Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ding Dong School

How many of you remember Miss Francis? I grew up with her and watched her every day before I was finally old enough to actually go out into the world and attend regular school classes. But how much do you really know about her and her program?

Well, a little trip in the Wayback Machine will tell us a lot. First, boys and girls, let’s learn about Miss Frances. Her real name was Frances Rappaport Horwich, born July 16, 1907, in Ottawa, Ohio.

She earned her Master's degree in education from Columbia University and received her Doctorate at Northwestern University. She became the head of the department of education at Chicago's Roosevelt College.

"Miss Frances' Ding Dong School" was began to air in the Chicago area on NBC in the early 50s. The show quickly gained popularity among young children and was quickly broadcast nationally, Monday through Friday, beginning in November of 1952. In that year, Miss Frances won the George Foster Peabody Award.

The show at one time is suspected of having a 95 percent share on all preschoolers. In 1954, Miss Frances moved to New York, where she supervised all of NBC's children's programming. She held this position until 1956, when the show was canceled in favor of The Price is Right.. Horwich owned the rights to Ding Dong School and syndicated the show until 1965.

By 1970, Miss Frances returned to Chicago and became involved with local programming once again. She eventually retired with her husband, Harvey, to Scottsdale, Arizona. She died of congestive heart failure on July 22, 2001, at the age of 94.

Miss Frances is famed for her uncompromising principles. In addition to resigning from NBC in protest of what she felt was commercialism over education, she would never advertise products a child could not use and would never advertise toys she felt glorified violence.

She is also cited as inventing the approach of talking to the viewing audience as if they were there with you. Other notable users of this style were Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street.

Miss Frances was mentioned by name in three different Peanuts strips. She was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of the Television Arts and Sciences on June 2, 2001.

In 2006, an Ohio Historical Marker was placed by the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter in her hometown of Ottawa, Ohio.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Christmas is over. The presents have all been open. The stores are open once again with prices marked way down for those after-Christmas sales. Since everyone is probably tired of listening to Christmas tunes, I've re-installed the Oldies Jukebox with some of your favorite songs, plus some NEW ONES, too!

So get rested up, relax for a few minutes, and pick some of your favorite oldies to listen to so you can ease the stress a bit after the holiday. You're going to need your rest because pretty soon you're going to have to take down the tree and put all the decorations away until next year. We're heading for New Year's Eve now.

If you don't want to listen to these great oldies hits, just scroll down and hit the "pause" button on the top left of the jukebox. If you can't find your favorite song, let me know. I'll find it and get it added to the playlist for you. Just leave a comment below and tell me what you want to hear.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Remember Jimmy Boyd?

It was 1952 when Jimmy Boyd recorded "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" for Columbia Records. He he was 12 years and 11 months old. Even in those days of limited media, it became a record industry phenomenon, selling over two and a half million records in its first week's release.

Jimmy's name became an international household word, and he skyrocketed to the status of a major star. Columbia Records execs were baffled at the song's popularity. They had already presented Jimmy with two gold records. (In the days before the Grammy Award existed, gold records were effectively the Grammys, and they were actually real gold). Jimmy's record went to number one on the charts again the following year at Christmas, and went on to sell again and again every Christmas. Today on the internet it sells worldwide to new generations, and has reportedly sold over 60,000,000 records since its initial release.

Jimmy loved and owned horses, so Columbia presented him with a silver mounted saddle. Inscribed in the silver plate on the back of the saddle were the words, "Presented by Columbia Records to Jimmy Boyd commemorating his 3,000,000 record of 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'".

When first released, Jimmy's record was banned in Boston by the Catholic Church on the grounds it mixed sex with Christmas. Boyd made worldwide news at thirteen years old when he went to Boston and met with the leaders of the Church to explain the song to them. The following Christmas the ban was lifted by the Catholic Church.

Between February 1953 and November 1954, Boyd made five appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. In that era, an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (or being introduced in the audience as many film stars, famous athletes etc. were), was considered by the entertainment industry and the public alike to be the pinnacle of success.

In the years that followed Boyd made multiple appearances on The Perry Como Show, Doris Day Show, Bing Crosby Show. Bob Hope, Patti Page, Dave Garroway, Merv Griffin, The Tonight Show, Kraft Music Hall, Shindig, American Bandstand and countless other TV shows throughout the U.S. and Canada.

I've added his #1 song to the playlist. Just scroll to it and click if you want to be whisked back to 1952 with a mouse click. Enjoy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Fun Blog

If you look to your right, you'll see an icon for a $100,000 Giveaway. Click it. It will take you to a new site that's really active with lots of fun information. We're getting a lot of traffic from all over the world. Also, the Toasty Posts link will take you to another site with LOTS of free giveaways. Enjoy.

The Chipmunks

In the winter of 1958, America met The Chipmunks through a record (released December 22nd) created by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. (aka David Seville).

"The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)," featured the singing skills of the chipmunk trio. One phrase in the chorus has Alvin wishing for a hula hoop, which was that year's hot new toy. (Click the hula hoop link to read the whole story posted previously.)

The record was highly successful, selling more than 4 million copies in seven weeks, and it launched the careers of its chipmunk stars.

It spent four weeks at Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart from December 22, 1958 to January 12, 1959. It also earned three Grammy Awards and a nomination for Record of the Year.

At the height of its popularity, Bagdasarian and three chipmunk hand-puppets appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, lip-synching the song. "The Chipmunk Song" appeared on the Chipmunks' debut album, Let's All Sing with the Chipmunks, in 1959, and was repeated on Christmas with the Chipmunks, released in 1962. The song also has been included on several compilation albums.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kansas City Tuberculosis Hospital Visit

Here's a personal account of a very scary adventure that occurred back in my high school days.

