Writer’s Workshop: My Mystery Flight

The prompt I’ve chosen today is “A blog post inspired by the word: film.” It reminded me of a story I told in (very) brief a couple of years ago.

A lttle over thirty (!) years ago, I was working as a Technical Support Representative, or TSR, which also stood for “traveling social reject.” Our primary job was to install clients’ software for them, and also to troubleshoot when their software went haywire and we couldn’t talk them through any solutions that worked over the phone. One of the other services we offered was to go onsite and talk techie-to-techie and answer whatever questions they might have about the software. We were pretty much on the road all the time.

This one week, all I had on my schedule was a quick trip to Rochester, New York to visit Eastman Kodak (who makes film, thus the connection with the prompt) that Thursday. The trip was arranged and I had my tickets and hotel reservations all made. The client would pick me up at the hotel and drive me to the airport when we were done. Simple, straighforward, and easy, right?

Well, I got a call Saturday night from a guy I work with. Seems his wife’s car broke down and she didn’t know how to drive a car with a manual transmission, so he had to stay home for a couple of days. The problem was, he was supposed to be in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Monday to do an installation, and could I go and start the install for him? I said sure, no problem. We met at the office on Sunday so I could get the installation tapes, then he went home and I went to Grand Rapids, about a three hour drive from Chicago.

We had just gotten started with the install on Monday morning when I got a call from Mary. She told me that my Aunt Florence had passed away and that the funeral was on Wednesday. No, problem, I said; I was just there the two days, I’d be home Tuesday night, and we’d make the funeral.

Naturally, whenever you say something like that, you end up eating your words. The install was fraught with problems, and I didn’t leave until 2 AM Wednesday. I got home to Chicago at 4 AM and caught a short nap before we had to get up and drive to the North Side for the funeral. We made it with time to spare, attended the funeral, went to the cemetery, and begged off the luncheon afterward. I had to go to the office and get my tickets, Mary and I stopped for lunch, and we got home mid-afternoon.

I had hoped to get in a short nap before I left for the airport, but the caffeine and adrenaline I was running on prevented that from happening. I put a clean shirt, underwear, and a couple of toiletries into my briefcase, went to the airport and got on my 8 PM flight, chatted briefly with the flight attendant, and fastened my seat belt.

That’s the last thing I remembered until I was awakened by a ringing telephone. I opened my eyes and I was in a hotel room.

“Good morning, Mr. Holton, this is your six o’clock wakeup call,” a chipper female voice tole me.

“Can I ask a question?” I asked.

“Certainly, sir.”

“Where am I?”

“The Radisson Rochester Airport. You came in with the flight crew.”

Evidently, I fell asleep before we took off. When we got to Rochester, the flight attendant I chatted with on the ground in Chicago woke me, asked where I was staying, and since that’s where the crew stayed, they brought me with them to the hotel. I had managed to check in, request a wake-up call, get to my room, get undressed (my clothes were tossed on a chair) and into bed. None of which I could remember.

I got dressed and was ready to leave, and I couldn’t find my room key. It was still in the door.


My First Chicago Election (Wednesdays for My Wife)

We hear so much about voter fraud and possible interference by foreign countries in US elections these days, sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t go back to the old voting machines we used until the 1980’s.

Old voting machine. (source: Vintage Ad Browser)

When I first started voting in the Seventies, we used voting machines similar to the one shown in the picture. After getting past the phalanx of election judges, you would step into the machine and pull a red handle to close the curtain so no one could see who you were voting for. You then had a series of levers to pull. Easiest to do was to pull the big levers on one side for the two major parties (Republican and Democratic) and open the curtain, which would then register your vote as a straight ticket for that party. If you wanted to split your vote, you could flip the levers for each individual candidate, then open the curtain and have your votes recorded, more or less the way you cast them. And, if you didn’t like any of the candidates, you would have a little door that allowed you to write in the person of your choice.

I tell you all this so you’ll understand this story, about my first time voting in Chicago.

I was working third shift at Newly Weds Foods at the time, about a year after Mary and I were married. I got off work at seven on Election Day and stopped to vote before I went home, at about seven-thirty. Among the election judges were Vi, the lady who lived downstairs from us, who was British and had been a war bride, and Bernice, a lady who lived a couple of doors down from us and was a good neighbor, but not exactly the most pleasant person to deal with. She was the typical nosy neighbor who listened to the police scanner to find out if anything was going on nearby, and was always peeking out her window.

I went through the whole rigamaole of identifying myself, signing an affadavit that said that I was who I said I was (not that all that matters in Chicago), got checked off in the book, then Bernice directed me to one of the voting machines. I pulled the red lever to close the curtain, and set about casting my ballot. I got to the race for 12th ward alderman, and had no idea about either of the guys running, so I opened the little write-in door, wrote “John Holton” in #3 pencil in the space provided, closed the little door, and pulled the red lever to open the curtain and record my vote. Having thusly performed my civic duty, I went home and went to bed.

