Monday, January 15, 2018

Doc! I Keep Seeing White Elephants at Saloons

 
No, the doctor replies, “You have been drinking;  you are supposed to see PINK elephants.  A WHITE elephant is defined as something that is useless or troublesome.” But Doc, I reply, these are saloons named “White Elephant” and they are all over the pre-Prohibition landscape.  Why?

It seems no one really knows.  For example, in the late 1800s White Elephant saloons proliferated in Texas.  They could be found in Austin, San Antonio, Denison, Mobeetie, Panhandle, Fredericksburg, El Paso, and Lampasas — with the most infamous one in Fort Worth, represented here by its logo. 

The history of the White Elephant Saloon in Ft. Worth spans from 1884 to about 1914. It was located at two different spots on Main Street during that time, first at 308-310 Main St. and later at 606-608 Main St.  After a series of owners, about 1886 it fell into the hands of Bill Ward, a man who knew the saloon could prosper by expanding into gambling and as his concessionaire a gunslinger named Luke Short.  One night Short was confronted by “Longhaired Jim” Courtright.  They dueled it out in front of the White Elephant where Short got five shots off before Courtright could fire and killed him.  Short was put in jail overnight, then released and never brought to trial.


While the White Elephant Saloon of San Antonio has no dramatic shoot on premises, it has been described as a “rough and rowdy” premier drinking establishment in town.  It was located on San Antonio’s Main Plaza, close to city hall and the stockyards.  Popular at night, the saloon was adjacent to the north side of the plaza where “scuffles, skirmishes and shootings were commonplace.”
Only several years after it opened, this White Elephant was forced to close by a  crackdown on gambling in San Antonio.  The local newspaper commented: “When the boys to San Antone, they can not milk the elephant any more.”

The White Elephant in Bryan, Texas, has not been as prominent as the other two Texas saloons.  Represented here by a jug that indicates it sold whiskey — “pure liquor — at retail as well as over the bar.  Part of a land grant by the Spanish to Stephen A. Austin and named for his nephew, Bryan was the seat of Brazos County in west central Texas.   Its history seems less identified with violence and thus not as elaborately recorded.

As noted here on an ad, the White Elephant Saloon of Dennison regarded itself as “The largest and most elegant resort in North Texas.”  Founded in 1884 this “watering hole” was in business under a series of owners.  The saloon, billards and restaurant were on the first floor of the building on Dennison’s West Main Street.  Gambling and sleeping rooms were on the second floor.  In 1884 the establishment harbored a man named Jim McIntire, wanted for murdering two French squatter on ranch land in New Mexico.  When the law came to get McIntire in Bryan, he was tipped off and hired a horse from the White Elephant livery stables and escaped to New Orleans.

Not only Texas harbored saloons under the sign of the white elephant.  They could be found throughout the West and South.  W. R. Monroe owned one in Kansas City, Missouri.   As many saloonkeepers of the times did, Monroe issued bar tokens good for drinks at his bar.  The one shown here for his White Elephant Saloon was worth five cents in trade.  This token is distinguished among representations of the pachyderm by the predominance given to one (unmentionable) physical attribute.


I am still puzzling over why Wichman would name a saloon White Elephant and then represent it with a ceramic pig big bottle.  As it turns out Wichman in addition to selling whiskey over the bar also was retailing liquor to customers in glass and ceramic containers.   Obviously a figural elephant likely would have held more booze than the proprietor might have wanted to give away, so Wichman chose a pig to convey a slug or two of his whiskey.

Another Tennessee White Elephant saloon artifact is a stoneware jug covered in dark Albany slip glaze into which has been scratched a rather primitive elephant.  The crudeness of the design indicates that it was created relatively early in the 1800s.  The saloon apparently belonged to Querna Clerk, about whom I can find nothing.   Nor does the jug given any clue as to the city or town in which the White Elephant was located.

Two cities named Richmond, one in Virginia and one in Kentucky both harbored White Elephant Saloons.  The Virginia example is unusual since this establishment was owned and operated by a woman, Mrs. Mary Enright.  Directories show her in business at 420 Louisiana during the early 1900s.  In addition to serving drinks at the bar she was blending her own whiskeys and selling them at both wholesale and retail.  Like the prior jug, this one too is scratched into brown Albany slip, but is legible. 

