The Golden Age of TV Sitcoms
Zoo Lou of St. Paul: “Subject: American History Lesson, courtesy of Barney Fife.
“When I was in college, I had a double-major in journalism and history. I’ve always enjoyed the study of history, although I admit it can be difficult to work the Council of Trent, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Punic Wars into a casual conversation, not to mention all those dates (a necessary evil).
“History is the subject of a vintage episode of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ (‘Andy discovers America,’ March 4, 1963). It opens with a dejected Opie at the breakfast table complaining about the excessive homework the class is getting from the new teacher, ‘old lady Crump,’ especially history dates and that kind of junk.
“Then Deputy Barney Fife comes in, and when Andy tells him about Opie’s troubles with history, Barney brags that history was right up his alley and his best subject in school. He challenges a skeptical Andy to ask him anything, so Andy chooses the Emancipation Proclamation.
“‘Are you kidding?’ Barney laughs. ‘Everybody knows that. Tell ’em, Op.’
“But Opie says he’s never heard of it, and when Barney turns to Aunt Bee, she shakes her head and said she wasn’t there, land’s sake alive. An incredulous Barney mumbles: ‘What are they teaching kids these days?’
“So when a bemused Andy tells Barney it’s up to him to tell them what the Emancipation Proclamation was about, whispering to Opie to pay attention so he’ll learn something, Barney becomes tense and defensive.
“‘What was it about?’ Barney smirks. ‘It was about emancipation. What do you think it was about? Use your head, man. It’s common knowledge. There was these people, and they wanted to get themselves emancipated. So they got this proclamation, and called it the Emancipation Proclamation. And I’m surprised you don’t know it, Andy. And I’m more surprised you think I don’t know it!’
“When Andy says they’re still waiting for him to tell us, Barney snaps: ‘If you’re gonna get smart-alecky, maybe I won’t even tell you!’ The show was in black-and-white, but you could almost see Barney’s face turn red as a tomato.
“And there you have a clear, concise, insightful explanation of the Emancipation Proclamation, courtesy of Barney Fife, Mayberry’s self-appointed history buff.
“Now, I trust most of you all have a basic knowledge of the Emancipation Proclamation. And if you don’t? As Gomer Pyle would say: ‘Shame! Shame! Shame!'”
The great comebacks (You Snooze, You Lose Division) (responsorial)
And: Then & Now (responsorial)
The Mambo King: “Subject: More College Memories.
“The reminiscences of college days in the most recent Bulletin Board resurrected an old memory of my own graduate-school experience.
“A major rite of passage of the doctoral program in psychology at the University of Texas was a student’s presentation of a seminar describing research the student had undertaken, usually at the end of the second year in the program. The faculty’s response to the seminar would determine whether a student would advance to official candidacy for the doctorate, be required to take additional coursework, or be counseled to seek some other career direction.
“One of the most prominent members of the department was Abram Amsel, a renowned scholar in learning theory. Abe’s standing and influence in the department were such that his assessment of a student could advance or totally halt the student’s progression toward the degree. So it was that I experienced significant trepidation when I saw him walk in and take a seat in the seminar room where I was presenting my second-year research.
“My research on bilingual memory required an innovative and somewhat complex experimental design that took some time to describe. At the conclusion of my presentation, there were some softball questions about the findings, lobbed at me by friendly members of the faculty, and it seemed that my seminar had reached a successful conclusion. But then Abe raised his hand and with a frown on his face announced that he really didn’t understand the reasoning behind my experiment. One could have heard the proverbial pin drop in the seminar room, and all eyes turned to me as my heart and hopes fell to the floor. As clearly and concisely as possible, I explained the reasoning behind the experimental design. Abe sat in silence for a few seconds and then smiled and said: ‘That’s cute!’ One could almost hear a collective sigh of relief in the room. Abe had approved, and I would advance to candidacy.
“A little more than a year later, Abe, having been made a member of my dissertation committee, would shake my hand after my successful dissertation defense and say: ‘Congratulations, Dr. (Mambo King).’”
