Memories of Back Home

Another peek behind the scenes of what goes on with the Retro Radio Podcast.

Almost three years ago I went home for the last time. I mean, I went back to the home where I grew up. My mom had been in poor health, and we went to visit her in the hospital, while staying in her house.

The first time I walked through the doors, I remember being barely tall enough to stand at the bathroom sink to brush my teeth, with my chin just reaching high enough to clear the sink. There wasn’t much hope in being able to see my face in the mirror looking back at me, not without standing on the toilet seat. Today I’d have to bend my knees a little just to see the lower part of my face to shave. Over the years, the rooms didn’t noticeably shrink. We had often come home for visits, and the perspective managed to shift slowly. With the dire situation as it now was, thoughts of the house brought on long forgotten memories.

The brick house was less than a thousand square feet, but there was a big yard to play in, and a two car garage for storing bikes, toys, and sometimes even a car. My brother and I soon took over a bedroom in the basement, to let the new editions to the family have the upstairs rooms. For most of my childhood days, and when there weren’t any good programs on TV, or chores to do, we spent on the street, riding bikes.

When riding laps around the same neighborhood streets got a little boring, we would set up ramps. A concrete block or two, and a long 2 by 8 plank, and we were flying our bikes over ditches, over rows of soda bottles, or just over chalked lines on the pavement. Once, and only once, a neighbor kid wanted to join the fun. He didn’t have a bike, so he volunteered to lie on the ground and let us jump over him. Hey, it was his idea. We tried to warn him off. On the first run at the ramp, and just as my front wheel approached it, his mom came running out their front door, screaming at me. Imagine that. I knew how far I could jump. Her kid was in no danger. Somehow that logic didn’t work once I got home to find that his mom had already called my mom.

This time, the visit home was different. Mom’s ordeal in the hospital rapidly grew more serious, and the short weekend trip stretched into most of the week. By day, we spent the time at her bedside in the ICU, waiting for her to beat the battle that was raging in her body. At night, we’d go home long enough to freshen up, and try to get some sleep. Days stretched into a few weeks. Barely realizing it, the months changed, and then Summer had slowly changed to Fall.

Memories of growing up in that house were shared: The Christmas when we got the model train set. We ran it on the kitchen table all day, forcing mom to forego making lunch, and we all just ate the candy and stuff from our stockings. She eventually made us take it all down so she could make a proper dinner. Who could forget the time my brother discovered how to climb on top of the garage, or the time we spun my little brother around the big cottonwood tree, until he flew off the tire swing, or the time the dog chased a rabbit through a culvert under the road and got himself stuck. The time frames all blurred together. I couldn’t tell when, or how old I was for most of them.

The house is still there, but mom isn’t with us any longer. The time has come to build new memories, and keep on sharing the old ones.

Guilty, but Safe Pleasures

I’ve been challenged to tell about a favorite meal from my childhood. I can’t think of any. Instead, I thought of a special treat. In considering what there was about that tasty treat I enjoyed, so much, I also thought of a treat that I indulged in that can be described in similar ways. Even better since my new treat isn’t fattening, has no harmful cholesterol, sodium, or any side affects to your health. I’m talking about hot, steamy, home made fudge, and the magical world of audio dramas.

Sweet, chocolate goodness, with just the right texture. The ingredients are so simple, but it requires a delicate balance of getting the production just right. For that silky, chocolate, fudge, that meanschocolate chips, marshmallow creme, and a little extra sugar, and butter. For audio drama, it means a story from a writer, and actors who bring characters to life.

The complexity for home made fudge is in getting the temperature right, and keeping it steady for the proper time. A pot that isn’t heavy enough won’t get hot enough. Cooking too cool, or too short makes it sticky and runny. Cooking to hot, or too long dries it out, or it goes to sugar, and become grainy. Audio drama that’s done well needs a delicate balance of audio engineering,sound affects, and stage production.

Both can then be left to cool, set up, cut into little bite sized pieces, and savored over time.

On the podcast, I feature the old radio dramas, comedies, and the like because they’re freely available, and there’s so many of them. There’s a secret treat behind making my sweet, hot pan of fudge. Once the job is done, you get to scrape the pan and enjoy the rich decadence of a rare treat. There’s only a small window of time to enjoy it.Let the pot cool just enough so the residual fudge won’t burn you, but is still plasticc enough to be scraped from the pot, and right into your mouth. Hot, melting in your mouth, creamy and rich. A rare moment that only comes once, and only for the cook and her kitchen helpers.

As much as I enjoy the old productions, it’s a rare treat indeed, when a new audio production source can be found. Hot and exciting, fresh and new. A rare treat that comes with frequencvy that’s too far apart, and more difficult to find.

Lost in the Park, A Fiction

Hey readers and lovers of old time radio, remember that challenge to write something every day that I’m trying to keep up with? Here’s a bit of fiction to stretch my imagination. No OTR stuff today.

