Saturday, March 17, 2018

In the Summertime

With one winter storm after another pummeling the east coast, I thought I'd remind people that summer is coming with a look back at "JUL 69"  I grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania, and every time there was a blizzard, people would wonder how they were going to survive the big storm.  Same way they always did. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

All Bundled Up

With one winter storm after another pummeling the east coast, I thought I'd publish a photograph of how people used to dress for cold weather.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Couple That Dresses Together Stays Together

I've written about this before.  I spent decades working in professional photo labs, and hardly a week went by were I didn't print "private" photographs.  There were a lot of amateur pinups, naked wives and girlfriends, the occasional naked man, and a few pictures of people having sex.  But, by far and away the most common of these private pictures were men dressed as women.  Some were obviously joke pictures, bearded men with hairy legs in ill fitting dresses.  There were also a lot of photos were an effort was made for the cross dressed male to look like the real thing.  Considering how many times I only knew it was a guy because I was told, I probably printed far more such pictures than I was aware of.  In other words, I'm never surprised when I find a photo with a man in women's clothes.  If anything, I'm surprised I don't find more.  I'm about 99% sure  the person on the right is a man.  I'm a lot less sure that the person on the left is a woman.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ladies, Parasols, and Burning Oil

It may be necessary to click on the image and bring it up in a bigger window to see, but there are ladies, with parasols who have come out to see the burning oil tank.  What a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon.  And for the record, I'd come out to watch a burning oil tank, though I would keep a greater distance.

Published by "HARRY H. HAMM, TOLEDO, OHIO." 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Music On Television

Imagine, if you will, you're a music crazed kid in the 1930's.  You've got a stack of big band 78 rpm records that you play all the time.  You've got society bands like Larry Carlton, swing bands like Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, and your favorite, Count Basie.  Every waking hour you dream of what it would be like to be with one of your favorites, touring the nation to sell out crowds.  Even a regional band would be great.  So you practice and practice until you're old enough to be a professional musician just like your idols.

And then it happens.  It's not a band that comes calling, it's the draft board.  The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor, and like every other kid your age, all your dreams are on hold until the war is over.  It's not music you dream of, it's survival.  Eventually, the war ends, you've come home in one piece, which is not something  a lot of your friends can say.

So,you get stateside and marry your sweetheart.  She waited for you, and after all the death you've seen, all you want is a normal life.  You take a good job at the car plant, have a kid or two and settle in to a nice, comfortable life in the new suburb.  But music keeps playing in the back of your head.  You can't let it go, so you take a part time job playing  in a restaurant.  The patrons enjoy their dates, and every once in awhile, one of them drops a dollar in your tip jar and makes a request.

This goes on for a few years, and you're beginning to hate music.  Something you thought would never happen.  One night you're sitting there going through your set list when this man approaches.  "Not Mona Lisa," you think.  "Please no, not Mona Lisa.  If I have to play Mona Lisa one more time I'll throw up."

But he doesn't ask you to play anything.  He hands you his business card and explains his dilemma.  He's a program director for this new thing called television.   The network provides a few hours of programming every day, mostly radio serials reworked for TV, but the rest of those hours have to filled with local content.  He has this idea for a morning talk show, with a couple of hosts who will chat up members of the local women's club, athletes, and whatever famous person who's passing through town, and he wants a musician to play intros, a few songs, maybe even compose a theme song.  He asks you to stop by the station the next morning and talk.  So, you call in sick, take the street car downtown and meet with the station manager.  You talk music, play a few songs, tell him you're confident that you can write that theme song.  Of course, the job is a bit more than the  morning show.  After that, you'll pull the same duty on a cooking show, the ten minute local news broadcast, and then after a three hour lunch, it's background music for the after school cartoon show.  And the money they're offering is amazing.  Twice what you're making at the car plant.

You go home and tell the wife, but she's not exactly thrilled.  "Television?  They're so expensive.   We don't know anyone who can even afford a television.  Why give up a good job for such a fly by night sort of thing."  There's a big fight, but you're getting a second chance at your childhood dream, and you're not turning it down.  It's bye bye assembly line and hello TV.

At first, it's just as the program director described.  You can play what you want, and it was easier to write the theme song than you expected, so while you're not ecstatic,  over all you're happy with your new job.  And then one day John and Karen, the show's two hosts, say something to you, live on air.  It's a little surprising, at first, but you've been shot at by a Panzer tank, so you don't really rattle.  Soon you're more of a regular part of the show.  People begin recognizing you on the street, as more and more people actually buy a television set.  Then one day, you get a call for a local business man.  He's built a super market, a first for the new suburb, and he wants you to play at the grand opening.  You call up a few guys you know and form a small combo.  After that, it's car dealerships, weddings,  a prom or two, and a regular Saturday night set at a local supper club.  No requests allowed. No Mona Lisa.

  And then one day, you read in the paper that Count Basie is in town.  No black man has ever appeared on the station before, but you go and beg your boss to have him on the show with John and Karen.  He's a little worried, but this isn't the south, so in the end, he relents, and for one wonderful morning you get to play with your idol.  After the show is over, the Count turns to you and says, "You got chops, man"

As the years pass by, the station moves more to prerecorded music,and rock and roll becomes the popular music that everyone wants to listen to.  But that's alright.  You're the station's music director, and you book the acts.  Chuck Berry may not be the Count, but he's not bad, and no one really cares if you hire a black musician.  You're thinking about retirement when another opportunity comes your way.  The dean of a local college asks if you want to teach jazz composition.  You tell him you went form high school directly into the army and never went to college.  "That's alright," he replies.  "We'll give you an honorary degree, and then you can teach a few classes every week.  All because the music kept playing in your head.

That's not the story of Larry Ferrari who spent years playing organ on a Philadelphia television  station.  He was drafted into the army, but it was right after the war ended.  He preformed on armed services radio before starting his TV career.  But I like my story better.

Sunday, February 25, 2018


Back when I was in junior high, I had a rather jingoistic teacher who assured us that American superiority was demonstrated by the fact that no American would ever make a  living by pulling a rickshaw or operating a pedicab.  He knew, he was a Korean war vet, and oh the things he had seen.  I wonder what he would think of Americans working for sub minimum wage driving for Uber.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Post War European Trip Collection-Gloria Lee In Venice

Unlike in the previous post, this card was mailed.  The Message, "July 10, 1948.  Dear Mom & Dad,  Venice is simply heavenly.  There's no other place like it in the world!  It's exactly  like all the pictures you've seen painted-gondolas on the canals-all the beautiful, colorful surroundings and the people so well dressed here & go about with a prosperous air.  Took a trip over to the beach resort LIDO yesterday afternoon and this afternoon and laid in the sand & was just plain lazy-ahhh! It was wonderful-made me feel so darn healthy! and just eager to start out on another 60 mile hike-YEAH!!!  Some day I intend to return to this abode as it's just everything you could want in a city-Love, Gloria Lee."  Needless to say, Gloria Lee had very, very small hand writing.

The card was mailed to "Mr. & Mrs. Frank H. Bigewet, 5118 Vernon Ave., St. Louis 13, Mo. U.S.A." Now, I thought that I was misreading the last name, so I did a quick Google search for Frank Bigewet and was surprised to find his 1940 census information.  Frank was 37 years old in 1940.  Not too old to miss war service, but old enough that he wouldn't have been subject to the draft.  His daughter Gloria Lee was all of 10, born in 1930.  So, depending on which month she was born,  Gloria Lee was either 18 or 19 years old when she sent this card.   Too young to have a boyfriend or husband in the military, at least during World War 2.

As usual, click on The Post War European Trip Collection in labels, etc., etc.