Called a “scratch jug” when it was offered at auction, the Albany slip covered beehive-shaped container shown here actually was covered by a stencil that masked the glaze from the body to create the letters.  It appears to be quart size.  Details about this White Elephant Saloon are similarly masked in history.

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the White Elephant  was selling whiskey in a wide variety of ceramic jugs.  The one shown here offered a discount of ten cents on a refill of the jug when brought back to the saloon.  This was a popular Tuscaloosa watering hole.  Locals are said to have ridden horseback up to the place at Sixth Street and 24th Avenue of a morning to get cold glass of beer.  In 1932, workmen excavating at a construction site unearthed 75 brown and white jugs that bore the name of the White Elephant.

We still have not unraveled the prevalence of the name.  Several explanations have emerged as possibilities.  After the Civil War, a cliche’ was common in the U.S. referring to a neophyte having traveled afar and bragging about seeing something common to experienced travelers. Such was called “seeing the elephant.”  It also has been suggested that white paint was readily available and a pachyderm painted on a portico would have been an eye-catching graphic.  

The name might also have had a racial connotation.  In states with “Jim Crow”  laws such as the word “white” would warn all blacks away from the establishment.  Those would include Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.  Notably, Ft. Worth had a Black Elephant Saloon whose clientele was limited to those of African origin.





































Monday, January 1, 2018

Brewery Trade Cards Salute (Presumably) Opera


In this post, the third on brewery trade cards devoted to opera and the theater, the focus is on Adolphus Busch, the businessman behind Anheuser Busch Brewery of St. Louis and Budweiser beer.  While clearly a fan of opera, Busch — shown here on a beer stein — was not above poking fun at the stories while marketing his beer.

The first card here, for example, is a scene from the opera Siegfried by Richard Wagner.  The hero, Siegfried tangles with a fearsome dragon named Fafner and with the help of an enchanted sword, slays him.  In the beer version, Fafner asks the young man “who stirred up thy childish mind to the murderous deed?”  Siegfried replies that “…T’was Anhauser Beer that gave me courage.”

“The Chimes of Normandy” was the English translation of a French comic opera in three acts composed by Robert Planquette with a libretto from a play by Charles Gabet.  The third act is a mishmash of mistaken identities that ends happily for all concerned.  Busch’s trade card would appear to have little to do with the actual text.

Spelled incorrectly on the card as “Fiesco,” the actual title of this French opera is “Fiesque” or “The Genoese Conspiracy.”  By composer Edouard Lalo with libretto by Charles Beauquier, the piece comes to a tragic ending with a friend killing a friend.  The character shown on the card, Gianettino, is the ruler of Genoa.  He declares himself of good humor and wants it published that “everyone may enjoy himself and drink Anhauser Beer.”

The next card, “Nanon” is something of a puzzle since I can find no opera or theater piece that corresponds to it.  An opera called “Manon” is frequently performed but there is no character named “Anna” in it.   The picture is of a cavalry solder and minstrel wooing a young tavern wench named Anna.  Most interesting, while hold her hand with his left hand, he is pouring a beer with his right and missing the glass badly.  He intones:  “Anna, for Anheuser Beer I sing my praise, I love it as I do thee all my days.”  The back of these cards usually depicted a bottle of the beer.

Tony Faust was a well known St. Louis restauranteur who not only was a great friend of Adolphus, but married his daughter.  Busch is said to have had lunch most days at Faust’s eatery,  but reportedly drank wine, disdaining his own beer.  Because of their closeness,  Adolphus named a beer for him, advertising it in multiple ways related to the Faust legend.  Naturally opera cards would be among the advertisements.   



The card at left is from the first act of Gounod’s opera in which the aging Faust has been tempted to sell his soul to the devil Méphistophélès in return for restored youth.  Rather than drinking the devil’s elixir, Faust has his hand on a glass of Tony Faust Beer, but it still trembles in his  grasp.  The Faust card a right is from the opera’s second act when Mephistopheles in the guise of a soldier is in a tavern regaling a group of soldiers and flirting with the barmaids.

While earlier trade cards extolled Anhauser and Tony Faust beers,  the card celebrating “Stradella” specifically mentions Budweiser.  Stradella was a melodramatic grand opera in five acts composed by Louis Niedermeyer.  It premiered at the Paris Opera in March 1837.  The card presumably shows the hero, Stradella, with the heroine, Leonor, somewhere in Italy contemplating a glass of Budweiser Beer and bears little or no resemblance to the opera dialogue. 


