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Category Archives: American Landmarks

9/11 – Escape From the World Trade Center

Leslie Haskin’s book Escape From the World Trade Center may not be the best book written about 9/11, but her personal account of that day is a gripping one, that most readers will find very informative.

The book is available free as of this minute at Amazon for Kindle readers. The 74 page book may be short, but says a lot in those 74 pages.

She describes her day from waking up at 5:15 AM to  boarding the train for her daily commute, to the terrorizing events of 9/11, to returning home later that day.

Lesley Haskin worked in the North Tower, also known as Tower One of the World Trade Center. She got off the elevator on the 36th floor at 8:28 AM and was talking to a co-worker at about 8:43, when the building shook and swayed.

Desks and chairs in her office began flying out the window. Leslie who had post traumatic stress was in a state of shock, not grasping the enormity of the situation. She for some reason decided to call a friend, to get an idea of what was happening, but the phone was dead and someone questioned her, as to what she was doing staying in the room and then she joined the rest as they made their long descent to the lobby and hopefully a safe place.

Note: Tower 1 construction started in August of 1968 and was completed in December of 1970. It took 12 years to build the North Tower but it collapsed 102 minutes after it started burning. The South Tower collapsed only 56 minutes after being struck.

It was a long descent for Leslie as she began moving down the crowded stairway. She saw many horrific sights during her descent. People in flames were also coming down the stairway. She would also see a decapitated body as on her descent.

At one point she was hit by a human torso. It was a race against time as the victims continued their descent as they descended the North Tower stairways.

One thing that stood out for Leslie was that she saw the look of fear in the eyes of the firemen forcing their way up the stairway, while looking for someone to help. It was sad that many firemen didn’t get the message, to evacuate the North Tower after the South Tower had collapsed.

Leslie finally reached the lobby and went outside and for some reason she watched, those who were jumping from the building as they fell to their deaths. The jumpers obviously had to choose their way of death. They had a choice of becoming consumed in flames or jumping to their deaths. Either way meant instant death.

Someone finally told her to run to safety, instead of staying so close to the building. She walked to where she could board a boat, that would take her to the train station in Hoboken.

Leslie finally arrived at home and it all hit her as she emitted a scream, as she saw relatives and friends, after returning home.

What had started out as a typical workday had turned into the most horrific day of her life.

Anyone wishing to read the book and read reviews of her book can find it here:

http://www.amazon.com/Escape-World-Center-Shorts-ebook/dp/B005HF2V6E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378133518&sr=8-1&keywords=leslie+Haskin

9/11 Perspective

Even after reading Escape From World Trade Center we still cannot fully comprehend what Leslie Haskin faced that day 12 years ago, when American soil was attacked by terrorists. We don’t know what it was like to see people on fire, decapitated bodies, people jumping out of buildings to a certain death or to try to flee a building that could collapse at any minute.

9/11 is by far the biggest story since the year 2000 started. The previous big story was when President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated on the streets of Dallas on November 22, 1963. He and Office J.D. Tippit were the only ones killed that day, but 9/11 affected far many more people personally, as close to 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

The terrorists not only ended the lives of those entombed in those planes and buildings that day, but they robbed relatives and friends of those that perished of ever seeing their loved ones again, except in a coffin and some were even robbed of that, since there were no remains found of some victims.

Many other American lives have been lost in the years since 9/11, as the United States sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq. 4,486 military people have met their death in Iraq since 2003. 2,270 more soldiers have died in Afghanistan, for a total of 7,256 military deaths, which means a total of around 10,000 Americans having died during and in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Who knows what building Flight 93 would have hit, if some brave men on that flight hadn’t fought the hijackers, which resulted in the plane crashing in Shamokin, Pennsylvania? We will never know if that plane may have hit the Capitol building or the White House that day.

bin Laden may be dead, but that is little consolation for the survivors of the 10,000 dead Americans. Life will never be the same for them, nor will it be the same, for those that were victims of the attacks that day, that saw images of dying people that day and those images will be ingrained in their thoughts for the rest of their lives.

Next week will be the 12th remembrance of 9/11. We have been fortunate that there has no been another major attack on American soil by terrorists in the last 12 years. However, we must remain vigilant and aware of any suspicious activity, that we see and notify the authorities, as soon as we notice that activity.

We must not forget the firemen and policemen, who paid the ultimate price, for being there to help the victims as they fled the buildings, even though it meant losing their own life.

