From Huntingdon to Huntington

17 Jul

Last week, we made a short trip Pennsylvania. My wife has family in Huntingdon, a small town in the central part of the state, and they invited us to stay at their home for a few days. We used that time to explore and a great tour of a small college. Here are the highlights.

On the first day, we drove through five states – Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. It was a long drive through Appalachia, but we saw some beautiful landscapes. When we left the interstate around Altoona, we did not realize that we would not be on the interstate for a few more days. Instead, we would be taking back roads through farmland.

On the second day, we passed through some of that farmland on the way to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hersheypark was our destination. The girls rode a ton of rides while my wife and I rode a few. I must be getting old because the monorail was my favorite because it took us by part of the old Hershey factory.

One of these days, I am going to get back there and check out the history of chocolate.

Oh yeah, we had a slight surprise when we got back to Huntingdon. We went to a local restaurant for dinner, and my wife order a salad with grilled chicken. She received a salad topped with grilled chicken and french fries. She was, in a word, appalled. We later learned that french fries on salad is a central Pennsylvania thing. I guess it is like grits is a southern thing. Although, I can handle french fries on a salad better than I can handle grits.

On the third day, we got educational. Huntingdon is home to Juniata College, and the family we were visiting used to be the president and first lady of the liberal arts institution.

It is a beautiful campus with a great quad for student to gather. I think my stepdaughter liked it until she saw the dorm room. We had to explain that what she saw is pretty typical for dorm rooms.

After that, we drove a short distance to State College to the campus of Penn State. This was not an official visit. I simply wanted to see the football stadium. Of course, I had to wear the colors of my team behind enemy lines.

I was also told to go to the Creamery. It was a great suggestion. The ice cream was awesome.

On the fourth day, we headed west to two sites that my wife and I really wanted to visit. This was a day to show my stepdaughter and her friend something about our past. After a bit of a drive through the countryside, we arrived at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

On September 11, 2001, the flight was hijacked, and the passengers learned of the other hijackings through calls to their loved ones. At some point, the passengers decided to attack the terrorists. As they struggled, the plane crashed into a field.

It is a sobering place to visit. For those of us who remember, it brings back memories of that terrible day. For those of us who do not remember, it brings questions of what happened. For all of us, it provides a true example of heroism.

As I walked through the museum and over the grounds, I kept wondering what the passengers were thinking. Did they know they were going to crash somewhere and wanted to make sure it was not another building? Did they think they could take over and have a chance at landing the plane? All we know is that they prevented the plane from hitting something in Washington, D.C., which was only 20 minutes away. Investigators think the plane was heading for Capitol Hill.

After visiting the memorial, we drove through more countryside. This time we really hit some back roads and passed farm after farm. Finally, we made it to Fallingwater, the home famously designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. My wife and I visited another of his designs earlier in the year, but this is the iconic one that I have always wanted to see.

He designed the home for the Kaufmann family, who wanted a view of the waterfall on their land. Instead, Wright built it on the waterfall.

Amazingly, the house was built during the midst of the Great Depression.

When we left Fallingwater, we headed toward home but could not make it all the way. We stopped in Huntington, West Virginia for the night. The girls stayed at the hotel and watched Netflix while we went to dinner. We found a great place near downtown called Savannah’s and took a table on their patio. Our waitress was a local student who was majoring in History and Anthropology. Now, she has the right idea.

 

The Movie That Launched a Thousand Television Careers

2 Jul

Last week, my family was traveling, and I spent a lot of time watching movies with my dad. I write that because I have been working on a post about those movies. However, another movie has interrupted the process.

This afternoon, I visited my parents, and my dad was watching a Western that I had never seen. There was a scene with a man and woman talking in a restaurant. The woman looked familiar, and I asked my dad to hit the Info button.

The movie was The Hangman, which was released in 1959, and the cast listing confirmed my suspicions. The woman was Tina Louise, who, in a few years, would gain fame as Ginger on Gilligan’s Island.

It is always cool to find familiar faces in old movies. It is almost like telling someone’s fortune. Do you know that you will soon become famous for being stranded on an island after a three-hour boat tour gone wrong?

