Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Did we ever tell you about our family’s minor but memorable role in the legend of the Mother Road, Route 66? No?

Some years ago, our father told us that, in 1933 or so, his parents operated a combination gas station, cafe and motor court right on Route 66 in the western section of Oklahoma City (our hometown, don’t you know). Our recollection is that he said it was west of Portland, not far from where the 66 Bowl bowling alley was for so long (the preceding details are included for those who are familiar with OKC).

Route 66 holds a place of honor in the states through which it passes; it certainly does in Oklahoma. And we count ourselves as Mother Road aficionados; we even drove the entire length of Route 66 in the summer of ’92. So we were very excited to learn that our family had played even a small role in the history of that fabled highway.

And we were even more delighted when Dad filled in some details. His father (our grandfather) was always looking for a leg up, a new scheme to make it big, and that’s why, when he moved his family moved from a farm outside Wayne, Oklahoma, to OKC, they ended up owning (or renting, we’re not sure which) the motor court.

But the story got juicier: Dad told me that not only did the cafe serve beer (we’re pretty sure this all took place during Prohibition, but Oklahoma was a dry state even after repeal), but the rooms were available for shorter stays of, say, an hour or two in length. And yes, that means just what you think it means.

We could not imagine our devout, church-going, teetotaling Grandmother putting up with such nonsense (you can see Grandmother in the photos accompanying these posts—does she look as though she’d be comfortable operating such an establishment?). Dad acknowledged that his mom was none too happy about the family’s new enterprise, but Grandpa was not a man easily denied. It is interesting to note, however, that our grandparents only operated that gas station/cafe/motor court for a year or so, so while Grandpa may have won the battle, it seems that it was Grandmother who won the war.

Spring forward 77 years: Our mom was a go-getter. She got stuff done. But one task she never accomplished was sorting through what she insisted were boxes and boxes of family photographs. When she passed 2010, we finally gained access to those boxes (we never even knew where they were) and we spent hours going through them. While our siblings were more interested in the photos from our own lives, the color shots from the 1960s and ’70s, we were fascinated, it will not surprise long-time readers of this site to learn, by those taken during the first half of the 20th century. We always want to know what we missed! So we were tossing aside all the color shots and going right for the black-and-whites (we’ve shared any number of those with you right here on this website over the years).

And were we thrilled when we came across these photos of Dad’s family posing for snapshots outside that roadside establishment on Route 66! We do wish someone had stepped across the road and taken a shot of the entire layout, but beggars can’t be choosers. We’re very happy to have this photographic evidence of our family’s contribution to Mother Road lore and legend.

Past Paper: Merry Christmas—Stop—Happy New Year—Stop

We don’t view the Cladrite Era as the good ol’ days in the sense that we’re convinced life was better then than now. Different, sure, and it’s those differences that fascinate us. But better? In some ways, yes, but worse in others. We figure things tend to balance out over time. Every era has its highlights and low points.

But we do mourn the passing of certain practices and traditions, and high on that list is the telegram.

Truth be told, we’d give our eye teeth to be able to observe special occasions by sending telegrams. Sure, sure, email’s great, and Facebook, texting and Tweeting all have their place, but none possess the charm or carry the weight of a telegram. And while Christmas cards are a delight to send and receive, imagine sending Christmas telegrams!

We, alas, have never received a telegram, and we’ve sent only one, in 1984 (it never arrived, and to this day, we have no idea whether we were charged for it). But we perk right up any time we see a telegraph office or a telegram delivery depicted in an old movie. The practice and process of sending telegrams continues to fascinate us.

So we were very pleased to come across this promotional pamphlet for Postal Telegraph, Commercial Cables, and All-America Cables (were they all owned by the same concern? We assume so, but we don’t really know. If there are any telegraph experts reading this, by all means, please clue us in).


Hi-res view

Hi-res view

Hi-res view

We like that telegrams are pitched in the pamphlet’s copy as the “modern way” to send holiday greetings, as the “convenient and timely way of sending good wishes.”

And we love the list of suggested messages on the back. We’d heard that one could order a pre-written telegram by the number, like an item on a menu at a Chinese restaurant, but we’d never seen a list of pre-composed messages and their accompanying numbers. Clearly one would hope to receive a telegram bearing one of the messages numbered from 134-141, since they were all intended to accompanied by wired money. Happy holidays, indeed!

This post was originally published in slightly different form on 12/15/2011.

The B. C. Clark Jingle: A Christmas Tradition Continues, Year 10

It’s that time of year again, folks, when we share the B. C. Clark holiday jingle with you.

B. C. Clark Jingle: A holiday advertisementLongtime Cladrite Radio readers and listeners will recall that the sharing of the B. C. Clark jingle is something of a Christmas tradition here. 2018 marks the 10th year we’ve spread the holiday spirit in this fashion.

Anyone who grew (or is currently growing) up in the Oklahoma City area knows that it’s just not the Christmas season until you’ve heard the B. C. Clark jingle on television or the radio at least once.

Below are two versions of the jingle—the original, which is admittedly of lower audio quality, and a later version—the one currently heard on radio and TV in the Oklahoma City area—which arguably sounds a bit better, but drops one line late in the song (“The Christmas wish of B. C. Clark is to keep on pleasing you…”), because 30-second commercials had become the norm on local television.

