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.