Then, the waitress walked up, and she looked familiar. Yep, it was Betty Lynn, who, in a few years, would gain fame as Thelma Lou on The Andy Griffith Show.

At this point, soon to be famous television actors were popping up everywhere. Jack Lord was in jail. In a few years, he would gain fame as Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O.

Fess Parker was the sheriff. At this time, he was once and future famous. In the 1950s, he helped start the coonskin cap craze as Davy Crockett. After this movie, he would attempt to relive the magic as Daniel Boone.

Then, there was Lorne Greene who played the marshal. The same year that The Hangman was released a new television show called Bonanza debuted. In a short time, he would be known throughout as Ben Cartwright, the patriarch who owned the Ponderosa.

As the title of the post says, The Hangman is the movie that launched a thousand television careers. Well, maybe not a thousand, but it came close.

Movie Wisdom – James Stewart Edition

25 Jun

My wife and stepdaughter are in Lowell, Massachusetts for a student conference. Therefore, I am holding down the fort. This includes keeping the dog fed and the house standing. It also gives me the opportunity to spend some time with my parents.

Tonight, my dad and I watched Bend of the River, a Western starring James Stewart and Rock Hudson in one of his early roles. It is a pretty good movie with a bunch of character actors from the 1950s. Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan, Frances Bavier and Royal Dano are just a few. It is also the first time I have ever seen Stepin Fetchit, a comedian who caused controversy by the racial stereotypes of his on-screen persona.

After watching the movie, I decided to look for movie wisdom in the films of James Stewart. After all, I do not have much else to do.

From Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Liberty’s too precious a thing to be buried in books.

Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light.

Don’t miss the wonders that surround you.

From It’s a Wonderful Life

No man is a failure who has friends.

Youth is wasted on the wrong people.

From Rope

We all do strange things in our childhood.

From The Stratton Story

A man has to know where he’s going.

From Broken Arrow

To talk of peace is not hard. To live it is very hard.

You should always wipe your hands on your arm after eating.

It is not easy to change, but sometimes it is required.

From Bend of the River

There’s a difference between men and apples.

Never mix marriage with gambling. Percentage is all against it.

From Rear Window

Nothing has caused the human race so much trouble as intelligence.

Sometimes it’s worse to stay than it is to run.

From The Man from Laramie

Everybody should have a place to remember and feel they belong to.

From Two Rode Together

Sometimes it takes a lot more courage to live than it does to die.

Well, there are some men you just can’t trust to stay where you put ’em.

I can tell when a man walks through that door whether he prefers blondes or brunettes, drinks whiskey or beer, plays blackjack or poker, is a cheapskate or a high roller.

From The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Courage can be purchased at yon’ tavern.

From How the West Was Won

There ain’t much glory in trompin’ behind a plow.

It don’t pay to eat too much on an empty stomach.

There ain’t much glory in lookin’ at a man with his guts hanging out.

From Cheyenne Autumn

Now, as I understand it, a mademoiselle is a madam who ain’t quite made it yet – only younger and friskier.

From Shenandoah

When you love a woman without likin’ her, the night can be long and cold, and contempt comes up with the sun.

A man who eats with his hat on is going nowhere in a hurry.

From The Flight of the Phoenix

Insurance companies move in mysterious ways. Much like God… only far less generous.

From The Rare Breed

You cannot live with dreams.

A man in love is neither lord nor master of himself.

While beauty is skin deep, meanness runs all the way through.

From Bandolero!

There things a man ought never do – spit in church, scratch his self in front of his ma, and pick his nose.

 

 

 

 

My iPod Has Issues – Too Early For Bed

16 Jun

The summer class that I am teaching is halfway finished.

The meetings I had today did not last long.

The dinner we had at the local pizzeria was quite good.

Everyone else is in bed, but I cannot go to bed before 10 pm. Going to bed before 10 pm means I have reached a time in life that I am not ready to admit. When I was a kid, I would beg my parents to let me stay up until the local news was over. I usually made it through Johnny Carson’s monologue or through the beginning of a John Wayne movie on the late show. Nope, I will not go to bed earlier than that.

