Monday, June 30, 2014

The British version of "Take It Or Leave It" radio show

Accept It or Jolly Well Pop Off (according to Arthur Treacher)

The Jack Carson radio show

Jack Carson’s was a familiar face in movies during the Golden Age of Hollywood. He had his own radio show during 1946-47, which was remarkably well done. He proved himself to be an adept comedian, and having the inimitable Arthur Treacher as his butler did not hurt things any. Throw in Irene Ryan (Granny Clampett) and you have an All-Star cast. (Carson sounds remarkably like Howard Duff of Sam Spade radio fame.)

HERE is a good blog post about the Jack Carson show.
You can find downloads of Carson’s show HERE.

Sheriff elections

One of the ironies of the election process (at least in Arkansas) is that the sheriff's department's work is done mainly outside of incorporated communities, and yet a sizeable chunk of the voters who elect them live within the cities where relatively little of their work is done. For example, in my home county, Logan, the three largest incorporated communities by themselves have collective populations of about 8400 people, or about 38% of the total county population. They have the right to vote for sheriff, of course, but most of the department's work will be done outside of the city limits.

Molly's Irish accent

Molly McGee always had a strong touch of an Irish accent during her radio and film career. It is no wonder, since her real-life maiden name was Marian Driscoll. Molly's grandfather, Michael Driscoll, and her grandmother, Margaret Ryan, were born in Ireland.

Our elections are far too long

Something needs to be done to cut about 80% out of our election process. If it WAY too lengthy and therefore WAY too expensive. This is one thing we could do to make government better that would work, and could be done quickly.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Baroness was an actress

Alida Valli, legally the Baroness Alida Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein u. Frauenberg. One of her more famous roles was as the female lead in The Third Man, which spawned a famous musical theme and the radio series. She was at one time regarded as "the most beautiful woman in the world" (a highly subjective designation at best).

More HERE about The Third Man.

Saying "boo" to a butler

I remember once, when a kid - from what motive I cannot recall, but no doubt just in a spirit of clean fun - hiding in a sort of alcove in the main staircase at Biddleford Castle and saying "Boo!" to a butler who was coming up with a tray containing a decanter, a syphon, and glasses. Biddleford is popularly supposed to be haunted by a Wailing Lady, and the first time the butler touched ground was when he came up against a tiger-skin rug in the hall two flights down.

(from Laughing Gas, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

More HERE about Wodehouse's butlers

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Not your cuddly type of female

She was a tall, rangy light-heavyweight, severe of aspect. She looked as if she might be an important official on the staff of some well-known female convict establishment.

(from Laughing Gas, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Now here is a moniker you can sink your teeth into

George John Charles Mercer Nairne Petty-FitzMaurice, 8th Marquess of Lansdowne

How is that for blue blood!

More HERE about another Marquess.

Murder at the Baskervilles (1937)

For connoisseurs of Sherlock Holmes movies, this is one you do not want to miss. Arthur Wontner stars as Holmes, with Ian Fleming as Watson. It tells the story of Silver Blaze, the race horse, which is familiar to Holmes students. The print generally available is not great, but very watchable. Add it to your list if you like Holmes.


More HERE about the Baskervilles.

Barbara Britton and Richard Denning as Mr. and Mrs. North

Some acting couples seemed to have a natural chemistry between them. Probably the most famous was the "Thin Man" series of movies with Myrna Loy and William Powell.

In early detective television shows, Barbara Britton and Richard Denning were a good combination along the same line. It was hard not to picture them as actually being married. The shows are available at a very reasonable price.

More HERE about Mrs. North.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Peggy Knudsen - Fibber and Molly's daughter-in-law

Hers was a familiar face in movies and television of the late 1049's and 1950's. She was married for a time to Jim Jordan, Jr., which whom she had three children. Jim Jordan, was, of course, Fibber McGee. One of the movies we know her from is Trouble Preferred, in which she stars as a police woman.

Peggy Knudsen 1956.JPG

Sherlock Holmes on old TV - Ronald Howard

The television series (30 minute episodes from 1954-55) starring Ronald Howard as Holmes and Howard Marion-Crawford is one of our favorites. Thoroughly enjoyable. Howard's portrayal of the detective is perhaps a little too easy-going, but Marion-Crawford seems to have the robustness of the doctor that is in the stories, but was not captured by the great Nigel Bruce. I highly recommend these. They are readily available at very reasonable prices.