Although Adolphus Busch set the standard for issuing opera-related trade cards, he was not the only brewer.  In Louisville, Kentucky, the Schaefer-Meyer Brewing Co., as illustrated above, knew a good promotion when they saw one and set about to replicate the marketing ploy.  They selected “La Belle Helene” as their target, a farce based on the story of Helen of Troy.  In effect Schaefer-Meyer were spoofing a spoof.  In their version,  Paris is holding out a goblet of company beer to one of three scantily dressed women and speaking to an offstage “Calchas,”  a high priest of Venus.  None of it makes a lot of sense but the picture has its own appeal.

Note:   For anyone interested in opera and theater trade cards, I have devoted two prior posts to the subject,  “Budweiser Goes to the Opera,” April 13, 2013, and Off to the Opera on the Wings of Commerce,  October 24, 2014.  The beer stein bearing the likeness of Adolphus Busch recently sold at an online auction for $2,125.00.


















Saturday, December 9, 2017

Risque' Whiskey V: From the Salon to the Saloon


This is the fifth in the series of posts that feature the type of female images that often accompanied whiskey and other liquor advertising.  Because women — respectable women, that is — frequently were barred from the interior of drinking establishments, depictions of women in suggestive poses or nude were frequently on display on saloon walls or other barroom accoutrements.  The liquor sponsors seemingly believed that the more sophisticated and artistic their images appeared, the more comfortable their male audience might feel ogling them.

The Tioga Rye ad epitomizes the effort at sophistication.  The gent in top hat and evening attire probably was way overdressed for the clientele of the saloon where this image might have been displayed.  The liquor house behind the image, Raphael & Zeugschmidt, existed under various names in Pittsburgh from 1886 - 1918, an impressive run of thirty-two years.  In addition to Tioga Rye, the proprietors also featured “Popular Price Rye.”

Another elegant image is projected by the El-Bart Dry Gin saloon sign of a young woman looking wanton by the seaside.  This brand was from an aristocratic Maryland family, the Goldsboroughs. The two Charles Goldsborough,  father and son, did not rise to the apex of the Maryland business and social world merely because of blood lines, however, but because they made good liquor and scads of money selling it.  Their Wilson-El Bart distillery was a large complex of three buildings on 3.43 acres in Baltimore totaling 80,000 square feet.

The four images that follow here are from a booklet entitled “Famous Paintings…Funny Stories” that would have been given to the retail customers of I. Trager & Co., a Cincinnati liquor wholesaler whose proprietary brands included “Cream of Old Kentucky,”  advertised throughout the text.

The allusion to “famous paintings” on the four nudes depicted in the booklet is something of a stretch.  The “A. F. Lejune" referenced on the one above is Adolphe Frederic Lejune, a French artist who was active roughly between 1879 and 1912.  He was what was known as a “salon painter,” providing images that were very traditional in their appearance.  I have been able to find nothing about the artist “Louis Perrey,” responsible for “Diana,” a familiar figure on many whiskey-related advertising, always with a bow and arrow.  



Nor are there clues to “Lerch,” the artist who painted the “Will of the Wisp.”   By contrast the artist of “Idyl” was George Papperitz, a German painter, sculptor and poet who was born in Dresden in 1846 and died in Munch in 1918.  You will note that none of these artist was truly famous.  Their inclusion was only because of their nudes. 

Cincinnati whiskey men seemed   particularly keen on nudes in their advertising.  H. F. Corbin provided his saloon customers with the wall sign shown here.  By seeming to be “classical” in its subject matter, such images were deemed more acceptable to the public.   The proprietor could be admired for his taste in art and the presence of frontal nudity was merely an accident.  The Corbin firm was founded in 1895 and went out of business in 1918 after Ohio voted statewide prohibition.

The nudes shown in the Gibson Pure Old Rye ad clearly are modeled on the salon-style women in the buff.  They are floating in various poses as a background for a bottle of Pennsylvania whiskey.  John Gibson was an immigrant from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who began distilling about 1840.  He ran a successful liquor business in Philadelphia but in 1856 built a new facility just to the south of Pittsburgh on the east side of the Monongahela river that he called the Gibsonton Mills Distillery.   From there the brand rapidly gained a national reputation.