Each of us should stop to remember those firemen and policemen next week, as they stand for everything that is good about America.

 

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Blast From the Past: Burger Chef

Burger Chef was founded in 1954.

 

Burger Chef at one time was the chief competition for McDonalds, but the company no longer existed after the last restaurant was closed 14 years ago in 1999.

The Burger Chef restaurant chain started with the opening of a fast food restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana in the 1950’s.

 

Burger Chef featured a 45 cent combo, which consisted of 15 cent hamburger, 15 cent French fries and 15 cent milk shake . This same combo today would cost at least $3 and up since shakes aren’t usually included in combo specials.

This menu shows prices of a combo had skyrocketed to 60 cents with 23 cent hamburger, 22 cent French fries and  25 cent milk shake which was still a real bargain compared to what a value meal costs today.

 

The photo above shows coffee being sold for 12 cents. Try going to Starbucks and asking for a 12 cent cup of coffee and see the looks you get. Five apple turnovers for a $1 also sounds like a good deal. Noticed that you had to spring for an extra four cents to buy a cheeseburger for 27 cents.

 

Burger Chef saved on labor costs by having dogs cooking up the burgers.

 

Burger Chef was sold to General Foods Corporation in 1968. They started a Fun Meal for kids in the early 70’s and sued McDonalds, when they started serving Happy Meals, but lost their case in court.

General Foods would divest themselves of their ownership in Burger Chef, by selling the company to Imasco, a Canadian company which also owned the Hardee’s chain of fast food restaurants.

There may no longer be any Burger Chef’s in operation, but will always have the memory of the store in Alexandria, Louisiana too many years ago to remember.

Burger Chef no longer exists, but their competitor McDonalds is still going strong with over 34,000 stores operating worldwide with 1.7 million employees.

McDonalds may have won the burger wars, but they can’t take the memories away from Burger Chef fans.

 

 

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Memories of a Lifetime: 1944-1960

When the surgeon that performed my cancer surgery told me in November, that my duodenal cancer has a history of returning it reminded me of my immortality. It may have been negative news, but it also reminded me of many events of my 68 years of living, that were either positive and negative.

1944 – Was born on October 14, just four months after the D-Day landing and World War II would be over in Europe, about six and-a-half months later in April of 1945.

1950 – My first memory is of walking to school with my brother on the first day of school to Pineville Elementary. I remember Mrs. Price was my first grade teacher. School lunches were only 10 cents at the time.

1951 – This is the year I rode my last school bus in the second grade, when I accidentally got off the bus in Libuse, instead of five blocks from Louisiana College, so walked home that day from Libuse to Pineville. I never rode another school bus after that day.

1952 – We moved from Holloway Drive to Burns Street in February of 1952, moving from a small house to a very large house. The house payment was $55 a month, which was a bargain at the time.

1954- Think this is the year when my dad purchased our first television, when I was nine years old. He didn’t buy it for entertainment reasons, but because my sister had a lazy eye and a special screen was placed over the TV screen, that made her use her lazy eye. We bought it at L.B. Henry’s store on Main Street, when they were selling televisions. Our first TV was an Admiral.

This is also the year I really became interested in baseball and remember listening to the 1954 World Series between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians. Willie Mays made his famous catch in one of those games on a ball hit by Vic Wertz of the Indians.

1955 – Ray Kroc opened his first McDonalds fast food restaurant (the McDonald brothers opened the first eight, before selling out to Kroc.) Once after he bought the San Diego Padres they were playing so badly, that Kroc said over the public address system that his short order cooks at McDonalds could play better the Padres.

This was the first year I played Little League baseball. I went to a local hardware store to buy a baseball glove and wanted to buy a $6.50 glove. Only problem was that I only had $6, but the owner Mr. Brister let me have it for $6. It was a Nokona brand glove.

1956- My main memory of 1956 was when Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in a World Series. He recently sold his uniform from that game for $756,000 and is using part of the money to pay college education expenses for his grandchildren.

1957 – Elvis Presley buys Graceland for $100,000, since their last Memphis home had attracted too many fans, with no way of keeping them off the grounds. This was the year my baby sister was born on March 23. Three months later the worst hurricane to hit Alexandria-Pineville area in my memory hit the area, with full force when Hurricane Audrey hit. Audrey had earlier killed 500 people in Cameron, Louisiana.  I remember Jim Gaines of KALB Radio telling, about the progress of the hurricane and the damage being done. We had a very tall pine tree fall in our yard, but was not close to the house.