It was the summer of 1966. I was a senior at William Chrisman High School (go Bears) in Independence, Missouri. I had been working for a couple of years to get enough money to buy a car. I finally found the one I simply had to have. It wasn't a Corvette, but it was as close as I could afford at the time.

It was a 1964 Chevy Impala Super Sport. It had a 327 cubic inch engine and a four-speed on the floor. Plus it was a convertible — midnight blue with a white top and silver blue, vinyl (they didn't put leather in them back then) bucket seats. It even had a Vibrasonic radio, which they don't make any longer. Besides being pretty, she ran like a speed demon.

On that particular summer night a few of us were driving around and trying to decide what to do. One friend suggested we visit the old Kansas City Tuberculosis Hospital. (If you click that link it will take you to a very nice photo of the building in its heydey.)

This facility had been built by the prisoners at Leeds back in the forties. Since TB had basically been brought under control a few years earlier, the hospital had been closed down. But the building was still standing, high on a hill on Raytown Road overlooking the city.

We all agreed that it sounded interesting. It was a dark night, cloudy with no moon. Fortunately, I had a flashlight in the car. After parking in the abandoned lot, we began walking toward the building. It was a bit spooky. Even in the darkness it was easy to see that all of the windows had been broken out. There was a little wind whistling through the trees and a dog barking in the distance. As we walked around the building, we found a window that was low enough for us to climb through, and we began exploring the vacant halls.

The further we went, peering into the rooms with the flashlight, it became apparent that the building had been abandoned in a rush. Most of the furniture and equipment, including beds and linens, had been left behind. It was a bit shocking to see overturned wheelchairs strewn haphazardly here and there. We also saw large pieces of equipment that looked like "iron lungs."

In some of the patient rooms there were framed photographs remaining on the walls. One of these photos was of particular interest in a macabre sort of way. It was a photograph of a pretty young nurse decked out in her white uniform. The photo was signed, "Wishing you the best." The part that was startling was that someone had taken a red marker and drawn slash marks on her face and a knife sticking into her chest with the word "BITCH" written in large letters.

The further we explored, the more desolate and depressing it became. Finally, we descended the stairs and headed toward the morgue. The stench met our nostrils long before we reached the small operating room or whatever it was. As we walked through a heavy steel doorway, the flashlight illuminated an enclosure with stone walls and no windows. There was a stainless steel operating table in the center with bloody, or rusting, instruments scattered on it.

Along the wall there was a sink with a rusting faucet. As we approached this sink the smell became even more overpowering. When I shined the flashlight into the sink it illuminated a huge slab of meat, bloody and rotting. It was at about that time we decided to leave.

We never found out whether this was the remains of some poor soul, perhaps a serviceman who had served his country during World War II, or if it was a practical joke that some of the Van Horn High School, or Raytown High School hoods had decided to pull to scare some unsuspecting victims. We'll never know. But even after all these years, I still remember that evening quite vividly.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Selfish Promotion

This has nothing to do with the general topic of this site. It's just a selfish promotion for my artwork, but it might provide a link to a site you may be able to use in the future for special occasions. You can click on the stamp for a larger view to see the detail.

The site is called Zazzle, and I actually discovered it by accident. The photo you see here is an example of a postage stamp I created using one of my original paintings. I've actually created about 20 of them this week, using different paintings, and they're all available for sale at my gallery site on Zazzle. Here's the link if you want to check them out.

The price is more expensive than regular postage stamps, but they're unique in case you're looking for something different or special. You can even design your own stamps by uploading your own graphics such as photos of your kids, your pets, your grandkids, your cars, whatever you wish. It's something you might want to keep in mind as a really unusual Christmas gift. I believe you can still order them and get them in time for Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The SPAM is still available.

Yes. Yes it is.

So far we've only received six entries. So there are 44 slots left to fill.

Can't you just taste it? That miracle meat from days gone by. The mystery food we grew up on that turned us into the towering icons of health and nutrition we are today? Yum.

So scroll down and enter so you can relive those days when you open that metal can and smell that SPAM!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

We survived

I’m going to relate some more personal recollections today. I’m sure most of you could add to this list, but it should be a fun exercise. At least for me.

Back in the fifties the cars didn’t have seat belts. I think race cars might have had them, but the regular production vehicles were not equipped with them. I don’t even think they were an option. But we survived.

My two younger sisters and I used to ride in the back of our dad’s Ford pickup — flying down the highway at 70 miles per hour, sitting on those wheel wells that were inside the truck bed. There was no camper cover on it. The wind blew through our hair. (I actually had hair back then for the wind to blow through.) Except it didn’t blow around too much because I had it pretty well locked into place with Brylcreme. (A little dab’ll do ya.) But we survived.

We had bicycles back then, too. And we didn’t have helmets or elbow pads, or knee pads. I don’t think they even made them back then. In fact, my bicycle didn’t even have a chain guard. It was one of those cheaper models that didn’t even have a coaster brake. As long as the rear wheel was turning, the pedals turned. I remember the day I got the leg of my jeans hung up on the front sprocket. I was heading down Peck Drive at somewhere close to a million miles an hour when the sprocket snagged my cuff. My leg just went around and around as the sprocket kept turning, winding the leg of my jeans tighter and tighter around my ankle. I finally crashed on the side of the street. I think we had to cut my jeans out of the sprocket. But I survived.