Here is a LINK to a good blog spot about Marion-Crawford.

Yellow Cat and Kid Sid

There is a sign on Arkansas Highway 10 just west of Booneville on which, if you look very closely and know what to look for, you can just make out these two names. They are names of stud horses. Many years ago the Littlefield family advertised these two horses as being at stud, and evidently they were of sufficient quality to justify having a metal sign installed on the highway. I assume the horses are long since dead, but those of us who know what is one the sign are reminded frequently of the glory days of Yellow Cat and Kid Sid.

More HERE about Booneville, Arkansas.

The best year of Groucho's life

The best year of Groucho Marx's life was when he was 12 years old. "I was too old to spank and too young for the electric chair."

More HERE about Groucho.

A judge in Groucho's court

On You Bet Your Life radio show.

"Last year we had about 2500 customers, and not a one of them was satisfied."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Making Eggy work

          "Ann," I said, "you're a marvel!"
          "How so, Mister Bones?"
          "Why, making Eggy work. It's never been done before."
          "Well, it's going to be done now. He starts to work tomorrow."
          "That's splendid. One feels a certain pang of pity for whoever it is he's starting to work for, but that's splendid. The family were worried about him."
          "I don't wonder. I can't imagine anybody more capable of worrying a family than Eggy. Just suppose Job had had him as well as boils!"

(from Laughing Gas, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

A face even a mother might snicker at

You see, I have kept it from you till now, but there are certain defects in my personal appearance which prevent me being everybody's money where the opposite sex is concerned. I am no flier in the way of looks. Externally, I take after the pater, and if you had ever seen the pater you would realize what that means. He was a gallant soldier and played a hot game of polo, but he had a face like a gorilla - much more so, indeed, than most gorillas have - and was, so I am informed, affectionately known to his little circle of cronies as Consul, the Almost Human. And I am his living image

(from Laughing Gas, by Sir P. G. Wodehouse)

Richard Diamond - no different on TV

Regulars know that Dick Powell as Richard Diamond on the radio program was always getting knocked out. Well, rest assured that David Janssen on the television was just as subject to getting knocked around.

More HERE about Richard Diamond.

No-brainer highway maintenance

Just keep a crew with a flatbed truck loaded with cold pack patrolling the highways all the time. That is not a budget buster, and would go a long way toward preventing the potholes that are a plague to our highways. So simple, but we do not do it very much.

More HERE about highways.

Was Mark Donovan on retainer?

Taxi driver was evidently Frank Race's best friend in the detective radio program. He was always going with Race on his different adventures, even ones at a distance. One wonders if Race put him on salary during the times he was helping him, because he surely was not making any money from his taxi driving.

More HERE about Frank Race.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Richard Diamond TV show: "The Purple Penguin"

Kasey Rogers comes to see Diamond (David Janssen). She is afraid that her husband is about to be killed. Shortly afterwards the husband (Stacy Harris) shows up with his heavy, and mistakenly has Janssen roughed up, until he discovers that he is working for his wife. Then Harris agrees to double whatever his wife was paying Janssen. Later, when Janssen comes to the club, he catches Harris roughing up his wife, but goes to work for him anyway. He meets Chick Chandler, the club comedian, who hates Harris.

Then Harris is killed. Janssen dives into the investigation along with his buddy, Police Lt. Regis Toomey. The villain turns out to be Chandler.

Watching Robin Hood with your grandson

What great fun when a seven-year-old boy is willing to sit and watch this classic old movie with you. The old one. The one with Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone. The one with the great sword fight between those two at the end. The one with Robin climbing up the ivy to the castle window to see Maid Marian. The one with the fight with staves on the log between Flynn and Alan Hale. The one with the Oscar-winning musical score by Eric Wolfgang Korngold. Hollywood has made only a few like this one, and it is great to share with a grandson. Robin Hood is his current hero, replacing Roy Rogers, who in turn had replaced Zorro.

Try this some time with your little buddy. I recommend it highly.

Here is a LINK to the final sword fight. The quality of this clip is not great, but you will get the idea.

More HERE about Robin Hood.