Her thoughts drifted as she sat on the park bench, her hands mindlessly busy with her knitting. She was back there again, reliving the last day she saw him. Those dimples and dark brown eyes that melted the hearts of any woman who met him. Heaven help us, he was only 3 years old. What kind of a lady killer might he be in another ten to fifteen years? Myra would have to beat the young girls away with a stick. The thought gave her grin to her moment of sadness. He was there in the department store with her, and then suddenly vanished. The search found nothing; nobody could tell where her little Danny went. It was like he evaporated. Myra always suspected her husband. It couldn’t have been him, he died in a car crash shortly afterward, and if Danny was with him, certainly he would’ve been returned to her. Roy’s family had never liked Myra, thinking she was beneath them. The refused to even acknowledge the marriage and Myra had never met them. She didn’t even know where they lived. The wealthy family had several homes they lived in as the seasons, or mood moved them. If they didn’t want her to find them, she didn’t know how to find them. All the days of her life since then were filled with the hopes that her little Danny would somehow be returned to her. Myra was brought to the real world when she heard footsteps. Could it be? No, it was just a man and woman coming down the path in the park. Her mind went back to her knitting the tiny sweater, for a son she couldn’t find, and humming a tune that she often sang to her little darling.

Sadie was enraptured by Benjamin as they held hands and walked through the park. He loved for who she was, and not for her appearance. She was tired of men at the modeling agency ogling her, and thinking that just because she was beautiful, that they had the right to own a little piece of her. She always had to be on guard to keep from getting involved with someone who was so shallow to only see her on the surface. Benjamin was different. They met on a crowded subway when he surprised her by nearly sitting on her lap; Enraged at the act, Sadie opened her mouth to pour out a few choice words, thinking he was just another pervert who wanted to cop a feel. “Watch it pal, what are you…” her words were cut off, as abruptly as the shutting doors on the train. Her last word came at the same instant reality struck her at the sight of his long white cane. “…blind?” Embarrassment washed over her, and she was suddenly nervous as she back pedaled, and seeking a way to retract her blunder. “Oh… I see that you ar… I mean that…” Benjamin was kind enough to let her off the hook. “I should be the one to say ‘I’m sorry.’ I usually check to see if the seat is empty before sitting, but I guess my timing was a little off when the train lurched forward like it did.” His words had a way of soothing her embarrassment, and soon they were making small talk. Phone numbers were exchanged, and they soon found themselves meeting for dinner, or just hanging out like they were this evening. Sadie had never thought of disabilities before, but the barrier of blindness meant that Benjamin knew her for who she was inside. He wasn’t distracted by how she looked. She knew his admiring words and smile was for her alone, and not for any shallow, cosmetic reasons.

Usually he used his cane to tap his way down the sidewalks of the city, but Sadie’s apartment was near the park, and it would be nice to just take a stroll with her. They walked hand in hand. Benjamin didn’t often trust people to lead him around, but despite his first awkward encounter with her, he felt that Sadie was the kind of person he could trust with more than guiding him. Benjamin was beginning to think he could trust her with his heart. He grew up with his grandparents, they were a doting pair, but could be aloof, often leaving him in the care of nannies. He couldn’t remember his father or mother, but was told that they died at a young age. It was a car crash. ‘Is that hereditary?’ Benjamin mused to himself. It was an auto accident in his college days that cost him his eyesight. He managed to bounce back from it with the resilience of youth. There was a few weeks of recovering from the initial injuries, then more time spent in the Blindness Rehabilitation Center. Since then Benjamin had hit the ground running, and returned to finish his schooling with ferocity. Through his dedication to live as independently as possible, Benjamin had little room in his life for people who offered him patronizing attitudes, or showed pity on him. Sadie was different though. She somehow managed to look past the image of a man with a white cane, and want to the person within.

“What are you thinking?” Sadie asked. “Just how much I love you,” was Benjamin’s reply. “You’re just after my good looks,” Sadie teased. “You’re just after my dimples and sexy brown eyes,” came his response. “You’re just being a silly man, Daniel Benjamin Westmoreland.” Sadie admonished him. As they strolled past the woman on the park bench who was knitting a sweater, a tear came from Benjamin’s eye. “What’s the matter?” Sadie asked as they continued further down the trail. “Nothing,” Benjamin replied. “It’s just that a tune just entered my head. One that I think my mother used to sing to me. I wish I could remember more about her. I was only 3 when I last saw her.” Sadie squeezed his hand a little tighter, then he continued as they walked, “It’s just a fuzzy memory, but we were in a department store one day when…”

A Visit to the Retro OTR Diner

I thought I’d come into the diner and spend a few minutes. Taking a seat in the corner booth, it gives me a good view of the rest of the dining room. Though it’s private and cozy, it can make it difficult to follow all the conversation, but I just came in to do a little people watching while I sip on my coffee.

The place is empty at the moment, but Gladys is on duty. Everybody likes Gladys. She’s friendly, maybe not the best looker, but she has the kind of sassiness that makes up for it. Gladys is at the pass through window at the kitchen, chatting it up with the short order cook. I think he used to run a hot dog concession down at the ball park. I don’t know his name, and though he’s a jovial man, he always seems to have a gripe to share about his wife.

Here comes a couple to place an order at the lunch counter. They look like they’re dressed to see a Broadway show, or maybe an opera. The brunette lets the older, well-dressed man do most of the talking as they place an order. There must have been a shift change, and Frank takes their order to the cook.

When I first met Frank, I was impressed by his enthusiastic attention when he greets customers, and waits on them. His smile is one that stretches from ear to ear. I know that’s a cliché, but it fits him to say that. The smile sinks in down deep into his face and makes his eyes shine. It’s as genuine as any you would want to find anywhere. Then you actually catch what he’s saying, he delivers responses to his customers questions with a snide and sarcastic remark. But that smile, those sparkling eyes, are they disarming, or does he draw the full measure of his glee at getting away with those biting remarks? The well-dressed couple barely stays long enough to be served, let alone eat. I wonder if they’re in a rush, or if they were somehow offended over something Frank said?

