Welcome to the Nostalgic Ramber

Hans Jeff Borger is heard on WRGE 97.9 FM in Ocala, FL featuring Christian programming.

"The Nostalgic Rambler" radio show previously heard on Gene Martin & Friends has been suspended due to my commitments at WRGE.

Why a blog? I wrote a book "The Little Grownup: a nostalgic Michigan boyhood" which should appeal to most baby boomers. A mass market book? Well, not yet...but the potential is there! (Be sure to buy it at "finer on line bookstores" everywhere!)

The comments presented in "The Nostalgic Rambler" probably won't be of interest to the masses...anymore. If grandma and grandpa and their friends were still alive, then it would be a different story.

I live in the past. My time warp is a comfortable cocoon even if it sometimes drives my wife crazy. The music of the 1940s and 50s, the stars of those days were big stuff in their day, but are now almost forgotten. Oddly enough, I was born in '64 so those iconic years were for the most part over by that time.

Through "The Nostalgic Rambler" I maybe can help share my love and knowledge for those times and things...all at one time important pieces of Americana but now a bit faded in memory.

The woman who did the blog about cooking all of Julia Childs' French Cuisine Cookbook in a year got a sweet movie deal out of her blog experience. I wouldn't mind that but would be happy to know that you are reading this....and maybe enjoying my time warp, too.

Hans Jeff Borger

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Perry Como Salute

It's a few more months until radio stations will unearth the classic CHRISTmas recordings by other long forgotten singers. Perry Como is one of these. Why it's cool to listen to Bing and Perry at CHRISTmas but not the rest of the year is beyond me, so this week "The Nostalgic Rambler" salutes Mr. C, Mr. Relaxation, Mr. Perry Como.

Some statistics: between 1945 and 1970 he sold over 100 million records. Only Bing Crosby, Elvis and the Beatles topped him. He had 17 Gold records between 1945 and 1958. His thousands of tv shows included "The Kraft Music Hall" which back in 1959 was a 25 million dollar contract for two years.

Rather than list too many statistics, let me introduce (or re-introduce you) to Perry's work. Many of his "Kraft Music Hall" shows are available to watch here. Perry's guest stars on these shows are a cavalcade of great artists, from pianist Roger Williams to singer Nat King Cole to dog star Rin Tin Tin. Youtube also has plenty of Como to listen or watch. Try here and here for an example.

A Perry Como biography came out not too long ago. It is filled with lots of nostalgic tidbits that I just eat up. Not too much about Perry's personal life however. He was a family man and apparently kept his private life out of the spotlight which the biographers continued to respect.

I got to see Perry at a Christmas show in Daytona Beach, Florida back in 1991. By that time he was quite old, but his voice was still there. When he got tired, he simply pointed to the choir behind him. It wasn't his heyday 1940s to 50s best, but it was obvious that we were still watching a master a work.

For a bit of fun, notice the "TV Song Stars" magazine on the top of this blog post. Notice anything odd? Yes, the TV show is in color and Eddie Fisher, another famed song master of the era, is tuning ME in on the screen.

I've included some other great shots of Perry in his prime plus the autograph I got!

Sing to me, Mr. C!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Mothers-in Law: a "new" comedy from Desi Arnaz and "I Love Lucy" writers

Here's something that's so old and forgotten that it's brand new again!

After the iconic "I Love Lucy" series, Desi Arnaz had a tough act to follow....and he had to do it without his former wife Lucille Ball. What he come up with in the late 60s was a show called "The Mothers-in Law" starring Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard. The show aired for two seasons on NBC. Arnaz produced and also appeared in several episodes.

Although it was fondly remembered by a few people (including a college roommate of mine) I had never seen this series. According to legend, the series rights were mired in legal problems and so for years it hasn't been seen on tv...except for some old grainy prints once in a while which I had never seen either.

Now "Desilu,too" (run by Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr) present a prize package of 1960s television with "The Mothers-in-Law" Complete Series on dvd. Of course it isn't "I Love Lucy" (nothing is....even Lucille Ball's 1960s and 70s tv ventures). "The Mothers-in-Law" is pretty funny though in its own right.

At the time it may have seemed rather 1950s in its plotlines and this of course was the late 1960s when times were a changin'. Now however the show can be looked at with a fresh view and with the stale crap presented as comedy on tv today, this is actually quite refreshing.

Desi Arnaz, Jr introduces the first show, as does the famous "The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC" peacock. From there it's 56 half hours of comedy often written by Bob Carroll, Jr and Madelyn Pugh Davis, the same scribes who penned "I Love Lucy."

Eve Arden has quite a sense of comedy timing and Kaye Ballard is the perfect cohort. Their husbands are played by Herbert Rudley and Roger C. Carmel in the first year. The second year Carmel is replaced by Richard Deacon (Mel Cooley of Dick Van Dyke Show fame).