When Hildegard Withers visited Fred Allen

Actress Edna Mae Oliver. She and Fred had a date, and the result was hilarious.


More HERE about Hildegard Withers.

Kenny Baker and Al Goodman

When Kenny Baker made the move from the Jack Benny half-hour radio program (where he got one song) to the Fred Allen hour-long program (where he got two songs), he also made a move up in conductors. Phil Harris had come up from a circus band background into the usual swing band progression. Al Goodman, who was the orchestra leader for Allen, had been educated at Peabody Conservatory.


More HERE about Kenny Baker.

The safest piggy bank in the world

It looks like a hand grenade. Who had one? Jack Benny, of course.

Don't tell me you can't stop smoking!

My Uncle Kent Davis had smoked roll-your-owns for decades, until they finally were destroying his health. He laid the makings upon the dashboard of his pickup, and never smoked again. Difficult it may be, but difficult and impossible are two different things.

"I am superior"

Every day on my commute to and from work I get to observe people's driving habits. One of the most puzzling (and annoying) is their practice of roaring past other cars on a busy two-lane highway who are driving at the speed limit when there is absolutely no significant advantage to be gained by it. At best they gain a very few seconds of time. They burn up gas and more importantly they drive in a reckless manner in order to gain the few seconds. Why do they do it? There is no logic whatsoever to support their driving that way. My only conclusion is that there is a subtle matter of pride that compels them to do it. "Because I passed that other person, I am superior to him."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The lofty origins of mountain dialect

(We owe a debt of gratitude to Horace Kephart for his chapter in Our Southern Highlanders on mountain dialect as it was found about a century ago. We do greatly err if we automatically assume that the reason their speech sounded back-woodsy was entirely because of their academic ignorance. The truth of the matter is that many of their expressions were, like much else in their lives, the result of their severe isolation so that they were, in a very real sense, living a century or two in the past. What might have been regarded as quaint and archaic even in Kephart's day was actually very proper speech from several generations before.)

From Kephart's chapter on The Mountain Dialect:

A man said to me of three of our acquaintances: "There's been a fray on the river - I don't know how the fraction begun, but Os feathered into Dan and Phil, feedin' them lead." He meant fray in its original sense of deadly combat, as was fitting where two men were killed. Fraction for rupture is an archaic word, rare in literature, though we find it in Troilus and Cressida. "Feathered into them!" Where else can we hear today a phrase that passed out of standard English when "villainous saltpetre" supplanted the long-bow? It means to bury an arrow up to the feather, as when the old Chronicler Harrison says, "An other arrow should haue beene fethered in his bowels." . . .

Some highland usages that sound odd to us are really no more than the original and literal meanings, as budget for bag or parcel, hampered for shackled or jailed. When a mountain swain "carries his gal to meetin'" he is not performing so great an athletic feat as was reported by Benjamin Franklin, who said, "My father carried his wife with three children to New England" (from Pennsylvania).

Unique terms from hillbilly jargon

When a man is tired he likely will call it worried; if in a hurry, he is in a swivvet; if nervous, he has the all-overs; if declining in health, he is on the down-go. If he and his neighbor dislike each other, there is a hardness between them; if they quarrel, it is a ruction, a rippit, a jower, or an upscuddle - so be it there are no fatalities which would amount to a real fray.

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

Charlie Chan says save your breath

If answer known, question seem unnecessary.

(from Charlie Chan in Shanghai)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Hillbillies and theology

Nearly all of our highlanders, from youth upward, show an amazing fondness for theological dispute. This consists mainly in capping texts, instead of with reasoning, with the single-minded purpose of confusing or downing an opponent. Into this battle of memories rather than wits the most worthless scapegrace will enter with keen gusto and perfect seriousness. I have known two or three hundred mountain lumber-jacks, hard-swearing and hard-drinking tough-as-they-make-'ems, to be whetted to a fighting edge over the rocky problem "Was Saul damned?" (Can a suicide enter into the kingdom of heaven?)

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

Mountain singing

The harmony of "part singing"is unknown in the back districts, where men and women both sing in a jerky treble. Most of their music is in the weird, plaintive minor key that seems spontaneous with primitive people throughout the world. Not only the tone, but the sentiment of their hymns and ballads is usually of a melancholy nature, expressing the wrath of God and the doom of sinners, or the luckless adventures of wild blades and of maidens all forlorn.