As they slip out, in comes in a pair of women, dressed in a way to indicate they are no stranger to money. The women exude an air of languorous warmth, and are attractive. They’re conversation is too soft to eavesdrop, but for all appearances, they’re probably comparing notes on their well to do husbands. The bubbling conversation suddenly takes on a moment of what can only be described as shock, then the heads move in closer. Voices talking in whispered interchange. A secret? A conspiracy? Their darting eyes almost testifying to what? A devious plot of some sort?

A clatter of sound explodes from the kitchen. It’s not hard to figure it out. The cook is doing a little celebrating. His recipe was submitted to some major publisher, or food critic, or some such place. To listen to the explosive whoops of joy, you’d think he just won a million dollar ticket to national fame. I need to make it a point to get that guy’s name; he doesn’t look like the cook who was here a few minutes ago. From the glimpses of him pacing past that kitchen pass through window, whatever his news was has put a new found energy into his walk. Lumburger? What’s a Lumburger?

Now there’s a sight. A large man, dark completed, dark hair, and a laugh that infects the ears, and finds a way to draw out a chuckle from anybody in the room. What an order he has arriving at his table. There has to be enough there to feed a small village in a third world country. As he is about to dig in, a little man with the appearance of a Billy goat strides to his table. It’s not just the nose, and the goatee, the rasp in his voice and laugh complete the image. Was there some kind of bet lost? Now it’s the little man who is gloating, and the jovial man has had his pride deflated.

PS: To the fan of old radio shows; you may recognize most of the people who have spent time in the Retro OTR Diner. For the less initiated acknowledgements include: Jack Benny, Mary Livingston, and Frank Nelson from the Jack Benny program. The Great Gildersleeves and Judge Hooker. Two murdering women in a chilling installment of the Molle Mystery Theater. Also a quick nod to Pine Ridge, and Lum Edward’s world famous Lumburger recipe.

A Fan Fiction – Abner’s Doctored Checker Game. ,,A small bit of fan fiction. Rather than done in something like a script style, I’m taking an approach in a more novelized, or prose nature. ,,The screen door opens, with the creak of the rusty spring, and jingling bell announcing the presence of a customer in the old fashioned, country store. Abner Peabody looks up from his place behind the sales counter to see the grizzled old timer enter. “Howdy grandpap, how’s things going?” “Oh, about the same as always,” replies Avery Spears, but known to everybody in town simply as Grandpappy Spears. “Where’s that spavin legged partner of yours?” He asks, referring to Lum Edwards, partner and self proclaimed President of the Jot ‘Em Down Store. “Lum? Why he’s gone down to the county seat. He has to pick up our order from the wholesaler, and deposit momney in the bank,” Abner says. ,,”Then you’re here alone today?, eh Abner” asks grandpappy. “yeah, yeah, it’s just me.” Abner replies. “Are you here to pick something up for your woman?” “Na, just wanted to see if you were up for a game of checkers.” said grandpappy. “Well now grandpap, you know how much Lum hates it whenI play checkers on the job. I’m supposed to be watching the store.” Abner says. “Aw, prittle prattle. I’ll get ’em set up, and we can play and watch the store at the same time,” argues grandpap as he starts setting the checkerboard for a game. “What’ll it be Abner? Red or black?” ,,”It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll beat you no matter which ones you give me.” ,,”You beat me… why I ain’t never heard such nonsense. I’m the checker chanp’een of the whole county. I’ll wipe the board clean of you.” ,,”Yeah, we’ll see who cleans out who,” Abner says as he takes his place at the checkerboard to face his long time rival. “You ain’t no champ’een. Why I could beat you any time. Fact is..” ,,”You ain’t ever beat me… And if you ever did, it’s ’cause you cheated.” ,,”Cheated! Well I’ll show you, I got the scores of our last game right here on the ledger book.” ,,”Bah, I ain’t believing any of that. You doctored those. Ain’t nobody can trust what you got in there.” ,,”Doctor? Whadda ya mean… doctor?” ,,”You heard me. It’s your move, you go first.” ,,As Abner makes his move he mutters under his breath, ?Well I never heard such a thing. Doctor, I ain’t no doctor,” Then more directly to grandpap, heis confused as he askes, “Say grandpap, do you suppose you meant old Doc Miller? Was it him who fixed up those scores? What do you reckon they was sick of anyway?” ,,”Sick? Who’s sick?? Whadda you talking about Abner?” ,,”Well I was just trying to figure out if it was old Dock Miller who fixed up them scores. He’s the only doctor around here I can think of… unless you mean Doc Withers” Abner goes to muttering again as he continues, “Oh, but wait, Doc Withers ain’t a human doc, he’s actually an animal doc.. Grandpap, how do you reckon an animal doc got in here to fix them scores? I still can’t figure what made ’em sick…” ,,”Whadda ya talking about Abner? Who’s sick? Who sent for the doctor?” ,,”Why you did grandpap!You said Doc Withers came in here to fix up a sick animal… no wait… it was a… what was it again grandpap?” ,”I ain’t said nothing about no doctors, nor any sick animals! It’s your move again Abner, now quit your talking and get ready to be whipped.” ,,”Alright, alright I’m moving.” as Abner slaps his checker from one sqquare on the board to another, he continues to mutter softly to himself. “For the land sakes. You said the doc had to come in here to fix up a sick animal. All I wanted was to figure out what was wrong woith it. Recon what kind of animal was it, a horse? No that’s too big, it’d never fit in here.” Abner chuckles to himself at the thought, then in a moment of doubt he continues, “Or would it? Naw, that would be ridiculous, a horse is too big. Lum would have a fit to find a horse in here.” ,,”Grandpap, recon it was thatdog the Blevins boys have? It’s always mighty puny looking.” ,,Confused at the distraction from Abner, grandpap shows signs of beginning to lose his temper. ?Abner, just play the game, and forget about sick animals If you don’t want to play, just say so. You’re just afraid of the beating you’re gonna get when I win this game.” ,,”Afraid! I ain’t afraid of nothing. It’s you who’ll be the one to lose.” ,,”Make your move Abner.” ,,”Huh?” ,,”It’s your move. Make a move.” ,,”Oh, OK.” Abner ponders the checker board as he tries out a move or two. After a few false starts he settles on one. Jumping over a checker, Abner gloats, “Ha! King me grandpap. I just landed on your king row.” ,,”Well I do know. How’d you get there. You’d better watch that cheating Abner.” ,,”That wasn’t cheating, now king me fair and square.” ,,”I’ll king you alright. It’ll be you who needs a doctor if you keep at it.” ,,”Huh?” ,,”You heard me, I’m tired of your cheating. You’ll need a doctor when I get through with you!” ,,”You mean Doc Withers? But he’s not a human doc. Besides he’s busy with that Blevins dog…” ,,That’s it! I can’t keep company with cheaters at checkers. Trying to distract me with all that nonsense talk about doctors, and sick dogs, and…” Grandpap’s tirade fades as he gets up to leave, and slams the rusty screen door behind him on his way out.

