture Iris and Herringbone items in the iridescent finish. But it was not available in 1928. In fact, the Iris and Herringbone pattern in the iridescent finish was not available until the 1950s. Oops!

Since this movie was made in 1961, the iridescent Iris and Herringbone pattern from the fifties would have been available and probably would have been very easy to find. Unfortunately, the art director didn't do his/her homework on that item because the glasses shown in the film were not available in 1928.

But they were available in 1959. I know for a fact that the iridescent Iris and Herringbone tumblers were available then because that was the year I bought my mother a set of four tumblers at TG&Y for Christmas in 1959. They were packaged in a cardboard container and cost a little less than $5 for the set. A few years before my mother passed away, she and my father spent Christmas with us.

When I opened my gift from her on Christmas morning, it was like stepping back in time. I was totally surprised to see those tumblers, still in the cardboard packaging. She told me that she never used them because they were so beautiful and she was so afraid she would break one of them. They've been sitting in my china cabinet since that day. They are 50 years old, and still brand new.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Memories...

I love this time of year. It takes me back to my childhood in the fifties and those wonderful Christmas mornings with my parents and my two little sisters. It didn't all begin on Christmas day, however. There were preparations that had to be taken care of before that.

At some point in December, my family usually hopped in the car and took a drive to pick out the most special Christmas tree we could find. This adventure usually occurred at night (I'm not sure why). After we got home my father would go out into the garage and get the tree stand. My mother would retrieve the lights and the ornaments. I remember one year we bought a strand of those really neat "bubble lights." I think it was the same year we got the Lava Lamp.

The aroma of pine began filling the house as we decorated the tree. After the lights and the ornaments were arranged, the final exercise was stringing the "icicles" on the tree. If you're not familiar with those, they were thin strips that resembled very thin, and shiny, aluminum foil. There were millions of them hanging on the tree when we finished.

Then the waiting began. But the winter days passed, and Christmas morning finally arrived. And what a wonderland of beautifully wrapped gifts we discovered during those wee hours of the morning as we crept down the hall and into the living room in our pajamas to see if Santa had come yet. And he had!

I'm embarrassed to say that the tears are welling up as I write this. I'm kind of a sentimental old guy. It's just such a beautiful memory of when we were all together and shared a very special time in our lives. My mother loved Christmas so much. I remember her face as we opened our presents on Christmas morning. I can still see her sweet smile as she watched her children's joy. And shared it.

When I began writing this, my intention was to include all the great Christmas presents I received over the years. But I've changed my mind. They weren't that expensive anyway, since we didn't' have a lot of extra money to spend. But they were enough to make us happy. In fact, I wouldn't trade my memories of one Christmas at 111 Peck Drive for all the money in the world. After all, Christmas isn't about the amount of money in your pocket. It's about the love in your heart.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Get Your Kicks

The subject of today’s post could easily span many decades. But since it was quite popular during the fifties, it seems appropriate to talk a little about the Mother Road. I’m referring to Route 66. It’s been around for many years, although a lot of the original alignment has been replaced by newer Interstate highways.

From its starting point near the shore of Lake Michigan, Route 66 weaves its way through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and ends in Santa Monica, California. There’s a monument near Santa Monica Pier indicating it’s ending (or beginning) point.

My friend, Wes Holden, and I drove from Independence, Missouri, to San Diego, California, way back in 1968. We were only 18 years old, fresh out of high school, and it was an adventure neither of us are likely to forget. Imagine, if you will, two city boys with very limited knowledge of the big world outside their hometown. We were young and green, and the open road was beckoning us like the Sirens of Lesbos called to Jason.

In those days, Route 66 was a bit different than highways are today. You had to pay attention because, when you arrived in one of the many towns along the way — and there were many in that 1,500 mile journey — the highway went right through it. It usually made several turns so you could get a tour of the downtown area before reaching the city limits and returning to a straighter alignment as it continued across the countryside and headed toward the next town.

And there was a reason for that meandering pattern. The Mother Road was an artery of commerce for countless small businesses in those days. Tourist shops, restaurants, motels, and Trading Posts dotted the roadside like sprinkles on a cupcake. An unending flow of traffic provided a steady supply of income to those businesses, and it continued to do so until the Interstate Highway System realigned a large portion of Route 66, thereby putting the majority of those businesses off the beaten path and, in most cases, out of business.