That summer Jimmy, Larry, and Ronnie Smith and I walked up to the little Diary Queen that was at the top of the hill on 24 highway to get some lunch. Ronnie was the youngest, and you’ll understand why I’m telling you that in a moment. Jimmy and Ronnie and I each ordered a hamburger and a coke. When it was Ronnie’s turn he asked the lady how much a hamburger cost. She told him. He counted his money. He didn’t have enough. So he placed his order. “I’d like a baloney sandwich and a ten cent malt.”

But we survived. At least so far.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Girly-Girl Stuff

One of our readers e-mailed me recently and asked for more girly-girl stuff on this site. I wish she hadn’t done that, because I’m not great at writing that type of material. But I racked my brain and come up with one item I do remember.

So I did a little research. And I’m pretty certain this posting would fall into that girly-girl category. Maybe it will take some of you back to your high school days for a few minutes of remembering. Perhaps you owned one. The item I’m referring to is the legendary Poodle Skirt.

It was perhaps the look in young women’s clothing that is most associated with the Fifties. They were very popular and quite common at sock hops. Had they known that item would be immortalized as an icon of the era, more of those young women might have saved them. How many of you still have yours? If you do, send me a COMMENT, or better yet, a photo. I’ll post it.

For any of you guys who are still with me at this point, (yeah, right) in case you’re too young to remember, or too old to remember, a poodle skirt is a wide swing skirt with a poodle transferred onto the fabric. Although poodles were the primary object d’art for the skirt, other items were used as well, including flamingos and hot rod cars. (It was the fifties. Remember? Hot rods were the thing. And Poodle Skirts.)

But it was by no means all that women wore. I mean, you can’t wear a Poodle Skirt every day, can you? That would just be wrong, wouldn’t it? Of course it would. Even I know that. So, to keep from having to wear that pesky Poodle Skirt day after day, the girls of that era also had an assortment of pleated skirts in their wardrobe, as well as something known as a pencil skirt. If anyone knows what the heck that is, let me know, because I haven’t a clue. I did learn that the pencil skirt was popular because women didn’t usually wear pants in those days. But that's changed. I think most of them are wearing the pants now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Guys and Dolls

Let's hop in the Wayback Machine and head back to November 3, 1955. We're arriving in New York, with all the other hot gamblers. They're depending on Nathan Detroit to set up this week's "Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York."

But there's a problem. Nathan need to get his hands on $1000 to rent the place. Throw in Sarah Brown, who's short on sinners at the mission she runs. Then there's Sky Masterson, who accepts Nathan's $1000 bet that he can't get Sarah Brown to go with him to Havana. And, of course, Miss Adelaide, who wants Nathan to marry her. Naturally, Police Lieutenant Brannigan always seems to appear at the wrong time.

Add in the music and lyrics of Frank Loesser and you've got quite a musical. It included the songs: "Luck Be a Lady" and "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat".

Check out the video on the sidebar today for a treat.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Winds of Change

I've been away for a few days licking my wounds. No, I didn't crack up the Fiberglas Flyer (my Corvette) but it's almost as bad. Read on to hear my tale of woe.

Wednesday afternoon three people on my team at work were called into the manager's office (individually, of course) and told we were being laid off due to the economic situation. I don't see how that's going to help my economic situation. At sixty years of age, it becomes a long process finding a new job. But regardless, it was decided. It's water under the bridge. So let it be written. So let it be done. So saith Pharoah.

So that's one change. Although it's a fairly major change in my personal life, it's actually minor compared to the change that occurred forty-five years ago. What I'm referring to is the incident that occurred on this infamous date back in 1963.

If you're a Boomer, you know exactly what I'm speaking of. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assinated around noon in Dallas, Texas. And, if you're a Boomer, you can probably recall exactly where you were and what you were doing and the exact words you heard at that moment.

I was in Mr. Frazier's Algebra I class. We were on the stairs, coming back from lunch, and heading back to the classroom when I heard another teacher tell Mr. Frazier what had happened. Shortly after that, back in the classroom, an announcement came over the intercom telling us what had occurred in Dallas. The next few days were spent in front of the television (a black and white American-made Zenith console) listening to the news, watching the funeral, and seeing Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on live television.

I'm certain the readers of this electronic rag could tell their own stories of those memories. I would love to read them if you would like to leave a comment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Rest of the Story...

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember a story I posted back on October 24th entitled Get Your Kicks. If you haven't read it, you can click that link you just passed to go to it. In fact, it might be a good idea for you to do that so you'll know what's happened up to this point.

To bring you up to speed on where we are, my friend Wes and I had made the 1,500 mile adventure from Independence, Missouri, to San Diego, California. All the way to the Pacific Ocean. And for two young guys only 18 years old, it was a pretty astonishing achievement. We stayed there for a couple weeks with Wes's dad, Chuck Holden. I can't say enough good things about Mr. Holden. He was a wonderful host and treated me like a son while we were there. I learned that his favorite song was the old Roger Miller tune, King of the Road. Being an immodest entertainer, I enjoyed playing the guitar and singing it for him and his good buddy, Ralph, a few times.

Anyway, I could drag this story out with our exciting trip to Tijuana, the hot sweet potato incident at Knott's Berry Farm, the hilarious Roller Skating Penguin Review, and the Rosy Boa that Darryl found when we hiked up into the Sierra Madre foothills. But I'll save those for another installment.

Today I want to talk about frogs. (Did he say frogs?) Yes, he did. And it is with trepidation that I even begin this tale for fear that my loyal and faithful readers will think this old fellow has flipped his lid. But I assure you, what you are about to read it true. This is the story of the incident that's come to be known as the Million Frog March that occurred on our trip home.

