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Liz Ciancone

April 23, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: A memory test from the oldtime radio days

TERRE HAUTE — For some reason, I seem to be the go-to source for all sorts of obscure information out at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center.

I’m not sure whether this is supposed to be a tribute to what the “Knights of the Round Table” consider my memory, or maybe they just think I am old enough to have seen — and remembered — it all.

Who could forget, for example, that it was Minnie Pearl of the “Grand Ol’ Opry” who forgot to take the price tab off her hat and doesn’t everyone remember that Fibber McGee and Molly lived at 79 Wistful Vista? Not I certainly.

But the other morning when I was about to head for home and a hot shower, Fred asked me the name of the guy who had been master of ceremonies for the old radio program, “The Breakfast Club.” I hated to let the side down, but honestly all I could recall at a moment’s notice was the theme song and the fact that the emcee’s first name was Don.

So, we kicked it around for a bit and finally, probably Lennie whose memory and life experience is equal to mine, suggested that he thought it was a Scottish name — “Mac something, I think,” he said. Finally someone — not me — came up with Don McNeil, and so it was.

I could have warbled the theme song for “The Breakfast Club,” but by popular request, I didn’t.

But my Best Friend and I had a pleasant drive home remembering those early radio shows: “Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy” and “Mr. Keene, Tracer of Lost Persons.” We even remembered “Jolly Joe Kelly” and his theme song. I did sing that one in the privacy of our car and although I did not get rave reviews from my BF he had to applaud my memory.

I remember especially how Dad could not get to the radio fast enough to shut up Jolly Joe as he concluded his song with a welcome “to all you boys and girls” and added “Heh-o Daddy and a great big hug and a smacker for Grandma and Grandpa.”

Dad’s problem was that Jolly Joe made his pitch immediately after the news show and Dad didn’t want to miss Julian Bentley and the news. While Dad hung on Julian’s last words, Jolly Joe made his pitch and Dad grabbed for the shut-off dial.

No one has asked — yet — but who can forget Lulu Belle and Skyland Scottie or the Hoosier Hot Shots. The latter never started until someone had asked, “Are you ready, Hezzie?”

My memory is probably a bit long although I claim no expertise on the current crop of rap artists. I do know that I am not apt to forget Don McNeil any time soon.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.

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