But the summer Wes and I traveled the Mother Road those businesses were still thriving. It was summer, and it was hot in the states of the Great Southwest. From Independence, we drove straight through for 19 hours until we arrived at Flagstaff, Arizona. This is an oasis in the desert with cool breezes flowing through the tall pine trees. After a few hours sleep we were back on the road again.

Eventually, the tan, desert cactus was replaced by the tall, green Royal Palms of southern California, and we saw the beautiful blue of the Pacific stretching ahead of us to the horizon. We had made it. At 18 years old, it felt like an accomplishment of monumental proportion.

If you’ve ever wanted to take a trip down Route 66, there are many parts of the original alignment still being used. But if you do make the trip, there are two items you simply must have. In fact, I purchased both of them from Amazon earlier this summer, thinking we would make the trip this year. That didn’t work out, but I still have them, and I’m ready to go next summer.

One is a book is called The Route 66 Adventure Guide by Drew Knowles. The other is a set of 8 state maps called Here It Is that show the actual alignment of the old highway and what areas are still in use. It has great instructions on weaving through all those little towns and staying on the Mother Road. Both are great products for someone planning on taking a trip down Route 66.

There's so much more to tell, but you need to see it for yourself. So, get your kicks on Route 66.
It's a trip in your own Wayback Machine.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Guess Who's Birthday I share!

First of all, anyone who knows me, or anyone who's read this ongoing blog for a few years, either knows or perhaps has a hint that Humphrey Bogart has forever been my favorite actor. And that's the way it is.

I've watched Casablanca so many times I could almost recite the lines from the script. The same is true with The Maltese Falcon. Those are probably my two favorites. Of course, The African Queen (with Katherine Hepburn, a lifelong friend) and To Have and Have Not (with Lauren Bacall who became his fourth wife) are right up there, too. And there are many more movies that he made while at Warner Bros and afterwards, at his own movie company, Santana, that I would watch again any time the opportunity presented itself.

Bogart's career was a very bumpy ride to stardom. He hated pretense and false praise, and he didn't like phonies. He told people what he thought, and some believe that honesty was what doomed him to small roles for a large part of his career. In fact, most of his early films were "B" movies. Bogart was aware of this. He once said:

"I can't get in a mild discussion without turning it into an argument. There must be something in my tone of voice, or this arrogant face—something that antagonizes everybody. Nobody likes me on sight. I suppose that's why I'm cast as the heavy."

But after making Casablanca, he became the highest paid actor in Hollywood at a salary of $460,000 a year. And since I mentioned Lauren Bacall earlier, here's a bit of trivia that a lot of people aren't aware of. Her quotable line from To Have and Have Not, "You do know how to whistle, don't you?" was cause for Bogie to buy her a gold whistle during the making of that movie. When Bogie died, Lauren placed the gold whistle in his casket.

Now, here comes the whole point of this post. I watched a Bogart film last night that I had never seen. It was entitled The Black Legion. It was a 1937 film with Bogart playing a family man who gets mixed up with the wrong group and ends up in trouble. After the movie was over, I did a little research and learned, to my total surprise, that he and Lauren Bacall had a son named Stephen Humphrey Bogart.

Now that in itself isn't anything astonishing. However, the amazing part is that Stephen just happened to be born on January 6, 1949. I couldn't believe it! My favorite actor's son and I were not only born in the same year, we were born in the same month on exactly the same day—maybe even at the same time! Wow. How cool is that?

So now you know that Bogart's son and I are the same age, exactly, to the day. If you know Stephen Humphrey Bogart, or have his email address, send him a link to this blog and tell him I'd love it if he would take the time to leave a comment.

As Bogie said in the last line of The Maltese Falcon, "It's the stuff that dreams are made of."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Who Loves Lucy?

Since today is Lucy's 100th birthday, I'm reposting a previous article. It just seemed appropriate. For those of you with XM radio, tune to channel 82 today for some fun old radio stuff featuring our girl.

Where do I begin to tell you about Lucy. Let's go back to October of 1951, when the whole love affair began and everyone started saying I Love Lucy!