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

No way to go but up

I must say I couldn't see why I should go butting in, trying to put a stopper on Eggy's - as far as I could make out - quite praiseworthy amours. Live and let live is my motto. If Eggy wanted to get spliced, let him, was the way I looked at it. Marriage might improve him. It was difficult to think of anything that wouldn't.

(from Laughing Gas, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

The Dragnet March

The television program Dragnet ran in the 1950's and 1960's on radio and televion. It was a great favorite, even though the deadpan acting of Jack Webb was the object of much derision. The theme music of the show, which was carried over from the radio program, was very distinctive and became very popular. I remember playing it in band with great enthusiasm.

Here is a LINK to the Dragnet theme music.

My brother hates Doublemint chewing gum

My grandfather chewed that brand, and used to pass it out to everyone in the car when he would be riding with us. The aroma would pervade the entire car, and Evan got to where he could not stand it - to this day.

Be sure to use the company name

When an insurance broker would call Johnny Dollar to initiate one of this investigations, he would generally say his name and the company he worked for, even if he was one of the regulars. For example, Pat McCracken called on no telling how many of the shows and was a good personal friend of Johnny, yet he would say, "This is Pat McCracken, Universal Adjustment Bureau," as if Johnny did not know who he was or who he worked for.

Mr. Keen - low profile detective program

Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons probably does not get the credit it deserves among the stable of radio detective programs. It ran from 1937 to 1955. The shows were pretty well done, but Keen was such a low-key personality that the plots did not quite have the zip of some of the other shows. Nonetheless, it was consistent and enjoyable. Obviously, if it ran that long, a lot of people must have liked it.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mountain etiquette

If you are armed, as a hunter, do not fail to remove the cartridges from the gun, in your host's presence, before you set foot on his porch. Then give him the weapon or stand it in a corner or hang it up in plain view. Even our sheriff, when he stopped with us, would lay his revolver on the mantel-shelf and leave it there until he went his way. If you think a moment you can see the courtesy of such an act. It proves that the guest puts implicit trust in the honor of his host and in his ability to protect all within his house. There never has been a case in which such trust was violated.

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

The mountain code

The mountain code of conduct is a curious mixture of savagery and civility. One man will kill another over a pig or a panel of fence (not for the property's sake, but because of hot words ensuing) and he will "come clear" in court because every fellow on the jury feels he would have done the same thing himself under similar provocation; yet these very men, vengeful and cruel though they are, regard hospitality as a sacred duty toward wayfarers of any degree, and the bare idea of stealing from a stranger would excite their instant loathing or white-hot scorn

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

Mr. Dynamite (1941)

Lloyd Nolan (nickname Mr. Dynamite) is a pitcher about to play in the World Series. At a carnival spot he throws a pitch that knocks Irene Hervey off her post, and he falls for her right way (natually). They are in a ventriloquist show while a murder occurs and she becomes the most likely suspect. She flees, but he tracks her to her apartment and disarms her. It turns out that the murdered man was her brother, and they were agents working against a Nazi sabotage ring. He tries to help her, but at first she is very stand-offish. Finally she breaks down and admits that the victim was not her brother, but her undercover partner, working against the Nazis. Now Nolan is up to his neck in the whole affair. The pace is fast and furious and the good guys win. There is even a cameo appearance by Shemp Howard.

Irene Hervey was one of those actresses who was just a shade off beautiful, but whose face was all the more fascinating because of its uniqueness, including a deep dimple and an angular mouth.

Hervey and Nolan

More HERE about Irene Hervey.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How small was the town?

If a man rode into one end of the street and started to say, "I'm just passing through!" by the time he'd said it he had.

(from Milo Talon, by Louis Lamour)

What you call it matters - to them

Our terms moonshiner and moonshining are not used in the mountains. Here an illicit distiller is called a blockader, his business is blockading, and the product is blockade liquor. Just as the smugglers of old Britain called themselves free-traders, thereby proclaiming that they risked and fought for a principle, so the moonshiner considers himself simply a blockade runner dealing in contraband. His offense is only malum prohibitum [wrong because prohibited], not malum in se [wrong in itself].