The print is prstine but its the dvd extras that really make this release shine. Kaye Ballard (who now lives in Desi's old house) is interviewed in a delightful reminiscence about working with Desi Arnaz. A cool behind the scenes film is shown with Kaye's commentary. How interesting to see how few people were involved in producing a tv show then. Now we have garbage and hundreds of people are involved!

Great station/show promos featuring the cast and Desi are here as are cast commercials for such things as Scope and Camay! "Desilu, too" unearthed Desi Arnaz's failed pilots of "The Carol Channing Show" and "Land's End" which are presented here as are some rare programs featuring Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard. Lucille Ball gets onto the dvd as well as she presents several excerpts of her 1960s radio show are featured as she interviews Eve Arden.

You probably already have the dialog memorized after watching Lucy stomp grapes and steal John Wayne's footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater thousands of times in reruns. If so, "The Mothers-in-Law" is a dvd set you will enjoy quite a bit.

Friday, August 13, 2010

In Search of The Waltons in Schuyler, Virginia

Not much on television worth watching these days....unless the dvds are running.

We've been enjoying "The Waltons" on dvd for over a year now. When reruns left the Hallmark Channel, I bought the entire series and it has been a well worth it investment in our entertainment library.

The series ran on CBS from 1972 until 1981 but was set in the depression and 1940s years. The series was the brainchild of author Earl Hamner who grew up in Schuyler, Virginia near Charlottesville. The Walton family was based on his own and many of the memories he had were expanded and exaggerated a bit to form the now beloved and legendary series.

The understanding mother and father, the caring grandparents, the siblings who formed a close knit group all contributed to the success of the series. It took CBS and Hollywood by surprise as the show was so anti everything of the era. I say it's time for a show like this to emerge again! Our country is mired in the same muck of materialism and cynicism as it was when "The Waltons" came out.

There is no real Waltons Mountain or Walton family. There is a real Schuyler, however and today it is a mini Waltons pilgrimage village. On a trip to Virginia we visited the place where Earl Hamner grew up. It's not the 1940s there anymore, although it doesn't seem like the hustle and bustle of 2010 either.

The old school house is The Waltons Mountain Museum featuring a reproduction of the television set (the series was filmed in California) and show memorabilia. Lots of fun! The Earl Hamner home is across the street from the museum. It was being remodeled when we were there for a possible bed and breakfast. The inspiration for Ike Godsey's store is nearby, albeit it's just a gas station and convenience store.

The Waltons were always going to Rockfish to do business. We visited the "real" Rockfish, which is nothing more than a closed post office and a sign near some railroad tracks.

Why do we have such fond memories of "The Waltons" and why did we go in search of the Hamner "remnants" in Schuyler? The show was comforting and portrayed so much of what I find precious and missing from our society today.

Not too much out there now that can touch our lives and hearts like "The Waltons" did and still can.

Incidentally, while in Charlottesville I found a first edition Earl Hamner novel entitled "You Can't Get There From Here" published in 1965, long before "The Waltons."
And Mr. Hamner was kind enough to respond to an email from me telling him about my book "The Little Grownup: a nostalgic Michigan Boyhood." He seems to be a very nice man who seems as endearing as his television show. I found a great interview with him you might enjoy here.

Behind the scenes in Schuyler, all is not as "happy ending" as most Waltons stories. The Waltons Mountain Museum apparently was embroiled in some controversy with Mr. Hamner. He withdrew his support. Luckily for most tourists no one would know as they can immerse themselves in this piece of nostalgic Americana. Click here to listen to the theme music and see some classic characters from this show.

And you also might enjoy Earl Hamner's blog, which is also here on blogspot.

Pics above: pic of Ma and Pa Walton next to the radio at the Waltons Mountain Museum; The Earl Hamner House across from the museum; my wife Heike in front of the museum as we enjoy a picnic, and the former post office in Rockfish, Virginia

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happy 1950s Beach Party

Bathing suit styles come and go, but some things never change. Summertime at the beach is always a lot of fun. Here are a couple of shots from my grandpa's 1950s slide collection.

Anyone remember slides? If you are from anytime before the digital age, you might have hundreds (or in the case of my prolific photographer grandpa thousands) of these family gems in your closet somewhere.

I recall when we used to have "slide shows". A special screen would be brought out and the slides would be put into a special projector. Sometimes the show wouldn't happen as the bulb would be burnt out. Sometimes (most of the time) the pictures would be completely out of order...."Oh, there is Martha from 1958 in Germany.......oh the next one is at the beach in New Jersey....oh now we're back in Germany again."

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy these nostalgic images from some treasured people long gone.

I recently converted most of these to the digital age and it is amazing how vibrant the colors are from these 1950s images.

images of Toni & Walter Hinz and John & Martha Margetich somewhere in New Jersey