Thursday, November 24, 2016

Recipes and Radio: Cooking with Don Ameche & Elgin Watch (Thanksgiving Old Time Radio)

My sixth entry of Recipes and Radio in honor of Thanksgiving.  This has been fun to work on, I hope you have enjoyed it.  First, the recipe for a side I have not made in a number of years -  Holiday Red Cabbage and Chestnuts.

Holiday Red Cabbage and Chestnuts

Red cabbage and chestnuts is a recipe I got from my mom.  This is really an old family recipe that we have had forever.  I did not like it so much as a kid, but I loved it the last time I made it - but it is not a dish that everyone loved. Please note that this recipe makes a ton - freeze part of it since you will never eat it all.  Click here for the recipe.

And now the radio show!  This is one of my all-time favorites.  Because it is a two hour program, it is never on Greg Bell's Old time radio channel on Sirius/XM Radio (#148).  But this is simply one of the best recording we have from the Golden Age of Radio.

One of the really cool shows I discovered a few years ago are the Elgin Seasonal Specials for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the 1940s. The shows were sponsored by the Elgin Watch Company of Elgin, Illinois. Starting in 1942 for the soldiers overseas, the Elgin Holiday Specials were two hour programs that featured the brightest stars in radio and the movies. Heard on these programs is Bing Crosby, Mario Landa, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope and were all hosted by Don Ameche. These shows are a combination of songs, skits and other performances that capture the best of radio.  The Internet Archives has five total shows (see the link below). Also, given that the program runs 2 hours, Greg Bell does not schedule them on Radio Classics.  So that means if we are going to listen to these great programs, we need to be a bit more proactive!

 Here is a link right to the two Elgin Thanksgiving Holiday Shows on the Internet Archive:

Elgin's 6th Annual Thanksgiving Show (November 27, 1947)
Elgin Thanksgiving Day Greeting To America. November 27, 1947. CBS net, KQW, San Jose aircheck. Sponsored by: Elgin Watches. "The Sixth Annual Elgin Thanksgiving Day Greeting To America." The first tune is, "It's A Grand Night For Singing." Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore perform together for the first time "since getting shows of their own." "News Scoops From Hollywood," Candy Candido appears as "Mr. Ripple." Fifteen-year-old Mary Jane Smith sings. Sir Lancelot sings a calypso watch commercial! Larry Storch does impersonations. Margaret Whiting and Vera Vague join Jimmy Durante singing a clever original parody about a possible woman president (to the tune of "Feudin', Fightin' and Fussin'"). The Page Cavanaugh Trio sings a delightful Elgin commercial to the tune of, "The Lady From Twentynine Palms." Bob Sweeney and Hal March drive to the studio (don't ask them what an "Oh, For Goodness Sakes" sandwich is). The winners of the SPEBQSA competition sing barbershop harmonies. Yehudi Menuhin plays "Habanera" by Sarasate (accompanied by his sister on the violin). He then plays a duet with another violinist...Jack Benny! Artie Auerbach does an Elgin commercial as, "Mr. Kitzel. Cathy and Elliott Lewis are featured in a well-written story about a housewife's last day. Good radio! "A Child's Thanksgiving" features Red Skelton as, "Junior, The Mean Widdle Kid." After he says grace, Clem Kaddiddlehopper finds himself in one of the Elgin watch commercials! Allan Jones, Louis Silvers and His Orchestra, Jimmy Durante, Garry Moore, Candy Candido, Mary Jane Smith, Sir Lancelot, Larry Storch, Margaret Whiting, Barbara Jo Allen, The Page Cavanaugh Trio, Al Viola, Bob Sweeney, Don Ameche (host), Ken Carpenter (announcer), Hal March, The Doctors Of Harmony, Yehudi Menuhin, Jack Benny, Artie Auerbach, Betty Wright (writer), Cathy Lewis, Elliott Lewis, Red Skelton, Verna Felton, Lurene Tuttle, Pat McGeehan. 1:59:31. Audio condition: Excellent. Complete. (Line-up from the Radio GOLDINdex)
In the review from Variety (December 3, 1947), they said:

Twice a year - Thanksgiving and Christmas - CBS, through the good graces of Elgin Watch Co., wraps up a good chuck of the talent market for the brace of two-hour holiday air shows that have been taking on something of an institutional character.  
They vary but little in format and showcasing of topflight air talent-even down to the year-in-year out emcee reprise by Don Ameche - but it's becoming as habit-forming as the traditional Turkey Day dinner.  And in terms of brightening up the late afternoon holiday kilocycles, it still rates the No. 1 spot for its relaxing payoff as a stuffed-belly antidote. 

Elgin's 7th Annual Thanksgiving Show (November 25, 1948)
Elgin Thanksgiving Day Greeting To America. November 25, 1948. NBC net. Sponsored by: Elgin Watches. "The seventh Annual Thanksgiving Day Greeting To America." The first tune is, "Cosi, Cosa." Dean Martin is introduced as a promising "newcomer" and "a star of tomorrow." Don Ameche (host), Mario Lanza, Garry Moore, Jimmy Durante, The Mills Brothers, Barbara Jo Allen (as "Vera Vague"), Andre Previn, Bob Hopkins, Jack Benny, Frances Langford, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Red Skelton, The Elgin Orchestra, Robert Armbruster (conductor), Ken Carpenter (announcer), Earl Levy (producer), John Christ (producer), Ed Helwig (writing supervisor), Frank Nelson, Artie Auerbach, Lurene Tuttle, Verna Felton. 1:58:54. Audio condition: Very good to excellent. Complete. (Line-up from the Radio GOLDINdex)
In the review from Variety (December 1, 1948), they said:

Switching networks after six straight years with CBS, Elgin splurged its annual Thanksgiving Day layout on NBC this year, but otherwise maintained the trappings traditionally associated with this show.  Foremost among this show's traditions is its corralling of the best-known and highest-priced talent available to serve up as dessert to the nation's turkey diners.  This year is was still a dazzling array by all normal standards.
Back at his regular stand in this event, Don Ameche, as emcee, played traffic cop to the procession of stars with his accoustomed polish and aplomb.  Lacking in this setup, however, was a deeper continutiy which would have tied the various items around a central theme instead of having it run off as a straight variety program.  But even if there were no grand overall plan, the individual performances were solid enough to carry dialers for the full 120 minutes.  
They later pointed out the success and stand-out performance by newcomers Martin and Lewis (yep - Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis).

In June of 1949, Variety reported that Elgin was pulling the plug on their holiday shows (June 15, 1949):

Elgin Watch is pulling out of the annual NBC two-hour holiday shows Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, in the face of poor business conditions and unavailability of top talent.  
Shows last year cost Elgin an estimated $100,000 each, of which $26,000 went for network time and $60,000 for talent.  First program to get the axe was the Christmas package, which was aimed at coaxing recipents of gift certificates into post-holiday buying of timepieces.  Last year's January business, however, was reportedly so far from expectations that the watch company figured it has a white elephant on its hand.  J. Walter Thomson agency made a fight to save the plum, with no luck.   
NOTE: For the record, the $100,000 in 1948 would be just over $1 million dollars today.
In my house, I do much of the cooking and so I love to have these old programs playing in the kitchen.  This year, we are over at the in-laws, but we are making sides at our house.  So you can be sure that on Thanksgiving morning, I will be cleaning, cutting, cooking, etc. with Don Ameche and friends providing the entertainment and encouragement!  

Here are additional Thanksgiving themed shows available on the Internet Archive:
        Recipes and Radio Episodes and Other Links

        Other Old Time Radio Series by Corey

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