A small bit of fan fiction. Rather than done in something like a script style, I’m taking an approach in a more novelized, or prose nature.

The screen door opens, with the creak of the rusty spring, and jingling bell announcing the presence of a customer in the old fashioned, country store. Abner Peabody looks up from his place behind the sales counter to see the grizzled old timer enter. “Howdy grandpap, how’s things going?” “Oh, about the same as always,” replies Avery Spears, but known to everybody in town simply as Grandpappy Spears. “Where’s that spavin legged partner of yours?” He asks, referring to Lum Edwards, partner and self proclaimed President of the Jot ‘Em Down Store. “Lum? Why he’s gone down to the county seat. He has to pick up our order from the wholesaler, and deposit momney in the bank,” Abner says.

“Then you’re here alone today?, eh Abner” asks grandpappy. “yeah, yeah, it’s just me.” Abner replies. “Are you here to pick something up for your woman?” “Na, just wanted to see if you were up for a game of checkers.” said grandpappy. “Well now grandpap, you know how much Lum hates it whenI play checkers on the job. I’m supposed to be watching the store.” Abner says. “Aw, prittle prattle. I’ll get ’em set up, and we can play and watch the store at the same time,” argues grandpap as he starts setting the checkerboard for a game. “What’ll it be Abner? Red or black?”

“It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll beat you no matter which ones you give me.”

“You beat me… why I ain’t never heard such nonsense. I’m the checker chanp’een of the whole county. I’ll wipe the board clean of you.”

“Yeah, we’ll see who cleans out who,” Abner says as he takes his place at the checkerboard to face his long time rival. “You ain’t no champ’een. Why I could beat you any time. Fact is..”

“You ain’t ever beat me… And if you ever did, it’s ’cause you cheated.”

“Cheated! Well I’ll show you, I got the scores of our last game right here on the ledger book.”

“Bah, I ain’t believing any of that. You doctored those. Ain’t nobody can trust what you got in there.”

“Doctor? Whadda ya mean… doctor?”

“You heard me. It’s your move, you go first.”

As Abner makes his move he mutters under his breath, ?Well I never heard such a thing. Doctor, I ain’t no doctor,” Then more directly to grandpap, heis confused as he askes, “Say grandpap, do you suppose you meant old Doc Miller? Was it him who fixed up those scores? What do you reckon they was sick of anyway?”

“Sick? Who’s sick?? Whadda you talking about Abner?”

“Well I was just trying to figure out if it was old Dock Miller who fixed up them scores. He’s the only doctor around here I can think of… unless you mean Doc Withers” Abner goes to muttering again as he continues, “Oh, but wait, Doc Withers ain’t a human doc, he’s actually an animal doc.. Grandpap, how do you reckon an animal doc got in here to fix them scores? I still can’t figure what made ’em sick…”

“Whadda ya talking about Abner? Who’s sick? Who sent for the doctor?”

“Why you did grandpap!You said Doc Withers came in here to fix up a sick animal… no wait… it was a… what was it again grandpap?”
“I ain’t said nothing about no doctors, nor any sick animals! It’s your move again Abner, now quit your talking and get ready to be whipped.”

“Alright, alright I’m moving.” as Abner slaps his checker from one sqquare on the board to another, he continues to mutter softly to himself. “For the land sakes. You said the doc had to come in here to fix up a sick animal. All I wanted was to figure out what was wrong woith it. Recon what kind of animal was it, a horse? No that’s too big, it’d never fit in here.” Abner chuckles to himself at the thought, then in a moment of doubt he continues, “Or would it? Naw, that would be ridiculous, a horse is too big. Lum would have a fit to find a horse in here.”

“Grandpap, recon it was thatdog the Blevins boys have? It’s always mighty puny looking.”

Confused at the distraction from Abner, grandpap shows signs of beginning to lose his temper. ?Abner, just play the game, and forget about sick animals If you don’t want to play, just say so. You’re just afraid of the beating you’re gonna get when I win this game.”

