On Being Alcohol Proof

The first time alcohol touched my body was when I was quite young. My mother took a swab of cotton, dunked it ever so slightly into a bottle of rubbing alcohol and applied it to a scrape on my knee. I screamed like the dickens and gave her a look like “why are you trying to kill me?” The cure was worse than the malady. At the time, I made a mental note to try to avoid in the future anything that had to do with alcohol. I guess you can say I made myself alcohol proof.
Continue reading “On Being Alcohol Proof”

Radio Nights

By Larry Teren

 

My dad gave me a pocket transistor radio with an earphone in the very early 1960’s. I had eclectic tastes even then. Depending on the mood or what was available, I would listen to Dick Biondi spin rock and roll records on WLS or Franklin MacCormack and his “All Night Meister Brau Showcase” on WGN. If the Chicago Cubs were on the road, especially a West Coast night game in Los Angeles or San Francisco, I’d be sure to listen in on the broadcast.

There was something cool about listening with the earphone plugged in even though there was no one else in the bedroom to disturb. I’m sure I fell asleep countless times this way only to wake up with the earphone somehow laying under the pillow.     Continue reading “Radio Nights”

The Three Stooges

Living down the block from school as a kid in the late 1950’s and early 60’s enabled me to come home early enough to catch some quality afternoon tv for children. This was before the era of do-gooders trying to offer diversity-based educational stuff like The Electric Company or Sesame Street. We did have early education staples such as Ding Dong School with Miss Frances and Romper Room (“I see Jimmy and Mary and Bobby”) but a lot of it was electronic babysitting.
Continue reading “The Three Stooges”

Fat As A Fiddle

With wisdom comes age. Now, I know you think that it’s the other way around but it makes more sense my way. At least, the smarter I get, the less it does me any good.

Take doing exercise. In my youth, I played all the seasonal ballgames outdoors for a couple of hours at a time and did not feel tired out or end up complaining about injuries. In my twenties, I played softball, basketball and volleyball and did not get winded. I broke a bone or two but it didn’t stop me from getting around.

All that sweating and physical abuse didn’t protect me from shifting body weight thirty years later. I was not much of a jogger as I have flat feet but I used to do an acceptable double time. The hop, skip and a jump over the years dragged down to a slow waltz.
Continue reading “Fat As A Fiddle”

Jack Benny and Dad

jack bennyJack Benny was in the top five of all-time show business personalities. As a kid in the late 1950’s and early 60’s , I watched his tv show and laughed like everyone else. Jack was beloved by all his peers which is unusual in a competitive world. His stage persona was that of a vain cheapskate. This was a scriptwriter’s dream and it did him well for close to sixty years. He died in 1974 at the age of eighty after pretending to be 39 for so many years.

My father celebrated his own eightieth birthday in October, 2002 by falling down and breaking both ankles. He had just left his car and had walked up the stairs to his townhouse. Once inside, he tripped in the foyer and that was that. Somehow my mother helped him into a chair and she called me to come over. I did and it was in the late evening time. A private ambulance service brought him to the hospital of choice. We waited in the emergency area and by 11pm the doctors had done their thing. They bandaged him up as best as possible and told me to take him home.
Continue reading “Jack Benny and Dad”

History Is For People Who Live In The Past

My editor, an unnamed relative, says that History is for those who want to live in the past so I should write in the past- that is, past tense. My brother, I mean editor, doesn’t like me using what is called historical present when I do my storytelling. I ask him if he ever hears of Damon Runyon as the guy has made quite a living doing just that. He then throws out names like Saroyan, Benchley, Thurber and Perlman and said that they never wrote in such a mixed up way. So I tell him I am writing in the vernacular. He said it is more like the vehicular- with all my run-on thoughts.
Continue reading “History Is For People Who Live In The Past”

Going To The Movies

In the 60’s, I grew up in Austin on the far West Side of Chicago. We had the State Theater on Madison Street a couple of blocks east of Austin, the border line that separated us from The Village of Oak Park.

The Marlboro Theater was located two and a half miles east at 4110 W. Madison. It was twice the size of the State. The Marlboro opened in 1927 two years before The Depression and radio cut into film attendance as the main form of entertainment. It had a capacity of four thousand seats which was very difficult to fill even half way when television burst onto the scene in the late 1940’s.

By 1963, there were probably more rodents in the building than people watching movies. Still, I recall that going to the Marlboro meant I was going to see a classy, first-run film. After a series of arrests made by the police due to gang activity on the premises, the theater closed for good and was torn down a year later in 1964.

Between these two places was the Byrd Theater on the 4700 block of Madison, just east of the corner at Cicero. It was much smaller than the Marlboro but it became a safer alternative to go see a movie as the neighborhood east of it changed. Uncle Henry took me there to see two films- John Wayne’s Comancheros and a maudlin 1958 Disney film for kids called Old Yeller. Like all the other kids, I cried near the end at the appropriate moments. Uncle Henry as usual bought me pop corn and pop, sat next to me and proceeded to fall asleep. He always seemed, though, to know when the movie was over.