A golden sunset was decorating the western sky, just like in the movies made in those regions, when we started the car and left the Holden residence at 3131 Skipper Street in southern California.

We headed eastward, and soon the darkness began to settle around us. When we got up into the mountainous region, a storm was blowing in. As we came around a curve, a gust whipped through the mountain pass and almost blew us off the road. We slowed down at that point.

It was a dark and stormy night. (I've waited for the right opportunity to use that line for so long.) As it became darker, the intensity of the rain increased. It was a powerful storm, and the rain soon became quite torrential. Suddenly, between the metronomic rhythm of the windshield wipers, we noticed something on the road ahead, illuminated by the headlights. It was moving. As we got closer we determined it was a frog. And it was a big frog, too. A few yards ahead we saw another one. Then two more. Then a dozen. And as we continued driving that night, we were not only putting miles behind us, but also hundreds of dead, or at least critically injured, frogs that we couldn't avoid running over. They were everywhere, and their numbers were increasing as we continued through the night.

I think the storm was traveling with us because it continued to rain as we drove on through the frog swarm. They were all over the road, hopping around like they had gone berserk, maybe trying to prevent us from leaving and going home. And I would have sworn they were coming down from the sky except none of them were hitting the windshield. I don't know what they were doing, but it was the craziest event I have ever been a part of, except for the Roller Skating Penguins. But that's another story for another time.

But the frog story doesn't end there. Keep in mind that the frog incident occurred in 1968. Thirty years later I was at a gas station in Lenexa, Kansas. A storm was raging as I hurried inside to pay for my gasoline. We didn't have the Pay-at-the-Pump option back then. Inside, there was a gentleman, about my age, in line ahead of me. The clerk took his money and made a comment about the storm. The man's reply was totally unexpected.

"Yeah," he said. "This reminds me of the storm I ran into about thirty years ago. I was driving a truck and headin' outa California when it started raining. It was about dark, and it was a storm about like this one. Windy, too. I don't know where all the frogs came from, but I've never seen so many before or since. There was miles and miles of 'em."

So now you have the rest of the story. It was an eventful trip, both coming and going. And if you ever hear anyone telling a story about millions of frogs on the highway in California in the summer of '68, just tell them you've already heard that story. And you know it's true.

By the way, today is the day Ford cancelled the Edsel back in 1959, so I've put a great old Edsel commercial in the video on the sidebar.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Guess who turns 80 today...

If you guessed Mickey Mouse you’re absolutely correct! I grew up with Mickey Mouse, and Walt Disney. Every Sunday night we watched Disneyland on our Zenith black and white console television. (If you click that link, there's another related post.) But there was a lot of history related to Mickey that occurred prior to that television show and the one that came later, The Mickey Mouse Club.

Mickey was created in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Originally, Walt’s voice was used for Mickey. The Walt Disney Company celebrates his birth as November 18, 1928 upon the release of Steamboat Willie. I've put it in the sidebar today for your enjoyment.

In my opinion, Mickey's appearance has improved with age. But let’s take a look back in time and see what might have been responsible for Mickey’s creation in the first place. It's a good thing Max charged the Wayback Machine up because we're taking a long trip today. All the way back to 1928.

Mickey was created as a replacement for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, an earlier cartoon character created by the Disney studio for Charles Mintz of Universal Studios. When Disney asked for a larger budget for his popular Oswald series, Mintz announced he had hired the bulk of Disney's staff, but that Disney could keep doing the Oswald series, as long as he agreed to a budget cut and went on the payroll. Mintz owned Oswald and thought he had Disney over a barrel. Apparently, Mintz didn’t realize who he was dealing with.

Angrily, Disney refused the deal and returned to produce the final Oswald cartoons he contractually owed Mintz. Disney was dismayed at the betrayal by his staff, but determined to restart from scratch. The new Disney Studio initially consisted of animator Ub Iwerks and a loyal apprentice artist, Les Clark. One lesson Disney learned from the experience was to thereafter always make sure that he owned all rights to the characters produced by his company.

In the spring of 1928, Disney asked Ub Iwerks to start drawing up new character ideas. Iwerks tried sketches of various animals, such as dogs and cats, but none of these appealed to Disney. A female cow and male horse were also rejected. They would later turn up as Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar. Walt Disney got the inspiration for Mickey Mouse from his old pet mouse he used to have on his farm.

In 1925, Hugh Harman drew some sketches of mice around a photograph of Walt Disney. These inspired Ub Iwerks to create a new mouse character for Disney. "Mortimer Mouse" had been Disney's original name for the character before his wife, Lillian, convinced him to change it. Ultimately Mickey Mouse came to be. Actor Mickey Rooney has claimed that, during his Mickey McGuire days, he met cartoonist Walt Disney at the Warner Brothers studio, and that Disney was inspired to name Mickey Mouse after him. Said Disney:

"We felt that the public, and especially the children, like animals that are cute and little. I think we are rather indebted to Charlie Chaplin for the idea. We wanted something appealing, and we thought of a tiny bit of a mouse that would have something of the wistfulness of Chaplin — a little fellow trying to do the best he could. When people laugh at Mickey Mouse, it's because he's so human; and that is the secret of his popularity. I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Over $100 in Free Giveaways...

Just a short note to publicize another site. I'll be back later to give you more fifties stuff. But with the economy the way it is, FREE is looking better all the time. Just click the Toasty Posts icon and enter all eight giveaways if you wish. It's totally free.