The show starred Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivan Vance, and William Frawley. It ran as a black and white program (as most of them were in those days) on the CBS network. It began when the first show aired October 15, 1951 and ended on May 6, 1957. It was the most-watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons, and it was the first show to end its run at the top of the ratings. The show remains in syndication today.

I could go on and on and explain how Lucy is somewhat na├»ve and ambitious, with an overactive imagination and a knack for getting herself into trouble. But you already know that. I could tell you that she’s obsessed with joining her husband in show business. But you know that, too. So let me fill up the white space by telling you something you may not know.

Unlike television shows today, the scenes were often performed in sequence, as a play would be, which was unusual for comedies at that time. Retakes were rare and dialogue mistakes were often played off for the sake of continuity.

Desilu was the production company that was owned by Desi and Lucy. It rented space at General Service Studios on Hollywood from 1951 until 1954, when it bought the Motion Picture Center and renamed it Desilu Studios. The shot at the right is an aerial view of the complex. The one below is the Mansion on the same property. I'm not certain what this building was used for.

The opening familiar to most viewers features the credits superimposed over a "heart on satin" image, shown at the beginning of this post. However, that was not the original opening but was created specifically for syndication. As originally broadcast, the episodes opened with animated matchstick figures of Arnaz and Ball making reference to whomever the particular episode's sponsor was. These sequences were created by the animation team of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, under contract to MGM at the time.

The original sponsor was cigarette maker Philip Morris. At that time the program opened with a cartoon of Lucy and Ricky climbing down a pack of Philip Morris cigarettes. In the early episodes, Lucy and Ricky, as well as Ethel and Fred, were shown smoking Philip Morris cigarettes.
Since the original sponsor references were no longer appropriate when the shows went into syndication, a new opening was needed, which resulted in the classic heart on satin opening.

The original openings, with the sponsor names edited out, are now used on TV Land showings, with a TV Land logo superimposed to obscure the original sponsor's logo. Ironically, this has led some people to believe that the restored introduction was created specifically for TV Land.

One of the most memorable episode is entitled “Job Switching.” It’s a classic with the well-known scene of Lucy and Ethyl wrapping the candy as it comes down the conveyor belt. The video bar toward the bottom often has that scene on it if you want to look at it again. It’s just as funny today as it was the day they filmed it.

Other episodes that I would have to put in the top ten include: “Lucy Does a Commerical” (the Vitameatavegamin girl), “Lucy and Superman,” “L.A. at Last” (with William Holden getting a pie in the face and Lucy catching her putty nose on fire when she tries to light a cigarette), and “Lucy Does the Tango” (in which Lucy and Ethyl try to convince the boys the hens are laying eggs by smuggling them from the store into the henhouse, under their coats. Everything is fine until Ricky decides to have Lucy dance with him and the eggs begin breaking.)

I'm not certain which episode the photo at the right came from. I don't recall a fish episode. So, if anyone is familiar with it, please comment and let us all know.

The Vitameatavegamin video on the right sidebar is sure to bring a smile to your face. It's a classic, so enjoy.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Telephones - Then and Now

I'm amazed at technology. And how it changes over time. I was driving today in my new car and my phone rang. Since my cell phone is linked to my iDrive system in my car, the ringing came over the car speakers and my readout on the information center on the dash showed who the call was from. I pressed a button on my steering wheel and answered the call. I also have a blog about my experiences with the new car HERE in case you're interested in new car technology. But let's get back to the subject at hand.

Now, let's compare a talking car with a high tech phone system to what we used to have. We were actually pretty primitive in comparison. When I was a kid, we had a black phone with a wire that ran into the wall. Cell phones and wireless technology and bluetooth hadn't been thought of yet. In fact, our phones had mechanical, analog dials on them. Rotary dials, we called them. And we had phone numbers with names, like CLifton 7, or DRexel 4, BUtterfield 8, and others.

We also had something interesting called "party lines." It was kind of a Twitter of the fifties. The necessity of these party lines was probably due to the fact that the phone company didn't have enough lines installed to give everyone their own private line. And when the phone rang, you had to listen to the ring and see if it was yours before answering it. Ours was a long and a short ring. If you wanted to make an outgoing call, you picked up the receiver and checked to see if there was a party liner already using the phone. If so, good manners told you to hang up and check later. If not, you could go ahead and make your call.

