A Question of Competition

or… The fun and Fury of Competition

Question: Do you think you are competitive? In what areas?

To a point. It’s nice to share similar talents with someone else. Setting goals, raising the bar, trying to do a little better, it’s good to improve and pace yourself with others. If it comes down to it, and winning means doing it at the sake of an ego trip, I don’t need it. I mean, winning is good. It makes me feel like I accomplished something. Sometimes you’re up against someone who isn’t out to compete fairly. It’s only fair when the rules go their way, and if they don’t, the rules get trampled on. They’re not in it for the sportsmanship and competition… go ahead… win… if it means that much to you to cheat to get it, or throw a tantrum

There’s plenty of room to compete, and help each other to achieve goals along the way.

What areas? The vague answer is in the areas I like. The things I’m good at, or know about. But even so, I know I don’t know it all, or am all that good at it. If its something outside what I think I know about, I’d rather not contribute, and silently sit on the sidelines.

Since this is a blog about classic, old time radio shows, I took a glance through that world to see how competition stacks up.

Lum and Abner find themselves in competition with Squire Skimp over any business venture that hints at success. Then there’s frequent battles of the sexes, when Lizabeth and the ladies of town rise up against their men, often over a misunderstanding with a marriage bureau, or after a rumor that Lum may have spread in an attempt to apply psychology over them. The manipulation never goes well for him.

In the acidemic world of Madison High, Connie Brooks is most often in subtle combat in areas of love, against the oblivious, and bashful Philip Boynton. Then there’s the outright clashes with the catty Miss Enright, usually for those same affections, but sometimes in being in charge of the English department. Hers isn’t the only rivalry to come out with a humorous end. Throckmorton P Gildersleeves is always embroiled in fights of a fickle nature. Beginning with his role as Fibber McGee’s neighbor, and their conflicts on par with two schoolboys arguing over the same toys, to his many impetuous relationships with the cast on his own show. He managed to lead by example in the ageless parenting woes with Leroy and Marjorie, and not always a good one. His bickering with judge Horace Hooker went from awkward rivals, to being good friends.

Life on 79 Wistful Vista was always jam packed of verbal sparring, puns, and the like, when Fibber McGee crossed paths with his many neighbors and friends in the neighborhood. The confirmed busybody had the skill of just about any form of literary style imaginable, bent to the shape of comedy. Many other comedy shows played on conflict and competition, based on some misunderstanding or other. Possibly the biggest and best rivals of all time was that between Jack Benny and Fred Allen. Begun as a joke or two at each other’s expense over a child violinist, it was thought the momentum would come to an end in a few short weeks. It would be a feud to last for well over 15 years.

As you might expect, westerns are chock full of rivalries, the kind that lead to countless gun battles. Jealousies, loyalties, and personality conflict drive the action. Rustlers, buffalo hunters, and all manner of ne’er do wells get their come upance at the hand of Marshals, sherifs, lone rangers, or just plain good guy heroes with a six shooter.

Here’s a form of competition where the hero of the show manages to stay out of the fray.

Box 13 – The Better Man. 490102

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Dan Holiday is a freelance author who gets ideas from people who write to him at Box 13 at the Star Times. His adventure this week is in response to a wealthy man with an interesting proposition. He has hidden several hundred dollar bills around the city. It sends Dan on a treasure hunt.

Though Dan isn’t interested in the cash, the challenge has him hooked. If he can find the stashes of cash, the rich man will let him have it, and donate that much more over to charity. There’s some competition. Among the total of four people, one is a person who is not above killing for his stake in the money, and ignoring the benefit to give to charity, or split with the other three. The game is played by finding a stash, and using the clue there to find the next one. It’s a deadly race, and the treasure hunt is on.

The first clue has Dan doing some star gazing. The next clue comes with a warning, and news that not all the participants have survived the first clue. The next clue is a stumper, and Dan has an encounter with the last remaining participant. What does he want? Will Dan play along and join forces with him to take all the money and run? Whatever game the rich man is really playing starts to make Dan wonder if it’s worth being a participant.

With the clues mastered, what awaits him at the old man’s house? The game isn’t over just yet. Dan has to fight for his life, but he’s able to put the old man on the spot, and get his own brand of revenge.

