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.