Jim Ed Brown Dies at 81

Jim Ed Brown 1934-2015

Jim Ed Brown has died from lung cancer at the age of 81 in Franklin, Tennessee on June 11, 2015.

He was born James Edward Brown in Sparkman, Arkansas on April 1, 1934.

The Browns and Elvis Presley

Brown and his sisters Maxine and Bonnie formed the group The Browns and their first hit song was Looking Back To See If You Were Looking Back At Me which went to #8 on country charts in 1954Jim Ed wrote the song, which was recorded in later years by other artists. The Browns biggest hit was Three Bells recorded in 1959 and I heard a southern gospel group singing the song about 55 years later. The Browns broke up in 1967 as Jim Ed became a soloist.

Jim Ed and Maxine singing Looking Back To See many years later after the original recording from 1954. 

Brown had five Top 10 songs as a soloist with Pop a Top going to #3 in 1967, then Morning peaked at #4 in 1970, and Southern Lovin’ in 1973 topped out at #6, and his last Top 10 hits were 1974’s Sometime Sunshine and It’s That Time of Night both peaked at #10.

Jim Ed Brown singing Ain’t You Even Going To Cry

Brown revealed in September of 2014, that he was being treated for lung cancer. He announced in January that his cancer was in remission, but it was announced on June 3 by his daughter Kim, that the cancer had returned somewhere else, but not in the lungs. Then 9 days later he died in Williamson Medical Center in Franklin, Tennessee.

Bill Anderson gave him his Country Music Hall of Fame medallion on June 4, since Brown wouldn’t be alive for his CMA Hall of Fame induction this fall.

Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius singing their #1 hit I Don’t Want To Have To Marry You

Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius formed a duet that began in 1976. Their recording of I Don’t Want To Have To Marry You went to #1 on the country chart. Five other singles made the Top 10 country charts.

Jim Ed and Helen singing I’m Leavin’ It Up To You

Country music has lost another of the icons in Jim Ed Brown. RIP

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My Favorite Christmas Songs

 

I have been hearing the same Christmas songs, for most of my life, but never tire of them. I know I will leave out some great Christmas songs, but will list some of my all-time favorite Christmas songs with name and writer/writers of the songs. 

White Christmas 1940 – Irving Berlin 

This is one of most well-known Christmas songs. 50 million copies of this song have been sold, which makes it the best-selling song of all time.

Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas in 1940, but there is some question, if that is the correct date. Berlin told his secretary, that he had just written the best song ever written. That was saying something, since Berlin had written a lot of very well-known songs over the year. Bing Crosby was the first to sing this song, when he sang it on Christmas Day 1941, on his radio show. It is ironic that the song was first sung just 18 days, after Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

500 versions of the song have been recorded.

Blue Christmas 1948 – Billy Hayes, J.W. Johnson

Doye O’Dell was the first singer to record Blue Christmas, but Ernest Tubb took it to #1 on the Most Played Country Juke Box Records chart, in January of 1950. Elvis Presley recorded it in 1957. I like both the Ernest Tubb and Elvis Presley versions best of the over 65 recorded versions.

O Holy Night 1843 – Placide Cappeau

It is amazing that the songwriter Placide Cappeau was an atheist, and it is surprising, that an atheist could write such power words and music. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs, to hear sung at Christmas. John Sullivan Dwight, who was an Unitarian minister wrote the song for singing in 1855. O Holy Night was the second song, to be heard in radio history. Tenor Enrico Caruso recorded, what is the most famous version of the song in 1916. It isn’t Christmas, if this song is not heard at least once, during the Christmas season.

Please Come Home For Christmas 1960 – Charles Brown, Eugene Redd

I am surprised that Please Come Home For Christmas peaked at #76 on the Hot 100 Billboard chart. Some people refer to the song as “Bells Will Be Ringing”. The Eagles recorded the song in 1978 and it went to #18 on the Billboard chart. I never get tired of hearing this song sung and it starts like this:

Bells will be ringing the sad, sad news
Oh what a Christmas to have the blues
My baby’s gone, I have no friends
To wish me greetings once again

Choirs will be singin’ ‘Silent Night’
Christmas carols by candlelight
Please come home for Christmas
Please come home for Christmas
If not for Christmas by New Year’s night

Friends and relations send salutation
Sure as the stars shine above
But this is Christmas, yes Christmas my dear
It’s the time of year to be with the one you love

I’ll Be Home For Christmas 1943 – Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, Buck Ram

Bing Crosby was the first to record I’ll Be Home For Christmas in 1943. It was recorded during World War II, to honor servicemen overseas, who weren’t able to come home for Christmas. I know firsthand, how this song hits home, since I spent Christmas in Hawaii in 1963, 1964 and 1965. I played the song on my record player in Hawaii, but it wasn’t well received by the other soldiers in the barracks, who said they didn’t want to be reminded, that they would be going home for Christmas. The Crosby version peaked at # 3 on the Billboard chart.

Astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell requested this song be played, while on a Gemini 7 mission, in December of 1965. My personal favorite recording of the song was by Johnny Mathis.

