Monday, November 26, 2007

Junior Frolics and Associates Part 5 of 77,845

I'm a bit late with this installment, because I found a new interest and delved into it full blast. Genealogy. I discovered a lot about my family, especially those from the old countries, Ireland and Italy. I'm still heavily into to, notably with a free trial at a genealogy site---and detailed investigations of census data---but I took the time today to catch up on my blogs.

Speaking of horror movies [I was?], who could forget Zacherley? (John Zacherle) He introduced late night horror movies and integrated his 'comedy” with the films. I think he was only shown in New York City when I saw him: Channel 11 (WPIX) at 11:15 pm Monday and Friday. Of course, I usually enjoyed his antics only on Friday. Dad and Mom went to bed after the 11:00 news and weather (fifteen minutes,) so I had free reign on watching the horror movie until I was ordered to bed. Mom never seemed to forget I was still up and watching TV. Dad could sleep through anything.

My research shows that Zacherley was on 'Shock Theater' from September 1958 to April 1959. I spent many hours (again on the floor with my Hershey's Ice Cream or blue cheese and crackers) watching: his ghostly appearance; his laboratory where he experimented on his wife's 'brain' (actually a head of cauliflower–--and we all knew it;) his scraping of a tin cup along jail bars during a prison movie; and the many other hilarious interruptions during his 'B' movie presentations: these all made the silly horror and other mysteries a lot more interesting. I liked them better than the current episodes of gore. Too bad Zacherley aged and is no longer actively with us.

While I never got to see Vampira, I've seen a lot of the more recent horror movie hostess, Elvira. But these days, there are no similar hosts because horror movies have gone gory, and any host humor would mean little other than poor taste to the viewers. Robert Osborne of TCM is too stiff to introduce the old genre films properly on TCM, and other horror hosts are too juvenile and silly, and that's saying a lot when compared to the likes of Zacherley. Some teens and teenyboppers may enjoy the current blood baths, but they're still not family fare.

Did you wake up to J Fred Muggs and Dave Garroway? Or go to sleep after Steve Allen, Jack Paar, or Johnny Carson? In our area, the New York local news we watched was at 11 pm with John McCaffrey and it lasted ten minutes. The weatherman, Tex Antoine, took another five thanks to sponsor Con Ed. He explained the weather with magnetic images of clouds, snow, or sunshine on the metal part [something like a rebus] and drew Uncle Wethbee on the drawing board part. John Cameron Swayze [before his Timex Watch commercials] and Douglas Edwards were also newscasters of the period.

At 11:20 we could enjoy the first ten minutes of the 'Steve Allen Show' [from New York at the time.] This portion was called a Variety Show. At 11:30, the rest of the country tuned in to the show, now named 'The Tonight Show'---which was on until 1 am. I enjoyed Steve Allen, but I was rarely allowed to stay up to watch him during the week. I'm glad he had another show earlier in the evening. In later years, I enjoyed his TV specials 'Meeting of the Minds' and a series of mystery novels. Steve also composed some 1100 songs. Yes, he was a very funny and talented fellow.

At one time, we had a brown, bakelite, AM radio. Mom used it to listen to Joe Ryan and other personalities of the day on Local Wall-1040 all the time---but mostly Joe. He sweet-talked most of the Middletown women, but sadly, his looks never matched his suave, housewife-attracting voice. I liked to listen to the music, but that radio was mom's. Others used it only on rare occasions, like the Middletown-Port Jervis football game on Thanksgiving. Dad only listened to the radio in the car [too often tuned to the Yankee baseball game, as far as I was concerned.] It was his car and his radio.

While we ran through several console and tabletop radios, we had only one TV. While we must have had earlier ones, the TV I remember was a FADA. I don't remember what model of this brand we had [they were probably just number and letter combinations], but the company stopped making its TV sets in 1956. Our set must have been from a few years before that, probably 1952 or 1953. I don't remember our buying a TV in 1954 or 1955. Other TVs always seemed on the greener side of life, and I liked the Sylvania sets with their Halo lights around the screen. I see that in ads today offering Phillip's flat-screen TV sets with 'ambient' light. The light changes with the screen image to expand the viewing sense. No new concept there.