August of 1957 would bring many memories when my dad, older brother and me took a road trip in our 1949 Packard, from Louisiana to Maine. We made the usual tourist stops like Rock City, Lookout Mountain, Mount Vernon and other tourist attractions. We visited the most tourist attractions in Washington, D.C. We visited the National Archives Building, Capitol building, White House (just saw it from the fence), Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Mint and Engraving and watched the workers print sheets of currency.

We visited the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and saw a show at the planetarium, plus visited the site of the Liberty Bell. However, the main thing I remember from the Philadelphia visit was seeing my first major league game. The hometown Phillies were playing the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates in Connie Mack Stadium. I remember fans bringing paper bags with bottles in them to the game. I can only imagine what was in those bottles. I also remember the Phillies fans booing their own players. The highlight of the game was when Bill Mazeroski hit a home run that hit the tin roof over our heads, in the left field bleachers. Three years later Mazeroski would hit a walkoff homer that defeated the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series Game 7.

Saw my grandpa for the only time in my life in the hospital. Not sure where the hospital was located. It was either New Jersey or Pennsylvania. My dad’s folks were living in Millville, New Jersey.

Will never forget my dad driving through the Bowery district in New York City and seeing men laying on the sidewalk. That would be the only time for me to visit New York. Then we went on to Beverly, Massachusetts and ate at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant, with the classic orange roof. My dad was in town for an American Chemical Society convention, then after the convention ended we went to Maine, to see my uncle and aunt and their family. It was the only time I saw my cousin alive, since he was piloting a helicopter in Vietnam, when he was shot down and killed.

Then we raced back to Louisiana, stopping only one night at Warsaw, Kentucky, then my dad drove almost non-stop since school started the next day at Pineville Elementary. The next month the Milwaukee Braves would win the 1957 World Series.

1958 – Played Pony League baseball in 1958, which would be my fourth and last year of playing baseball. One night when we were playing a game, someone hollered “That plane is going to crash” and we saw a plane plummeting to the ground, about two miles from the park. It crashed about a block or two off of Main Street near a National Cemetery, but not positive about the exact crash site.

This was also the year I entered Pineville High School. It is difficult to believe that this was 55 years ago. Finding classes was not easy that first day, since I wasn’t used to attending such a big school.

The Milwaukee Braves took a three games to one lead in the 1958 World Series, but would let the Yankee,s that they had defeated in 1957 come back to win the World Series.

1959 – I remember this being the year my older brother graduated from high school. February of 1959 would see Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper go down in an airplane crash in Iowa. The Big Bopper had appeared in Alexandria, Louisiana about 1958, at a KALB Radio record hop. 1959 was also the year the White Sox won the AL pennant but lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

The highlight of 1959 was our trip in a Volkwagen Micro-bus, which took us to Missouri, Canada and back to Louisiana. My dad was taking classes at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, so we stayed mostly in Missouri at the 80 acre farm of my grandpa and grandma. They had only recently installed indoor plumbing in their home. I will never forget the huge console radio on the living room floor. The sound was great and I could hear the Kansas City Athletics baseball games on the radio. Saw Leave it to Beaver for the first time on their television. Don’t think it was on KALB TV in Alexandria, La., since it was on another network.

We spent part of the summer at the Chateau Cottages near Devils Lake in Wisconsin. We were on a tourist boat, when the captain asked me to pilot the ship. He sold souvenirs, while piloted the boat up the Wisconsin River. It was a relief when he took over the helm, since there were a lot of duckboats on the water.

Then after my dad finished the summer classes we drove to Chicago. It was amazing to look up at the tall buildings on the Loop and we went to a church in Berwyn, Illinois. Then we drove to Detroit and visited the Ford headquarters and also toured Post Cereals factory and can’t remember if we also toured the Kelloggs plant. We crossed into Canada at Windsor and journeyed to Brantford, Ontario where my mom had relatives. We then went to Niagara Falls and crossed back into the United States.

My dad was stopped by the Canadian Mounties, because our Volkswagen micro-bus resembled a vehicle they were looking for. At one point during our trip while driving in the United States a driver hollered “Governor Long” at us, when he saw the Louisiana license plate. This was the same year he managed to escape from a mental health institution, so Louisiana was in the news a lot that summer.