O Little Town of Bethlehem 1868 – Phillips Brooks, Lewis Redner

Phillips Brooks was inspired by visiting Bethlehem in 1865, and three years later in 1868 wrote the words to O Little Town of Bethlehem. His church organist Lewis Redner wrote the tune for the song. I like this song so much, that I have sang it often, over the years for special music at church. The song conjures up images of how it was on the night Christ was born in Bethlehem.

Christmas In My Hometown

There is little information about Christmas In My Hometown, but did find out the writer was Lassaye Van Buren Holmes. My favorite version of the song was the Bobby Vinton version, but Charley Pride also recorded an excellent version of the song. This song reminds me of the times we used to travel, to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas with family, as far as 200 miles away over the years.

Christmas in Dixie 1982 – Jeff Cook, Teddy Gentry, Randy Owen, Mark Herndon

By now in New York City, there’s snow on the ground
And out in California, the sunshine’s falling down
And, maybe down in Memphis, Graceland’s all in lights
And in Atlanta, Georgia, there’s peace on earth tonight

Christmas in Dixie, it’s snowin’ in the pines
Merry Christmas from Dixie, to everyone tonight

It’s windy in Chicago the kids are out of school
There’s magic in Motown the city’s on the move
In Jackson, Mississippi, to Charlotte, Caroline
And all across the nation, it’s the peaceful Christmas time

Christmas in Dixie, it’s snowin’ in the pines
Merry Christmas from Dixie, to everyone tonight

And from Fort Payne, Alabama
God bless y’all, we love ya
Happy New Year, good night
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas tonight

Christmas in Dixie not only had great words in the song written, by the members of Alabama in 1982, but also made me think of what it was like living in Knoxville, Tennessee, during the Christmases of 2007, 2008 and 2009. This is the kind of song, that will take a listener back in time, to the good old days in the south, when families spent Christmas together.

The Christmas Song 1944 – Bob Wells, Mel Torme

The Christmas Song was first recorded by the Nat King Cole Trio in 1946. This song is special for me, since I was born in 1944 and the song was written that year, by Bob Wells and Mel Torme. It is strange, that Torme wrote the song, but didn’t record it himself till later.

The song has been recorded from artists like Trace Adkins, to Justin Bieber, to Garth Brooks, to James Brown, to Glen Campbell, to Frank Sinatra, to Bob Dylan, to New Kids on the Block, to George Strait. My favorite version is by the great Johnny Mathis, who has been recording for 58 years now and is 79 years old.

Jingle Bell Rock 1958 – Joseph Carleton Beal, James Ross Boothe

Bobby Helms recorded Jingle Bell Rock in 1957 and it was released in 1958. Brenda Lee later recorded it. This is one song you can almost be sure of hearing, at least once during the Christmas season. It has been recorded numerous times, by artists from many different genres of music, from Alvin and the Chipmunks to Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth 1944 – Donald Yetter Gardner

Donald Yetter Gardner wrote the novelty song All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth in 1944. He was a second grade teacher, who asked the kids in his class, what they wanted for Christmas, and noticed most of them were missing at least one tooth. It gave him the idea to write the song and he was surprised it became a national hit.

Spike Jones and his madcap band the City Slickers were the first to record the song. It wasn’t until 1947, when Spike and his band recorded the song.

The song has been recorded by a diverse range of singers from Alvin and the Chipmunks to George Strait. I just can’t imagine George Strait singing this song. The writer Gardner preferred the Nat King Cole version. The song went to #1 twice for Spike Jones and the City Slickers.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Tommy Connor

Jimmy Boyd was 13 years old when he recorded I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus in 1952. The song went to #1 on the Billboard Singles chart in December of 1952. The song was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church in Boston, until Boyd explained the premise of the song to the Archdiocese and the ban was lifted.

                                                                                                                    Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 1949 – Johnny Marks

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was based on the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer story written for Montgomery Ward. Johnny Marks wrote the song in 1949 and Harry Brannon first sang it on a radio program in November, then  . Gene Autry recorded it in December of 1949. The song made history, by becoming the first song to fall completely off the chart, after reaching #1.

Bing Crosby recorded the song in 1950 and the song reached #14 on the Billboard chart. Dolly Parton and the Rugrats were two of many singers or groups to record the song over the years.

Jimmy Boyd would appear a few years later, in the Bachelor Father television series and is shown the above photo, with John Forsythe and Noreen Corcoran, whose character was his love interest in the show.

Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful) 1600’s or 1700’s – Writer unknown

Adeste Fideles or O  Come All Ye Faithful, as it is known in the United States has an unverified history, so there is no known date of it being written, nor is the identity of the writer known. This article explains, why the origin of this so song is so questionable. One thing that is known is that it is one of the most sung songs in churches and also sung by carolers.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/3674120/The-story-behind-the-carol-O-come-all-ye-faithful.html

I know there will be a lot of great songs left out of this article, but time restraints restrict me from writing any longer, since this has taken about three hours to put together.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Classic Television: Green Acres 1965-1971

Green Acres 1965-1971

First Row – Eva Gabor, Eddie Albert, Eleanor Audley

Second Row – Alvy Moore, Tom Lester, Pat Buttram

Green Acres was one of the cornier CBS country comedies of that era, but at the same time it was one of the most entertaining. Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor were involved in the main plot, for each episode but the comedy ensemble backing them up is what set the show apart.