“Afraid! I ain’t afraid of nothing. It’s you who’ll be the one to lose.”

“Make your move Abner.”

“Huh?”

“It’s your move. Make a move.”

“Oh, OK.” Abner ponders the checker board as he tries out a move or two. After a few false starts he settles on one. Jumping over a checker, Abner gloats, “Ha! King me grandpap. I just landed on your king row.”

“Well I do know. How’d you get there. You’d better watch that cheating Abner.”

“That wasn’t cheating, now king me fair and square.”

“I’ll king you alright. It’ll be you who needs a doctor if you keep at it.”

“Huh?”

“You heard me, I’m tired of your cheating. You’ll need a doctor when I get through with you!”

“You mean Doc Withers? But he’s not a human doc. Besides he’s busy with that Blevins dog…”

That’s it! I can’t keep company with cheaters at checkers. Trying to distract me with all that nonsense talk about doctors, and sick dogs, and…” Grandpap’s tirade fades as he gets up to leave, and slams the rusty screen door behind him on his way out.

One Man’s Family – Getting to Know Henry Barber

Henry Barber is becoming a fascinating person to me lately. He’s an old timer of a time gone by. If it weren’t for the benefit of old radio shows that have been preserved, I would never have known he, or men like him existed.

The main characteristic of Henry is that he’s a family man. He has quite a large family, and loves to have them close by, and to take an active part in their lives. That doesn’t mean all his children are carbon copies of each other, or of him, because they are not. It doesn’t mean they agree, or do things the same, because disagreements always arise. Henry is a man of his times, and mostly is alright with letting the next generation be men and women of their times.

To be more specific, Henry Barber is a man from close to a hundred years ago. By the time I encountered him in radio programs in the 1940’s into the 1950’s, he’s at least retired, and likely rounding the bend of pushing past his 70’s. He seems to be a man of average size and build, and with a fair amount of silver hair on his head. Though he is elderly, and pretends to scoff at some of the energetic ventures of his grandchildren, he actually enjoys being offered to take part in such things as riding a motorcycle, or taking a plunge from the diving board into the pool. You can never be quite sure on what activities he’ll rise to the occasion to be doing next. Just don’t be surprised to see him in his old fashioned, one piece, and full body bathing suit as he swan dives into the water, and shows off his breast stroke. The spry old gent is known to overdo it, and pay a physical price for his efforts the next day, but is he really hurt so badly, or does he only limp around as long as he thinks his beloved wife, Fannie is watching him?

Sometimes Henry is forgetful. He might misplace his comb and brush, then insist that someone in the family has moved it. “It’s always right there, on my dresser.” Henry says, “I never keep it anywhere else. Who on earth would want to take it? Did one of the grand children borrow it without asking, or forget to bring it back?” His accusations of conspiracy grow until the family members are all mobilized in locating Henry’s lost items that are always found right where he left them. His hair brush and comb for example, turn up back at his son’s house where he had just spent the last few days. His favorite hammock is found right where he boxed it up himself, and clearly labeled the package so everyone will know it’s his, and to make sure it makes its way home from the country ranch, to his home in town. Then once the missing item is returned, the storm of attitude blows out quicker than it blew in, but more often than not, a word of gratitude is nowhere to be found. What about any apologies for the needless tirade of pointed fingers? What accusations are you talking about? Life’s back to normal now, so let’s just change the topic and move right along with things. Once in a while, Fannie has to step in to dish out an attitude adjustment, or when she won’t do it, Henry’s oldest daughter, Hazel has what it takes to keep her dad in line.

In those times when Henry is forced into making the rounds to any offended family members, with hat in hand, he skirts around the apology, and delicately as he possibly can almost admits that he might be wrong. The elephant in the room is danced around, and the offended party at least gets to watch the agony of the dance, knowing that even if the words aren’t said, Henry’s awkwardness in the situation is a sure sign he’s sincere about it. Hold his feet to the fire though. Don’t let him get off easy. If you’re not getting it, and you want that fully expressed apology, it won’t happen if you let Henry off the hook. But if he’s been pressed, and all he can manage is beating around the bush, that may be as good as it gets. It’s time to move on along.

Being a family man, Henry loves more than anything to have his entire extended family around. It was particularly difficult for him during the days of the war, and having family away in the military, or traveling for one reason or another. He didn’t take it well to have his daughter, Claudia run off to elope, or when she and her second husband wanted to buy a place in Montana. He isn’t really all that fond of the idea that the family ranch is 40 miles away from town. However, a custom has developed where the family spends the summers together at the ranch.

Though having the whole family at hand is his goal, and though he can be a little bit of a control freak in telling his children what to do, there are times when life gets too hectic. Henry is prone to isolate himself in his hammock, or in sitting on a comfortable chair on the porch. When he’s not in his self-imposed isolation amid the chaos, he enjoys gardening, and has quite the green thumb. Just don’t get him around animals. For some reason they hate him. Cows and horses are not his friends, but maybe it’s more in Henry’s mind and his own comfort level when he’s around them.

As a man of his times, Henry can be quite charming. He enjoys entertaining, and can be a snappy dresser. As the phrase goes, he cleans up pretty well when he puts on his full dress outfit, and turns on the good manners, and genteele ways. Henry also has a unique tradition the family does every year at Christmas. There’s no Santa, no real mention of a baby Jesus, but there is a regimented tree trimming party with a Christmas Eve gift exchange and plenty of treats for everyone.