1960 – Nothing stands out about this year for me, except for the Pittsburgh Pirates defeating the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. Bill Mazeroski, who I had seen hit the home run, in Philadelphia three years earlier hit a walkoff home run over the left field wall, that made Pirates the world champions of baseball.

 

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Stuckey’s: Roadside Landmark in America

Stuckey’s was a place where you could fill up with gasoline, go to restrooms and shop for souvenirs and the famous Stuckey’s pecan candy.

There was their famous pecan log rolls, pecan divinity and of course pecan pralines. I have to debate with myself whether my favorite was the divinity fudge or the pralines.

First Stuckey’s Physical Building Opened in 1937

The first Stuckey’s building was opened in 1937 and expanded into 350 stores. Stuckey’s merged with Pet Milk in 1967 and the 350 stores dwindled into 75, during the Pet Milk operation of the company. Most of the Stuckey’s stores sold Texaco gasoline back then.

William S. Stuckey Sr., got the idea for the company when he had a bumper crop of pecans in 1930. His wife went to work in the kitchen and experimented with different candy recipes, which were the main drawing card for Stuckey’s, when they opened their first physical store in 1937.

Box of Stuckey’s Pecan Pralines on display.

After the fortunes of the company declined during the Pet Milk ownership period, the son of Stuckey, who was U.S. congressman William S. Stuckey restored the Stuckey’s name by purchasing the company and there are now 200 Stuckey’s in the United States at the present time.

Stuckey’s are found as far north today as Connecticut, but surprisingly there are no stores in either New Jersey or New York. Most of the stores are concentrated in the southern states, but there are stores in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Indiana.

Stores are only located in 20 of the 50 states. I was surprised recently to see a Stuckey’s returning on a trip to Houston and the store sold gasoline, souvenirs and had a Popeye’s Fried Chicken place inside the store. There are nine Stuckey’s located in Texas, but the only Stuckey’s in Louisiana according to their website is a store in Opelousas.

It was exciting to see signs for Stuckey’s, since we knew we could get off the road for a while, while we browsed the souvenir shop and found candy to munch on as we continued on down the highway. It is great to know the company still exists 56 years after our 1957 trip from Louisiana to our eventual destination of Maine to visit my uncle and aunt and their family.

Stuckey’s has had its ups and downs since the first store was opened in 1937, but it is good to know, that the company is thriving again, now that the Stuckey family once again own the stores. We want to thank them for restoring our memories of that 1957 trip, when Stuckey’s were a mainstay on the U.S. highway system.

 

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Schofield Barracks Hawaii: Home From June 1963-January 1966

The Tropic Lightning patch represents the 25th Infantry Division and I wore that patch proudly from June of 1963 to May of 1966, when honorably discharged from the Army.

I had re-enlisted in the regular Army in May of 1963, after having served six months of active duty with the Army Reserve. Left Alexandria, Louisiana on a bus in October of 1962, headed for Leesville, Louisiana and eventually the final destination of Fort Polk, Louisiana.

One of the other recruits on the bus made a big mistake right off, after arriving at Fort Polk. He found out that yelling nutbrain at a sergeant, from a second story window was not acceptable behavior. That sergeant let him know in no uncertain terms, that that kind of behavior would not be tolerated from a soldier in the United States Army.

We went from the brutal October heat of Fort Polk, to  freezing temperatures, while on bivouac in December during basic training. Without giving the gruesome details of basic training, will move ahead to finishing basic and going home for Christmas.

After Christmas I boarded a Missouri Pacific train in Alexandria, Louisiana for Indianapolis, Indiana and the ultimate destination of Fort Benjamin Harrison, where the Adjustant General’s School was located.

When the train rolled into St. Louis, it was snowing and snow covered the ground. It was amazing to see snow for a 18 year-old kid who seldom saw snow in Louisiana. Later on the train arrived in Indianapolis and I took a taxi to the base. The ground was covered with several inches of snow, when I arrived.

Learned that winter how brutal Indiana winters could be and even had a case of frostbite, while walking to a movie on base one night. School went well and graduated in April of 1963.

After returning home and attending a few Army Reserve meetings, decided I would rather serve a full three-year enlistment, rather than go to Army Reserve meetings for several years.

So in May of 1963 I re-enlisted for three years. I requested to be stationed in Germany or Hawaii and received orders for Hawaii. Boarded a plane for San Francisco and was helicoptered to the Oakland Army Terminal, where I would stay about eight days.