Eva Gabor and Eddie Albert as Oliver and Lisa Douglas who gave up big city life to move to Green Acres.

Who can forget county agent Hank Kimball played by Alvy Moore? Then Tom Lester the farmhand who was portrayed by Tom Lester. Mr. Haney kept us entertained as the con man, who sold Oliver Douglas useless items, that didn’t work often during the life of the show.

Green Acres - 03x30 A Star Named Arnold is Born (2)

Arnold the pig studying movie script for next movie. 

Fred Ziffel played by Hank Patterson, on the show owned a pig named Arnold. It turned out that Arnold like to steal scenes, from the humans appearing the show. Arnold would be about 50 this year, if still living at the Retired Home for Animals Who Acted.

The rumor that the cast had a luau after the last episode was aired, with Arnold as the main course was completely untrue.

Mr.Haney the fast talking con man trying to pull over on Oliver. 

Eva Gabor portrayed Lisa Douglas the wife, who didn’t really want to live on the farm, but put up with it for the sake of her husband Oliver Douglas, whose dream was to own a farm. He never would have followed his dream, if he knew ahead of time that he would be dealing with a shady con man in Mr. Haney, a inept county agent in Mr. Kimball, a pig that liked to watch television and a farmhand that didn’t know a wheelbarrow from a hay wagon in Eb.

Eddie Albert revealed that he had a 10 percent interest in the show, so probably reaped a rich dividend, when the show went into reruns.

Grave marker for Alvy Moore better known as Hank Kimball on the show. 

Mr. Haney according to imdb.com based his character on Col Tom Parker, who reportedly took 51 percent of the income of Elvis Presley, with Elvis having to eke out a living on the other 49 percent.

Oliver usually wore business clothes, even when working on the farm.

Some funny quotes from the show from imdb.com:

Lisa Douglas: Why do you want to irritate your corn?

Oliver Douglas: Irrigate. It means put water on it.

Lisa Douglas: Won’t that irritate it?

 

Eustace Charleton Haney: [after learning Oliver and Lisa are going to be out-of-town for a few days] While yer away on yer trip, I thought you might like to avail yerself of Haney’s Farm Mindin’ Service.

Oliver Wendell Douglass: HANEY’S FARM MINDING SERVICE?

Eustace Charleton Haney: Yessir, at Haney’s Farm Mindin’ Service, for a nom-yew-nal fee we will move into yer house, eat yer food, drink yer likker, and turn away any unwanted relatives that might show up at yer door.

 

Oliver Douglas: Why don’t we give away this one?

Lisa Douglas: No that’s the dress I graduated from high school in.

Oliver Douglas: How about this one?

Lisa Douglas: That’s the dress I wore the first day of college.

Oliver Douglas: [holding a black, low-cut dress] What about this one?

Lisa Douglas: That’s the one I got expelled in.

 

Green Acres was a victim of the CBS purge of rural comedies, because CBS thought the shows were only attracting rural and older audiences. Just writing this article makes me want to watch one of the Green Acres shows, but not sure if it is even shown anywhere on TV today.

Sadly most of the cast is no longer with us. These are the main cast members and their birth and death years, with the alive cast members at the bottom:

Eddie Albert 1906-2005

Eva Gabor 1919-1995

Pat Buttram 1915-1994

Frank Cady 1915-2012….played Sam Drucker the grocery store owner

Alvy Moore 1921-1997

Hank Patterson 1888-1975….was 83  when show started and 87 when it ended

Sid Melton 1917-2011….portrayed Alf Monroe on the show. He also appeared in 93 episodes of Make Room For Daddy, in which he played Charley Halper. 

Mary Grace Canfield 1924-2014….was Ralph the wife of Alf on the show. She also played Gomer Pyle’s girlfriend on an episode of Andy Griffith. 

Tom Lester 1938-present….only surviving cast member of the show and is now 76 years old. 

Classic Southern Gospel Quartets – The Blackwood Brothers

This record album was my favorite Blackwood Brothers album. It was released in 1964 and my favorite

songs on the album were I’ve Got To Walk That Lonesome Road, The Old Country Church, God Made

                   A Way, In Times Like These and Precious Memories. I played this album so much I wore out grooves on

the record and had to order a new copy.

The Blackwood Brothers Quartet bus which can be found at the Southern Gospel Music Museum at Dollywood.

The original Blackwood Brothers quartet was formed 80 years ago in 1934. The group was founded in Choctaw County, Mississippi and some of the descendants of that group are stil singing, under the Blackwood Brothers Quartet name in 2014.

Roy Blackwood, James Blackwood, Doyle Blackwood and R.W. Blackwood was the original configuration for the Blackwood Brothers in 1934.