I'll be back later.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Elvis - Love Me Tender

There's not much that needs to be said about this subject. Everyone knows Elvis. We've listened to his music. We've watched his movies, and seen him on television. I'll come back to Elvis at a later date and do a more fitting article. But I'm going to rest my fingers and just let you enjoy it today. The video below is from his first movie, Love Me Tender. It's appropriate that we have it on here today because this is the day it premiered in New York City way back in 1956.

Just click the video above and enjoy. You may have to turn the volume up a bit. And when you finish watching this one, there's another one, a rather longer one, on the sidebar that has several other icons of the fifties included. It's from an old television appearance. It may be from the Tonight Show when Steve Allen was the host. It includes Steve, Elvis, Andy Griffith and Imogene Coca. The sound isn't great, but it's typical of the comedy we enjoyed back them.


Monday, November 10, 2008

The Jukebox Poll...

It's been a long weekend and my wife has worked me to death getting everything ready for winter. It all started early this morning when I had to make a run to pick up a Sunday newspaper so my wife could clip the coupons. Naturally, the box I usually visit was empty, so it involved a slightly longer trip.
After that chore, I had to bring in the patio furniture cushions, cover the fountain, take down the cover over the gazebo on the deck, and remove the Roman shades from the pergola on the patio.

Then I had to go to the auto parts store and get a bottle of Sta-bil to put in my Corvette's gas tank for the winter and fill the tank with fresh gasoline. Pick up some moth balls and a tub of dessicant to place inside the Vette for the winter (to reduce moisture and prevent mold and mildew, and to deter rodents from wanting to build a nest in the engine compartment).

Next was repairing some kitchen chairs that had lost a couple of screws, replace a bulb in one of the garage door openers, brush some knots out of the cat, (that's Billy in the picture above) return a Redbox DVD I rented for the grandkids, bring another chair in from the deck and take it to the basement, and stop at Wendy's to get lunch for the two of us. All that was earlier today. And I just returned from Walmart where I purchased a load of groceries.

Things were much easier in the fifties when I didn't have to do all this stuff. All I had to do was finish my homework and watch The Honeymooners or I Love Lucy or The Twilight Zone. If I was grown back then, and a huband, I could just sit on the couch all day and not have to worry about doing anything, because the wives did all that stuff in those days. Like the happy homemaker pictured on the right. Is that Betty Crocker?

But it's a bit different today, so I'm a bit worn out tonight. I'm not complaining, just offering an excuse for such a pitiful post this evening, while still trying to tie it to the fifties.

As you can see, I installed a new jukebox a couple days ago. It's always my objective to please everyone (it's my overachiver nature) so I've added a poll on the right.

The reason for the poll is to determine if everyone likes the jukebox starting when the page loads. Some may not want to hear the music. Obviously, you can turn the volume down, if you don't want to hear it. But I'm curious to get a reading on whether the majority of you like it starting up on its own or if you would rather me set it up so you could hit the play button when, and if, you wanted to.

If you have a moment, simply go to the poll in the right sidebar and click either "yes" or "no" to let me know your preference. I'll go with the majority opinion.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Short Post - New Stuff

I've spent quite some time tonight building the Jukebox you see above. Did you hear one of those great fifties songs playing when the page loaded?

Well, since music was such a huge part of the fifties, I figured we needed a little bit of that on here. So, as I said, I built us a new Jukebox with old songs. There are also a couple from the sixties, but I just had to include them.

Now here's the deal. In the old days, you could get three songs for a quarter. Today you can get every song on the playlist for free. So click on whichever ones you like and dance a little if you want to. But be careful. You don't want to lose your balance and break a hip.

But it gets even better. There may be a favorite song of yours that isn't included in this list. If so, no problem. I have room for an additional 149 selections. If I can find it, I can load it in here so it will be here the next time you stop by. So just click that pesky COMMENT thingy down there and tell me what you want to hear. Even if it's from the sixties. I don't know if should venture into that crazy music of seventies yet. But just let me know what you want to hear.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Dream Has Come True

There was a time, not that long ago, when the dream for justice, equality, fairness, and simple human decency was held by only a gossamer thread. And from the beginning of American history, that hope was seldom truly realized.

But, though it was continually tugged and stretched, that thread was never broken. It is perhaps best said by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in today’s video. I hope you will watch it and rejoice that the dream he revealed to America over 40 years ago was finally realized.

Today marks a turning point in America, and the world, by the election of Senator Barack Obama, an African-American, to this country’s highest office. It is the realization of that dream — held by so many, through such discouragement for so many trying years.

Since this blog is dedicated to history, I thought about listing the events that occurred during the fifties. The prejudices that prevailed. And the struggles to overcome the inequalities so prevalent in our nation during that decade and the one that followed. But I have decided not to mention those. They are the past. They occurred in a different time and in a different world. They are a part of the history of the American people, and should be considered as such.

Today the American people have sent a new message to the world. We have set a precedent. And we have done it as one voice. Together — Asian, Hispanic, Black and White — we have found a hero with the key to unlock the doors that have divided us for so long. From this day forward when a child is asked what he or she would like to be when they grow up, there are no longer any barriers. Our differences remain. We are not all the same in all respects. But there is one thing that unites us and that we all share equally. We are Americans.

As you may have noticed, I have departed from my usual form of including several photographs in my post today. But I have included one at the top. That one American, and what he has achieved, is a symbol for everything that has gone before and, more importantly, everything that is yet to come.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Scary? Indeed!

Picture, if you will, a man in the 1950s who has established himself as one of the hottest names in television. A man who, in addition to his uncanny talent for writing television drama, was equally famous for his criticism of the medium’s limitations. With those abilities, some way it was fate that caused him to step over into The Twilight Zone.

