The Mel & Toni Story — on 78-rpm “vinylite” discs: “One for My Baby,” and three more for the road!

Fun facts to know and tell

Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “Subject: The Tormé-Toni connection.

“In my very slow and unsteady journey to put together a history of the Toni Co., I sometimes come across little tidbits that appear to have been lost to time. This is one such story.

“In 1947 the Toni Co., which had started in downtown St. Paul in 1944, had a single product: the Toni Home Permanent. It wasn’t exactly a revolutionary product, but it had one thing that similar products did not: very good marketing. Also in 1947, a 21-year-old singer named Mel Tormé was beginning to make a name for himself.

“Somehow Toni hooked up with Tormé to produce an album that contained two 78-rpm records with a total of four songs: ‘I’m Yours,’ ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy,’ ‘A Little Kiss Each Morning’ and ‘One for My Baby.’ I’ve never been able to find any mention of this album, but did manage to buy two copies from, you guessed it, eBay.

“One copy contained a letter on Toni Co. stationery. The company’s address was 282-300 East 4th St., St. Paul 1, Minnesota. The company was billed as ‘Manufacturers of Toni Home Permanent Wave Kit.’ The letter was addressed to NBC Disc Jockeys and contained the following message:

“‘Please accept this specially-prepared album of Mel Tormé songs as a gift from us. They’re vinylite records for better reproduction on your program. Two sides are Mel’s top hits, the other two, his latest releases. We’ve naturally got a good reason for wanting NBC Disc Jockeys to get behind Tormé. Starting Saturday, August 2nd on your station (at 5:30 PM, Eastern Daylight Time . . . check log for your station’s time) Toni Home Permanent starts sponsorship of a 15 minute Tormé network show. Why not make this Tormé Week to help get Mel’s new program off to a flying start. Everytime you play a Tormé record, plug the new Tormé network show. We’d appreciate it! Your station promotion manager will appreciate it. And your listeners will appreciate it, too, for we think Tormé is going to be America’s next singsation. All the quotes and biog material included in the Tormé Album are yours for broadcasting.’

“The album did include quite a bit of biographical material, along with photos and some quotable quotes such as: ‘Tormé now emerges as the most potential threat to the Sinatra domain,’ ‘Idol of the teen-age set,’ ‘Newest and biggest threat to Frank Sinatra,’ ‘A cinch to draw the college trade’ and ‘If anybody is to eclipse Sinatra, it will be Tormé.’

“As far as I can determine, the Toni Co. and Mel Tormé went their separate ways after a year, never to cross paths again. The Toni Co. went on to worldwide success with a huge family of hair-care products in the 1950s and ’60s, only to slowly fade away by the 1990s. Mel Tormé did quite well for himself, too, although whether ‘The Velvet Fog’ ever eclipsed Frank Sinatra is debatable.”

Our livestock, ourselves
Including: Our times — and: Know thyself!

DebK of Rosemount reports: “As this corner of Rice County awaits the reappearance of the sun, the calming of the winds, and the climbing of soil temperatures, frustrated farmers and gardeners make their way to our sheep barn, one place where lousy weather hasn’t hindered the normal progress of spring.

“Once lambs have been admired, neighbors’ conversation often turns to figuring out how we’ll all survive when the wheels come off this sorry old world.

“The most recent installment of this ongoing discussion was initiated by Dave the Carpenter, whose visits are sweetened by gifts of home-canned dill pickles and tomato juice, which I faithfully convert into Bloody Marys. After I remarked that his role — provider of BM ingredients — in our Township Survival Plan was clear, we got to considering how Taxman and I would contribute.

“Being well known for our deficiency of skills, Taxman and I are the weak links in the system that will see us through hard times. With only a trace of pity in his voice, Dave the Carpenter observed that the I.R.S. will likely be the final vestige of civilization and so guarantee Taxman some usefulness. Besides which, Dave noted, Taxman’s ‘chainsaw skills are coming along,’ and for as long as we can feed our hens, we will be able to contribute eggs.

“I will be in charge of diagramming sentences.

“Much as I value that skill, I can’t help thinking that my function is eclipsed by the contributions of others: One fellow will supply honey; another will take care of our venison needs; we have a maple-syrup guy and a beef source. The local genius will handle small-engine repair, and Hesiod will see to fire-engine restoration, log-home building, and bouzouki manufacture.