Tragedy For Blackwood Brothers in 1954

Tragedy struck the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, when two of its members R.W. Blackwood and Bill Lyles were killed, in a plane crash on June 30, 1954. Cecil Blackwood would later replace R.W. Blackwood and J.D. Sumner replaced Bill Lyles as bass after the plane crash.

The Absolute Gospel website has an excellent article describing the accident and the aftermath:

http://absolutelygospel.com/index.php?/content/articles/3948

Trendsetters For Southern Gospel Innovations

The Blackwood Brothers were the first southern gospel group, to customize a bus for traveling to concerts.

They also founded the National Quartet Convention which started in 1957 and is still active 57 years later and is held every September.

James Blackwood 1919-2002

I was fortunate to see James Blackwood sing with the Blackwood Brothers many times over the years, when they performed in concerts in the Central Louisiana area. He was an excellent spokesman for the group, during their concerts and was one of my favorite Blackwood Brothers singers.

J.D. Sumner 1924-1998

J.D. Sumner is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records, as singing the lowest note ever sung. I remember in one Bill Gaither video, that he was singing a song, when the organist started to play faster, than Sumner wanted him to. The look he gave the organist was priceless. It may or may not have been a prank on Sumner, but if it was a prank it was not well received.

Two of my favorite Blackwood Brothers Quartet songs featuring Sumner were I’ve Got To Walk Than Lonesome Road and There’s A Light. 

J.D. Sumner on stage with Elvis Presley in 1976, which was a year before Elvis died.

J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet often toured with Elvis Presley. Still not sure if southern gospel was represented well during this time, since they were singing so much secular music during these years. J.D. Sumner gave credit to Elvis for helping him stop being an alcoholic. Shame J.D. couldn’t return the favor and convince Elvis to stop using drugs. Instead J.D. was more of an enabler and more or less discounted reports, that Elvis was a user, when he debunked those reports at the funeral for Elvis. That was before the extent of drug usage was known by the general public, but Sumner with his close proximity to Elvis probably knew exactly what Elvis was doing with drugs.

The golden era of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet are long gone, but their music will live on for years to come. I have a collection of their music from the early days till later years on cassette. It is great to hear the gospel style singing and piano playing, that most of us grew up with in the 50’s and 60’s.

James and J.D. and most of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet singers of the past are gone, but they will never be forgotten.

 

38 Years in Newspaper Production: Last 28 Years At Alexandria Town Talk

Page being built using cold type composition.

When I returned to Alexandria Town Talk, after working for Monroe Morning World for two years it was back to cold type composition again. I negotiated a raise to $190 a week, when I returned, which amounted to a little over $4 an hour. Ten years of experience and making $4 an hour was not exactly making me rich.

This paragraph from Farm Collector tells more about the cold type composition Town Talk had been using since 1972:

Beginning in the 1960s, hot type began to give way to cold type, which is technically neither cold nor type, but rather phototypesetting. Machines generate text printed on photographic paper. Every piece of text is then run through a machine that applies hot wax to one side (wax allows items to be repositioned multiple times), hand-trimmed and positioned on a page-size template.

Once a page layout is complete, a film negative of the page is created. That negative is used to expose the image of the page onto an aluminum plate, and the plates are applied to a printing cylinder on the press.

It was tedious work to place the ads on a page and then wrap the type and photos around the ads, since we had to cut the type to fit the page, according to the page layout. Sometimes a page would be built and an ad, for example which was 3 columns by 8 inches might actually be 4 columns by 10 inches. We then would have to re-do the page moving type and/or photos to make the ad fit the page. This was not easy to do working with paper, since we had to use an X-acto or razor blade, to cut the type where needed to fit the page.

Town Talk Starts Morning Paper

The Town Talk ended their afternoon paper and started a mornings only paper in 1981. The Town Talk missed by 2 years of having an afternoon paper for 100 years.

Some employees left the paper, when the morning paper was announced, since the composing room work was mostly done in the evenings.

The night work was tough on families, in which both spouses worked, especially if one worked days and the other nights.

 

Historic marker telling of history of Alexandria Daily Town Talk

 

Since we worked in the composing room building up pages we had a lot of interaction with editors, wire desk and sports desk employees.

Adras Laborde was the editor when I started working there and sometimes I had to take proofs of his column for him to read and check for errors.

Wallace Anthony was a longtime wire desk employee, that died four years ago. He might not have been the fastest at designing pages, but he was a perfectionist intent on producing an excellent front page.

Bill Carter was an excellent sports editor, who I enjoyed talking to in coffee shop many times about baseball.

Nelder Dawson was the first person I talked to, when applying for work at Town Talk and he was there for 50 years.

Helen Derr was the religious editor and often worked with her making any necessary changes to her Saturday church page.

Ron Grant was another editor and former photographer, who checked page proofs and was always willing to help, with any problems having to do with an editorial page.

Ethel Holloman was very particular about how her society pages looked. This was back in the day when society editor would attend weddings. She is even more famous for her investigative reporting about mistreatment of mental patients at Central Louisiana State Hospital. It would be interesting to check the Town Talk archives, so I could read her articles about the abuse of mental patients.

