This was Lowell Thomas, with the news . . . and a laughing fit he couldn’t stop!

Every blasted time

Mrs. Patches of St. Paul: “Unfortunately [Bulletin Board interjects: There’s nothing unfortunate about it!], each time I read something from Dolly Dimples, I think of the famous Lowell Thomas radio blooper:

“Lowell was a great radio man who wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself!

Clowning around

Another circus memoir from Tim Torkildson: “If ever there was a guardian angel for the Ringling clowns, it was George Schellenberger. A retired mail carrier with a bungalow in Venice, Florida, George put his considerable carpentering and handyman skills to work to help construct sturdy clown props for both the Blue Unit and the Red Unit back in the 1970s. He did it on the cuff; he just enjoyed the company of professional funsters.

“He brought meatloaf sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, and bags of oranges to the arena during rehearsals to feed impecunious clowns, such as myself. And each season, he bailed a few of the more roistering jesters out of jail, at his own expense.

“He was a good egg.

“Of course he built his clown props out of quality wood and thick metal. His prop blunderbusses, which used only blanks, were made with high-grade bronze and lead. His slapsticks, hinged paddles that fired a black-powder squib when making contact with clown derrieres, were constructed of scrap mahogany. They all weighed a ton, and if one fell on you during a clown gag, a broken leg was the least of your worries. Lugging them in and out of the prop box insured a hernia. While fulsome in our appreciation to him at the start of each season, we couldn’t wait until his cumbersome props started to fall apart. Then we would shed crocodile tears while shoving them into a corner and go back to the flimsy balsa-wood and cardboard props we’d surreptitiously packed alongside George’s behemoth contraptions.

“Another of George’s stellar qualities was his love of sharing old movies with the clowns during rehearsals. In the evening, he’d set up his projector with a screen in the weedy arena parking lot to give us the hearty slapstick goulash of Mack Sennett’s ‘Tillie’s Punctured Romance’ or the rowdy Marx Brothers in ‘At the Circus.’ And he saved the best for last; the night before the show left on tour, he would exhibit Cecil B. DeMille’s deathless classic, ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’

“The first time I viewed this epic paean to ‘Big Bertha’ (as Ringling was affectionately called by veteran performers), way back in 1971, I choked up several times as the valiant circus crew battled blow-downs and train wrecks and cornball acting to keep the show on the road. This was my life now, I thought to myself: all the stoic heroism of Charlton Heston; the wide-eyed bravura of Betty Hutton; and the sarong sexuality of Dorothy Lamour. I would become part of the myth, part of the very fabric of American life. To a green kid, who’d never been farther from home than Duluth before, this epiphany reduced me to a gurgling emotional pulp there amidst the creeping Charlie and beggarweed of the parking lot. But I was not alone; I noticed several of the other First-of-Mays also grizzling silently as well.

“The next day, the train pulled out for our first stop in Tampa; while I was using the bathroom at the end of the car, someone broke into my roomette and stole my cassette player and the Timex self-winding watch my parents had given me. And so my first season under the Big Top began . . .

“Forty-six years later, retired in Provo, Utah, to be near most of my kids, I bought ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ DVD on Amazon to show to my grandkids on a sleety winter’s evening. To set the proper mood, I purchased a big bag of orange-colored, banana-flavored marshmallow circus peanuts and individual boxes of Barnum’s Animals for each of the little ones. Pink lemonade was on tap, along with all the microwave popcorn they could handle (which turned out to be just over a short ton).

“I had filled their affectionate and porous heads with a wealth of detail and jargon about my tanbark adventures in the past; now I wanted to show them the real deal — the real Ringling Brothers, not the campy Broadway fluff the show had degenerated into when it played the Salt Palace in recent years.

“Sadly, my buildup of the movie could not be sustained in their young and insubstantial minds. Ten minutes into the film, just about the time Charlton Heston is telling the circus management that the show will play every city, large and small, for a full season, instead of the half-season suggested by those mealy-mouthed pen-pushers, the grandkids’ attention began to waver until they soon drifted away. They would come back briefly whenever I screamed ‘Hey, I worked with that guy!,’ and they indulgently watched the famous circus-train wreck that was the highlight of the film — saying afterwards it was OK, but kinda phony-looking. (It was all done with miniatures; there were no such things as computer imaging and blue screens back in 1952.)

“But I’m not sorry I made the attempt. Unless you’re the Apostle Paul, it’s hard to share an epiphany with others; all you can really say is ‘This means a great deal to me’ and leave it at that.

“Cecil B. DeMille’s movie is something everyone should watch at least once, fortified with lots of popcorn and pink lemonade — because it shows not what the circus used to really be like, but because it shows what people used to think the circus was really like: a bombastic amalgamation of glamour and grit that brought out the sugar-crazed child in everyone. No one, except DeMille, ever took the circus very seriously, but back in those Kodachrome days, it was considered part of the American landscape — like  the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore. Not to see it, or to smell it, or to taste the cotton candy was to miss out on a basic, if slightly trivial, right inherent to every citizen in their pursuit of happiness.”

Then & Now

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Little Sister: “My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

“We grew watermelons in our garden last summer, and for once they were edible. Not just edible, but absolutely the best we had ever tasted. This came as a surprise to my husband and me, because ordinarily our efforts at melon-growing have been disappointing at best.   I won’t get into the particulars about our many failures, other than it was a standing expectation: Melons simply didn’t like us. This time, we had somehow hit the jackpot with just the right seed and a perfect growing season.

