Saturday, June 28, 2014

On the Trails at Miami Whitewater Forest

Dear George,
I finally got out for my first camping trip of the season, spending two nights and three days at Miami Whitewater Forest.  Miami Whitewater has great hiking trails -- definitely a favorite for sheepdog outings.  I'd say the forest is enjoying its summer peak.   These pics are from the Timberlakes Trail, the Oak Leaf Trail, and the Badlands Trail.

G-mail Comments
-Jennifer M (6-28):  Great photos!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Our Favorite Radio Programs of 1949

Dear George,
It’s hard to believe, but I never saw an image on TV screen until my early teens.  That happened in a hotel on a family trip to Chicago around 1951.  Menominee didn’t get television until WBAY debuted in Green Bay in 1953.  I was in the tenth grade.  WBAY was only the second TV station in the state of Wisconsin, and there weren’t any stations yet in the U.P.  My friend Sally H’s parents got a TV set that year, though my parents, who seemed to regard television as some newfangled, sinister force, didn’t buy a set for another three or four years.  It didn’t matter much because we were hooked on the programs that our local radio station, WMAM, broadcast.  Steve, Peter, Vicki, and I would gather on the window seat in our living room nearly every evening and listen to our favorites on our family radio, especially the Sunday night lineup of Fred Allen and Jack Benny.  I’ve listed below what I remember to be our ten favorite programs from 1949.  I was 12 that year, Steve was 8, Peter 4, and Vicki 2.  Steve and I took in every word.  Peter and Vicki, I’m not so sure.  But those were the days.

No. 10.  Our Miss Brooks.  We liked Our Miss Brooks because it was about an attractive high school teacher and her funny students.  Eve Arden played the witty Connie Brooks, an English teacher at Madison High.  Other characters included Osgood Conklin, the blustery school principal; Walter Denton, a goofy student who drove Miss Brooks to school; and Philip Boynton, Miss Brooks’ shy romantic interest.  Audiences ranked Eve Arden the number one radio comedienne for 1948-49. 

No. 9.  Burns and Allen.  George Burns and Gracie Allen had been vaudeville performers before they moved on to radio.  Gracie was totally dizzy, while George played her straight man.  Other regulars included Meredith Wilson and the Sportsman Quartet.  In a series of 1940 episodes Gracie ran for U.S. president as the candidate of the Surprise Party ticket whose platform advocated more nonsense.  When the election was over, supposedly the citizens of Menominee, Michigan, invited Gracie to be their mayor, but she respectfully declined, saying she couldn’t live in two places at once.  

No. 8.  The Aldrich Family.  The funniest kid on radio was Henry Aldrich, a good-hearted but bumbling teenager.  Every show began with Henry’s mother calling, “Hen-reee!  Hen-ree Al-drich!”  Then Henry would call back “Com-ing, Mother!”  The show dealt with Henry’s misadventures with girls and various friends.  It was sponsored by Jello -- J-E-L-L-O.      

No. 7.  The Shadow.  We listened to comedies the most, but there were exciting mystery and adventure programs too.  Our favorite was The Shadow.  Each episode began with the lines, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows!”  The Shadow had the hypnotic ability to "cloud men's minds" and thus be invisible to them.  Episodes dealt with the Shadow's crime-fighting adventures against evil masterminds.  The Shadow's real name was Lamont Cranston, a "wealthy young man about town."  Cranston's romantic interest was socialite Margo Lane who was able to see through the Shadow's mind-clouding abilities.

No. 6.  Duffy’s Tavern.  Curiously, tavern-owner Duffy never was actually heard on this program.  Instead each episode began with Archie, the tavern’s manager, answering the phone and saying, “Hello, Duffy’s Tavern, where the elite meet to eat.  Archie the manager speakin’.  Duffy ain’t here – oh, hello, Duffy.”  Archie was constantly engaged in some sort of comic misadventure with his man-crazy daughter, Miss Duffy; waiter-janitor Eddie; or kooky patron Clifton Finnegan.   

No. 5.  Fibber McGee and Molly.  Fibber and Molly were played by a real-life couple, Jim Jordan and Marian Driscoll.  The McGees lived at 79 Wistful Vista where Fibber was regularly involved in hare-brained schemes to make money while his common sense wife would comment, “T’ain’t funny, McGee!”.  Other players included blowhard Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve, the hard-of-hearing Old Timer, a precocious little girl named Teeny, Mayor LaTrivia, and Beulah, the McGee’s black maid (in fact played by a white male). 

No. 4.  The Great Gildersleeve.  Gildersleeve graduated from the Fibber McGee and Molly show to a series of his own.  He was the water commissioner of Summerfield and also kept busy bringing up his orphaned niece Marjorie and nephew Leroy.  Gildy’s friends included Judge Horace Hooker, pharmacist Richard Q. Peavey (“Well, now, I wouldn’t say that!”), and Floyd Munson, the neighborhood barber.  Gildersleeve was usually engaged in awkward romances, including H.S. principal Eve Goodwin, Georgia widow Leila Ransom, and Leila’s cousin Adeline Fairchild.  Gildersleeve was masterfully played by Harold Peary.    

No. 3.  The Life of Riley.  William Bendix played Chester A. Riley, a riveter at a California aircraft plant.  Riley’s life attitude was caught by his favorite expression, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”  Riley’s everyday problems were typically made worse from advice from his nextdoor neighbor Gillis, though the friendly undertaker Digby (Digger) O’Dell would show up to “help him out of a hole.”    