“Living in the presence of so much giftedness has left me a little deflated. Understandably, I think. Fortunately, the arrival of triplet lambs about a month ago has buoyed my spirits.

“Orphaned shortly after birth, the lambs’ care necessitated (initially) a regimen of every-two-hour feedings. During the preparation of the babies’ bottles — which involves careful measuring of water and powdered sheep milk — I discovered that I have a second talent. Somewhere around the hundredth bottle, I noticed that my estimates of formula ingredients — the water and the powdered milk — were invariably on-the-nose.

“Using the measuring cups was window-dressing. Turns out, I am a measuring genius!

“I’ve come to realize that it’s a gift I’ve had for a while; I may indeed have been born with an aptitude for weighing and measuring. Whatever my God-given facility, it has been honed by 50 years in the kitchen and a brief, memorable interlude with my foodie friend Euterpe at a cooking school in Italy. Hesiod and Taxman rail that that money was wasted on that ‘culinary experience,’ that it was a mere lark which has failed to yield demonstrable benefits. Well, we now know the truth: That week in Italy helped prepare me for service as Webster Township’s Chief of Weights and Measures.”

Radio Days (cont.)
Leading to: The great comebacks

Another installment from The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: Workplace romance.

“When my husband and I started dating, we thought it would be prudent to go low-key and not let anyone in the workplace know about it. My brother-in-law was so delighted that his match-making plans seemed to be working that he was in on our conspiracy. All was going well until one night when we bumped into the program director and the receptionist downtown. They weren’t too pleased for us to see them, either, so it was no problem. We knew they weren’t about to spill our beans.

“Our station had a sunup-to-sundown license, so in the wintertime we were off the air by 5 o’clock. Frequently he would have to go back later in the evening to do recordings for some of the religious programs, so then I would stay in town. We would have dinner before he went back to work, and I would catch a later bus back to my house.

“It was one of those times when our plans were nearly foiled. He suggested that I just hang around the station while he recorded the program, and then he would drive me home. The program he was scheduled to record was not going to take that long, an hour at the most. He said it would probably be best, though, if I kept out of sight. He said I should just go back and take a nap on the Station Manager’s couch until he was done.

“The couch was quite comfy, and just as I was dozing off, I heard the unmistakable footsteps of the Station Manager coming down the hall. I was curled up under my coat, facing the back of his couch, and I was hoping he didn’t recognize me or, better yet, not notice me at all. His footsteps stopped. Then I heard him rustling some papers on his desk, and then the sound of his footsteps receding back down the hall. All the way home, we kept wondering. ‘Did he see me?’ ‘Maybe not.’ ‘He didn’t say anything to either of us.’

“The next morning at work, I was busy at my typewriter when our boss arrived. Instead of bypassing my office like he usually did, he paused at my door, smiled and said: ‘Well, you look well rested this morning.’”

The great comebacks
You Snooze, You Lose Division
(responsorial)

Ramblin’ Rose writes: “Subject: The Numbers Game.

“I got a charge out of John in Highland’s submission on college math classes. It had a lot of similarities to my own experience. As Bulletin Board has noted, you are rarely the only one . . . .

“I was in my senior year of college and needed five more credits of what was called ‘distribution.’ I had a lot of homework-intensive classes in business and accounting, so I was looking for something much less time-consuming. Scouring the catalog, I found the perfect class: Business Math, described as learning to determine gross profit margins, sales percentages, and other similar calculations. Yes! My trusty 10-key and I could handle that easily, as I already knew most of those things. I stood in line during registration with my fingers crossed and was rewarded with a place in the class. I smiled at the prospect of cruising through the last five credits I needed.

“I arrived on the first day of class in time to score a seat. Students continued to trickle in, and soon there were people sitting on the radiators and standing along the walls and in the back of the room. If there had been rafters, I’m sure they would have also been full.

“The instructor arrived and eyed the crowd, probably not surprised that Business Math would attract so many hopeful students. He dashed those hopes with his first announcement: Sorry, but there was an error in the course catalog. This wasn’t Business Math, but instead was Calculus I. We were free to stay or leave, no offense taken. We were stunned. No one moved or spoke for several seconds, as we all silently evaluated how badly we needed these credits and whether we were likely to pass Calc I. Finally, a couple of people left, but everyone else stayed to see what calc was all about. By the second class, there were only a few people who didn’t have a seat, and by the third class you could sit anywhere you wanted. Only about a dozen of us made it to the end, and I confess that I actually liked it. It was my high-school courses in algebra that let me be successful in calculus, so I disagree with those who periodically question the usefulness of math. But that’s a topic for another day.