Strictly speaking, the following female figure does not represent whiskey but “Gocce D’ro,” sold as a cordial by W. P. Bernagozzi Co., who cited the Pure Foods and Drugs Act in connection with their beverage.  This may not have been a wise move.  In 1919 William P. and Ferdinand Bernagozzi were fined $100 after pleading guilty to misbranding containers of olive oil that they shipped from New York to Connecticut in violation of that same 1906 act.

The next nude image is found on a celluloid pocket mirror issued by Frank Woodruff, the generous proprietor of the Normandy Saloon in Coldwater, Michigan. Note that Woodruff not only gave away this trinket but it was good for 10 cents in trade at his bar. The figure is in a highly unusual pose.  She apparently is nude but with drapery on both shoulders and a strip of cloth down the front, hiding her nether parts.


The final exhibit is a saloon sign “par excellence.”  It has all the classical attributes of a salon painting with the raw licentiousness that would make the clients of Albert Hertz of Gloversville, New York, anxious to hang on their walls. Hertz was a dealer in liquor and wine in the pre-Prohibition era.  The sign is believed to date from around 1905.

There they are, ten women in all their loveliness, some clothed, most not so.They appeared on a range of advertising items, from pocket mirrors to saloon signs — all with a single purpose:  To catch the eye of the (male) beholder and sell him whiskey.

Note:  For anyone interested in the earlier iterations of “risque’ whiskey” posts, they can be found in this blog in January 2011, July 2012, July 2013, and January 2016.
















Saturday, November 25, 2017

Pennsylvania Whiskey History on Paperweights



In March of this year at a Philadelphia convocation of distillers, many of them running boutique distilleries, I spoke on the history of whiskey-making in Pennsylvania.  Subsequently my attention has been drawn increasingly into understanding the nature and extent of that industry in the Keystone State.  This has focussed me on stories behind the Pennsylvania items in my whiskey paperweight collection.  Shown here are nine weights, with details on the four companies of their origins.


Phillip H. Hamburger, a German Jewish immigrant, was not the first distiller to conflate Pennsylvania whiskey with the Monongahela River that flows through the Keystone State. That waterway had been identified with strong drink since the 18th Century. But Hamburger made the Monongahela the centerpiece of his merchandising and his rye whiskey was, as a writer recorded in 1904, “not only known from ocean to ocean, but in every civilized country on the globe.”


Beginning as a liquor wholesaler, Hamburger moved gradually into distilling, initially through an investing lin a primitive distillery at Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, on the Monongahela River owned by George W. Jones.  After Jones died, Hamburger took it over, changing the name to the Ph. Hamburger Co.  Once he had achieved full ownership, Hamburger moved ahead boldly to expand his facilities and his market. He built significantly onto the original plant and warehouses. A contemporary publication reported: “The Hamburger Distillery, Limited, is one of the largest plants of the kind in the world, covering about fourteen acres of ground. 


Hamburger marketed his brands extensively in newspapers and magazines. He featured three brands, all advertised on paperweights here. In addition to “G.W. Jones Monongahela Rye,” both “Bridgeport Pure Rye” and “Bridgeport Pure Malt” boasted the Monongahela origin on their labels.  All three acquired a national and even international customer base. In 1914, Hamburger’s whiskey won a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Nottingham, England, and again in 1915 at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco. During his lifetime Hamburger had been an important force for make Pennsylvania rye whiskey recognized worldwide. 


Beginning his career as a baker, John Dougherty, an Irish Catholic immigrant, soon moved into distilling, opening his own whiskey-making facility in 1849. Dougherty’s “Pure Rye Whiskey” met with almost immediate success, capturing a market in the Philadelphia area and beyond. The company’s first still was a wooden one of 750 gallons. It soon was joined by a second copper still with a 1,200 gallon capacity. Both were fueled by steam. A new larger warehouse was built in 1864, with a capacity of 3,000 barrels.  


In 1866 John Dougherty died at the age of 78.  Son William took over as senior manager and the company name was changed to J.A. Dougherty’s Sons. The business continued to grow. Three new warehouses were built over the next several years adding 12,900 gallons of storage capacity. The complex employed some 30 workers. In 1879 the first warehouse was enlarged to hold 4,000 barrels.  Year after year the fame of Dougherty whiskey grew.


At the age of 67 William died in 1892 at his residence in Philadelphia, leaving his brother Charles as the manager of the firm. The youngest Dougherty son continued the successes forged by his father and brother. He discarded the wooden still in favor of a second copper pot and in 1893 rebuilt one warehouse to hold 3,800 barrels and added new floors to another to increase capacity to 25,000 barrels. The continued expansion was indicative of a growing national market for Dougherty Pure Rye.