Today’s helpful hint
And: Not exactly what she had in mind
Writes The Hastings Crazy Quilter: “I got Lyme disease a few years ago. I was one of the lucky ones; my body reacted so virulently to the tick bite that I was in the emergency room within a week, diagnosed and put on antibiotics for about a month, with no lingering effects. I even remember smiling at the doctor because I thought: ‘Hey, I’ve had it. I must have immunity now, and don’t have to worry about it.’ The doctor set me straight: Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete bacterium, and you can get reinfected again and again.
“So I’ve learned to be vigilant against ticks. Which is why, when I saw info on the Internet about trapping ticks with duct tape (what can’t duct tape do?), I was ready and willing to try it.
“It involves using duct tape, wrapped around your ankles, to snug in your pant legs. Then you take the tape, and, with the sticky side out, you again wrap your ankles. The idea is that the ticks will try to climb up your pant legs and get stuck on the tape.
“I was going on a hike in a prairie, hoping to see American Woodcock in their mating ritual. The males will do an aerial display, trying to catch the eye of a female. A group of us were meeting at a house on the edge of the prairie. Our host and hostess offered us coffee/tea/water and two kinds of homemade bars. I am no dummy; I don’t pass up bars. You never know when you might need a little extra strength. I grabbed one and sat in a comfy chair, crossing my ankles.
“Now, I didn’t have any duct tape at home, so I had used 3M heavy-duty packaging tape. As soon as I crossed my ankles, I realized my mistake. I ate my bar while unobtrusively trying to pry my feet free. No such luck. I finally had to reach down and with both hands peel my ankles apart. After the hike we came back to the house and were talking, and I did it again! This time it wasn’t so bad because the tape had grasses stuck on it (but no ticks).
“I think the ticks might not have been too active that evening. I think the method might have merit, but I’m not going to try it again. I might not have a bar handy to help me out.
“Another interesting thing about the American Woodcock is that they ‘walk like an Egyptian.’ Check them out on YouTube.”
Band Name of the Day: Common Knowledge
The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Pat — the First Encounter.
“Pat was born and raised in eastern Wyoming, at the foothills where at times the west wind blew ferociously hard. How hard that wind blew is another story in itself. Pat was not particularly tall, but he made up for his stature with the big cowboy hat that seemed glued atop his head. He had no facial feature that caught your attention right away, but he was pleasant, easy to talk with and generous as could be. We met when taking hunters from back east (like Minnesota) mule deer hunting in the Laramie Peak area. In our camp we sat around the fire, drinking a beer or two and swapping stories. That was when Pat shared some life-altering events of which we’ll probably never know the extent of their veracity.
“This was back in the mid-’70s, when cattle mutilations were taking place across America’s heartland. The Cattlemen’s Association offered a $10,000 reward for anyone who could help apprehend these audacious criminals. Pat figured he could easily earn that reward money, so every evening he would sit up in the hills, along with a thermos of coffee and his trusty .300 Winchester. Most nights it was cool, but quiet. One evening he exclaimed that he heard calves bawling on the other side of the hill. He carefully set his coffee down, picked up his rifle and crawled stealthily to where he could see them. He could easily hide behind that huge cowboy hat. He remarked that even he was surprised as he peeked over the hilltop because right in front of him was a huge ‘flying saucer.’ He described it to us: It was round and flat, disc-shaped, and the middle was colored with red and green lights. It was about the size of a football field, and the lights were shining steadily, not blinking. Something was going on with the cattle, but he could not tell exactly what was happening. Were they mutilating the cattle? Why would they do that?
“He said that after watching them for a half-hour or so, he got an uncomfortable feeling in his gut, as if someone were watching him. He turned about, slowly, and was even more amazed to see another saucer, suspended just behind him, definitely eyeing him. He told me that he unconsciously, almost out of habit, or just a self-preservation reaction to this sighting, reached for his rifle. At that moment, the two ‘space ships’ withdrew so quickly that you couldn’t say for sure whether they flew away rapidly or just disappeared from sight.
