Friday, August 29, 2008

Radio -- Television Without Pictures

Television came into being in the late 1940s but few people had sets to receive the programs. I'll write about that in another post as this one is concerning radio.

Our entertainment in the 1930s and 1940s came from a small box that sat on a table in the living or dining room. Some had large radios that were floor models and more powerful to pull in stations far away. I remember our family radio in the dining room which became the center of our evenings. We could play games and listen to our favorite radio show at the same time.

We had only AM stations as FM hadn't been invented yet. All sets and car radios were tube types which took a little time to warm up before you could hear anything. Tubes had to be replaced when they burned out.

The "stars" of radio then were Fibber McGee & Molly, Lum & Abner, George Burns & Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Fred Allen, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Milton Berle, Perry Como, many Big Bands, and others. You never lacked for anything to listen to and wouldn't be embarrassed by anything said on the air. Each radio program was sponsored by ONE (1) sponsor. You identified with the star and the sponsor. Lux, Kraft, Chesterfield, Jello, Texico, Chase & Sanborne, etc. Now on television we have 10 commercials at every break and you really don't know who is sponsoring the program. Stars salaries have risen so much that it takes a lot of companies to put on one program.

There were dramas and adventure shows. One of my favorite was "The Lone Ranger". I remember sending off 10 cents and a box top for a map of the area he worked his magic so you could follow him through this place and that -- like you'd see on TV.

The picture was in your head. They would describe something and you'd come up with the picture. Imagination! You lost a lot and gained a lot when television came out.

When I was in college at Pasadena Nazarene College in Pasadena, California, we went to Hollywood on weekends to see TV and Radio shows by being in the audience and putting laughs on the program. The last radio show I went to was "The Bob Hope Show" at NBC. He interacted with the audience after the show. One person mentioned that his friend Bing Crosby wore a hair piece and wondered if Bob did. Mr. Hope asked him to come up on stage and each would pull the hair of the other. Brought some laughs on that one. "Our Miss Brooks" was another radio show we attended and got a chuckle out of Eve Arden playing a single person prominently pregnant at the time.

Radio now is mostly music and you listen most of the time in your car. Lots of types of music to choose from - your pick. Those were the days, my friend. I thought they would never end. But everything does.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Powell P-48 Model Scooter -- 1949/1950

Transportation Item Number 3

At the end of the school year in 1949, my brother Ben decided he would forgo his senior year of high school and move to Muncie, Indiana, to live with our mother. For the first time in my life, I was not living with a member of my immediate family. Ben and I had always been together. Faye, Bob, and Lenna went to other relatives homes and I saw little of them. Sometimes they didn't feel like family as we weren't raised together.

So, here I am alone with my grandparents in Celina, Ohio. One day I met an adult who had a P-48 Powell Motor Scooter for sale. This scooter cost $300 brand new in 1948 (a lot of money then) but he wanted to get rid of it. He offered it for $50. I told Grandpa about it and he said that wasn't possible and that I didn't understand what he wanted for the scooter. He said he wanted to see it and we'd decide if it was worth the amount he wanted. This scooter was perfect. When Grandpa asked him what he wanted for it, the man said $45. SOLD!

Now I had a Whizzer Motor Bike and a P-48 Powell Motor Scooter to get around on. Let me tell you about the Powell. This scooter could really go. I checked the speed with a friend driving a car (no speedometer on the scooter) and got it to 70 miles an hour! It had a 7 horse power motor that was kick started. No key for this one either - a switch to click and you kick start the engine. You could take this scooter if you knew how to ride it. A centrifugal clutch meant no shifting gears. Just give it more gas and away you go. It has a two gallon seat shaped tank (you sat on it with a cushion) and the scooter got 50 miles to a gallon of gas. 100 miles to a tank.

The Powell was made in Compton, California. Here I am in Ohio with a product that was made a few miles from where I now live in California. They are no longer in business. I think they made scooters through 1950 or 1951 and stopped business.

I never took a picture of this scooter. Another regret! So a few years ago I wrote to Reminisce Magazine to a feature they call "Can You Give Me A Hand?" and asked if anyone had a picture of the P-48 Powell. I got seven or eight responses and one even sent me the Parts List of this model which included the picture below. I corresponded with a fellow from Northern California by email for a while. He had a 1950 model which looks more like a small motorcycle. He sent me a picture of it. We exchanged stories of our riding memories and I lost contact with him. If any of you reading this had one of these scooters, let me know in the Comments section at the end of this story.
That summer, Grandma became ill and it was difficult for her to be responsible for a 15 year old as well as her husband. So another home was needed for me. (Grandma passed away the following summer.) In September 1949 I moved to Kansas City, Missouri to live with an uncle and aunt. I had to decide what I was going to do with the two items of transportation that I had. I sold the Whizzer Motor Bike to a fellow Daily Standard newspaper delivery boy named Paul Shiverdecker for $100. He was happy and so was I. I shipped the Powell to my new home and used it around Kansas City. I rode it in the winter and got double pneumonia which nearly took my life at age 15. Another story - another post. I rode the scooter to school and parked it on the street. Again, no one ever took it without my permission. Something that couldn't happen today. During 1950 the scooter broke down and I gave it to Uncle Bob who lived in Indiana. He was very handy with machines. The last thing I heard it was in his garage still not fixed. I don't know what happened to it.

I was very fortunate to have the funds to afford these items for my personal pleasure. Grandpa was supportive and helped me to keep them in working order. I had freedom to get around the town and into the surrounding countryside. It was handy in Kansas City as well. I never had a license plate on either of my toys or registered with the DMV as you now have to do. Of course, at age 15, I didn't have a driver's license either. That is needed today. Too much bureaucracy now! A kid can't be a kid anymore! Oh yeah - no helmet!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Whizzer Motor Bike -- 1948-1949

Transportation Item Number 2

I lived with my grandparents in a small town in Ohio named Celina. Probably had no more than 5,000 people in it then and you could easily get around the entire town. Before I got my bicycle, I used to walk everywhere.