B. C. Clark, for the non-Okies among you, is a jewelry retailer that’s been in operation in the Sooner State since 1892, and since 1956 (a bit outside Cladrite Radio’s typical time frame, but we’re stretching a point for the holidays), they’ve been running the aforementioned jingle advertising their annual sale, which takes place not after Christmas, like most stores (or so the jingle’s lyrics insist), but just before.

So for 63 years, denizens of central Oklahoma have been humming along to this catchy ditty, and it’s our pleasure to share this holiday highlight with folks from other parts of the country (and around the world).

And here’s a fun fact: the good folks at B. C. Clark paid just $300 for the jingle back in the day—that’s $2,830.80 in 2018 dollars, a pretty sweet bargain for a jingle that’s been a favorite of Oklahomans everywhere for more than six decades.

But be forewarned—listen more than two or three times, and you’ll be hooked, no matter how far away you live from the nearest B.C. Clark location. And soon, as with the millions of Okies who have come to associate this venerable jingle with the Christmas season, you’ll come to feel that it just isn’t the holidays until you’ve heard the jingle once or twice (or a dozen times).

In Search of the Mysterious Mr. Moskowitz

Clockwise from upper left: Groucho Marx, Lee Tracy, Milton Wallace and Walter WinchellOne of the joys of being an old-movie buff is when an actor in a bit part sparks your interest and you start to do a little research on him or her, which causes you to tumble down a rabbit hole of odd facts and coincidences. Sometimes one finds unlikely connections between that unfamiliar performer and some much bigger names—such as when, say, Groucho Marx, Lee Tracy, Walter Winchell have a connection to…Milton Wallace?

We recently attended a screening of Blessed Event (1932), a classic precode comedy in which Lee Tracy plays a character that is obviously inspired by gossip columnist Walter Winchell, who was all the rage back then.

We were especially excited to attend the screening, as we had been informed that some footage that had long since been excised from the picture was back in. Reportedly, it had been there all along, but only in the print that belonged to the Library of Congress. Virtually no one knew about it till Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at NYC’s Film Forum, screened the print at the TCM film festival and realized what a find he’d uncovered.

For those not familiar with Winchell, we’ll catch you up just a bit: A former vaudevillian, he turned to a scandal-mongering form of journalism when his performing career wound down. His popular newspaper column was syndicated and he had a huge following on national radio, too. He was known for coining any number of phrases still used today, including the above-cited “blessed event” used to signal the pending birth of a baby (the guardians of broadcasting decency in those days were convinced that American ears were too tender for that oh-so-coarse term “pregnant”).

Winchell’s broadcasts included remotely broadcast performances by bands and singers around the country, and right before switching to those remote locations, he would blow a siren whistle and say, “Okay, America!”

In the film, as the title suggests, Tracy’s Winchell-esque character relies on the same “blessed event” catchphrase that Winchell used. But in the restored scene, a short, middle-aged, somewhat stereotypical (though not, in our opinion, disparagingly so) Jewish man, played by one Milton Wallace, shows up at the newspaper office to give Tracy a “blessed event” tip: He, Mr. Moskowitz, and his wife are soon going to have their seventh child and he thinks maybe Tracy would want to put that into his column.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

There are tropes and plot twists that are eternal in movies, but there are other familiar devices that have somehow faded away.

When was the last time, for example, that you saw a character in a movie of recent vintage place a handkerchief over the mouthpiece of a phone to disguise his or her voice?

If you’re young enough and aren’t an avid movie buff, you may never have seen such a scene.

But as any fan of pictures from the Golden Age of Hollywood can attest, it’s a device that was used over and over, in thriller after film noir after mystery picture.

And yet, we’ve never heard anyone question the validity of this practice. Since we were just a kid, we scratched our head over it, but we have wondered if we were alone.

What mystical property could a pocket handkerchief possess that allows it to magically alter a voice until it is unrecognizeable?

For those who really don’t have a recollection of seeing such a scene, we’re offering a snippet of a nice 1953 film noir, The Blue Gardenia. In the picture, Anne Baxter is the subject of a police dragnet on suspicion of murder (though they’ve not yet identified who she is, exactly). In this scene, she calls a newspaper columnist (Richard Conte), who has made an offer via his column to help the “Blue Gardenia” (as the papers have dubbed the unidentified suspect) to tell her side of the story, to exonerate herself of the pending charges.

And when Baxter calls, she uses—you guessed it—a handkerchief to disguise her voice.

When we watched The Blue Gardenia recently (for what must have been our fifth or sixth viewing), we decided it was time to put the handkerchief method to the test, once and for all. And we’ve done just that below.

Without the handkerchief

With the handkerchief

The first audio file was recorded without a handkerchief. We simply spoke a few lines of dialogue (that you will likely recognize) directly into the phone as we always do when making a call. We have a VoiP line, not an old-fashioned land line, and our phone is a digital one, but we think neither of those factors is particularly important in undertaking this experiment.

The second audio file was recorded exactly the same way, only we placed a cotton men’s handkerchief over the mouthpiece of the phone. You can judge for yourself by listening to the two audio files, but for our money, we can’t hear a bit of difference.

All those old movies, all those handkerchief-over-the-mouthpiece scenes. All those lies!

This Cladrite Classic was first published on March 16, 2011.