(from Our Southern Highlander, by Horace Kephart)

The lot of the small scale moonshiner

The little moonshiner is a more interesting character, if for no other reason than that he fights fair, according to his code, and single-handed against tremendous odds. He is innocent of graft. There is nothing between him and the whole power of the Federal Government except his wits and a well-worn Winchester or muzzle-loader. He is very poor; he is very ignorant; he has no friends at court; his apparatus is crude in the extreme, and his output is miserably small. This man is usually a good enough citizen in other ways, of decent standing in his own community, and a right good fellow toward all the world, save revenue officers.

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

A nose for corn mash

Cattle, and especially hogs, are passionately fond of still-slop, and can scent it a great distance, so that no still can long remain unknown to them. It is a curious fact that most horses despise the stuff. A celebrated revenue officer told me that for several years he rode a horse which was in the habit of drinking a mouthful from every stream that he forded; but if there was the least taint of still-slop in the water, he would whisk his nose about and refuse to drink. The officer then had only to follow up the stream, and he would infallibly find a still.

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

A little reality in romance

The trouble was, I had been building my dreams around the girl I wanted her to be and hoped she was. We all do that. All too often the man a girl thinks she loves or the girl a man believes he loves is just in their imaginations. A body makes excuses for their mistakes because he or she wants to believe.

(from Milo Talon, by Louis Lamour)

More HERE about romance.

Friday, June 20, 2014

When we are sick, we lie there and rest

Except for politicians. They rest there and lie.

(adapted from Fibber McGee and Molly)

Just bow up and take your punishment

"Humility only defense against rightful blame."

(from Charlie Chan at the Opera)

Too many memorable weddings

Too few memorable marriages.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why hillbillies made moonshine

          "But, when all's said and done, the main reason for this 'moonshining,' as you-uns calls it, is bad roads."
          "Bad roads?" I exclaimed. "What the -"
          "Jest thisaway: from hyar to the railroad is seventeen miles, with two mountains to cross; and you've seed that road! I recollect you-uns said every one o' them miles was a thousand rods long. Nobody's ever measured them, except by a mountain man's foot-rule - big feet, and a long stride between 'em. Seven hundred pounds is all the load a good team can haul over that road, when the weather's good. Hit takes three days to make the round trip, less'n you break and axle, and then hit takes four. When you do git to the railroad, th'r ain't no town of a thousand people within fifty mile. Now us folks ain't even got wagons. Thar's only one sarviceable wagon in this whole settlement, and you can't hire it without team and driver, which is two dollars and a half a day. Whar one o' our leetle sleds can't go, we haffter pack on mule-back or tussle it on our own wethers. Look, then! The only farm produce we-uns can sell is corn. You see for yourself that corn can't be shipped outen hyar. We can trade hit for store credit - that's all. Corn juice is about all we can tote around over the country and git cash money for. Why, man, that's the only way some folks has o' payin' their taxes!"

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

Irium on the radio

Loyal listeners to old time radio know that Pepsodent toothpaste (supposedly) contained something called irium, which was a name for sodium lauryl sulfate. It was supposed to be good stuff.

Dizzy Dean on the Bob Hope radio show

But it just did not seem right, because he was announced as being with the Cubs, not his long-time team, the Cardinals. (He moved to the Cubs in 1938.) Dizzy was no master of elocution, but since Hope had botched several lines in his monologue, no one was complaining about Dean on this particular program.

As a matter of trivia, Dizzy was born in the southern part of the county where I live (Logan).
Here is a LINK to that episode of the Bob Hope Show.

File:Dizzy Dean Time.jpg

Old-time health care system

Doctors were few and far between and we made do with what we knew or what we had. It wasn't always enough but in the majority of cases we survived. Seems to me the more medical attention you can afford the more you need it.

(from Milo Talon, by Louis Lamour)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Stoking the meat

The mountaineers have an odd way of sharing the spoils of the chase. They call it "stoking the meat," a use of the wordstoke that I have never heard elsewhere. The hide is sold, and the proceeds divided equally among the hunters, but the meat is cut up into as many pieces as there are partners in the chase; then one man goes indoors or behind a tree, and somebody at the carcass, laying his hand on a portion, calls out: "Whose piece is this?
          "Granville Calhoun's," cries the hidden man, who cannot see it.
          "Whose is this?"
          "Bill Cope's."
          And so on down the line. Everybody gets what chance determines for him, and there can be no charge of unfairness.