No. 2.  The Fred Allen Show.  Though he’s not as well-known today as some of his contemporaries, I think some of the driest and wittiest humor on radio came from Fred Allen.  The heart of each show involved Fred’s stroll with his wife Portland Hoffa down “Allen’s Alley.”  There they would run into and discuss the issues of the day with poet Falstaff Openshaw, Jewish housewife Pansy Nussbaum, New England Farmer Titus Moody, and loudmouth Southern senator Beauregard Claghorn.  All of these characters were beloved.   

No. 1.  The Jack Benny Show.  Jack Benny was the master comedian of the day, and he and Fred Allen maintained a make-believe running feud with one another on their respective shows.  The Benny show featured Jack as himself, his valet and chauffeur Rochester, emcee Don Wilson, singer Dennis Day, Jack’s love interest Mary Livingston (his actual wife), hip bandleader Phil Harris, and Mel Blanc who played lots of crazy characters.  The program usually opened with a number by the band, Jack’s chatting with the regulars about the news of the day, a song from Dennis Day, and then a funny sitcom episode.  I can still listen to or watch Jack Benny for hours on end.

The Adventures of Sam Spade
The Adventures of the Thin Man
Amos 'n' Andy
Archie Andrews
The Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy Show
Inner Sanctum Mysteries
Jack Armstrong the All American Boy
The Judy Canova Show
Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge
Lum and Abner
Mr. and Mrs. North
Ozzie and Harriet
The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show
Quiz Kids
The Red Skelton Show
The Sammy Kaye Show
Truth or Consequences
Twenty Questions
You Bet Your Life
Your Hit Parade
Sources: (OTR-Radio); (The Original Old Time Radio); (The Vintage Radio Place);  Wikipedia; Google Images (for photos)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Clifton in Verse (Part Two)

Map of Clifton

Dear George,
I meant to add these Clifton photos and poems a while back, but that’s how it goes.  As a bit of background, our Clifton neighborhood was incorporated as a village in 1850.  Located out in the countryside, it was a wholly separate entity from the city of Cincinnati which was three miles to the south.  Clifton was perched high on a hill and quickly became a favorite destination for wealthy Cincinnati families who built mansions along Lafayette Avenue for their summer homes.  Ludlow Avenue, Clifton’s business district, became the center of the village’s commercial activity, growing particularly with the extension of the streetcar system from the city below in the late 1800’s.   Ludlow Ave. is still the center of the action in Clifton and one of the most vibrant neighborhood business districts in the city.  Part One of “Clifton in Verse”, which I posted a couple of months ago, covered some of the highlights of on the southern side of Ludlow Ave.  Here’s another bunch of our neighborhood attractions, this time along the north side of the street (moving from the west end of the four-block business district to the east).  I’ve only included about half of the places on this strip.  While we don’t have any ocean beach or salt water, my sister-in-law Ami says a walk along Ludlow is sort of like visiting a seaside resort.  My hope is to inspire some visitors to come and check out our neighborhood.

Clifton Performance Theater

CPT puts on the most modern plays
The last dealt with undersized peepers
It seemed to elicit the critics’ praise
I thought to myself, “Jeepers Creepers”

Favorite Vapors

E-cigarettes have become the new thing
Now Cliftonites have their own shop
I thought for a moment of having a fling
Then worried that I wouldn’t stop


Habaneros has mucho delicioso stuff
I go for the burrito or the taco
Their regular platter is more than enough
You’ll think that you’re back in Morocco

Ambar India

Ambar’s a trendy spot for dining
It draws in the crowds by the dozens
If it’s curry for which you’re pining
It’s here you should bring all your cousins

Ace Hardware

Ace is the best for a gizmo or tool
You can buy a fine drill or a saw
But each time I work on our vestibule
I wind up with flaw after flaw


Olive’s has a delicious menu
With corned beef and cabbage and soup
It’s Katja’s and my favorite venue
We go there so we can regroup

D. Raphael

This is the place for wife gifts to shop
For birthdays it’s utterly handy
I’ve found that their jewels are never a flop
Katja likes them much better than candy

The Hookah Café

I don’t know what’s up with the Hookah Café
It’s Ludlow Ave’s newest “in” shop
The customers smoke in a very odd way
Makes you wonder just what kind of crop


Graeter’s should be in a fairy tale
Their rasberry chip is delicious
Their cakes and cookies never go stale
Best of all it’s completely nutritious

La Poste

La Poste is our finest eatery
It’s just off Ludlow on Telford
My family would say it is “Peter-y”
It’s where you might see Robert Relford


Sitwells is our neighborhood coffee place
It’s a hangout for hippies and such
When younger it used to be my sort of space
But at fifty I grew out of touch

Esquire Theater

Each year the Esquire wins “Best of City”
For art films it can’t be beat
Some are weepy and others are gritty
But they all keep you glued to your seat

Thai Cafe

The Thai Café has closed its doors
No more Pad Thai for the folk
I hope that the new place will feature smores
(But, of course, that’s my silly joke)


Kilimanjaro’s our most unique store
It stocks carved masks from Tanzania
I always peek in when I pass by the door
Those masks could well be my next mania


Biaggio’s features Italian cuisine
Plus the finest of pound cakes and pies
The sauces are spicy, the pork is quite lean
And the pasta brings tears to your eyes

Adrian Durban -- Clifton Florist

Katja buys flowers at A. Durban’s shop
They create such fantastic bouquets
For Valentine’s Day be sure to stop
Your sweetheart will be in a daze

Skyline Chili

Skyline is what we locals crave
Once you’ve had it you’ll never turn back
Cliftonites eat it from cradle to grave
It’s sort of like smoking crack

J. Gumbo’s

Whenever we miss the Big Easy
We go to J. Gumbo’s to dine
The pasta is never too cheesy
And the red beans and rice are just fine


Clifton has blocked the fast food chains
They’ve even rejected McDs
Nonetheless Subway still remains
All those veggies put Cliftonites at ease