For the most part, he lets his children raise their own kids the way they see fit, and he’s always handy to give input on the matter. He does have a knack with his granddaughters. Especially in knowing which of the identical triplets is which, and giving in to just about any request Hazel’s daughter, Margret asks. Even though his advice on child rearing might be stern on the surface, when nobody is looking, he’s just as apt to give in and pamper one of the little ones, even going against his stern advice.

I’m still getting to know this interesting, and intricate character, but that’s a little slice of what I know about Henry Barber so far. I’m looking forward to learning even more, as I keep on digging through the radio shows to enjoy the visits to both the Sea Cliff, and Sky ranches on the San Francisco Bay. I hope you’ll tune in the podcast and learn more about them too.

A Note from the Past

I’ll be out of the office today. Going on a short road trip, and my podcast activities will go on hold until tomorrow.

I did want to share this though. Not long ago, while unpacking some boxes from the move, a post card was found.

I was a 22 year old Corporal of United States Marines, and days away from completing a NATO excersize in northern Norway. It was January, and extremely cold. We had spent most of the time living in tents, in temperatures that make a walk through an industrial deep freeze seem like weather for short sleeves.

We had some time off, and I saw this post card. The picture isn’t important. It was just a series of pictures of the sun at noon for each of the twelve months, making the low elevation in the winter sky very noticable against that of the summer time.

I wrote a message on it, not thinking much about it, and not even thinking of how I might react when I saw it again.

Here’s what I wrote to myself:

Now that you’re warm again, and basking in the sun of North Carolina, wipe that stupid grin off your face you moron. Send me some of those rays.

When I read those words again,… I grinned again. Sorry about that, Keith from the past. I really wish I could warm you up a little.

The Bad, and the Ugly of Podcasting. I want my Good

The buzzing noise in my head wasn’t going away. As my brain cells came to life and my conscious self-began to crawl out of the soft, fuzzy places in the dream world in my head, the short cycle of buzz, silence, buzz, silence, buzz, silence, began to materialize. The hope was that an early morning road crew was nearby to do some work. “What’s that sound? I asked my wife as she also began to stir around.

?it’s the sump pump?

“I was afraid you’d say that.”

“It doesn’t sound right.” she said, “I wonder if it’s working.”

“I’d say that it is, but it sounds like the float is sticking in a way so it keeps shutting off too soon.”

We got up. While Robin got dressed, I was on the way back from the morning routine in the bathroom. I walked past the room where the sump pump is located. I didn’t have to even look inside. The sound of water pouring in was enough to know this wasn’t going to be good. Fortunately, we had been anticipating this, and it seemed ready to put our idea to work.

Or the past few months we’ve been getting used to little problems in our house. One of them was that the sump had been putting off a small odor that we discovered was grease. The kind of kitchen grease that you might wash down the sink without thinking about it twice, and never caring where it went. Our living space is in the basement, including the kitchen, and though we are on the city sewer line, the kitchen sink drains into a floor drain that magically whisks away all the watery mess that we put into it. Magic. It goes to where any floor drain goes, deep into the ground where it seeps into the ground and water table.

That means by going into the ground, the water eventually seeps out through the ground under the basement floor, and in part at least making it into the sump hole.

By the time I got dressed; my wife had already poured in some detergent into the hole, and carved the layer of grease that covered the float. It was already sounding better. Still running in short cycles of buzzing and silence, but getting longer with every cycle.

An early success to start the day off right.

After breakfast, Robin had to run some errands, which meant I could spend some time in the office to get some podcasts worked on. Editing a recorded episode, posting and linking some that I uploaded last night, sending out a couple emails to some podcasting friends I know. I might even have time to do some reading and write some show notes for a few things I have planned.

With the upload from last night, I had left the laptop on, but when I looked at the uploads, there was a problem. Not all the files transferred. No big deal, I restarted the upload. “Do you want to over write the existing file?” FileZilla asked me. “Yes.” I told it as I clicked the OK button. It would give me time to edit that recording. So far so good, it gave me time to write the show notes to post with it.

All done. I checked the uploads. Hmm… It’s slow today. Annoying, but still nothing to stress about. Shot out an email, filtered the onslaught of junk from the inbox, followed a few folks on Twitter, but I really need to get those episodes out.

Is the file transfer finished yet? Nope. I’ll at least get these notes posted as drafts. Hey, where did I put those notes? Now somebody is sending me text messages. Rap! Now where did put those other media files I need to edit?

Bling.

More texts? I know… I’ll just use the dictate feature to send a quick response.

“Yes (comma) that’s the best choice.”

“Yes momma bats dress boys.”

“No, no, no, that’s not what I said. How do you fix this” Let’s see… use the rotor… no, I don’t want to play games with a dictation program and spend more time having stupid conversations with my phone.

Got it deleted out, and correctly sent. How’s that upload coming along? “Error! What do you mean ‘Error’?” I scream at my laptop, as if it was somehow personally responsible for the Internet connection? I check my clock to see what time it is. Great, it has only taken 3 and a half hours to get nothing done. How can my wife fix a grumbling sump pump in ten minutes, and I blow a few hours, and all I manage to get done is… nothing. Wait a minute; the sump is still working, isn’t it? Buzz, silence. Good, and the periods of silence are getting longer, super.

Where was I? Oh yes, I suppose that I’ve got more than nothing done. I guess I did finish the edits on that file, and the show notes, but the whole job isn’t finished until the files can be found by all those podcast listeners on the Internet. The shows are already at least a day late from being on schedule.

I know what I need, a lunch break. I’ll just restart that upload first.