Finally we boarded a MATS plane for Hawaii and if I remember correctly it took nine hours to make the flight to Hawaii. We headed to Schofield Barracks, after leaving the plane and wish I could remember my first impression after arriving there, but that was 49 years ago and can’t recall now.

One of the things I do remember about Schofield Barracks were the quads, in which the soldiers were housed. The doors were left open at night, so each cot had a mosquito net to prevent mosquitoes, from ruining a night of sleep. James Jones was stationed at Schofield Barracks and when his book From Here To Eternity became a movie, scenes were filmed at Quad C of Schofield Barracks.

This photo of a quad where the soldiers stayed reminds me of the quad, where I lived for about two and-a-half years at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Conroy Bowl an outdoor area holds many memories for me 49 years later, after seeing the Beach Boys in my first concert there. Saw the Christmas show with Hollywood entertainers, such as Julie Newmar and Stefanie Powers. It was a bittersweet experience though, hearing them sing Christmas songs while knowing I would be in Hawaii that Christmas.

I can remember they held a Battle of the Bands at Conroy Bowl and band after band played Louie, Louie by the Kingsmen. I was sick of that song by the end of the night.

Another highlight was Sue Thompson, known for Sad Movies Always Make Me Cry and Big Daddy’s Alabamy Bound shaking my hand, while singing the classic ballad You Belong To Me. A reminder of how long ago this was hit me, when I saw that she will be 86 on July 19.

It would be 16 months after arriving, before I would make my first trip home to Louisiana in October of 1964.

One of my favorite concerts at Conroy Bowl was when the Beach Boys entertained there, at the height of their popularity in the 60’s. Johnny Cash also appeared there, but seemed to be slurring his words, while singing and may have been still under the influence of drugs at this time in his life.

Several years before my arrival in Hawaii, Elvis Presley appeared in concert there in his last concert appearance for many years, before being drafted. It was over ten years before he would appear in concert again, after completing the filming of over 30 movies.

This website owned by Scotty Moore, who was with Elvis in the early days, shows many photos of Elvis at the Conroy Bowl. The website also tells how General John Schofield, who was a Union General in the Civil War foresaw the need, for the use of the Hawaiian Islands as a base to protect American interests. That was in 1872 which was 69 years before Pearl Harbor was attacked.

http://scottymoore.net/conroybowl.html

Visiting the Arizona Memorial was one of the most memorable events while serving in at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii and will never forget reading the names of those who had died on the Arizona. Oil was still coming up from the Arizona in 1963.

A night-time view of Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head seen in the background.

Spent many a weekend day at Waianae beach looking across the ocean and knowing California was on the other side while listening to songs like Surfer Girl.

I heard a lot of Hawaiian music during my time in Hawaii and these are some of the songs I remember best:

Beyond the Reef, one of my favorite Hawaiian songs being played on a lap steel guitar.

Hawaiian girls dancing to My Little Grass Shack

Mele Kalikamaka is Hawaii’s way to say Merry Christmas to you.

Hawaii is usually thought of as a tropical paradise, but I found out different, when sent to the Big Island (Hilo) on temporary duty. I was assigned to a post office at the Pohakuloa Training Area that was at a high elevation. We could see snow capped mountains from the post office.

Snow can be seen atop the Mauna Kea Mountain on the Island of Hilo.

All good things come to an end and my paid vacation to the tropical paradise of Hawaii came to a screeching halt when we received word, that our postal unit was being sent to Vietnam.

This photo was taken the same day that we boarded the USNS General Walker to Vietnam on a voyage which would take 14 days traveling 500 miles a day, before we disembarked in Vietnam.

I didn’t know the above photo even existed until today and was shocked to see it was a photo, of the 25th Infantry Division troops boarding the USNS General Walker, the same day that we boarded it.

Once the ship was on the way to Vietnam, I couldn’t help but wonder how many aboard that ship would never make it back home alive. We had too much time to think on the long ride to Vietnam, about what fate held for us once we left the ship in Vietnam.

We left one tropical paradise behind to go to another tropical paradise, that was a country 7,000 miles from Hawaii, in a country which offered only danger from a ruthless enemy, as we disembarked from the ship. I can remember how it took awhile to get used to being on land again, after two weeks of drifting across the ocean.