“You need to understand that Pat was probably educated to about the eighth-grade level and not much more. He and his wife, Wanda, had 11 children, and even though he lived in a desolate area maybe 40 miles from town, he attended church regularly. There is something solid about him, and yet, because of his lack of formal education, there is certainly opportunity for misinterpretation of facts that he encountered. This was the first of his encounters, the first of many. I am sure that he did not understand the motions that take place in the heavens, but I do think he was not just making up his story. He saw something, and, over time, a whole lot more. Next: an underground river where there is no water. How did Pat find that?”
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: I wonder if retirees are quitting driving prematurely.
“My 50-year anniversary of graduating college (St. Kate’s) is this year. I am 72 and still driving, but friends my age seem to have quit driving. I’m wondering if the pandemic, and the drivers who got in touch with their inner race-car driver during it, have scared some of folks my age away from driving.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We were wondering, just this morning — as we prudently drove south on Highway 169 (in the right lane, because we weren’t passing) and observed a pair of Giant Slalom drivers zigsagging down the road ahead of us: How many drivers think of the highways literally as race tracks?
Radio Days (cont.)
Another memoir from The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I met my future husband at the radio station where we both were employed 70 years ago. No, it wasn’t love at first sight. I can’t remember exactly when we met. He was one of the radio engineers, and since they worked rotating shifts, he may or may not have been on duty my first day in March of 1952. The station had a lot of kooky employees, but the engineers were the exception. They were all reliable, quick-thinking, steady guys. If the announcer scheduled for opening came in a wee bit late and hungover — not to worry, one of engineers would have handled the mike, and none of the listeners would have suspected anything was out of order. During the day, if the announcer was out in the lobby entertaining the receptionist instead of in the announce booth to make the FCC-regulated station break, the engineer would handle it along with all of his other duties.
“I made friends with one of the older (a.k.a. middle-aged) engineers and discovered that we shared a love of astronomy. He had built his own telescope, and he recommended some excellent astronomy books for me to read. Occasionally his wife would stop by with a couple of their kids, and she would stop to chat. Any time any kids came in the lobby, they were an instant magnet for me to pop up from my typewriter and run out to the lobby to see them. Many times, I would collide with the tall, rather bashful young engineer who also had a love of kids. I found out he also was interested in astronomy, and I loaned him one of the books I had. He often came into my office to use my pencil sharpener. (I wondered why the engineering office didn’t have one of their own, until I spotted it on the wall one day.) We became friends, although it took a while for me to find out that he was culprit who was sneaking into my office when I was out and tuning up the volume REAL loud whenever he knew ‘Glow, Little Glow Worm’ was next on the music list.
“My brother-in-law remarked to my sister that he wished it was like the olden days, when an older member of the family could pick the bridegroom — because he had someone in mind for me. I was invited to come to a party at their house one night in November. He mentioned to my sister that ‘By the way, I invited one of the engineers to come tonight, too. He said he could fix our broken radio.’ I still remember my sister saying ‘What? You invited a radio repairman to our party?’ My brother-in-law reassured her that it would be fine. ‘Don’t worry, he will fit right in,’ he said.
“He arrived first, repair kit in hand, pulled the console radio out to inspect the back and a mere moment later turned around and said: ‘Someone must have loosened one of the tubes. Nothing else is wrong with it.’ We began dating and were in love by December.”
The Permanent (Un?)Neighborly Record
Tim Torkildson writes: “Subject: Too Good to Be True.
“Just blowing off a little steam here.
“When we moved into our new house in Wichita, Kansas, over 35 years ago, we decided to give a little get-acquainted party for all of our neighbors. I was still working as a professional circus clown back then, so we printed fliers and spread them around the neighborhood — inviting everyone to a free clown show in our back yard. Sad to say, hardly anyone came.
“Now it’s the same with the free meals Amy and I prepare and serve each day here at Valley Villa in Provo, Utah. They’re absolutely free, with no strings attached. But usually we get very few takers.
“Sometimes, people, when something sounds too good to be true, it is still actually true. Have the guts to believe in good things happening for no particular reason!”
Band Name of the Day: Common Knowledge
Website of the Day: Emancipation Proclamation