Obviously, we’re speaking of Rod Serling. And it seems somewhat appropriate with today being election day to shed a little light on the other side of this man. It’s not widely known, but Rod was most vocal concerning the censorship practiced by sponsors and networks. "I was not permitted to have my Senators discuss any current or pressing problem," he said of his 1957 production The Arena, intended to be an involving look into contemporary politics. "To talk of tariff was to align oneself with the Republicans; to talk of labor was to suggest control by the Democrats. To say a single thing germane to the current political scene was absolutely prohibited."

Twilight Zone's writers used science fiction as a vehicle for social comment; networks and sponsors who had infamously censored all potentially "inflammatory" material from the then predominant live dramas were ignorant of the methods developed by writers such as Ray Bradbury for dealing with important issues through seemingly innocuous fantasy.

Frequent themes included nuclear war, mass hysteria, and McCarthyism, subjects that were strictly forbidden on more "serious" prime-time drama. Episodes such as "The Shelter" or "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" offered specific commentary on current events. Other stories, such as "The Masks" or "The Howling Man," operated around a central allegory, parable, or fable that reflected the characters' moral or philosophical choices.

Despite his esteem in the writing community, Serling found The Twilight Zone difficult to sell. Few critics felt that science fiction could transcend empty escapism and enter the realm of adult drama. In a September 22, 1959, interview with Serling, Mike Wallace asked a question illustrative of the times: "You're going to be, obviously, working so hard on The Twilight Zone that, in essence, for the time being and for the foreseeable future, you've given up on writing anything important for television, right?"

While Serling's appearances on the show became one of its most distinctive features, with his clipped delivery still widely imitated today, he was reportedly nervous about it and had to be persuaded to appear on camera. Serling often steps into the middle of the action and the characters remain seemingly oblivious to him, but on one notable occasion they are aware he's there: In the episode "A World of His Own," a writer with the power to alter his reality objects to Serling's unflattering narration, and promptly erases Serling from the show.

The top photo is one I shall remember always. It was late in the evening. My parents had already gone to bed, so I was all by myself in the living room. I remember this episode opened in a hospital room with a patient lying in bed, her head covered in gauze bandages. You could hear the doctors telling her that they tried their best to make the operation work, but they wouldn't know the outcome until they removed the bandages.

The story progressed with the girl telling everyone she was just tired of being ugly and wanted to be normal, like everyone else. Well, you can pretty well guess, or remember if you saw it, that when they removed her bandages and the viewer saw a beautiful face, it was surprising to hear the doctors apologize for not being able to make the surgery successful. Then the camera moved to the doctors and nurses for the first time. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I saw them. Yikes! Time for bed.

Today's video contains over nine minutes of a great pilot promo that Rod did back in 1956. It's quite interesting. I hope you take the time time watch it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sputnik I

Let’s hop once into into the Wayback Machine and set the dial for October 4, 1957. When we arrive we see the smoke billowing from beneath the rocket. A moment later it begins rising into the sky. And at the very tip of the rocket is the satellite that started it all.

Sputnik 1 was the world's first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite. Launched into a low altitude elliptical orbit by the Soviet Union, it was the first in a series of satellites collectively known as the Sputnik program. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1's success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space Race within the Cold War.

Sputnik-1 was launched during the International Geophysical Year. This was an undertaking by 68 nations and involved exploration into the arctic, the sea, and outer space. Sputnik helped to identify the upper atmospheric layer's density, through measuring the satellite's orbital changes. It also provided data on radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere.

During its journey, the satellite traveled at 18,000 miles per hour. It emitted radio signals which were monitored by amateur radio operators throughout the world. The signals continued for 22 days until the transmitter batteries ran out on October 26, 1957. Sputnik 1 burned up on January 4, 1958 as it fell from orbit upon reentering Earth's atmosphere, after traveling about 37 million miles and spending 3 months in orbit.

Today's video contains a documentary of the program. As mentioned earlier, it was a bit of a surprise to American that the Russians had beaten us to the punch. A month later, Russia launched Sputnik II, carrying a stray dog found wandering the streets of Moscow, and she became the first living creature launced into space.

I remember well those fall and winter evenings when the sky was clear and the millions of stars winked in the heavens. It wasn’t unusual on those nights to see Sputnik travelling across the night sky. If you spent time gazing at the stars and looking for Sputnik, leave a comment and tell us about it. I can't be the only one who remembers it.

Can I?

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Blog

After writing yesterday's article, I realized it had brought back a lot of memories. And I also realized that one helping of Disney just wasn't enough. So I decided to create a new blog. I hope you'll visit it occasionally, and I promise to keep it interesting.

The new blog is all about Disney — the history, the characters, the organization, the movies and the music of Disney through the years. And it's a kid-friendly site, so don't worry about your children or grandchildren visiting. They won't find anything there you wouldn't want them to see or read about.

The first installment on the new site is more or less a recap of what I posted here last night with a little more personal information added to set the stage. But I'll post something new on there tomorrow. I'm also planning on having giveaways occasionally for Disney-related merchandise. So, if you love Disney, you're going to love this new blog.

I hope you'll visit, and please feel free to leave comments. We bloggers thrive on them.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guys and Dolls

This was a huge musical hit in the fifties. It was released in 1955 and starred Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, and, well, I'll let Ed Sullivan explain it. Just listen to the video trailer above.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Am I Blue?

Set the Wayback Machine for October 23, 1958. This is the day, way back then, when a Belgian cartoonist named Peyo introduced a new set of characters to the Johan et Pirlouit story La flute a six trous. Now, I have no idea what those words mean because the only French I know is the fries at McDonalds. But we’re talking about The Smurfs (Les Schtroumpfs).