Instead, I will delve into the mind of my psychotic iPod and see what is going on.

“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Search for Vulcan” by Leroy Holmes

“Heaven is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlisle

“Carolyn” by Merle Haggard

“Stereotomy” by The Alan Parsons Project

“Ebo Walker” by The Dillards

“Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone

“She’s Got You” by Loretta Lynn

“Got My Mojo Working” by Muddy Waters

“Memphis Exorcism” by Squirrel Nut Zippers

“Garden Party” by Ricky Nelson

“6 Underground” by Sneaker Pimps

“Free Ride” by Edgar Winter

“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” by Led Zeppelin

“Lazy River” by Pete Fountain

“Hallelujah I Love Her So” by Ray Charles

“God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys

“More Than You Know” by Mel Torme

“O Death” by Ralph Stanley

“Down Together” by The Refreshments

A Concert Full of Pet Peeves

15 Jun

Many of you know that I am a concert fanatic. The genre of music does not really matter. I just like to hear it live. Through the years, this fanaticism has created a lot of experiences. Great concerts. Bad concerts. Great venues. Bad venues. This, by no means, makes me a concert expert. However, I know a bad one when I see one. Heck, I even wrote an open letter to Madonna about the disaster that she called a concert.

I write all of that to write the following. This week, my wife and I saw a bad concert. In fact, it hit on a bunch of our concert pet peeves.

Ann Wilson of Heart was the performer. Actually, that is what the ticket said. Ann Wilson of Heart. While that was technically true, the ticket was sort of false advertising. More on that in a minute, we have to get to the list of badness.

The “We Love You” Fans – Everyone gets excited for concerts, and this excitement grows when the performer is one of your all time favorites. I understand this. Heck, that is why I like concerts. However, I have never yelled “We Love You” to a performer.

Here is how it usually goes. A song is over. The performer takes time to talk to the audience. Then it happens. “We Love You, Ann Wilson!” Some performers respond. Some performers ignore it. I am not sure which approach is best, but Ann Wilson chose the second option. The woman behind us could not get enough, and yelled it consistently throughout the show.

What causes people to do this? Once may be fine. You are expressing your adoration. You want the performer to know how much you care and how happy you are that they chose your city for a concert. However, the continuation has to mean something else. It has to mean that the “We Love You” person wants the performer to acknowledge them. Say “I Love You, Too” and let that person know that they care just as much.

It could mean that they want a personal connection. This performer is an important part of their existence, and they want to be a part of the performer’s existence. There should be a psychological study on the “We Love You” people. No matter the psychosis, please stop yelling. Ann knows you love her. We know you love her. Guess what, none of us care. Just listen to the music.

Wait, the music. That is the next pet peeve that this concert was able to accomplish.

Play the Jukebox – Several years ago, I saw Elton John in concert. After playing a few new songs, he told the crowd not to worry. He was going to play the jukebox. He meant that he was going to play all of the old hits that made him famous. Those were the same hits that people bought tickets to hear.

I know that performers want to stay creative. They want to show people that they can still produce great stuff. However, they need to understand that people want to hear the old songs. They want the music to take them back in time. Ann Wilson does not understand this. Over a two-hour show, she sang three songs from Heart. Those songs would have gotten people out of their seats. Instead, they sat there and listened to songs that they did not want to hear. Even the “We Love You” crowd just sat in their chairs.

Here is another weird thing. She did not sing that many new songs. She sang a bunch of old songs that other people recorded. Elvis Presley. Jimi Hendrix. The Who. Buffalo Springfield. This list goes on and on. Hey Ann, if you are going to sing old songs, then you may as well sing your own. I left there thinking that she has created a glorified cover band.

Ann Wilson has a great voice, and she showed it off. However, we wanted to hear that voice sing songs like:

“Magic Man”

“Dog and Butterfly”

“Dreamboat Annie”

Other songs can be sprinkled in, but the songs that made her famous should have been at the heart (pun intended) of the show. As I wrote earlier, the ticket said Ann Wilson of Heart. It did not say Ann Wilson Who Is Trying To Separate Herself From What Made Her Famous.

Although, I did notice a trend in some of the songs she chose, and that leads me to the next pet peeve.