Dad took me to see second-run movies at the Central Park Theater, on the 3500 block of Roosevelt Road. There was a double bill of Robert Taylor swashbuckler movies. One title I remember was Ivanhoe. Seeing a movie in vivid color in the the late 50’s or early 60’s was breathtaking as television at home was dull black and white. I would ask Dad to explain what was happening on screen but he ignored me.

Another time, he took me to a double bill of Marx Brother movies- A Day at the Races and A Night at the Opera. It was the first time I was exposed to their humor and was in awe from then on.

By the mid 1960’s I was old enough to go to the State Theater with friends unchaperoned. The Men’s washroom was on the second floor and required walking up a steep narrow winding stairway. Groups of greasers would hang out there hogging the space by the washing sinks in front of the mirror combing back their oily hair. I’m sure these guys are all bald now.

One time I went with my older sister to see a flick called Experiment in Terror. We had no advance idea of what the movie was about other than it starred Glenn Ford. We figured it had to be a comedy, romance or western. It was, instead, a thriller. Once they took our money, I knew there was no way the manager was going to give it back to kids unaccompanied by an adult. We just hoped that the second half of the double feature was better.

One time my buddy Perry and I showed a little moxie (or stupidity based on your perspective). We rode our bikes south to the Olympic Theater in suburban Cicero. It was a block west of Austin Boulevard on Cermak, That was a three mile ride in each direction all on busy streets. Imagine today leaving a bike chained to a light post in front of a storefront today for a few hours. But they were there when we came back out.

In high school, I took a course in American Government and Politics (as if the two didn’t go hand in hand?). One time, our teacher announced that she was looking for volunteers to attend downtown in the Loop a series of Council on Foreign Relations meetings. The sessions were by invitation and students were encouraged to witness the political harangues. I was the only student to raise a hand so I went.

The first meeting was held in the Palmer House Hotel in the Chicago Loop. It was over around 2pm and I figured that I could not get back to the far north side and school until at least 3pm. So, why bother to go back? After all, I deserved a reward for taking good notes to present later in class.

I walked down State Street going north past Washington and noticed the movies listed on two Marquees. On the east side of the street was the Chicago Theater showing a movie called Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. It starred Paul Newman and somebody named Robert Redford. I couldn’t imagine good old Paul as a cowboy even though he had played a left handed Billy The Kid earlier in his film career. On the west side of the street, where I was strolling, was The Undefeated at the State Lake with John Wayne and Rock Hudson. Naturally, I chose the more manly western and got back to school for the last class which started about 4:45pm.

Not long after, the Newman picture went on to become a cult classic and Redford becomes ensconced as a bona fide star. The John Wayne was another in a series of turkeys late in his career before “True Grit”.

I pick baseball pennant winners much better than I do Oscar worthy films. It’s a cinch. Every year, I go with the Cubs.

There She Went Miss America

I used to watch The Miss America as well as the Miss Universe beauty contests as a kid in the late 1950’s and throughout the 60’s. The Miss America contest would appear in the late summer and the entire family would look forward to it. It was a tv ratings blockbuster. I was too young and innocent to think much about the lure of seeing good looking women in bathing suits. As everyone else, it was a matter of pride hoping that the representative from my state of Illinois would win. There’d also be the endless wait for the moment Bert Parks would sing the signature song “Here She Is….”. And le’ts not forget the time-wasting Toni Home Permament commercials.
Continue reading “There She Went Miss America”

Marilyn Monroe – Still an American Icon?

By Larry Teren

Back in the 1950’s and very early 1960’s, Marilyn Monroe was the reigning sex goddess and became an American icon. She was more than just someone whose picture had staples coming out of its navel as the centerfold in a girlie magazine. She could sing and act. At least, I think she could sing. That was her singing in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as well as Bus Stop, right? And she did justice to Happy Birthday at President Kennedy’s bash.

Although a method actress, she was equally adept at comedy as well as drama. More than just a pretty face in Niagara, she held her own with Joseph Cotten. And she liked to be wed to educated and talented guys such as Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio. She was a most beautiful creature who earned her keep. Yet, her talent and adoring fans could not keep her away from the pitfalls of fame. She died for her own sins.
Continue reading “Marilyn Monroe – Still an American Icon?”

Searching For Truth on Wikipedia and Google

As a kid if I wanted more than a simple answer on a particular subject matter, I was told, “go look it up in the encyclopedia. That’s why we spent the money on it.” So I pulled out the World Book Encyclopedia and rifled through page after page until I found what I needed to know.

I’m guessing that nowadays encyclopedia publishers have been put out of business by online fact treasure houses such as Wikipedia. Why bother to open a ten pound, five hundred page tome when you can type into a search engine input box a phrase of choice and get back several pages of results. More often than not, near the top of the results listing will be a link to Wikipedia.

What has happened, though, with instant online accessibility is that, as Jimmy Durante used to say, “everybody wants to get into act.” Besides an official-looking blurb from a prestige or reputable site, there will be several other links offering their take on the issue at hand. When you click on some of the links you find that they don’t always offer as promised.
Continue reading “Searching For Truth on Wikipedia and Google”