In contrast to Hamburger and Dougherty, William C. Wilkinson was born in Philadelphia and of old Pennsylvania stock.  Originally a partner in a local wholesale liquor house, when the partner died in 1893, Wilkinson bought the entire business and changed the name to his own.  His flagship brand was “Stylus Club.” Philadelphia’s Stylus Club was an organization restricted to editors, reporters, publishers and other contributors to local newspapers and magazine. Founded in 1877, it was largely a social gathering where, it has been speculated, a fair amount of drinking went on. 


Not a distiller, Wilkinson represented a growing element within the industry, that of a wholesale liquor dealer selling whiskey under his own proprietary brand.  He might be buying whiskey from a Pennsylvania distillery and bottling it as it came, or mixing several whiskeys, sometimes adding other ingredients, in his own facility.  This process was known as “rectifying.”  Frequently rectifiers would trademark these brands, as Wilkinson did with “Stylus Club” in 1891.

A variation on that model was practiced by the Flemings, part of a prominent Irish family of Pittsburgh druggists.  Under the name, Jos. Fleming & Son, Joseph and his son George, turned a drug store rectifying operation into a national whiskey powerhouse.  Doing business from its single location at Market and Diamond Streets, the company advertised “Fleming’s Export Rye Whiskey” and “Fleming’s Malt Whiskey” across America.  Bottles similar to those shown on the paperweights here have been found all across the country, including one recently discovered in a Sacramento, California, state park. 


As druggists, the Flemings shaped their advertising to emphasize the medicinal benefits of whiskey.  Their ads are redolent with statements like “physicians should recommend…” and “physicians prescribe….”  As prohibitionary forces closed in, such medical claims became the best refuge for many Pennsylvania whiskey purveyors, the majority not druggists. 


Joseph Fleming died in 1890 and son George at a relatively young 51 in 1912. Shortly thereafter other family members sold the business and the whiskey brands to a local pharmacist who continued to operate the business under the Fleming name until the imposition of National Prohibition in 1920.

None of the four liquor establishments featured here survived the 14 “dry” years until Repeal in 1934.  Their histories and those of dozens of other pre-Prohibition Pennsylvania distilleries and liquor houses document the growth of the state’s whiskey industry from small farmstead stills to companies with a national marketing reach.  The paperweights they issued serve as a reminder of that dynamic era.




       




















Saturday, November 11, 2017

Oh, Those Radio Days!

     
Yes, kids, there was a time before the advent of television when people stayed glued to a box that that had only sound — no sight.   Those days were the apex of radio entertainment — the 1940s and into the 1950s.  As a youngster I was addicted to listening, morning (when not in school), evenings and weekends.   Reading a list of programs from that era, I am struck by how many were tuned to my dial.  From them, however, I have winnowed a list of just four for which I have a special fondness.


The first is The Shadow, a character adapted from a pulp magazine that first aired with a half hour on CBS in 1937.  It was my favorite show and still is.  The Shadow was characterized as having traveled through East Asia and learned  "the power to cloud men's minds so they cannot see him." As in the magazine stories, The Shadow was not given the literal ability to become invisible.  The introduction to the program sent chills through me — and still does as the character intones: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”  It was followed by haunting laugh.

On the radio The Shadow assumed the visual identity of Lamont Cranston, described as “a wealthy young man-about-town” who every week found himself emeshed in a crime, one often imperiling his girlfriend, “the lovely and talented” Margo Lane.”  She was the only person to know the crime-fighter’s real identity.  What the pair and The Shadow actually looked like was meant for our imaginations.  As depicted in the pulps The Shadow wore a wide-brimmed black hat and a black, crimson-lined cloak with an upturned collar over a standard black business suit.  Later a crimson scarf was added.

At the outset, The Shadow was played by Orson Welles, one of the most famous actors and directors of American history, shown here in a radio spot promo.  Although another actor intoned the introduction, Wells provided the stirring conclusion. At the end of each episode The Shadow reminded listeners that, "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit! Crime does not pay...The Shadow knows!"   That message got across to a young mind forcefully.  Welles left the program in 1838 and a succession of Shadow voices followed until December 26, 1854, when the program left the air.