Politics on Stage – I go to concerts to be entertained. I go to concerts to escape the world for a while. This means escaping politics. However, Ann Wilson wanted to get political. She started talking about the political landscape and how she wanted to relieve us of our confusion. That is really not her role. Her role is to sing “Barracuda.”

Instead, she sang protest songs from the late 1960s and early 1970s and was subliminally telling us how relevant they are today.

I teach a class on the History of Rock and understand that artists have always wanted to make statements with many of their songs. However, I do not need an aging rocker telling me how I should feel about politics. I have seen Ted Nugent in concert and did not want to hear it from him. Now, I have seen Ann Wilson in concert and did not want to hear it from her.

If I want to hear about politics, then I can get on Twitter or turn on some news channel. When I go to a concert, I do not want to hear someone’s opinion that is no more important than my own. I want to hear some great music.

I did not yell my advice to the stage in between the “We Love You” shouts. However, I will give it now. Ann Wilson should understand that she will always be Ann Wilson of Heart and people purchase tickets to hear those songs. If she did, then maybe the venue would actually be full. Oh yeah, those people yelling “We Love You” would probably love you more.

A Musical Story About Georgia

11 Jun

My wife had to go to Atlanta for business, so we drove down for an overnight stay. On the way back, I started thinking about songs with Georgia in their titles. This post is the result of the string of ideas that my mind put together. As you can tell, strange things run through my brain when I am driving.

Ray Charles called Jim Croce and said, “I’ve got Georgia on My Mind.” Jim replied, “Let’s start Walkin’ Back to Georgia.” As they walked down the road, Gladys Knight and the Pips passed on their way to the station. She yelled out of the window, “We’re taking the Midnight Train to Georgia. You guys should come with us.”

Ray and Jim jumped into the car with Gladys and the Pips. Before boarding the train, Gladys got a text from Brook Benton saying that it was a Rainy Night in Georgia. Despite the news, they still wanted to go. However, things would get worse.

When they disembarked, the station was totally dark. People were scrambling. Then, they ran into Vicki Lawrence who told them the bad news. This was The Night That the Lights Went Out in Georgia. Nobody knew what happened. The lights just went out. It was almost supernatural.

Suddenly, a bell sounded throughout the station. Someone spoke through a megaphone. The voice sounded familiar.

Ladies and gentlemen, please do not be alarmed. We are working on the lights, and we have discovered the problem. The Devil Went Down to Georgia and blew out all of the transformers.

They looked up and saw Charlie Daniels assuring people that everything would be alright.

With nothing else to do, Ray, Jim, Gladys and the Pips sat on benches, and someone finally asked Ray an important question. Why did you want to come to Georgia? He simply answered that he wanted to meet up with Sweet Georgia Brown.

A Few Students of Castle Heights Military Academy

9 Jun

From 1902 to 1986, our city was home to Castle Heights Military Academy, a school that attracted students from all over the world. Those of us who have been around for a while have heard a bunch of stories about the school. The rivalry between the cadets and the local guys. The great athletic teams. The people who received a great education within its halls. One day, I will write about those stories. However, this is story is about a few students who made an impact.

Many of the Castle Heights cadets went on the great success, and a few of them went on to a level of fame.

Pete Rademacher won the heavyweight boxing gold medal at the 1956 Olympics. He made his professional debut by fighting Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title. As far as I know, it is the only time that someone had a shot at the belt in their first fight.

General Wesley Clark, who ran for president in 2004, also attended the school.

Danny Evins, the founder of Cracker Barrel, went to Castle Heights and was one of its major benefactors for many years.

Heck, Benito Mussolini even sent some young men to Castle Heights before the outbreak of World War II. I have seen a photograph of the Rotary dinner that was held in their honor.

However, two brothers who attended Castle Heights rose to greater fame than any of those. They altered the course of music history and, as a result, became iconic figures. One of them passed away in 1971 at the height of his fame. The other passed away just a few days ago.

It is difficult to imagine them wearing the uniforms of Castle Heights cadets, but Duane and Gregg Allman did just that. Up above is a picture of Gregg as proof.