Our FADA served us well for a long time and financed the education of the children of two TV repairmen, Walt and then Jerry. We saw them so often, especially around dinner-time, they became a part of our family. Walt's father had been a doctor, and I guess treating sick TV sets was Walt's way of carrying on the spirit. But it was my father who saved the day when he carried the set to the porch and watched the fire burn out. Even after that, we had it repaired and returned to loving service. We kids once had a three-color plastic sheet that was stuck onto the TV screen using the available static electricity: blue at the top (sky,) green in the middle (grass,) and brown on the bottom (dirt.) That was supposed to simulate color. It didn't.

Sundays was 'Wonderama' time. It starred Sonny Fox and Sandy Becker and sported: western movies, art instruction, quizzes, fairy tales, folk dances, Captain Video, animal guests---pretty much everything across the spectrum. The two hosts alternated, but I liked Fox better. We were particularly appreciative of the special Wonderama Christmas Shows in 1956, 1957, and 1959. They included caroling, dancing, interviews, kids, toys, etc. The Picture for a Sunday Afternoon (Sunday, 1 pm) was always best after I had made a quick trip to Larkin's. Mom gave me money, and I picked out penny candy with Ray Frink, the store manager---who always seemed to be there. I'd choose what I wanted with a consideration of Mom and Dad, though they really didn't have any favorites. They didn't eat much of the candy anyway.

I could choose from Mary Janes, wrapped caramels, malted milk balls, Sugar Daddys, Sugar Babies, Jujy Fruits, Chocolate Babies, little Tootsie Rolls, watermelon slices, triple-flavor coconut cubes, Bit-O-Honey, Candy Buttons, wax-syrup bottles, gum drops, Mexican Hats, spearmint leaves, licorice pipes, licorice shoe strings, licorice wheels, cherry shoe strings, marshmallow ice cream cones, allsorts, jelly nougats, Jordan Almonds, Walnettos---and if I had a nickel for myself, a package of baseball cards and bubble gum. On Sundays, we didn't go in for hard candy or chewing gum.

We'd all share the sugary bounty while watching the likes of L'il Abner [before the musical,] Gunga Din, Beau Geste, King Kong, and Double Indemnity. We saw 'Scatter Good Baines,' Edward G. Robinson, Randolph Scott, Ray Milland, Fred McMurray, George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, and James Cagney regularly. They were in mysteries, westerns, gangster movies, light comedies, or drama [1930s and 1940s.] 'Top of the World, Ma!' The movies were black and white (not that we could have seen them in color anyway,) and were all pre-1950s. After all, that was the 1950s! Nothing current was shown on television then.

Mom was usually reading a book [often a Perry Mason novel] and Dad was reading the print off the Sunday News, Sunday Mirror, and Journal-American. The aroma of dinner still lingered throughout the house. Peace reigned. I was still delaying my home work, but my un-aching back was stable on the floor while I exercised my eyes on the FADA.

Come to think of it, by reading several newspapers completely, Dad was probably quite well informed about the activities of the day that had reached newsprint. It's just that he didn't talk much about them with us. If he did with Mom, he did it in private. I still read the Sunday News, especially the Justice Story, partially in his honor. For some reason or another, I rarely spoke with either parent about the news of the day. But I do remember walking into the dining room and seeing the Daily News on the table with the blaring headline about the execution of the Rosenbergs. But even then, there was no family discussion. I didn't fully understand anything about them, but I was still in the phase where all government, media, and businesses were the last word about everything.

One of my favorite newspaper inserts was the recent complete NY Daily News from 1963. The features, comics, and ads brought back many memories. I do miss the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Journal American. They had good comics and a different slant on sports, but the Unions put them out of business years ago.

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