Jim Butler left the Town Talk way too soon, since he was an excellent editor, who was great to work with and enjoyed our conversations about baseball over the years.

Elizabeth Roberts Martin – She made the news herself when writing a review, of the Elvis Presley concert in March of 1977, which was less than 5 months before his untimely death.

 

 

This is the review reprinted by elvisconcerts.com:

 

 

CONCERT DATE: March 29 1977 (8:30 pm). Alexandria LA..

Elvis Concert Termed “Entertaining”
by Elizabeth Roberts
Alexandria Town Talk
March 30, 1977

There’s a show on stage at the Rapides Parish Coliseum that is staged very professionally – that’s with a capital “P” as in Presley. And it’s Entertaining – that’s with a capital “E” as in Elvis. But it’s not a grade A performance, I’ll grade it a B minus, but as I said, it’s entertaining.

There’s no need to rush and push tonight and there’s not a chance of seeing Presley other than on stage. He won’t begin singing until about 10PM (his plane doesn’t arrive until at least 8.30 tonight) and when he does here, he’ll be driven inside the coliseum so there’s no need to stand outside. Once you’re in your seat, you stay there. No rushing the aisles for picture-taking or for a closer look. The guards see to that.

Tuesday night Presley was on stage less than an hour; he was impossible to understand when (or if) he talked between numbers; his How Great Thou Art should have been How Loud Thou Art; he never said one word to the audience or mentioned how nice or not nice it was to be in Alexandria or said “hi, how are you, we’re going to have a good time tonight and hope you enjoy the show.” He came on stage, did a few numbers and then dashed off – no encores, no extra bows, no nothing.

He relied heavily on his back-up group and when one of the singers dropped a microphone after singing O Sole Mio, he made the guy sing it again. There were false starts on a number of songs and his repertoire was mostly 1950’s early-EP songs.

Yes, that’s how he got his start and those are the songs we screamed over years ago, but times have changed and so has Elvis. He’s not the skinny young man from Memphis by way of Tupelo and the Louisiana Hayride. He’s a good singer and a showman but neither talent showed up in Tuesday night’s show.

He should update his performance and add more contemporary numbers. He’s certainly capable – his version of Early Morning Rain was outstanding. The rest was pure early Presley: Jailhouse Rock, Blue Suede Shoes, I Got a Woman, C.C.Rider, It’s Now Or Never.

In between, a lackey followed him around, draping scarves around his neck, so Elvis could toss them to admiring fans. I’ll give The Man credit for consideration, though. He did remember there were hundreds of people sitting behind him and tossed a few scarves in their direction and did a couple of bumps and grinds. Of course, that set off the screaming masses who saw for the first time a bump and grind from the rear.

If you’re going to the show tonight and going only to see Elvis, there’s no rush. The “warm-up” program begins in the vicinity of 8.30PM. Tuesday, it ended at 9.27 for an intermission while we prepare the stage don’t forget the souvenir concessions outside.” At 9.57PM, the “Hot Hilton Horns” began playing the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the thousands of flashbulbs started exploding like strobe lights.

Then The Man appeared, dressed in gold-embroidered white jeans and jacket and a gigantic belt which he had to keep hitching up. Around his neck were two necklaces (a short neck chain and a gold coin on a gold chain) and on his left hand, a gigantic diamond ring.

There were the usual warm-up groups. Gospel singers in yellow-trimmed-in-black liesure tuxedos; the Jokers: an inspirational” comedian dressed in a denim jumpsuit embroidered with Walt Disney characters (On Gay Liberation: “If God had meant people to be that way, he would have created Adam and Freddie”); and a trio “The Sweet Inspirations” who were worth the admission price.

If you’re a people watcher, the concert is great fun. If you’re an Elvis fan, you might be disappointed. There’s more (and better) music on any record album of his you have.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Courtesy of Scott Hayward

A few more of the people who I have worked with over the years:

Richard Sharkey was known for checking and double-checking pages, before they went to the press. Then after the press started he would check the first papers rolling off the press and have us fix any mistakes made.

Cecil Williams was another editor in editorial department, who was fun to talk to.

Al Nassif was not only a sportswriter and later a wire desk employee, but also published Church Today on the side. Al was one of the nicest people ever to work for Town Talk, and employed me as a page builder for the Church Today for 13 years. It is amazing he could work two jobs and have dialysis treatments for many years.

Bob Tompkins  worked at both the Town Talk and the Monroe Morning World like me. It was good to see someone I knew from Town Talk working there in Monroe.

John Marcase will always be remembered, for his hard work on the high school football section every year and those horrific Friday nights, during high school football season, when he would make order out of chaos.

Melinda Martinez in the Focus department knew it was trouble when I visited the department. Either there was an error on the page or an ad had come up the wrong size, which caused her to have to rebuild a page, which was not exactly a picnic for her.

Mike Branigan was the composing room superintendent and was a problem solver of the first magnitude. I don’t know how many times we had to call him at home, with some major problem and a few minutes later he would be in the Town Talk composing room fixing the problem.

