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

        Wednesday, November 23, 2016

        Recipes and Radio: Dreaming of Turkey with Jack Benny (Thanksgiving Old Time Radio)

        My fifth entry of Recipes and Radio in honor of Thanksgiving.  First, the recipe for the center piece of almost any Thanksgiving meal - the turkey!

        164/365/1625 (November 22, 2012) - Roasted Turkey

        We have been following this receipe for turkey for a number of years and I love how it turned out.  This was adapted from a recipe from Food Network and one from the Longaberger Cookbook (yep...the basket people).  The trick is to baste it all the time (maybe ever 20 minutes) to make sure that it is nice and tender.  Follow this link for the recipe.

        The Jack Benny Program was a national treasure and it is great that we have so many recordings.  Staring in the show was Jack Benny, a vaudeville performer who seemed to hit it big over the airways.  Mary Livingstone played second fiddle (no pun intended) to her real life husband.  She apparently had horrible stage fright, but hardly shows it as the straight person to many of Jack Benny's jokes.  Eddie Anderson played Rochester, Jack's valet and chauffeur.  He was one of the earliest African-Americans on mainstream radio and was one of the most loved characters on the show.  Don Wilson was the show announcer and did the commercials.  He was the constant butt of jokes, primarily about his weight.  Irish Tenor Dennis Day (who was on the 1948 show) also had a show of his own.  Besides being a 'dim bulb' in all the skits, he also sang a song on every episode.  Phil Harris (who also had a show of his own) was the bandleader and the joker on the show.  His real wife, Alice Faye would join him on the show as well.  The last big name was Mel Blanc (of Bugs Bunny fame).  Blanc (who ALSO had his own show) was one of the most famous character actors to play on the Jack Benny Show.  He is very commonly the floorwalkers for the Christmas episodes.

        The shows are chock full of laughs, funny stories, corny jokes and great music. There are many, many Thanksgiving episodes to draw from, but I like the episode from November 21, 1943. The episode starts with Jack and Mary shopping for Thanksgiving dinner a few days before the holidays. After haggling over the cost of the dressed turkeys, he decided to buy a live one. But as you might imagine, Jack grew attached to the centerpiece of his planned Thanksgiving meal.  Jack's attachment to the turkey clearly had an impact on his subconscious as he dreamed he was a turkey!  The episode features Dennis Day (who sings "Say a Prayer for the Boys Over There"), Don Wilson, John Brown, Minerva Pious, and Frank Nelson.

        Here are some links to programs relating to Jack Benny:
            Recipes and Radio Episodes and Other Links

            Tuesday, November 22, 2016

            Recipes and Radio: Great Gildersleeve's Servicemen for Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving Old Time Radio)

            My fourth entry of Recipes and Radio in honor of Thanksgiving.  First, the recipe for a great carrot side dish perfect for any wintertime meal.

            Sauteed Carrots with Sage

            I loved cooked carrots and this is my all-time favorite recipe.  It is very simple to make and it is a perfect complement to any big meal like Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter.  But it is easy enough to make any time of the year.  And be sure to use butter when making this - even though our show today is sponsored by Parkay Margerine! Follow this link for the recipe.

            The Great Gildersleeve is not only a great radio comedy, it has two aspects that really makes it a series way ahead of their time.  First, it was a spin-off program, having had its main character originally on a different series.  In this instance, the main character of Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve was originally on the Fibber McGee and Molly show. According to the Wikipedia entry (please see the link below), the character was introduced on October 3, 1939 (my birthday - not year!).  The Great Gildersleeve debuted on the NBC Network on August 31, 1941.  Second, the actor to play Gildersleeve (or Gildy) was replaced after a contract dispute.  Harold Peary originated the role and played Gildy until a contract dispute moved him off the show.  He was replaced by Willard Waterman in September 1950. Harold Peary would star in the The Harold Peary Show, often known as Honest Harold.

            The Great Gildersleeve is the story of Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve - played by Harold Peary.  Gildy is the self-important Water Commissioner in their town of Summerfield.  A bachelor who was constantly on the look for that someone special, he lived in a house with his niece, Marjorie (played by radio great Lurene Tuttle) and nephew, Leroy (played by child voice star Walter Tetley).  They are joined by Birdie (played by Lillian Randolph) as housekeeper and cook at the home.  She is one of the more prominent African-American voice actors from these days of radio programming.  One of Gildy's great nemeses is Judge Hooker, who plays a nearly constant foil for whatever they are trying to do.  I have gone hot and cold on Gildersleeve over the years, but the more I listen to these episodes, the more I like them.  I love hearing the Kraft ads (from the early years) and I am trying to listen to more of them.