That evening, I was about to leave for work, and I heard all this laughing and heavy footsteps coming up the back stairs. It was Vi, home from a day of being an election judge. Evidently, when they saw that a write-in vote had been cast, they had to figure out how to get the paper out of the machine. Bernice was the lucky person who got to take the roll of paper out, and she managed to practically wrap herself up in it. Since the paper advanced a foot or so every time someone voted, and since our precinct had a good turnout, and since I had voted so early in the day, it took them forever to find where I had written myself in.

Needless to say, Bernice was not happy (or rather, especially grumpy) the next time she saw me. “What the hell were you doin’, votin’ for yerself? Don’t ever do that again, ya hear me?”

We changed to punch cards after that, unfortunately. I was really looking forward to writing Bernice in for Cook County Recorder of Deeds…


Two For Tuesday: The Chordettes (Baby Boom Years)

My Uncle Jack commented yesterday that he remembered all the songs from yesterday and especially liked “Mister Sandman.” That had me searching for more songs by the group, and finally I decided, if I was going to do that much work, I’d go ahead and feature them today.

From Sheboygan, Wisconsin, The Chordettes were inspired to do close harmony by member Jinny Osborn’s father, O. H. “King” Cole, who was the president of SPEBSQSA (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America), now known as The Barbershop Harmony Society. As we talked about yesterday, they had a huge hit in 1954 with “Mister Sandman,” which topped the charts in the US that year (as well as #11 in the UK). In all, the had nine Top 40 hits, including four Top Ten singles, between 1954 and 1963.

Their next Top Ten hit was 1956’s “Born To Be With You,” which reached #5 in the US and #8 in the UK.

Their second-biggest hit was 1958’s “Lollipop.” It reached #2 nationally, #3 on the R&B chart, and #6 in the UK. This is a karaoke version that was based on a TV appearance; Andy Williams provides the “pop”s.

The Chordettes appeared on the first national showing of American Bandstand on August 5, 1957. Their last Top 40 hit was 1961’s “Never On Sunday,” from the movie of the same name. Here’s a list of all their singles, most of which are available on YouTube.

The Chordettes, your Two For Tuesday, October 17, 2017.

Monday’s Music Moves Me: Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Today would have been my parents’ 63rd wedding anniversary. In honor of the day, here are some hits from October of 1954. I worked off the chart built by TSoft and picked the highest-ranking songs for the month.

  1. The Chordettes, “Mister Sandman” Their best-known song, it reached #1 on both the Billboard and Cash Box charts in October 1954, spending twenty and twenty-three weeks (respectively) on those charts.
  2. Kitty Kallen, “Little Things Mean A Lot” One night, I was watching the Braves game, and Skip Caray (son of Harry) tried to sing this to describe how the Braves were doing the little things to win. It reached #1 in Australia and spent five weeks on their chart.
  3. Don Cornell, “Hold My Hand” From the 1954 film Susan Slept Here starring Dick Powell and Debbie Reynolds. It was nominated for an Academy Award that year (the song, not the movie). Cornell’s version reached #1 in the UK and spent five weeks there.
  4. Rosemary Clooney, “This Ole House” This was the flip side to her previous hit, “Hey There.” It reached #1 in the UK after reaching #1 in the US earlier that year. The bass voice is provided by Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger, spokescartoon for Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes (now Kellogg’s Golden Flakes) all these years.
  5. Perry Como, “Papa Loves Mambo” The best-known version of this, it was released in August and peaked at #4 in October.
  6. Doris Day, “If I Give My Heart To You” Accompanied by The Mellotones. Doris reached #4 on the Disk Jockey chart, #4 on the Best Seller chart, and #3 on the Juke Box chart in October.
  7. Dean Martin, “Sway” Only reached #15 on the Billboard chart, but went to #6 in the UK in October.
  8. De Castro Sisters, “Teach Me Tonight” The DeCastros were raised in Havana in a family mansion which was later seized by Fidel Castro and is now the Chinese Embassy. Originally, “Teach Me Tonight” was the B side, with “It’s Love” as the A side, but Cleveland disc jockey Bill Randall flipped the record over and it became the big hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard in October 1954.
  9. Vera Lynn, “My Son, My Son” Her only hit in the UK, it reached #1 in October.
  10. Petula Clark, “The Little Shoemaker” The Gaylords also had a hit with this in the US, but this turned out to be Petula Clark’s first #1 hit in the UK. It reached #1 in Australia for two weeks in October.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. I love you both and miss you more than I can say.

That’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for October 16, 2017.

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly, Callie, Cathy, and Stacy, so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.