In 1959 things started improving dramatically when ATT introduced the new Princess Phone. Contemporary advertising shows that this telephone was marketed to women, hence the feminine designation 'Princess'. A broad range of colors were offered, including pink, red, yellow, moss green, black, white, beige, ivory, light blue, turquoise, and gray. And four years later, in 1963, Western Electric introduced touchtone dialing which replaced the rotary dial with 10 lighted push buttons. We were in the modern age now. Everyone eventually got their own private line and the party line became a thing of the past.

In time the Princess was redesigned and became the Trimline phone. You may remember these as the slim units with the push button dial built into the handset.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Growing Crystals

When I was a boy I discovered the magic of growing crystals from various ingredients. That was shortly after I was so disappointed when my Sea Monkeys didn't look at all like monkeys. They didn't even have crowns or scepters. And my X-Ray Specs didn't work like they were supposed to, either. So I started growing crystals in my little bedroom laboratory.

I used salt, sugar, and alum. Each of these composites produce crystals with different structures. The salt crystals were always cubic. The sugar (which you could eat after they formed) were hexagonal with pointed ends. My favorite was the crystals produced with alum. In case you have a youngster, or a grandchild, this might offer you an opportunity for some quality time and a learning experience that could spark an interest in chemistry or science.

Just so you know, alum crystalizes in a tetrahedral form. The crystals form like two pyramids joined at the base.The photo above is of a chrome alum crystal. I'm sure what chrome alum is, but the crystals you can grow from regular alum look just like this except they are clear instead of black.

Below is a step-by-step procedure for turning common, white alum into beautiful, clear crystals that look like sparkling diamonds. What you need to do is to create what is known as a super-saturated solution. More material (salt, sugar, alum) will dissolve in hot water than will dissolve in cold. The higher the temperature, the more will dissolve and the more saturated the solution becomes. So here we go . . .

Step 1: If you don't already have some, go to the grocery store and buy a box of alum. You'll find it in the baking section or with the spices.

Step 2: Place a sauce pan containing one quart of water on the stove and turn it on.

Step 3: As the water starts to heat, begin pouring the alum into it, stirring with a spoon as you add it. Not too much at a time. Make sure it's all dissolved before you add more. Continue adding more alum until no more will dissolve. Try to keep the water temperature just a little below a rolling boil.

Step 4: After the water has cooled a bit, pour it into a a quart jar and leave it alone for a few hours.

If you've created a super-saturated solution, the alum will begin to form crystal within 24 hours. You will see them forming on the bottom of the jar. There will probably be several of them, so we want to remove a lot of them to give the others more room to grow. Otherwise you will end up with a "matt" of crystals on the bottom of the jar. And that's not what you want. We're trying to create three or four really nice crystals.

Step 5: In a day or two your crystals will have grown to 1/8 inch or so across. Get a long pair of tweezers and remove all of the small crystals. If you don't have a long pair of tweezers you can pour the solution carefully from your incubator jar into another container and then remove the crystals with a spoon. Examine them and pick a half dozen or so of the biggest or best ones and set them aside. Then pour the solution back into the jar and add your selected crystals. Try to arrange them so they're not touching each other.

Step 6: You'll need to turn your crystals every day so that the alum is added to each side equally.

: Do not place a lid on the jar. If you do, the water can't evaporate. Evaporation is important so that the solution remains at a constant state of saturation and your crystal continues to grow. If you notice your crystals look smaller than they did the previous day that means the saturation level has decreased and the water is dissolving the alum from your crystals. If this happens, remove your crystals and create a new solution as explained in Step 2. But don't place your crystal back into this new solution until it has cooled to room temperature. Otherwise it will dissolve. Keep making new solutions as your crystal continues to grow until you get it to the size you want. Then you can take it out of the jar and put it on display. The air won't hurt it. Just don't let it get wet because they do melt in water.

Having written this, it makes me want to do it again. I'm going to go buy some alum. Have fun! If you have any questions, leave a comment and I'll try to answer it.