“Along comes the end of August, and we magically find ourselves with more wonderfully ripe and succulent fruit than we know what to do with. We usually had two or three lined up on the kitchen counter, waiting to be sliced open. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as the snapping sound of a perfectly ripe watermelon being split in two. When you hear it, you know it’s right. You also know you have a winner if a bright scarlet red greets you, instead of a washed-out pink. The real shocker was we didn’t have a lemon in the whole crop. Each one was as good as the last.

“I have never eaten so much watermelon in my whole life as I did at the end of the summer. As the sweet juice dribbled down my chin, I remember thinking more than once: Savor this, because it won’t last. Come January, my mouth will be watering just thinking about it.”

Reading aloud (responsorial)

DebK of Rosemount: “The SPOILER ALERT issued for a portion of Little Sister’s discourse on ‘Charlotte’s Web’ [BB, 1/11/2017] brought to mind a lofty lit’rary discussion between my Smith-educated cousin Linda and moi.

“We were deep into a Post-Structuralist (or maybe Marxist-Feminist) analysis of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ when she digressed, mentioning how excited she’d been when she first realized that Dorothy’s companions on the Yellow Brick Road were actually Uncle Henry’s farmhands.

“I was slow to respond. So slow, in fact, that Linda leaned forward, clutched my forearm, and intoned a heartfelt apology:’Oh, my God, you didn’t know, did you.'”

Reading aloud (responsorial)
Never Too Late Division

Auntie Cathy: “Why did I not know the story of ‘Charlotte’s Web’? I have heard about it and seen it in the children’s area in libraries and bookstores. I never read it to my daughter because I had never read it. I actually thought Charlotte was the name of the pig on the cover. Yesterday’s BB cleared it all up.

“I was in sixth grade when it was published — more interested in ‘American Bandstand’ than any books!

“Thank you, BB.”

Our theater of seasons

Anne Johnson: “Moon rise over White Bear Lake, 1/11/17.”

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Our theater of seasons
And: Our birds, ourselves

Papa Whiskey: “Subject: Cold turkey!

“Saw a big flock of these guys while driving along River Road by Pioneer Hall on the U of M campus. I counted 20 of them; they must be bunking on the Mississippi River bluff.

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“Went back the next day and got these pictures. It was in the single digits. I brought popcorn and threw it out to them. They acted pretty grateful!”

Perchance, to dream

Peggy T of Osceola, Wisconsin: “I had a dream that I was visiting someone at the U. of W. Madison. As we were sitting in one of the dorm rooms, a flash mob started singing Christmas carols. Then a group sang hymns. While I was sitting there, I remembered that I did not have my cellphone and I did not know which direction was north. Then I awoke in Osceola and remembered that it is hard to find a parking spot in Madison. You would remember where you parked.

“I wasted all that worrying in my dream!”

The verbing of America

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Wednesday evening, I tuned in Rachel Maddow just in time to hear her final comment to a guest: ‘Thank you. Many people would not have known about this if you hadn’t front-paged it.’”

Mixed messages

Donald: “Subject: Truth/consistency (?) in advertising.

“An insert in today’s (Jan. 11) Pioneer Press has left me perplexed. It is an ad for the large department store that’s leaving downtown Minneapolis. [Bulletin Board notes, for out-of-towners: That’s Macy’s, in the space formerly occupied by Marshall Field’s, in the store properly and permanently known as Dayton’s.] This is some of what it says:

“The following lines are white on a red background.

“(In large type): ‘ONE DAY’

“(In larger type): ‘SALE’

“(Two lines of text, and then, in smaller type): ‘VALID 1/13 -1/14/2017.’

“(In medium type [white on black]): ’10AM-10PM FRI, JAN. 13 & SAT, JAN.14’

“Really — ONE DAY?”

Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon?

The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield reports: “I’m so excited — I just had (what I think is) a legitimate Baader-Meinhof for the first time in a long while.

“I was listening to the newest ‘99% Invisible’ podcast this morning. Normally, they do one long-format show about design, but in this show, they had a lot of shorter stories, including one about Agloe, New York, the town on the map that didn’t exist until it did. Apparently it was the inspiration for John Green’s book ‘Paper Towns.’ I hadn’t heard the story before; I’ve heard of John Green, but I haven’t yet read any of his books, or seen the movies. (I know! I know! They’re in the ‘to be read’ pile.)

“Then, returning home, I opened my daily email from nowiknow.com, to which I recently started subscribing, and there in its ‘From the Archives’ section was an article about Agloe!

“Very exciting.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We really hate to be a party pooper, and that might very well be a legitimate Baader-Meinhof, but we need to note that there’s a chance it isn’t.

It is VERY possible that the proprietors of nowiknow.com and “99% Invisible” are fans of one another — which would interfere with the purity of this particular B-M.

Could even be that “99% Invisible” got their story idea from the folks at nowiknow.com — who, when they saw/heard that “99% Invisible” was doing a piece about Agloe, decided to resurrect their own story from the archives.

In this hyperconnected world, it can be hard to tell a good B-M from a bad one.

Band Name of the Day: January Watermelon

Website of the Day: Goat Yoga

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