I can remember the stifling heat of Vietnam and how I drank several Coca-Colas to keep from being dehydrated, almost immediately after leaving the ship.

Memories of Hawaii

Hawaii was a distant memory, but 49 years later I think of the Hawaiian sunsets, the Hawaiian music and the musicians using their steel guitars to play songs like Beyond the Reef  and My Little Grass Shack.

I can remember going to the service club and being entertained by various entertainers including the cowboy star of many westerns Jimmy Wakely.

I can remember like yesterday the beautiful sunsets on Waikiki Beach….the Service Club personnel taking on tourist excursions around the island seeing various attractions, that we may not have seen otherwise….the pecan twirls out of the vending machine at the service club….seeing the concerts at Conroy Bowl….the palm trees on the grounds of Schofield Barracks….working at the USARHAW post office and seeing the pro basketball player Terry Dischinger of Purdue and Detroit Pistons fame, who was working in the chemical department….working with the Hawaiians at the post office and how they freaked out when the temperature dipped to 59 degrees one day and showed up for work wearing jackets….remembering the day that JFK was assassinated, that I was substitute company mail clerk that day and listening to the news flash on the radio. I was the first to tell the company commander the news….also remember just missing seeing Lee Harvey Oswald shot by Jack Ruby on the television in the day room.

I also remember watching Shindig on my portable television seeing the musical greats of that era….spending Thanksgiving with Sgt. William Brannon and his family and wondering all these years, what happened to him after he left the Army….telling short-timers who had only a few days left, that I was going to be out soon myself….in 1,096 days….seeing the buildings at one of the airbases still showing damage from being hit during Pearl Harbor….meeting General Frederick Weyand, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division,  who was not happy with the direction of the war in Vietnam when he made this statement:

General Weyand, then commander of III Corps in Vietnam, was the unidentified high-ranking officer, who told Apple and Fromson (reporting the same story for CBS) that “I’ve destroyed a single division three times . . . I’ve chased main-force units all over the country and the impact was zilch. 


I had often thought the war was not being fought conventionally. In past wars our military had swept across countries, instead of seeming to be going around in circles in Vietnam. However, that is just my opinion and others with more knowledge may be able to address that situation with more clarity.

Sorry from straying from the Hawaiian theme, but the encounter with General Weyand reminded me of the Vietnam situation.

I may never return to Hawaii again, because of the extremely high cost of being a tourist there, but it may be better that way, so I can remember it the way it was as those two years and eight months there were one of the happiest times of my life.  I almost felt guilty being paid there, since it was such easy duty.

Hawaii….Thanks for the memories.

 

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Jackie Gleason: From Pool Hustler To Smokey and the Bandit

Jackie Gleason was best known for portraying Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners but also appeared on the big screen from 1941-1986.

Jackie Gleason grew up in Brooklyn, New York and didn’t have much of a childhood, with his father abandoning the family, when Gleason was eight years old. His mother died when he was 16. His brother Clemence had died when he was three, so Jackie was an only child during most of his childhood.

Behind the counter it's Jackie Gleason

Jackie Gleason as he appeared in Larceny Inc. movie in 1942 at the age of 26.

Gleason’s first foray into the movies lasted only two years, but he appeared in nine movies in those two years, including Orchestra Wives and Larceny, Inc. Then he performed in nightclubs and appeared in some Broadway plays till he received his first television starring role in Life of Riley, portraying the title character. He was not really suited well for the role and it was cancelled, but revived when William Bendix, the voice of Riley on radio became the star of the show.

Jackie Gleason Orchestra Formed

Jackie Gleason saw there was a place for romantic music and formed the Jackie Gleason Orchestra. I have read that there was never an actual traveling Jackie Gleason Orchestra but this article proves that assumption is incorrect, since this review of a performance with Gleason proves they did travel to different venues. Music showed there was a serious side to Jackie Gleason. I was surprised to read that Gleason actually was conducting the orchestra. Bobby Hackett is the one playing the trumpet solos on most, if not all of his albums.

http://www.bigbandsandbignames.com/gleason.html

Music For Lovers, the debut album for the orchestra was a tremendous hit and showed their was a market for romantic music:

Gleason’s first album, Music for Lovers Only, still holds the record for the album staying the longest in the Billboard Top Ten Charts (153 weeks), and his first ten albums all sold over one million copies.[19]

I have his Best of Jackie Gleason and His Orchestra album and it includes these songs:

http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/pid/1015597/a/Best+of+Jackie+Gleason.htm

The now defunct Dumont Television network hired Gleason as summer host of Cavalcade of Stars. He handled the hosting duties so well, that he was named permanent host. He introduced his Ralph Kramden character during the series and the sketches would evolve into The Honeymooners in 1955.

Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows in a scene from The Honeymooners television series 1955-1956.

There is no doubt that The Honeymooners television series is what made Jackie Gleason a household word. The show centered around his character Ralph Kramden and the show was clearly focused on whatever hare-brained scheme, that he was planning at the time.

The Jackie Gleason Show was telecast from 1952-1957 and then revived again to run from 1966-1970. In between he also hosted the Jackie Gleason: American Scene Magazine from 1962-1966.

You’re In The Picture Bombs

Jackie Gleason did have one colossal failure, when he was the host of a new game show named You’re In The Picture in 1961. This article details the failure of the show the first week and how Gleason came back the second week with a new format:

http://www.tvparty.com/picture.html

1961 would see Gleason also have one of his biggest triumphs on the big screen in The Hustler. He played Minnesota Fats the pool hustler and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor but did not win. It was an awesome achievement, considering that he hadn’t appeared in a movie, since appearing in Desert Hawk in 1950.

He is seen with Paul Newman in this pool room scene from The Hustler:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TC3kqFUmqQ

The next year Gleason would return in Gigot, in which he played a mute and would be nominated for a Golden Globes Award as best actor. Gleason wrote the screenplay, starred and wrote the music for Gigot. Gleason was the only recognizable name in the entire cast of this movie.  He is seen in this clip from Gigot:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=la5tyq9gblk

Gleason also appeared in Requiem For A Heavyweight in 1962. He acted well in the movie, but failed to garner any nominations or awards, for his performance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54kM1mY86Mc

He appeared in Papa’s Delicate Condition and Soldier in the Rain in 1963 and wouldn’t appear in another movie, till he appeared in Skidoo in 1968. It is strange that he appeared in so many successful movies, than stopped his movie career for the next five years. He could be that filming his American Scene Magazine television show and appearing in movies was too much for him.

Next he appeared in How To Commit Marriage and Don’t Drink The Water in 1969, then took an eight year hiatus from making movies till 1977.  He appeared in Mr. Billion and Smokey and the Bandit in 1977.  I was going to include some clips of Gleason portraying Sheriff Buford T. Justice, but the dialogue was filled with so much bad language, that I decided not to use it, in case some kids were to watch it. He would go on to appear in Part II and Part III of the Smokey and the Bandit movies in 1980 and 1983.

Gleason also appeared in The Toy in 1982 and The Sting II in 1983, before appearing Nothing In Common in 1986, which would be his last movie. His movie career spanned 45 years from 1941-1986.

It is ironic that Gleason only won a Tony Award in his long career for Take Me Along, while never winning a Emmy, Grammy or Academy Award.

Jackie Gleason died of cancer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on June 24, 1987 at the age of 71. Gleason left his mark on Broadway, in the movies, on television and music. He truly was an entertainer of the first magnitude.

His obituary from the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/06/25/obituaries/jackie-gleason-dies-of-cancer-comedian-and-actor-was-71.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

A road sign with his famous catch phrase:

The burial place of Jackie Gleason in Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Miami, Florida.

Jackie Gleason kept his sense of humor in death with his famous catchphrase.

 

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Best Organ Music

There have been a lot of great organists who play different genres of organ music. One of the best rock and roll organists were Booker T & the MG’s. They are shown playing their classic Green Onions.

 

I bought the LP of The Cat recorded by Jimmy Smith playing his Hammond B3 organ. The title song The Cat is a song I have never got tired of, after listening to it for 48 years.

 

Denny McLain is known for being the last major league pitcher, to win 30 games when he won 31 in 1968. He also was a proficient organist, that plays two classics, More and Laura in this audio recording:

The late Leonard George DeStoppelaire, better known as Lenny Dee plays the classic It Had To Be You.

 

The late Ken Griffin who died in 1956 plays Now Is The Hour a classic Hawaiian song.

 

An unidentified organist playing a southern gospel classic Bye and Bye When the Morning Comes.

 

Nancy Bea Hefley playing the organ at a Los Angeles Dodgers game.

 

Hope these videos bring some memories of  present and  past organists, who have left an indelible impression on our lives with their music.

 

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