Ah, I feel better now. Hey, even the upload is showing progress. After firing up the podcast app on my phone, and flipping through the many open windows on my screen to cut down some of the clutter, I think I’ll check my inbox.

A new friend on Facebook. Cool.

Replacement windows. Not in the market.

We’re on a collision course with a curse from God. Religious wacko.

Top 10 Franchises. How did I end up on that list?

A child molester has recently moved into your area. What? The last person to move into my area was… me. Yikes! Gotta be junk.

Get an on line doctorate. Cool, I could be a doctor… but no.

Newsletters… more followers on Twitter… Hey, I think I just finished another chore to mark off the to do list, at least until it goes bling again. It’s progress though, and I’m claiming it.

What’s wrong with the file transfer today? The electrons aren’t just slow; they’re riding on the backs of snails.

Going through my checklist again, I find some show notes that got missed. Maybe by the time I’m done, the files will be on the server… “What? IPhone is shutting down! You stupid piece of metal, glass, and plastic! You’re plugged in for Pete’s sake! How could you…” Yes, that’s right, I frequently rant at my inanimate technological devices. At least I don’t beat them. It costs too much money to replace them on a weekly basis. OH yeah, I know what the problem is. It’s that flaky USB port on my docking station. Now the phone is happily recharging, the podcast is playing again, it’s back to that proofreading session.

This seems awfully familiar. Didn’t I already do this? It was last week when my laptop was down. Did I leave the work on my back up computer… or did I actually do something smart and put in my cloud storage? Nope, not in the back up drive… Not in the backup drive! Oh brother, I hope I did something smart then. Dropbox: not there. Google drive: Success! It has the wrong file name, but it’s the one. Progress.

Time to back up, regroup, and see where things stand. All the drafts for the episodes are done, and standing by. Files are still uploading; wow this has to be the slowest day on record for electrons. At least there’s still time to get in a little reading. Oh look, someone just followed my blog. Thank you.

Oh good lord! It’s almost dinner time! Where did the day go? At least the upload is done. I think that’ll wrap this up for me. I hope tomorrow goes better.

Touching the Soul, It’s All Good

Music can speak to the soul like no other way of communication can; it can lift the spirits to soar to great heights. It can move you into joy. It can also sit right down beside you, and sympathize with those blues that burden your soul. I tried to come up with a song or three to claim as a favorite, or as ones with personal life lessons, but I couldn’t do it. It’s like when someone asks if you have a life verse from the bible that guides your personal ethic. I can’t do that either. Life comes in too many complicated cycles, and there are songs and scripture for whatever is ailing me at that moment. None are a cure all and all have their time and place of healing and support.

I thought back to my first memory of learning a song.

Jesus loves me, this I know;

For the bible tells me so.

Little ones to him belong.

We are weak, but he is strong.

Besides this being my first remembered song, I have proof that it is indeed the first song I learned. My mom kept a meticulously filled in baby book on all four of her kids. When we got older, and she was losing her eyesight to write in them, she would dictate to use, and we would write in whatever she wanted. When she passed away, I got my baby book, and there it was among all those firsts, and milestones in child development.

My First Song: Jesus Loves Me.

It was followed closely by Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,

In those days, the 1960’s, there were lots of curiosities happening in the social and political climate. Hippies, a growing drug problem, corruption in the government, an unpopular war, and a falling away of longstanding family values. I remember all my old gray headed relatives complaining that the world was going to hell. What ever happened to the good old days? To me, it was as good of a day as it could get. I marveled at the stories of their “Good Old Days” when everybody worked, everybody could trust their neighbor. You never had to lock your door. Quieter, slower times. I believed it for a while.

Music was also amazing to me at that time in my life. Hot new bands were hitting the radio waves all the time, and seeming to change society. When I would ask my parents, they claimed to be devout listeners of both kinds of music… Country AND Western. It was a joke of course, and I knew it. I often could catch my mom dancing her way through doing the dishes, as tunes from the Beatles, or the Beach Boys, or the Supremes filled the air. My dad had something of a wide range of music in his collection. Indeed it mostly was country, but also included albums of novelty, marching band, swing, and even a Japanese record.

In my rebellious teenage years of the 1970’s, I shunned anything that resembled the twang of country music. I still listened to it; it was the music of my parents. It was on the radio presets in the car, and was what was playing in the house, or out in the garage where dad was working on the car, or getting things ready to put out in the garden. It just wasn’t cool.

I was in the van the other day, riding along with my wife and son. He pulled up a station on his Pandora app that he had set up to play music from the 70’s, It was almost like reliving those days, cruising to the tunes of ELO, Boston, Natalie Cole, and lots of other disco flavored bands. One group that didn’t get any air play that was my favorite of the era… the Eagles.

I like the way your sparkling earrings lay;

Against your skin so brown;

And I want to sleep with you in the desert tonight;

With a million stars all around.

Even after that song had been around for a good 10 years or so, I remember it vividly as I stood under the stars at night, half way around the globe. Standing outside my open squad bay barracks, looking out over the South China Sea, I knew it might be the middle of the night here, but in 12 hours those same stars would be hovering over the head of my young, dark eyed, brown haired wife. I’d hang a wish on them, and know that she’d have it waiting for her. Whether she ever knew it then, or even remembers it now, those wishes are still there. Waiting, and hoping for good times.

The music in the 1980’s began to move too fast for me to keep on top of it all. I still enjoyed it. The dance tunes, the love songs, and the rock bands that still had that solid back beat from the days from when it was born.