In case you don’t remember, Smurfs are a fictional group of small (only three apples tall) sky blue creatures who live in Smurf Village. No one really knows where it is except that it’s located somewhere in the woods. Peyo introduced these creatures to the world in a series of comic strips, making their first appearance in the Belgian comics magazine Le Journal de Spirou on October 23, 1958. The English-speaking world perhaps knows them best through the popular 1980s animated television series from Hanna-Barbera Productions, fittingly called The Smurfs. (Brilliant.)

They had the mission of recovering a magic flute, which required some sorcery by the wizard Homnibus. And in this manner, they met a tiny, blue-skinned humanoid creature in white clothing called a "Schtroumpf", followed by his numerous peers who looked just like him, with an elderly leader who wore red clothing and had a white beard. The characters proved to be a huge success.

With the commercial success of "The Smurf empire" the merchandising of Smurf miniatures, models, games, and toys began in 1959. Entire collecting clubs have devoted themselves to collecting PVC Smurfs. You can probably find some of these items right now on ebay if you’re interested. And who isn’t?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Slightly off topic...

The "K" is silent, like in "pants."

And if that makes about as much sense as the Edsel did, the remainder of this post is probably not going to be what you're expecting or what you're used to finding here either.

For the first time, we're heading slightly off subject. But it's necessary in order to fulfill a prior obligation. A while back, I volunteered to participate in the Absolute Write October Blogroll. I have been a member of this fabulous writing group for a few years and have found them to be an excellent resource for anyone who writes, whether it be poetry, literary fiction, young adult novels, or even blogs like this one.

If you're a writer, or an aspiring one, you will find this group to be a veritable plethora of talent that is always available to provide information and encouragement. You can find them at, and I encourage you to do so.

So, while this post is not going to be about the fifties, you still might find it to be of interest if you're curious in the least about this writer. My assignment in this endeavor is to pick up where the previous blogger left off. That writer was Harriet You can find her blog at She is an excellent writer, and I'm certain you will enjoy reading her posts. In fact, all of the participant links are listed in My Favorites along the right sidebar. Scroll down, and you'll find them.

Harriet's installment in this blogroll involved the difficulty of starting the writing process. Just for the record, I am in total agreement with her opinion. For me, starting has always been the most difficult part. While it would be redundant to simply repeat what she has said, I’m going to take it in a slightly different direction, as least from a medium standpoint.

In addition to working all day, blogging half the night, and writing and marketing middle-grade novels, I am also a wildlife artist ( At least I used to be. I haven't dipped a brush into paint (except to touch up a stone chip on the bumper of my Corvette) since 1995. I have sold several of my prints at wildlife art shows and several more through e-bay listings. I used to devote more time to it. When I was actively painting, four of my paintings finished in second place (darn it) in state duck stamp competitions. My greatest achievement was coming in 12th in the Federal Duck Stamp Competition out of 489 entries. Limited edition prints of my paintings are currently in collections in 24 states. My last painting was a marsh wren I painted for my mother and gave to her as a Christmas gift shortly before she died. It remains one of my favorites.

But I'm rambling. Let me get back to the subject I’m supposed to be covering. Starting that final painting was the most difficult part of the whole process. If you go to my Wildheart Gallery website you will notice a quote at the top of the home page that pretty much sums up what we’re talking about here. It says simply, “Finishing a painting is easy. It’s that first stroke that’s difficult.”

This might begin to make sense if I give you a brief rundown on my typical starting procedure. At the time I was painting, I had a studio in my basement. It consisted of a drafting table, a stack of cold pressed illustration board, a mug filled with paintbrushes, an Iwata airbrush, an air compressor, an X-acto knife and lots of blades, numerous bottles of acrylic paint, a roll of paper towels, a ceramic pot filled with q-tips, and multiple wildlife reference books I had collected over the years. There was generally a work-in-progress sitting on the drawing board, waiting for me to start in again. And, even though the initial start was difficult, the subsequent starts were equally hard.

On one particular Saturday I went downstairs to continue my work on a Wood Duck painting. It was almost finished but, being the perfectionist that I am, there was always something that wasn't quite perfect and required some additional attention. I am a creature of habit, and I always had to have a Dr. Pepper when I painted. That's important for you to know because it plays a part in how the events took place.

Before going downstairs I had made a quick trip to Quik Trip to get a fountain drink in a plastic cup. It was summer and, as you know, plastic cups collect condensation. It clings tenaciously to the surface until gravity decides it’s heavy enough to act upon. At that point it slides down the cup, gathering additional bystanders along the way, until it reaches the bottom of the cup and drops off. I realize you don't need a lesson in physics, but you'll understand the reason for the explanation momentarily.

If you take a look at my painting to the right, you will notice water drops on the duck’s chest. I had painted those water drops the previous evening, but I had forgotten about it. I walked up to the drawing table, plastic Dr. Pepper cup in hand, and gazed down at my painting.

When I saw the water drops on the duck’s chest I immediately thought they had dripped off the cup. And, in case you don’t know, acrylic paint is water-soluble. My eyes immediately riveted on those water drops, and I thought to myself, “Oh, my God! I’ve ruined it.”

Frantically, I reached for the roll of paper towels to try to salvage some portion of the work I had poured into that painting. Suddenly, and with the greatest relief, I remembered painting those drops on there the previous evening. After my heart rate slowed back down, I actually felt rather proud that I had managed to paint those water drops to look realistic enough to fool myself into believing they were real.