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

Rudy Vallee - the first crooner?

There have been bigger names in the crooning business (Crosby, Sinatra), but the first one to garner national stature was Rudy Vallee. And in his day, it was said, he was the first teenage heartthrob, coming along just at the time when radio began to be the prevalent mass medium. He was a huge draw in those days.

HERE is a link to a recording from 1930 of Vallee singing with his band.

HERE is more about Rudy Vallee.

Permanent scars

Tattoos are meant to be permanent. They can be removed, but the reportedly the effectiveness of the method varies with the skin pigment and the color of the ink. So, when a person gets a tattoo, he probably has it for life, even if later he greatly regrets it.

Some mistakes that we make can be overcome; some do not result in permanent consequences. Others do. Sometimes when we do something wrong, we (or someone else) will never recover from its effects. Even under the best of circumstances we are subject to such errors, so it behooves us to be very careful to avoid them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Now there's a tasty supper!

          "What's that brekfust you're yellin' about?"
          "Hit's for you-uns to help git! I knowed I couldn't roust ye no other way. Here, you, go down to the spring and fetch water. Rustle out, boys; we've got to get a soon start if you want bear brains and liver for supper."

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

Howard McNear - how many radio programs?

To regular listeners to old radio programs, it seems like you hear his voice every other episode. He was one of the most active of radio actors due to his unique voice, which lent itself to comic characters all the way to psycopaths. My generation knew his face as Floyd the barber on the Andy Griffith show, but to my father's generation, his voice was everywhere on the air. I wonder just how many radio episodes he was in.


More HERE about Howard McNear.

Elliott Lewis - versatile actor

He played two-fisted ship captain Phil Carney in The Voyage of the Scarlet Queen, switched to comedy as Frankie Remley on the Phil Harris and Alice Faye program, and even put in a stretch as suave detective Gregory Hood.

Ellliott Lews article from 1949

More HERE about Elliott Lewis.

Monday, June 16, 2014

My wife has discovered Groucho Marx

on old television episodes of You Bet Your Life. Lots of fun. Groucho was, of course, a great extemporaneous comedian.

More HERE about Groucho Marx.

Caffeine affects boys and girls differently

File a federal lawsuit. Doesn't caffeine realize that that is gender discrimination?

More HERE about caffeine.

Snips of classical music

Because The Green Hornet radio show used classical numbers as its background music, listeners got a little bit of a musical education. The problem was that (apart from the main theme), the bits of music were never identified, and indeed sometimes were no more than a measure or two long - not enough to enjoy to any extent.

Charlie Chan on courtesy

Honorable father once say, "Politeness golden key that open many doors."
(from Charlie Chan at the Opera)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Switch feet on This Little Piggie

Have you noticed that when you play the "This Little Piggie Went To Market" game with a child, he will invariably thrust out the other foot for you to do it again. Wonder why?

Why Jack Elam was wall-eyed

He was stabbed in the eye with a pencil at a Boy Scout meeting as a child.

Sackett is evidently a fairly common name

Louis Lamour made it famous, of course; but there are many others of the name in real life. For instance, John Sackett, Sr., was born in England, but came to America about 1630.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Razorback hogs

          The razorback hog has a mind of his own; not instinct, but mind - whatever psychologists may say. He thinks. Anybody can see that when he is not rooting or sleeping he is studying devilment. He shows remarkable understanding of human speech, especially profane speech, and even an uncanny gift of reading men's thoughts, whenever those thoughts are directed against the peace and dignity of pigship. He bears grudges, broods over indignities, and plans redreses for the morrow or the week after. If he cannot get even with you, he will lay for your unsuspecting friend. And at the last, hen arrested in his crimes and lodged in the pen, he is liable to attacks of mania from sheer helpless rage.
          If you camp out in the mountains, nothing will molest you but razorback hogs. Bears will flee and wildcats sneak to their dens, but the moment incense of cooking arises from your camp every pig within two miles will scent it and hasten to call. You may throw your arm out of joint: they will laugh in your face. You may curse in five languages: it is music to their titillating ears.