            With this long-running show, there are numerous Thanksgiving episodes to choose from.  I am selecting on from the few weeks before the United States entered World War II (after the attack at Pearl Harbor).  On November 16, 1941, Gildersleeve's show was called Servicemen for Thanksgiving and it touches upon the generosity that often embraces us during the holidays.  When it is discovered that the 32nd Regiment of the Army is going to be in Summerville for Thanksgiving, the 1000 servicemen needed a place for Thanksgiving.  It was suggested that each family could take in one soldier to give them a family to share for Thanksgiving.  Gildy wants to make sure that it is a great holiday for all these young men.  First, his niece Marjorie suggests adding a second turkey and inviting not one, but 8 soldiers!  Second, Gildersleeve gets on the radio to let everyone in town know how they can help.  And while its certainly a happy holiday for these soldiers, it is not exactly as Gildersleeve had imagined!  Joining Harold Peary in this episode was Earle Ross, Hans Conried, Lillian Randolph, Lurene Tuttle, and Walter Tetley.
              Recipes and Radio Episodes and Other Links

              Monday, November 21, 2016

              Recipes and Radio: Mel Blanc's Thanksgiving Party (Thanksgiving Old Time Radio)

              My third entry of Recipes and Radio in honor of Thanksgiving.  First, the recipe (and it's not for a Thanksgiving salami)!

              Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce

              Cranberry sauce is a staple for the holidays.  For many years, we just used canned sauce, which I still like.  But a few years ago, we tried to make it at home and it was very easy.  You make it a few days in advance and chill it unit Thanksgiving.  When your guests notice no lines on the cranberry sauch, it will be a win for you!  Oh, and I love the taste for sure.  Follow this link for the recipe.

              Now, about the Mel Blanc Show.  Mel Blanc has been a regular on The Jack Benny Show and many others when you needed many voices covered.  This served him well with all the voices he did for Warner Brothers and their Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig cartoons.  In September 1946, he aired the first episode of the Mel Blanc Show.  It was sponsored by Colgate Tooth Powder and ran for one year (only 42 episodes).  The show itself was a formulaic radio comedy - but I think it worked very well with Mel Blanc's wide range of characters.

              The show stared Mel Blanc who was the owner of the aptly named 'Mel Blanc's Fix-It Shop,' He had a handyman named Zooky (also voiced by Blanc) who stuttered to no end.  Other characters in the show include his sweetheart and fiance was Betty Colby (Mary Jane Croft), her father (played by Joseph Kearns) and many others.  Besides the Fix-it Show and Mr. Colby's store, many of the scenes focused on the lodge Mel was a member of, The Benevolent Order of Loyal Zebras.  Their password when leaving the company of another Zebra was "Ugga Ugga Boo Ugga Boo Boo Ugga." It all creates a sweet world where comedy lives large. The funny thing is to hear Joseph Kearns in a comedy - something that he normally does do.

              As the show only ran one season, there is only on Thanksgiving show to share, but it is quite enjoyable.  The focus of the episode is that Mel is trying to get in good graces with Betty's father (Mr. Colby) on the night before Thanksgiving.  And while he did not have the traditional turkey, he had all the traditional accompanyments.  And at the center of the meal, a lovely Thanksgiving salami!  Mr. Colby did not approve of the change in the traditional menu.  But that is the least of Mel's problems as an employee of Mr. Colby's store makes a play for Betty!  But as is often the case, the story ends with a happy ending, wrapped up in only 30 minutes.  And when you find out there a good reason why there is a salami at the center of the table, you realize the true meaning of Thanksgiving.  This episode also include Hans Conried, The Sportsmen and Victor Miller and His Orchestra.  

              Here are some links to programs relating to The Mel Blanc Show:
              Recipes and Radio Episodes and Other Links

              Sunday, November 20, 2016

              Recipes and Radio: Us Pilgrims from Cavalcade of America (Thanksgiving Old Time Radio)

              My second entry of Recipes and Radio in honor of Thanksgiving.  First, the recipe!

              Red-Skinned & Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

              We don't normally make mashed potatoes from scratch, but these were not that hard and came out great.  But you often want to do something big for Thanksgiving.  These are a great addition to any big holiday meal. Follow this link for the recipe.

              And now the radio program.  This is a great episode from Cavalcade that frames the first Thanksgiving as it might have been told by immigrants coming to the United States in the 1940s.   The Cavalcade of America is a great series sponsored by DuPont.  The purpose of the program has been one of great study and I am definitely glad that I have a few episodes to talk about it.  The long-running show ran from 1935 to 1953 and then had a second life on television.  Starting first on the CBS Network, it moved to NBC in 1939.  This 30 minute program provided a great platform to showcase some of the lesser known incidents and people who made the country great.  Not only was this series a great source of historical dramas, there were numerous fictional stories brought in as well.  From the Internet Archive page (see link below),  "The company's motto, 'Maker of better things for better living through chemistry,' was read at the beginning of each program, and the dramas emphasized humanitarian progress, particularly improvements in the lives of women, often through technological innovation."  The series also sought out to bring attention to the contributions of businesses in the growth of America.