 Note: I know I am leaving someone out, but there are too many co-workers over the 36 years at the Town Talk, to mention them all in one article.

Moved To Camera Shop

Will never forget 1993, since that is year I was moved from page makeup to the camera shop. It was a challenge for a non-mechanical person like me and it took a long time to get used to it. Had no idea how hard it was to register photos using register marks and toning photos didn’t come easy for me. We had to register cyan, magenta, yellow and black negatives and if they weren’t registered properly it would make for a very fuzzy looking photo in the newspaper.

I don’t think the other camera shop workers liked me being in the camera shop, since I was clearly a novice that was not mechanically inclined. Changing the rolls of film in the dark for the full-page negative camera was always an adventure for me.

Paginating Classified Pages

I was eventually trained to build the classified pages using page pagination. I would first place the ads in the page using the computer, according to the classified layout, then after all the ads were in place would flow all the other classified type consisting of automobiles for sale, garage sales, etc. After the pages finished filling would place the legal type in the pages. Sometimes, we had more classified type and classified ads, than would fit in the section, so would have to make adjustments to make it work out.

Double truck ads like we did while in platemaking.

The hardest thing in the 38 years was building double truck ads, or as we called them double trouble. Cutting the middle out of the two page ads and then matching, without overlapping the two sides was very time-consuming. Black and white ads were bad enough, since they only had one negative, but the color ads took much longer, since we had to perfectly match up all four color negatives. There must be a way to do these same ads by now with computer.

Plate Made With a Platemaking Machine

Moved to Platemaking

Not sure what year it was, but was moved to platemaking and started working across the street adjacent to the pressroom.

Full page negatives would arrive in platemaking, then we would place them over a metal plate in a plate burner, which would make an impression of the page on the plate. Then we would carry the finished plates to pressroom and they would be placed on the press.

This was very hectic work and we would take most of the night, to get caught up the first time.

It was during this time, that I experienced high blood pressure problems. I went to VA hospital in Pineville and found out my blood pressure was 232/108 and nurse told me I was on the verge of a stroke.

Retired On Halloween Night

My last night of work was on Halloween night of 2004. I didn’t want to retire, but was in a position, where I really had no choice but retire.

Leaving work for the last time knowing I was ending 36 years with Town Talk, and 38 years in newspaper production was not easy. The 21-year-old kid that walked in the Town Talk in August of 1966 was now 60 years old and only two years from being on Social Security.

I will be 70 next week, but still think of Town Talk often. In fact I dream about working on the paper and trying to meet the deadline, then wake up and realize that part of my life is over.

Thanks for the memories to all of those I worked with those 38 years in newspaper production.

Sad Aftermath

The Alexandria Town Talk as I knew it longer exists.

One of the more troubling changes is that the pages aren’t even designed in Alexandria, but rather 857 miles away in Des Moines, Iowa.

Guess the editorial department is relegated writing stories and taking photos, except I guess the editors of different departments still decide, which stories will be used in the paper.  The Town Talk is more of a news gathering company and ad selling company, since the pages are designed in Des Moines, Iowa, the paper is printed in Lafayette, Louisiana and last I knew the circulation department is in North Carolina. I have heard that subscribers have to call North Carolina, if their paper isn’t delivered.

So much for Gannett being a boon to the Central Louisiana economy. They are more concerned about the bottom line, than about the local economy.

The pressroom across the street from the main building lies dormant and the Town Talk is now being printed 88 miles away in Lafayette, Louisiana. I don’t think I will ever understand, why the papers have to be delivered back to Alexandria.

The bulletin board with photos of all the employees is no longer filled and not even sure if it is still there. If it is still there doubt there is more than two rows of photos.

The composing room which once had about 40 employees doesn’t even exist, because of technology advances.

The saddest thing about the downsizing is that many of my co-workers have been let go by Gannett over the years.

The beginning of the end was when the Smith family sold the Town Talk, to Central Newspapers for $62 million in 1996.

Then four years later Gannett buys Central Newspapers as the Town Talk had three different owners from 1996-2000.

Town Talk employees had received a $150 Christmas bonus for many years, but Gannett ended that tradition almost immediately upon taking ownership.

Nationwideadvertising.com lists the Town Talk circulation in a year, which is not shown:

Advertise in the Alexandria-Pineville Louisiana “The Town Talk” Daily Newspaper. Printed mornings. Circulation: 34,437; Sunday: 39,585. 

Wikipedia now list the following circulation for the Town Talk:

The daily newspaper has a circulation of some 19,500 daily and 27,500 on Sundays.

I am hoping that there will always be an Alexandria Town Talk paper edition, since reading news on the internet can never match unfolding a paper, to read the latest news and sports.

I don’t know what the future holds for the Alexandria Town Talk, but for the sake of the present employees I hope  it is a long one.

38 Years In Newspaper Production – The Monroe Years

Monroe News-Star 1890- Present

I started work at the Monroe Morning World in April of 1974. They also had an evening paper named the News-Star. The Morning World no longer exists as they merged with the News-Star in 1980.