Keith Heltsley
keith

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Remind me of a Sweetheart

Ask your podcaster anything. I’ve made that challenge before, with few takers. I thought I’d open it up to the wheel of randomness to spark some ideas. Here’s a simple question…

What things about old time radio remind you of anyone from your past,

That’s a big field. There are a lot of family members who I think about when I listen to the classic shows. Often I imagine how old they were when a show I’m listening to was aired, and them laughing along to it, or sitting on the edge of their chair in a suspenseful moment. I imagine what they were doing in their lives at that time in history, on their jobs, raising their kids, responding to the latest news headlines, and the like. Family members now long gone, old and wrinkled when I knew them in my younger days, but youthful and vibrant as those historic moments unfolded in a radio show.

I suppose the faces I most see in my mind are my grandparents. It would be so like my grandpa to come in from the fields, or after a long day at the factory, to collapse into his easy chair, and react to his bride and kids much like the folks in the Vic and Sade radio program, although it was a daytime show, and I’m sure he rarely heard it. I know my grandma would have listened, along with her friends. There was always someone in the kitchen making reference to Doctor Sleech, or throwing shoes over the bank building. I know my mom was not a fan of Superman, but her little brother was. I know her oldest brother was into Ellery Queen mysteries, and tried to have them solved as soon as Ellery did, and meet the challenge that was offered to the listener. I can picture the whole family sitting on pins and needles as Escape, or Suspense, brought hair raising adventure into the safety of their living room.

I think my grandpa could relate to the unlikely adventures that Ozzie Nelson found himself in every week. He liked Jack Benny, and marveled at how they could come up with funny situations from week to week. I had a relative, I don’t know if he was an uncle, or a cousin, removed by a number of steps, but everybody called him “Wimp,” or “Wimple.” I never knew why, until I heard Fibber McGee and Molly, with their endless stream of visiting neighbors, including Wallace Wimple. Maybe not an audio twin for my relative, but pretty close. He didn’t have a wife like Sweetie Face though.

Does that answer? Or did you mean something different?

Does anyone in old radio shows remind you of either past sweethearts or good friends?

Good friends? Lots of the characters in the shows seem like they would be great friends to have. Well, maybe not the Kingfish from Amos and Andy. If I had a friend like that… i think I’d have to shoot him. OK, maybe nothing that drastic, but we wouldn’t be friends for long.

I can’t say that any remind me of people I know in real life. Elliot Lewis comes close to sounding like a guy I know… wow, an unexpected pun from that catch phrase of his character,
Frank Remley on the Phil Harris and Alice Faye Show. No, I’m not trying to milk cash out of my pal Phil, or drag him into shady dealings.

For grins, I searched through my archives of shows I have on the web site for the word, “sweetheart” to see what came up. The results mostly contained a reference to a song with that word in the title.

Jack Benny always liked to let folks know that everybody loves him in St Joe. He even visited that town during World War 2, where he entertained troops, and used the local attractions to flavor his jokes. Local celebrities like Jane Wyman helped to link the town with Hollywood, and a more national appeal to those who can’t travel to the popular cattle town.

Could there be a more family oriented time of the year than Christmas? Though Jack Benny was Jewish, he rarely missed the chance to celebrate Christmas. In 1946 he brought the tree trimming fun to a hospital for veterans who were still in treatment after the war. A time for the show’s tenor, Dennis Day to tell about his fictional sweetheart, and a reunion of past singers on the show means a special trio of Dennis, Larry Stevens, and Kenny Baker. Others return in something of a family reunion of cast members on Jack’s show.

But wait, the moments of sweethearts and friends isn’t limited to Jack Benny. In the town of Summerfield, the daily routine is broken up by preparations for a big party for the young folk in town. Being a single parent, Throckmorton P Gildersleeve knows little about the moodiness of his niece Marjorie. He is fortunate enough to get feminine help from his own girlfriend, Leila Ransom. Romantic times aren’t just for the kids, and Gildersleeves finds time to croon to Leila.

Even in the daily serials, friends and romance can be found. Doc Adam’s was the wise old family doctor who could heal hurts of all kinds. Even when it was a conflict over playing parts in the town’s theater production. Pranksters could upset romance and matchmaking, by throwing jealousy into the mix. Play acting or not, in the theater production.

Those are just a few samples of finding friends and sweethearts in the familiar shows of old time radio, and maybe even one or two you may not have discovered yet.