Something about a little town in the 1940s -- no one ever thought of putting locks on their bicycles. You could leave them anywhere and they would be there when you were ready to go again. I never had a key to the house. We may have locked it at night when we went to sleep but I don't recall that. People respected your property.

I bought a magazine called Popular Mechanix probably for 15 cents or so and used to look at the ads in the back. I saw that someone in Pennsylvania had a Whizzer Motor Bike kit for sale - used. Total cost $60. You had to supply the bike and install it yourself. Since I had the money, Grandpa sent the $60 to the address and in a couple of weeks the motor and accessories arrived. I traded my Schwinn bicycle for one that the kit would fit and Grandpa and I put it together.

The Whizzer didn't have a key for security. Anyone who knew how to start it and ride the motor bike could do so. We never gave it a thought that anyone would do that without permission. I kept it in an unlocked garage seen behind my cousins in this picture.
My Whizzer with cousins Norm Reynolds and Dave Ummel. Their mothers were my father's sisters. We used to get a lot of company stopping by for a day to visit my grandparents (their parents) so I got to meet a lot of my cousins. There were 12 children and 36 grandchildren which meant I had 31 cousins. There were 5 kids in my family.

The Whizzer could go 35 miles an hour and get 125 miles per gallon of gas. It had a one gallon tank. Gas was probably 15 cents a gallon so that was not an expense to worry about. I remember one day my best friend, Tom Keifer, and I rode to a town 5 miles away and went to a motion picture show to see "Pride Of The Yankees" about baseball player Lou Gehrig starring Gary Cooper. This is my favorite movie. I have it on tape. The Whizzer was parked outside the theater unlocked and was there when we came out. Imagine that today!

I directed the Moore Family Reunion of 1993 held in the Oklahoma City area. The planning took me 18 months and about $2,000 of my own money but I felt it was worth the effort to get the family together one last time. I will write about this event in another post but there really is a connection to this story. After the long weekend reunion, I needed some down time. Ann and I drove over to Branson Missouri to see some of their shows and relax. One afternoon we were walking through a very interesting store of "things of yesteryear" and I remarked to Ann that the only thing this store lacks is a Whizzer Motor Bike. I turned a corner and there it was -- a beautifully restored Whizzer with the original price tag on it -- $100. The current price was $4,995. I remember selling mine for $100! The Whizzer company had been out of business since the early 1950s and the only way you could get one of these then was to find a restored one.

The company has been back in business for a few years now and you can check it out on . A new one with up to date technology runs about $2,000 today. They would be great for a small town with little traffic but not practical for a city of any size over 25,000 people. Too dangerous. Not enough power. But great to ride!

This is a picture of a new Whizzer from their website.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Teen Transportation - Schwinn Bicycle

This was not my Schwinn bicycle - just a picture of one I found on the WEB.

Transportation Item Number 1

I mentioned in an earlier post that my brother, Ben, and I shared a bicycle during the early 1940s. That was because skinny rubber tires where hard to get making bicycles hard to get also. Our grandfather was fortunate to buy a new bike for us to share.

I was a newspaper delivery boy from 1943 to 1949 for The Daily Standard in Celina, Ohio. I was able to make money to support my "habits" and help pay my own way. I saved everything I could during these years in order to buy tangible things that would last me and make my life more enjoyable.

Right after World War II ended, my Uncle Carlan came home from the service to Celina and later offered me his Schwinn balloon tire bicycle for $30. I grabbed at it as I needed my own bicycle to do the paper route that I had walked up to this time. It was used, of course, but in excellent condition.

Recently a Teaching Pastor of Saddleback Church, Doug Fields, mentioned in a sermon that he had a bike from Montgomery Wards and then asked how many in the crowd had a "Schwinn". Of course there were a lot of us and he then made some remark about the "rich kids" had Schwinns. He was from the other side of the tracks! Schwinn was a very popular brand and was more expensive but not that much.

I had that bike until I bought a kit for a Whizzer Motor Bike that needed a different design than the Schwinn in order for the motor to fit. So I traded it for one that we could put the engine and accessories on. That story is next in my "Transportation" series.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Say Cheese! Big Smile Everyone!

Disney Cruise Item Number 6

Formal Night Family Picture - Dick, Ann, Hannah, Rachel, Brenda, Scott

One of the features of a cruise is that you will have your picture taken a lot of times. You don't have to buy even one of them. But they are hard to resist especially when they are great shots of everyone in the picture. I wonder how many pictures are thrown away after each cruise.

The ships photographers are busy all day and evening long. Taking and printing pictures and posting them on screens for you to look at and buy. Some are informal like at your table in one of the restaurants. Some are formal settings that they put up backdrops in the main lobby and you can stop and have the picture taken or not. Up to you. The formal pictures on Formal Night are keepers if you have dressed up for the occasion. Many do for that night. It is also the night you can get your picture take with the Captain. He's dressed up -- why not you?

Formal Night With The Captain.

Theme nights also provide a reason for picture taking by the professionals of your family. We had Pirate Night, Formal Night, and Informal Night. The rest were Casual Nights with some picture taking going on. Since this is a kid's cruise, we had a Character's Breakfast where the Disney Characters came to your table and got their picture with your kids taken on your camera - no professional pictures. I'll post some of our pictures later.

Included below are several formal and informal pictures taken of our family.

Pirate Night - A lot of people dressed up for this one!

Formal and Casual shots of the family. It's nice to have these to remember your cruise by and share with others.