The first day in the composing room was sort of a shock, since the Morning World was still using the hot metal process to produce the paper. The Town Talk had been using cold type composition since 1972, so I had to go back in time and start using hot type again.

Strike Begins

One night about a week into my employment some of the workers left and began striking. It made for a very long night that night, as we had fewer people to do the work, so it took much longer.

The Shreveport Times sent some strike breakers from their plant in Shreveport, to help take up the slack.

It was sort of scary, when I drove onto the parking lot one time, with picketers trying to block the driveway. I kept driving and they finally moved out-of-the-way.

There was no doubt that strikers were serious, when they pulled over one of the strike breakers from Shreveport on the highway, by using flashing lights. They proceeded to get him out of his vehicle and worked them over. Since I had been there only a week I was afraid some of the strikers would think I was a strike breaker  too. The Ewing family which owned both the Monroe papers and the Shreveport Times didn’t give in to the demands of the strikers and the strike ended.

Ludlow Composing Stick

Every Sunday night I was given the job of building up Page 1 for the Monroe Morning World and part of job was to use a Ludlow stick to make the main headline at the top of the page. I had to stagger the type like this in headlines like this one that I made up:

Three Bandits Rob Convenience Store

      In Early Morning Robbery in Epps

            Leaving Victims Frightened

 

Then I would insert the Ludlow stick into the Ludlow Machine which would cast the type in lead and would then proceed to build up Page 1.

Saw Elvis in Concert Again

While living in the Monroe area we got to see Elvis Presley in concert again. We also saw a concert with the Righteous Brothers and the Hues Corporation. The Hughes Corporation sang their big hit at the time “Don’t Rock the Boat Baby”.

Living in West Monroe

Our first apartment in the Monroe area was in the new Shrangri La apartments on Wellerman Road in West Monroe, Louisiana. I had a flat tire on Interstate 20 one night, during my supper time and a state trooper turned on his flashing lights, to warn the other drivers, so I could change the flat tire.

The apartment’s rent was $165, which wasn’t that much even in 1974.

Too Much Overtime

Knew I was taking a risk moving 100 miles to Monroe for a measly $8 more per week more, than what I made at the Town Talk. However, I was making overtime like crazy. Our work week was 37 and-a-half hours a week, but I worked many more hours than that.

I would work 4:30 PM to 1 AM if I didn’t work overtime. However, I almost never got off work at a 1 AM. I would usually go to work at 4:30 PM and then wouldn’t get off work till 6 AM the next morning. Then it got even worse when the composing room superintendent would call about noon and ask me to come in early at 2 PM. So a typical workday would be from 2 PM to 6AM for a 14 hour day.

The reason there was so much overtime is that the daytime workers working on the Monroe News-Star weren’t that interested in overtime. We wound up killing out their pages for them, when we came to work, so we would have empty page forms to publish the Monroe Morning World. Then at night we would kill out our own pages, then turn around and start placing ads in pages for the News-Star workers, when they would come to work.

What it amounted to was that we were doing most of the work for the day crew, while they just built their pages and went home.

I remember working 36 hours of overtime in one Christmas week, which almost equaled my 37.5 regular hours.

There was one stretch, where I worked 49 straight days in a row, when the boss kept asking if I wanted to work both my days off. I was off on the 50th day and got sick and not sure it wasn’t from the stress of working so many days in a row.

It was normal to get only 6 or 7 hours sleep, then return to work again.

Looking back, it is a wonder I survived those two years in Monroe.

Moved to Monroe

We moved to Monroe later, so we could be closer to my work and my wife’s work, since we only had one car most of the time there. We moved to the Plantation Apartments off of North 18th Street in Monroe.

Thought President Nixon Was Dying 

I remember when the editor thought President Nixon was close to death, so we worked on pages about his life, but all that work was for nothing, as he lived many more years. We wound up throwing all those pages in the garbage.

Breaks On The Loading Dock

The best memory of our breaks on the loading dock was during the Christmas season, when we could see the buildings in downtown Monroe with their Christmas lights turned on.

Gannett Takes Over

The Gannett Corporation took over the News-Star the year after I left, so I narrowly avoided working for two Gannett papers, during my years in the newspaper business.

Returning To Town Talk

My wife was not happy with her job, plus there were two openings at the Town Talk in the composing room, so I applied to work at Town Talk in March of 1976 again and was hired and would spend the next 28 years at Town Talk before retiring in 2004.

I remember the cake being served, when I returned because it was so close to St. Patrick’s Day.

 

To Be Continued – Part 3 – Last 28 Years At Town Talk

 

Classic Televison: Donna Reed Show

Donna Reed, Paul Petersen, Carl Betz and Shelly Fabares shown in a scene from the Donna Reed Show.

Donna Reed Show was one of the few family sitcoms, that featured the mother. The show debuted on September 24, 1958 and the last show aired on March 19, 1966.

Reed who was Donna Stone in the series was the wife of pediatrician Dr. Alex Stone played by Carl Betz. Paul Petersen who was Jeff Stone and Shelly Fabares portrayed Mary Stone in the series.