My second choice, something completely different, was “Fibber McGee and Molly,” a situation comedy that ran from 1935 to 1936 on NBC. It followed the adventures of a working-class couple, the habitual storyteller Fibber McGee and his sometimes exasperated but always loving wife Molly, living among their numerous neighbors and acquaintances in the community of Wistful Vista.   The program as I recall aired on Tuesday nights after my bedtime on a school night.  But my parents thoughtfully allowed a radio in the bedroom with instructions to turn it off as soon as the program ended. 

The characters were created and portrayed by Jim and Marian Jordan, a real-life husband and wife team that had been working in radio since the 1920s.  Because of a clamor from fans to be able to see the personalities behind the disembodied radio voices, Fibber McGee and Mollie portrayed their characters in four motion pictures, often starring another favorite, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.  Athough the films were somewhat creaky by today’s standards, I eagerly await each of them.

Looking back, it may have been the fact that the McGees were Irish and my family was Irish.   More likely, however, it were the running gags.  For example, when Fibber tells a bad joke, Molly often answers, “Tain’t funny, McGee,” which became a catch-phrase of the times. Perhaps the show’s most enduring stroke was Fibber’s closet.  It involved someone, usually McGee opening a hall closet with the contents clattering down and out and, often enough, over McGee's or Molly's heads. "I gotta get that closet cleaned out one of these days" was the usual McGee observation once the racket subsided.  It never failed to get a laugh from the studio audience (no laugh track in those days) and those of us at home.

Among the many after-school radio programs aimed a young crowd — “Jack Armstrong,” “Dick Tracy,” “Green Hornet” — my favorite was “The Lone Ranger.”  It aired for a half hour on ABC at 7:30 p.m., after dinner but before homework and bedtime.  I always thrilled to the opening: “In the early days of the western United States, a masked man and an Indian rode the plains, searching for truth and justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”

The Lone Ranger was named so because the character was the only survivor of a group of six Texas Rangers.  A posse of six rangers while pursuing a band of outlaws, is betrayed by a civilian guide  and ambushed in a canyon. Later, an Indian named Tonto stumbles onto the scene and discovers one ranger is barely alive, and he nurses the man back to health.  To disguise his identity, the ranger — dubbed The Lone Ranger by Tonto — dons a black mask.  The Lone Ranger’s horse was named Silver;  Tonto rode Scout.  According to the program introduction, the two men “led the fight for law and order in the early western United States! Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice!”  

In reality, the program was a well-scrubbed Old West.  The Lone Ranger always spoke with perfect grammar and without any slang.  When forced to use guns, he never shot to kill but tried to disarm his antagonists.  No scene ever occurred inside a saloon only "restaurants."  Nonetheless, this youngster thrilled each night to hear “Hi Ho Silver, the Lone Ranger Rides Again.”

My last selection may seem odd for a youngster, but it is Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club,” a morning variety show out of Chicago on ABC radio for more than 35 years.  While later it would have some personal ties, when I was a kid it was entertainment when I was home sick.  It was my fate to come down with virtually every childhood disease known to medicine including measles, mumps, chicken pox and scarlet fever.  Top it off with viral pneumonia as an eighth grader and I spent a lot of time with morning radio.

McNeill, shown here, presented a program that combined music with informal talk and jokes often based on topical events, usually ad-libbed. In addition to recurring comedy performers, vocal groups and soloists, listeners heard sentimental verse and a musical “March Around the Breakfast Table.”  He is credited with being the first performer to make morning talk and variety — now a staple of TV — a viable format.  I was an avid listener.  Perhaps too avid.  Asked to prepare the eighth grade graduation skit, I came up with the dialogue modeled on the show that the nuns thought too “adult” and nixed it.

To the personal.  For a long time McNeill was the most famous graduate of the Marquette University College of Journalism, where I went to school, and a friend of its longtime Dean Jeremiah O’Sullivan.  Later in life the O’Sullivan introduced us and I could tell McNeill that while he had married one of the Dean’s early secretaries, I had married his last.  The final Breakfast Club was taped in December 1968.  McNeill retired from broadcasting and public life, dying seven years later.

There are a number of other radio shows of that era that I might have mentioned — “Ozzie and Harriet,” “Jack Benny,” “Lorenzo Jones and His Wife Belle,” “Bob and Ray,” and the list could go on.  But these four shows mark for me the “crucial corners” of that talking box we called radio.  Those, indeed, were the days.