“Let’s just say that math is good.”

The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division

Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: A pleasant forecast.

“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:

“‘IT NEVER HURTS TO KEEP

“‘LOOKING FOR SONSHINE’”

To sleep, perchance to dream

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “I recently had a dream in which I had notified the school district that I would be retiring at the end of the school year. As the deadline approached, I was having second thoughts about my decision. I worried that I would be bored in retirement and not have enough to do to occupy my time.

“I woke up before I made my final decision, and I laughed out loud.

“I’ve never met anyone who regretted retiring.

“So much to do — so little time.”

Close encounters? (Episode II)

The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Pat, continued.

Pat and his wife, Wanda, lived in a desolate area between Laramie and Wheatland. Once you drove off the Sybille Canyon road, it was a dirt trail to their home. It was really dry out there, so you didn’t have to worry about getting stuck in the mud. They lived in what some called a manufactured home; others would say it was a trailer house. But it provided some comforts at minimal costs. Pat inherited this land, not worth much per acre, but he had several thousand acres.. He thought that if he could raise some crops, the land would be quite fertile. All he needed was water.

“This region of Wyoming was arid, really super-dry. Sagebrush grew and tumbled, but not much else. Pat thought that if he could get water there, they would be OK. He went to the Geology Department at the University and asked them where to drill a well. When they got done laughing, they said no one ever found water out there before and it sure wasn’t going to happen now. Two weeks later, he went into Laramie, ordered the biggest tractor that International made, and set up six to eight 160-acre sprinklers. He had hit an underground river that yielded more water than was carried by the Laramie River. He planted and harvested barley, which he sold to Coors or some other beer brewer.

“Back then I brewed my own beer, and Pat would give me a bushel of barley when I needed it. There was this humongous diesel engine, seemingly at least as large as my ¾-ton pickup truck. It pumped the water to the field irrigation sprinklers. When I asked Pat how he discovered that water, he said that there had been none on the premises. They’d had to haul enough in every week, what they needed just to survive. Then, in the middle of a dark, cold and windy night, suddenly a loud ‘bang, bang, bang’ on the door of their home woke them out of their peaceful sleep. He went to the door with his trusty rifle in hand, but no one was there. He looked all around, and nothing could be seen. Shortly after he got back in bed, that ‘bang, bang, bang’ woke them again. Again, no one was around, and next morning, no tracks could be found in the dirt.

“Pat explained to me that he never communicated with the aliens face to face. He thought they must be invisible. OK, this gets even wilder. Everything seemed to come out under hypnosis at the University, during which supposedly the aliens told him where to drill. Later on, they advised him to leave Wanda and have a child with some college girl at the University. He did. I won’t go into all the details or some of the even crazier stories of what Pat experienced. These encounters have been well documented in the National Enquirer decades ago.

“I just shared what Pat told me personally, sitting around a campfire, can of Coors in hand, and even when we were entirely sober at my home or his. I’ll say again that I don’t know what he saw and experienced, but there is likely a kernel of truth somewhere in all those happenings. He did find water where that was highly unlikely. It would be really interesting to know all of the missing details and what he really saw.”

The Lowest Common Consumer

Elvis reports: “Elvis is thinking about some camping and looking around online for some dehydrated meals like backpackers use to make cooking easier.

“He found one entry: ‘(Brand name deleted) premium Ready-To-Eat meals are the only self-heating, fully cooked, ready in minutes meals on the market. Just add a 3 to 5 ounces of any non-flammable liquid and you’re ready to eat in minutes.’

“Yikes! Elvis assumes that they don’t want you preparing it with booze, but his first thought was Coleman fuel or gasoline! What a camping trip!”

Life as we know it
Al B Division

From Al B of Hartland: “Each morning, I look out a window to see that nature has painted a new picture. A downy woodpecker was as still as a painting on the suet feeder because an accipiter was lurking.