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

Theological truth extracted from the mountaineers

"Few sheep were raised in our settlement, and those only for their wool. The untamed Smokies were no place for such defenseless creatures. Sheep will not, cannot, run wild. They are wholly dependent on the fostering hand of man and perish without his shepherding."

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Lockhart)

Even so, God's sheep do not do well in the world. They need the nurture and protection of the church that He set up as a home for them while they sojourn here in this world.

As good a description of our land as I ever heard

"This is good, strong land, or it wouldn't hold up all the rocks there is around hyur."

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

Hillside farms

As our territory was sparsely occupied, there were none of those "perpendicular farms" so noticeable in older settlements near the river valleys, where men plow fields as steep as their own house roofs and till with the hoe many an acre that is steeper still. John Fox tells of a Kentucky farmer who fell out of his own cornfield and broke his neck. I have seen fields in Carolina where this might occur, as where a forty-five degree slope is tilled to the brink of a precipice.

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

Mountain settlements 100 years ago

A mountain settlement consists of all who get their mail at the same place. Ours was made up of forty-two households (about two hundred souls) scattered over an area eight miles long by two wide. These are air-line measurements. All roads and trails "wiggled and wingled around" so that some families were several miles from a neighbor. Fifteen homes had no wagon road and could be reached by no vehicle other than a narrow sled. Quill Rose [a man] had not even a sledpath, but journeyed full five miles by trail to the nearest wagon road.

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

Friday, June 13, 2014

"He isn't with us any more."

That is what you say to someone who calls and asks for someone at your company who has retired or left for another reason. (Try to use your most funereal voice.) Then the caller is left wondering if the person has left the company - or the world.

Between Us Girls (1942)

Diana Barrymore is an actress who is going home for a visit to her mother (Kaye Francis). Francis is involved in a romance with a younger man who thinks she is younger than she is. In order to protect her mother, she pretends to be considerably younger than she is. When the fiancee (John Boles) arrives, he has Robert Cummings with him. Later that day Cummings comes back to give a present to juvenile Barrymore and finds her practicing a part in her next play, in which she plays a drunk. Cummings mistakes her for her aunt, and she plays along. She makes him think she is abusing the child. He comforts her (as the child), and she begins to fall for him, which presents a problem, since she cannot reveal her real age.

Francis realizes that Barrymore is in love and regrets their deception. Then Cummings sees through it because of a Band-aid that he put on the child's arm and sees on the arm of the aunt at a night club. But (surprise, surprise) things all end happily ever after.

Interestingly, this movie came out the same year as The Major and the Minor, which also took the improbable theme of a woman pretending to be considerably younger than she was, and with about as little success. Both are enjoyable films, but only with tongue in cheek. This one takes on a little bit of a slapstick quality at times, but it is lots of fun.


It's Higgins, Sir! radio show

This is a hilarious radio program that starred Harry McNaughton in the title role. He was great in the title role as a butler who got inherited along with a set of silver utensils. He sounds remarkably like famous Hollywood butler Arthur Treacher.

Here is a LINK to downloads of the program.

It's Higgins Sir cover art

More HERE about It's Higgins, Sir!

Black jack oaks and chain saws

The 30 acres on which I grew up is partially-wooded, and Daddy generally would keep the dead trees under control by cutting them for firewood. Dutch elm disease took a heavy toll on those trees, and they were easy to cut and to handle. Occasionally, however, there would be a black jack that would die, and not to be deterred, Daddy would set in to harvest it. Now, black jacks are among the ugliest trees in creation with the scraggly lower limbs that die and can become genuine safety hazards; and they are certainly among the hardest of woods in our part of the country - especially when they are dead. In fact, I have likened cutting them to cutting an anvil. I have actually seen sparks fly from a chain saw cutting a dead black jack.

Today, I had to work cutting up the remainder of a black jack that my son had felled in our yard and had had to leave because his chain saw quit a few weeks ago. Before I started, I took the saw to the local shop and told the owner to do a good job on the sharpening because I was cutting a dead black jack. He laughed and said, "You will be in two or three times before you are through." He exaggerated only a little. The limbs had already been trimmed off this particular tree, and all I had to do was to cut up most of the trunk - and I barely made it before the chain was too dull to be of much use.