I realize I have wandered slightly from the initial purpose of this post, but let me tie it together by telling you this. Before I begin a painting, or start again on a painting in progress, I look for any excuse to delay the inevitable. I used to stand at my drawing table and think about starting a painting. I would carefully select a brush from the mug, twirl it around thoughtfully, and try to think about what I should paint. Then I would look down at the floor and decide that it just had to be swept before any painting could be started. And if my Dr. Pepper was more than half gone, or less than half gone, well, you can’t start a painting without a full and fresh Dr. Pepper. So a trip to Quik Trip was necessary. Obviously.

Some would consider that procrastination. I will admit that I used to procrastinate. I used to, but nowadays I just don’t have the time for it. I may be able to in a few weeks. Check back with me.

Thank you, dear and faithful readers, for allowing me to stray from the theme of this arena. And I promise I'll have more fifties and nostalgia information on here tomorrow. Meanwhile, it seems only appropriate, though somewhat shameless, to let you know that limited edition prints and artist's proofs of the Wolf and the Wood Duck, and others, are available on my Wildheart Gallery site. In addition, there is currently a Wood Duck listed on e-bay that you could probably steal if you act quickly. No pressure.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Rosemerry, you’re up.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lollipop 2

Since so many of you liked this song, and the movie reference, I've decided to leave it on here for another day. If you haven't read the article, I hope you'll scroll down. And be sure to click the video on the right to hear that old song once again.

I will mention one thing you might have an interest in. If you're a blogger, or if you like giveaways, check out the link below. With our economy in the swamp (quite unlike it was in the 50s) everyone needs a little extra. Whether it's money, understanding, or appreciation. In my case, it's sleep (and money). So if you know anyone who is having a giveaway on their blog, or anyone who likes to enter giveaways for free, pass the address along.

I'll have something new (and old) for you tomorrow. I think you're going to like it. A lot.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Even BIGGER Giveaway!

This giveaway provided me with a dilemma. When I saw 94 entries from the same party, I thought to myself that it wasn't quite fair to the rest of the entrants. Then I realized that I had set up the rules, and those rules were followed. There didn't seem to be any fair option except to carry out the giveaway the way I had set it up and to let the chips (or the Chipotle) fall where it may.

I plugged the numbers into to get the winning number. It turned out to be the entry in the #3 position. So, congratulations to Debbielynne for her winning entry. If the winner will send me an e-mail at, with your mailing address, the Chipotle Gift Card will be on its way shortly thereafter. Enjoy.

So here comes the next giveaway. We're raising the stakes this time, and learning from our previous mistakes. The winner of this giveaway will receive a $20 Gift Card from WalMart. So, since it's worth more, you're going to have to do a little more work. Here are the rules:

One entry per person. Multiple entries from the same party will be deleted.

You have to make a comment about this site. What you like. What you don't like. What you'd like to see more of, or less of. Whatever. It's your opinion and I'd like to hear it.

The contest will not end until at least 100 entries have been received, or until 12:01 AM on October 31st, whichever comes later. That will give you time to get to WalMart to buy up a bunch of that Halloween candy that will probably be on sale by then.

Finally, I'm sure everyone knows why we have these giveaways. Obviously, if we have more traffic and more income, we can offer more and bigger giveaways. And that's all I have to say about that.

So enter now, and feel free to pass this blog address along to anyone you wish.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Giveaway. Giveaway. Giveaway!

Don't you love free stuff!

Yes, my friends. Since you've been coming on here to read all of this stuff, it's time to give you a little more incentive to keep coming back. I have, right here, a beautiful little Gift Card. It's worth a whopping ten bucks and it's good at your local Chipotle Restaurant. (Yummy!)

All you have to do is make a comment to this post. Just click that comment thing at the bottom and comment on anything you'd like. But we're going to change it around a bit this time. You can still enter as many times as you'd like, but the entries won't end until we have 100 comments. So tell your friends and neighbors to enter, too, so we can get those numbers up. Again, the winner will be decided by a random drawing.

I've made the commenting easier. You don't have to have a Google account now. Just click on "Name/URL" and you can put your own website or blog link in the comments section for others to click on. What a deal. If you click on "Anonymous" be sure and put your e-mail address in the comment so I can notify you if you're the lucky winner.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In the Beginning

Do you ever stop to wonder how this whole computer universe began? Let's hop in the Wayback Machine, set the dial for 1951, and take a look at the UNIVAC I.

Look! There's Walter Cronkite.

The UNIVAC I (UNIVersal Automatic Computer I) was the first commercial computer made in the United States. In the years before successor models of the UNIVAC I appeared, the machine was simply known as "the UNIVAC". I wonder if they used a similar system when naming Preparation H. Was there a Preparation G?

See those four people to the right? Click on it to enlarge. Deer in the headlights?

The first UNIVAC was delivered to the United States Census Bureau on March 31, 1951. The fifth machine (built for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission) was used by CBS to predict the result of the 1952 presidential election. With a sample of just 1% of the voting population it correctly predicted that Eisenhower would win.

Originally priced at $159,000, the UNIVAC I rose in price until they were between $1,250,000 and $1,500,000. (They were selling a lot of them to the government.)
UNIVAC I used 5,200 vacuum tubes and weighed 29,000 pounds. The Central Complex alone (i.e. the processor and memory unit) was 14 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8.5 feet high.

The girl pictured above is hypnotized
by the wonder of it all.

The girl on the right is
searching for the
Control-Alt-Delete thingy.

So if you get weary carrying your laptop back and forth to work or around the house, be grateful someone figured out how to compress that UNIVAC I equipment into a much smaller and lighter package.

We've come a long way, baby!