I remember watching those commercials as a kid pitching the “songs of your youth” which usually meant stuff from 20 years earlier. The same kind of things that were now being piped through elevators in those mellow tones of the Muzak system. I made a mental note that when I heard the music of the days when I was so young and cool, being sold on K-tel records on late night info-mercials, I knew I would be over the hill. But that day was a long way off… right? Let’s just say that it sneaks up on you before you know what hit you. The scary thing for me now is that the music of the days when my kids were so young and cool is… gulp… being sold on the late night info-mercials. How did I make it this long? Rocks don’t live this long!

In enjoying the audio entertainment of the days of those old radio shows, I began noticing the music. There’s definitely stuff there that I don’t always like. I like to see how music has evolved. For years it came from a big band of some kind, but somehow the band shrunk down to the basic rock and roll guitar band. I can see how a band can get started today. A few guys get together in a garage, practice their riffs, get a vocalist, and set out to find gigs. How did a big band do it? That’s a lot of instruments for a pick up band to be thrown together. How did they find each other? Certainly there were various levels of local bands to the top, nationally known ones, it just makes me curious about how a hopeful musician, or band got started,

I managed to uncover lots of old tunes that have sat idle, in the corners of my mind. Songs that still got some airplay even into the early days of my memories. Swing tunes, and old songs with lyrics that sometimes still hold up and get noticed today. People in my grandparent’s generation claimed that modern musoic was all screaming, and no real lyrics. That’s just not true. Though music has plenty of goofy and nonsensical lyrics, there’s well written stuff in all eras of music.

So much for a musical review. It’s too hard to nail down just a song, or even a few. I could probably keep on going, as I remember more times of life, and music that meant something to me at that time. But times change, and music changes with them, bring in new feelings of cheer, sympathy and expression.

The place it all Happens

Keeping on the theme of having a peak behind the scenes of the podcast, here’s a literary glance at where I do it all. We moved a few months ago into a big house. It’s the biggest place we’ve ever lived, and we have the fewest children to fill the space. There’s not any in fact, and this is the first time we’ve lived alone since the first baby was born all those years ago.

I’ve never had office space before, no dens, no man caves, but now I have a nice sized one. It’s larger than any room in any of our houses we’ve had in the past. A luxury to be sure, but since I usually occupy about a third of it, the rest is the repository for those boxes, and odds and ends that my wife can’t find a place for in the rest of the house.

Climb the stairs with me to my quiet place. There’s a secretaries chair right over there, at the table, roll it next to the desk and look over my sholder if you like. There’s another one up here some where, but it looks like that’s what’s holding up those boxes in the corner. Let me fire up the laptop, and cue up a random mix from my music files. I like to listen to a soft eclectic mix from jazz, swing, blues, and rock. The older the rock and roll the better, but you never know what’ll pop up, anything from John Philip Sousa, to Mozart, to the Hillbilly Boys, to Bob Seger. I told you… eclectic.

I first started the podcast while I still had my business, and I would put it together from my office, usually while waiting for a delivery, or a ride after work. Other than that, the audio editing took place at home from the recliner. While the family watched TV, I would put the earphones on, and crunch the audio, and get it uploaded. Because I podcast about old time radio, and the shows are in the public domain, I wanted to add an introduction for the sake of people who didn’t live back then. It’s an attempt to tell what the times were like, what’s great about the show and it’s characters, or to showcase the performers. To tie in this era from the past to the present, I thought it would be a nice touch to invent robot hosts.

Every good show needs a good name, so I figured that since I wasn’t alive for any of the old radio era, it wasn’t nostalgic. That would imply that I knew, or experienced these things first hand, and was remembering them. No way. I was primarily enjoying the writing, and acting, but I was clueless as to who most of these people were, and the kind of slang they used. What do you call it when you go backwards… but not necessarily to a place that you’ve ever been? Retro, as in retrograde, or retrorockets. That’s it, Retro Radio Podcast. It was only a short leap to name my hosts the Retrobots.

Now, I never planned on having the Retrobots be the only hosts. I intended to be the voice of the show, but I didn’t have a working microphone, I did, but didn’t realize it right away. Being the digital critters that they are, I didn’t know how well the public would receive my Retrobots. Listen to any movie, cartoon, or TV show that features a robot. It’s a human doing an impersonation of what they think is a robot, and often a lousy impersonation I might add. Mine were real robots. To mix things up, and cut down on the sometimes monotonous nature of a robot, I came up with more than one voice, and tried to create personalities for them. The goal was also to tie in something from the present to help a new generation of listeners enjoy the media from an older generation.

Here’s where I want to wind up this introductory word picture. Using the power of imagination, and to take my listeners back in time, to that retro time gone by, that few of us remember, the thing I needed to clinch it was a time machine. In this modern world of digits, push buttons, sliders, and the like, I needed to build a machine with honest to goodness, real live dials, knobs, and buttons. My time machine could carry along a passenger on comfortable leather seats, and once the dials on the dashboard were set for the desired destination, the soft lights twinkled as it gave a vibration of movement, and took off into a darkened tunnel of time warp. Did you have a favorite radio show? Dial it in, and pick a date from the resulting list. Don’t know , or have a preference, then dial in any date you like, and see what pops up. Still don’t know? I even had a spinner to grab something random, and we never knew where that would take us. Don’t worry though. Before the hour is up, the danger is always solved, the bad guys always get what’s coming to them, andno matter how many times that radio detective gets thumped on the head, he always ends up smart.