Donna Reed 1921-1986

Donna Reed

Donna Reed was born Donnabelle Mullenger on January 27, 1921 in Denison, Iowa. Her first movie role was in 1941, when she appeared in The Getaway. She would act in two other films that year.

1942 was a busy year for Reed, since she appeared in seven movies that year including The Courtship of Andy Hardy. She is remembered for co-starring with James Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life in 1947, which has become a Christmas classic.

Reed would also appear in From Here To Eternity in 1953. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the movie.

Her first television appearance was in an episode of Ford Television Theatre in 1954. Reed appeared in six more movies and made appearances in three television shows, before she took the role of Donna Stone in the Donna Reed Show.

After the show ran from 1958-1966 she wouldn’t appear on-screen again, till 1979 when she appeared in a TV movie, which was named The Best Place To Be. Reed was last seen as Ellie Ewing in Dallas, in 1984 and 1985 before her death in 1986.

Donna Reed died of pancreatic  cancer on January 14, 1986 at the age of 64 in Beverly Hills, California.

Carl Betz 1921-1978

Carl Betz

Carl Lawrence Betz was born on March 9, 1921 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Betz portrayed Collie Jordan on the Love of Life soap opera in 1951 in his first television role. Betz would appear in his first credited movie The President’s Lady in 1953.

He then appeared in five more movies in 1953, then wouldn’t appear in another movie till 1966, when he appeared with Elvis Presley in Spinout. He had barely finished his last episode of the Donna Reed Show, when he was in the cast of Judd For The Defense from 1967-1969. He appeared in 50 episodes of the series as Clinton Judd. Betz appeared mostly in various television series till the end of 1977.

Betz also died of cancer on January 18, 1978 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 56.

Paul Petersen

Paul Petersen

Paul Petersen was born as William Paul Petersen on September 23, 1945, in Glendale, California. Petersen recorded a song She Can’t Find Her Keys during the time he was on the Donna Reed Show. Petersen made his first television appearance at the age of 11 on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in 1956 in the Along the Oregon Trail episode.

He would appear in all 275 episodes of the Donna Reed Show and was the only one besides Donna Reed to appear in all the episodes filmed. He appeared in 83 more episodes than Shelley Fabares, who played his sister Mary.

Peterson appeared in numerous television series, after the show ended its run in 1966.

He will be seen in The Executive which is currently filming and Kathy Garver, who portrayed Cissy on Family Affair will also be in the cast.

The role of Jeff Stone later would cause Petersen much anguish, because he wasn’t being taken seriously, when looking for more mature roles. He had been an original Mousketeer on the Mickey Mouse Club at the age of 8 in 1955.

Petersen would start an organization named A Minor Consideration, which was a child actor support group.

When he couldn’t find work as an actor Mickey Rooney talked him into attending college.

This quote from Petersen explains why he became a child actor:

“I became a child actor because my mom was bigger than I was.”

Petersen was not happy when actor Bill Bixby took his wife: [on losing wife Brenda Benet to Bill Bixby] I was so angry I couldn’t see straight, and what doubled this pain was that Bill was really visible. You know, he was going great guns and I was going in the toilet.

He has reached out to many former child stars, who needed emotional support from someone like him, who had been under the same stress as they were experiencing.

It is hard to believe that the teenage Jeff Stone will be 70 next year.

Shelley Fabares

Shelley Fabares

Shelly Fabares was born as Michele Marie Fabares on January 19, 1944 in Santa Monica, California.

Fabares has 90 acting credits in her acting resume and continued to receive many acting roles, after Donna Reed Show had left the air.

She was in her first movie The Girl Rush in 1955 and also acted in three television series that year.

Her first major role was when she appeared in 15 episodes of Walt Disney Presents: Annette in 1958. That same year would see her appear in her first episode of the Donna Reed Show. She went straight from making her last appearance on the show in 1965 to appearing in three Elvis Presley movies. She appeared with Elvis in  Girl Happy in 1965, Spinout in 1966, and was also in his 1967 movie Clambake.

Then she appeared in 47 episodes of the Brian Keith Show which aired from 1974-1976. Fabares would appear in 27 episodes of The Practice 1976-1977. She would appear in One Day At A Time 1978-1984 in 23 episodes.

Coach would be her next big show, in which she appeared in all 198 episodes from 1989-1997.

Since then Fabares has acted very infrequently with mostly voice roles since then. Her only acting job since 1997 was Playing to Win: A Moment of Truth Movie (TV Movie) which was shown in 1998, so she has not been seen on a television or movie screen in the last 16 years.

She was married to record producer Lou Adler from 1964-1980, then married Mike Farrell of M

She is the niece of actress/comedienne Nanette Fabray who is now 93 years old.

Fabares would have a #1 Billboard hit with Johnny Angel.

One of her major movie roles was in Brian’s Song 1971 when she appeared as the wife of Brian Piccolo.

Carl Betz portrayed her father on both the Donna Reed Show and in the movie Spinout.