              With its focus on the history of the United States, there were a number of different programs focused on Thanksgiving and its role in American culture.  On November 24, 1947, Cavalcade presented "Us Pilgrims". This episode is set in an adult education class where immigrants to the United States were learning to speak and write English to pass the citizenship test.  The discussion in the class turned to Thanksgiving and they were asked how they thought the first one came about.  While playing for laughs (much like the series Life with Luigi), it did continually come back to the United States as a bastion for those seeking religious freedom in the world.  And as they gathered for their first Thanksgiving meal, they shared a prayer before they ate.

              God.  Us Pilgrims want to thank you for everything.  For this turkey, and cranberries, and all good things you let us grow.  Thank you for bringing us from all countries to USA.  Thank you for we can pray here, and work, and build something fine, and be free men.  And may there always be room here for other pilgrims like us.  Amen.  Thank you.
              These are words that are very beautiful and touching today as they were when first delivered in 1947. This episode starred George Tobias, Mercedes McCambridge, Ralph Bell, Dan Ocko, Mildred Clinton, Peter Capell, Rolly Bester, Murray Forbes, and Louis Sorin.  The script was written by Frank Gabrielson and both produced and directed by Jack Zoller. Two years later (on November 22, 1949), they reused the script.

              Us Pilgrims (November 24, 1947)

              Saturday, November 19, 2016

              Recipes and Radio: Cause for Thanksgiving with Let George Do It (Thanksgiving Old Time Radio)

              It has been a long time since I have come out with a new blog entry.  Thought I would do a short series and highlight some great Thanksgiving episodes of old time radio.  I will even connect these with a link to a recipe for something we cook for the holidays.  We are hosting Thanksgiving this year and it is one of my favorite holidays of the year - especially since I love to cook!

              Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes & Cranberries

              This wonderful side dish has been a staple in our Thanksgivings for a number of years.  I love this for a variety of reasons.  First, it is very easy.  Second, I love the matching of the sweet potatoes with apples and cranberries.  Third, since oven and burner space is at a premium at Thanksgiving, it is great to have a dish which takes up neither!   It takes just a few minutes to get rolling and it will cook all day without using a burner. What a great meal that is perfect for Thanksgiving - but really nice with any winter meal. Follow this link for the recipe.

              Let George Do It is a radio drama that played on the West Coast of the United States. It was aired over the Don Lee-Mutual Network and sponsored by Standard Oil of California and later by Chevron Supreme Gasoline.  You might think of it as a poor-man's Whistler...if you can.  The series stared Bob Bailey as George Valentine, a former GI who did odd jobs, but of a special variety.  He was less of a handyman, than a man who was very handy to get you out of a situation.  Most of the messages stated off with Bob Bailey saying "Personal notice: Danger's my stock in trade. If the job's too tough for you to handle, you've got a job for me. George Valentine."  The next thing you heard was the letter that was sent into to George.  It reminded me of Box 13 (staring Alan Ladd), which is one of my favorite series.  George Valentine was accompanied on his work by his secretary, confidant, companion and quasi-partner, Brooksie (full name Claire Brooks).  Brooksie was played by a number of actresses, but most my favorite was Virginia Gregg.  When you hear the confidence that Bob Bailey provides George Valentine, you can see why he was the very best Johnny Dollar actor who ever took over that part.

              On November 20th, 1950, the episode "Cause for Thanksgiving" aired over the Don Lee-Mutual Network.  These programs often start with a letter written to George Valentine explaining the problem they are hoping to solve.  This one started with a call from the police to George explaining that they discovered a ten-year-old boy down by the waterfront who isn't talking.  They are not even sure he can talk.  Even when the Police are stumped - they call George Valentine.  So right before Thanksgiving, when a kid should be with their families, George and Brooksie search for answers in the toughest part of town.  What they find includes smuggling, murder, and a child who isn't talking because he does not want to give away his hopes for a better life in America.  Besides Bob Bailey and Virginia Gregg, the show featured Wally Waher, Alan Reed, Dick Ryan, Tony Barrett, Jeffrey Silver and Steven Chase.  It was written by Jackson Gillis and David Victor and directed by Don Clark.

              Cause for Thanksgiving (November 20, 1950)

              This is a fun series and I hope you enjoy it!

              Here are some links to programs relating to Let George Do It:
              Recipes and Radio Episodes and Other Links