One reason the hillbillies were a world to themselves

The only roads follow tortuous and rock-strewn water courses, which may be nearly dry when you start out in the morning, but within an hour may  be raging torrents. There are no bridges. One may ford a dozen times in a mile. A spring "tide" will stop all travel, even from neighbor to neighbor, for a day or two at a time. Buggies and carriages are unheard of. In many districts the only means of transportation is with saddlebags on horseback, or with a "tow sack" afoot. If the pedestrian tries a short-cut he will learn what the natives mean when they say: "Goin' up, you can might' nigh stand up straight and bite the ground; goin' down, a man wants hobnails in the seat of his pants."

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

"Furriners" - then, and even now

"The mountaineers of the South are marked apart from all other folks by dialect, by customs, by character, by self-conscious isolation. So true is this that they call all outsiders 'furriners.' It matters now whether your descent be from Puritan or Cavalier, whether you come from Boston or Chicago, Savannah or New Orleans, in the mountains you are a 'furriner.'"

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

This has changed somewhat since this book was written, but only somewhat. To this day it is common to hear in rural Arkansas, "You're not from around here, are you?"

State line home

"Kephart spent the summer months of 1907 with J. B. ('Andy') Anderson, a friend from the North, at the Hall cabin situated high on the main divide of the Smokies about ten miles west of Clingman's Dome. This was a two-room herder's hut, one room in Tennessee, the other in North Carolina."

(from Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart)

Fred Allen as Rip Van Winkle

One of the best done and funniest radio programs ever done was the U. S. Steel-sponsored version of Rip Van Winkle with Fred Allen as the star. It totally destroys the original story - in a hilarious manner. (For example, have you ever heard of a man named Galveston Beethoven Sumac? Also, did you know that when Alfred Lunt snored, he does so with "organ tones"?)

HERE is the link to listen to the program. Well worth the time. A classic of comedy entertainment at its best.

Our Southern Highlanders, by Horace Kephart

This book was published from 1913 to 1922. Horace Kephart lived from about 1903-1913 among the "hillbillies" of the southern Appalachian region and had, as he put it, "eighteen years of intimate association with them." He studied their habits, their personalities, and their language. As a result of this firsthand view of them before the intervention of electronic media, his book is perhaps the most definitive description of hillbilly life ever published. It is fascinating reading, having (among others) chapters on bear hunting, moonshining, the mountain dialect, and feuding. "This book deals with the mass of the mountain people. It is not concerned with the reltively few townsmen, and prosperous valley farmers, who owe to outside influences all that distinguishes them from their back-country kinsmen. The real mountaineers are the multitude of little farmers living up the branches and on steep hillsides, away from the main-traveled roads, who have been shaped by their own environment. They are the ones who interest the reading public; and this is as it should be; for they are original, they are 'characters'. . . . The narrative is to be taken literally. There is not a line of fiction or exaggeration in it."

Sadly, the book has its dark side. When he undertook this project, he left a wife and six children. So, as is so often the case, the great man in one field was an abject failure as a family man.

Our Southern Highlanders is in print and available today. I highly recommend it.

Want to have total confusion in this country?

Let the government rule that the order of the letters in the alphabet is to be changed. Just that simple little thing would devastate this country. Not likely to happen; but if terrorists manage to pull it off, it would be worse than any bomb.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Periwinkle in the big box

When I started to school, one of the requirements was a box of crayons. I had one of the 12-count boxes with only the very basic colors. I was so thrilled later on when I got one of the big boxes with 64 crayons. It had so many interesting colors - variations and in-betweens. One of the ones I remember was periwinkle. It had an interesting name. It is a sort of blue and is named after a flower.

The Green Hornet vs. the Nazis

Some of the better Green Hornet radio show episodes were during the war years when he worked against saboteurs and Nazi agents.

HERE is one example.

Fill her up!

This is a time-honored expression that has gone the way of credit cards and self-service. In the good old days, when you would pull into a service station for gas, the attendent would approach your car with a question on his face, and you would tell him a dollar amount of gas you wanted, or would say "Fill her up!" And he would do it. And wash your windshield. And check your oil. And check the pressure in your tires if you wanted him to. And you did not have to get out of the car.