Sunday, December 26, 2010

Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?

It was on this day in 1954 that faithful listeners were asked that question for the very last time. It was the final broadcast of a radio program that started on a Thursday evening in July of 1930. That’s when they were introduced to “The Shadow.” The now-famous character’s voice was supplied by James La Curto in a program called The Detective Story Hour.  Street and Smith publishers sponsored the program (which lasted about a year), along with their magazine series The Shadow, A Detective Monthly.

In September 1931, the show was aired on The Blue Coal Radio Revue. This version starred Frank Readick, Jr. The show kept its original running time of one hour, and for a month or so, CBS listeners could hear it at the original 9:30 p.m. time slot on Thursdays as well as an additional broadcast on Sundays at 5:30 PM. But in October 1931, the 9:30 time slot was taken over by Love Story Drama, again sponsored by Street and Smith.

After a year on CBS, the series moved to NBC in October 1932. Blue Coal remained the sponsor and Frank Readick, Jr. stayed on as the star but the time slot was changed to Wednesdays. In October 1934, the program was aired at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Readick starred in most of the episodes, but La Curto appeared in a few episodes.

The program changed back to Sundays at 5:30 p.m. in September 1937, and Blue Coal remained the sponsor. But the program had a new voice for Lamont Cranston: the new radio and theatre personality Orson Welles. The 1937 programs also began to feature "The Shadow" as a character in the stories, rather than merely as a narrator. Orson Welles was "The Shadow" through 1938.

Bill Johnstone became the new voice in 1939, and the role switched to Bret Morrison in 1943. Near the end of 1944, John Archer took over and stayed in the role until September, 1945, when Brett Morrison returned and remained the voice of “The Shadow” from that point until the final broadcast on December 26,1954.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Memories

As a boy, I had such a hard time going to sleep on Christmas eve. It was the anticipation, the mystery, the not-knowing-and-still-hoping that the gifts I had asked for would be delivered.

One year it was a record player. And then the English Racer bicycle. My favorite year was the one that I got my electric guitar and amplifier from Montgomery Wards. It was a deep red solid body guitar, and the amp had a "tremelo" feature on it that you could activate with a push-button pedal. So cool.

No, it wasn't easy falling asleep with so many important uncertainties floating through your mind. But somehow, after tossing and turning and knowing I would never go to sleep again, I drifted off. Things happened shortly after that, and I was oblivious to the events until the next morning.

When I woke up, in the wee hours of a winter morning, when it was still gray outside, I would creep into the living room to see the splendid display that Santa had left for us. An electric excitement equivalent to power the lights on our tree coursed through my veins on those Christmas mornings which now seem so long ago, but yet still so near.

Time passed. I watched our son go through the same wonder and surprise on his childhood Christmas mornings. And I shared them with him, along with my wife. I couldn't help remembering my own childhood Christmases as I watched him enjoying his.

And today, I'm certain he shared the same memories as he watched his two children, their eyes growing wide when they saw the new gifts under the tree—the gifts that weren't there when they went to bed the previous evening.

I'm guessing the same memories are being shared all over the world on this day. I hope yours are as wonderful as they were when you were a child.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


There's something about tangerines. It's a combination of attributes—from the feel of their pebbly, bright orange skin to the smell and taste of their juicy interior. Even today, these sensual inputs trigger memories that take me back to my childhood and to this special time of year,.

When I was a boy, my mother always had tangerines in the fridge when the Christmas season drew near. It was a tradition. I don't recall ever having them in the house at any other time of year. But at Christmas, there they were. Always.

And there were other things, too. Special things that only came out during the holiday season. Maybe the fact that they only came out at that time was the reason they hold such special memories. One of those things was a big wooden bowl that my dad filled with nuts in the shell.

There was a wide variety including the light tan English walnuts, the orange-colored Filberts, the dark brown Brazil nuts, and the easy-to-crack almonds. And of course, my favorite, the pecans. Somewhere in that wooden bowl, mixed in with the nuts, you would find a silver nutcracker and a few picks that looked like dental instruments. These were quite necessary in order to get every last goodie out of the shell. We didn't waste things back then.

Now that I think about it, I'm kind of looking forward to making a trip to the grocery store tomorrow and picking up a few of those tangerines. I may get a selection of various nuts in the shell, too. I might have to buy a nutcracker if I can't find ours. Where do those things disappear to when you're not looking?

Aren't Christmas memories the best?

Christmas is coming...

Max charged up the Wayback Machine overnight, so we’re ready to go. The holiday season is approaching. Let’s take a trip back in time and find out what was selling during the Christmas season. What were the popular items that all the good little girls and boys wanted?

Max is going to set the dial for the year 1959 and the location for downtown Kansas City. We’ll arrive shortly in front of Macy’s and take a gander into the decorated front window.

Here we are, and the window looks gorgeous, as usual. There are green trees with white lights. A train is chugging past the animated elves and reindeer. And just look at the toys!

I see a Milton Bradley Candyland game and Chutes and Ladders. There’s a big, shiny red Schwinn bicycle leaning majestically against the back wall right next to a Radio Flyer wagon.

On the other side is Robbie the Robot waving his arms at Betsy Wetsy. And right next to her is Barbie in her zebra striped bathing suit. Next to the Litte Chef Stove there's a can of Lincoln Logs, some Tinker Toys, and an Erector Set. Matchbox cars are driving through the snow, and there’s Davy Crockett wearing his coonskin cap.

Back in the corner is a View-Master, Silly Putty, a Slinky and Mr. Potato Head. Wow! But I don’t see the official Red Ryder 200-shot carbine-action range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.

It's amazing how times change. When we were kids we were perfectly pleased with a coiled up piece of wire that would slink down the stairs. And we knew we had to be good or we wouldn't get anything but a bag of coal.

Today it's cell phones, X-Boxes, and the Wii. But even during the fifties things may have been changing. The boy on the left seems to be wondering, "What the heck was I thinking when I asked for this?"

So, Christmas is on the way. And if you've got 99 cents to spare, you could make my granddaughter very happy. See the book cover on the right sidebar? The one that says "Scary Night Music"? That's the link to an ebook. She's the cover model and the star of the mystery. I told her I would split any income it generated. She has a lot of faith in my marketing abilities, so she's hoping for lots of money.

If you have an e-reader you might want to order a copy. If you've got a reluctant reader in your family, it might be the trick to get them interested. It's a wee bit scary, but not too bad. Even if you don't have an e-reader, you can a Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac free at so you can read ebooks on your laptop. How cool is that? How did we get by without all this high tech stuff in the fifties?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Truman Library

For those of you who don't know, I grew up in Independence, Missouri. Most of you will remember that as the home of President Harry S Truman as well as the location of William Chrisman High School and Truman High School. Not to mention HiBoy's, but that's a subject for another post.

As a child, I was quite familiar with the Truman home on the Independence square where the President and his family lived after he returned to civilian life. I remember driving past the construction site on 24 highway many times as they were building the Truman Library. (And, just to you know, that location is just a little bit east of River, where one of the oldest HiBoy's is located.) And, even though I grew up within a few miles of the library site, I never took the time to visit it. Until a few weeks ago.

My wife's cousin and her husband visited us, and we were looking for something interesting to do. Someone suggested the Truman Library, and we decided to visit. It was well worth the trip and the time. In fact, I wished we would have had a few more hours to stay because there is plenty of history to see and learn about. I was particularly fond of the 1950s room.

So, if you're ever near Independence, Missouri, be sure to stop by and see where Harry worked.