“We were at Cabela’s. My wife decided I needed a pair of pants so I wouldn’t resemble the man I am. She picked out several likely suspects, and I shuffled to the fitting room. The old guy in there startled me until I realized he was my reflection in a mirror. I tried on the first pair. I figured it was good practice for an all-day clinic visit coming up. It’s one of those visits where I get undressed, put on a gown, am examined extensively, get dressed — repeat as necessary. The first pair was too long. I took them off, put on the pants I’d worn into the store and walked out. My wife said, ‘Oh, I like those. They fit nicely.’ I divulged the secret identity of those trousers and had to buy two new pairs.

“Happiness comes in flocks. I heard the red-winged blackbirds calling ‘Look at me.’ The jubilant voices, a paean to spring, might even include ‘I know you are, but what am I?’

“Terri Guillemets wrote, ‘My favorite weather is bird chirping weather.’

“Anonymous wrote, ‘Spring has sprung. The grass is riz; I wonder where the birdies is.’ The birdies are here and on their way.”

Everyone’s a copy-editor critic!

Email from Donald: “Subject: Sounds the same. Meaning — not so much.

“The first paragraph of an article on Page 5B of the Sports section in Saturday’s Pioneer Press reads: ’The Vikings on Friday night selected in the second round of the draft LSU guard Ed Ingram, who was charged in 2018 with two felony counts of aggravated and sexual assault of a minor before the charges were dropped in 2019.’

“This was the headline for the piece: ‘Vikings select Ingram, who has sorted past.’

“It would appear he has things in order.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Seems to us it’s bad enough to confuse “sordid” and “sorted” — but even worse to declare a young man’s past “sordid” on the basis of dropped charges.

Could be verse!

A pair of “timericks” from Tim Torkildson: (1) “I cannot deal with people;

“They strike me all as fools.

“They babble about nothing

“and plod along like mules.

“So if I had a startup,

“a spokesman I would need —

“cuz if I told my clients

“the truth, they’d start to bleed!

“But then, Don Rickles prospered

“with insults venom-filled;

“so if I did the same thing,

“would customers be thrilled?

“Please contact me to find out

“just how much I would charge

“to say you’re looking stupid

“and smell like an old barge . . . .”

() “How to Overcome Multitasking Madness

“I’m multitasking all the time;

“is that some kind of major crime?

“So I lack Zen and peace of mind;

“I’m master of my daily grind!

“I toggle nonstop all day long;

“I’m playing Internet Ping-Pong!”

Till death us do part
Including: Could be verse!

Papa Doofus of Roseville: “Could be verse — a greeting-card lament.

“Seems every year, Valentine’s Day comes around, followed shortly (while that card is still on the fridge) by the next Requisite Card Holiday, Mother’s Day. And for me, the resulting seasonal pressure of the card-giving thing is amplified, as my loving wife’s birthday falls in between those two occasions (every year, too). Now, being a certified Scandinavian with an innate aversion to expression of feelings, I find the Hallmark ritual a bit tedious. Nevertheless, and especially because my wife is really talented in the card arts, creating fabulous cards for me, I do make an occasional attempt at reciprocity. This year, a ‘big birthday’ for her, the pressure was on. I paced the greeting-card aisle for what seemed like hours, to no avail, and ended up resorting to making my own card, including this original ‘poem’ (whether iambic pentameter, limerick or haiku / I’m not a Shakespeare, so I haven’t a clue):

“I spent a long time at the greeting-card rack

“Carefully studied the cards, front to back.

“Some brought me to tears, sentimental and sappy.

“I thought to myself, birthdays ought to be happy.

“There were those labeled ‘humorous,’ mostly mentioning [posterior breezes].

“I found them unfunny; talk of bodily parts.

“And some with warm puppies, and some touting wine,

“But neither of those fit your personal design.

“There was even one card covering all of the bases:

“A teary-eyed beagle, midst daisies in vases,

“Hoisting a goblet; toasting all the past years

“While [posterior breeze]ing a stream of red hearts spelling ‘Cheers.’

“So, as none of my searching found just the right card

“That was fitting for you, in my high regard,

“I’ll just say here in closing, Happy Birthday to You.

“I love and adore you, truly I do!”

Band Name of the Day: The Weak Links

Website of the Day, recommended by Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Those who stay home a lot but have access to the Internet might enjoy some of the films in the 2021 PBS Short Film Festival. I got a recommendation to watch two of them on social issues, but some might enjoy starting with ‘Quilting Fever,’ a 2020 film which shows some of the most beautiful quilts I have ever seen.”

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