Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity #socs

Remember that?

That’s how all the episodes of the medical drama Ben Casey started. It was on for five seasons starting in 1961 and starred Vince Edwards as Casey and Sam Jaffe as his mentor and friend, Dr. Zorba. I never watched it, because Dr. Zorba drawing those symbols on the blackboard were usually the sign that it was bedtime. It was a classic show. I just never had a chance to watch it, and when they re-ran it in the afternoons it was on opposite things I wanted to watch more (i.e. cartoons and Three Stooges shorts).

When I saw the word “berth,” it made me think of berths on a train, such as the Santa Fe’s Super Chief that ran between Chicago and Los Angeles in the days before people flew a lot. A lot of Hollywood stars came through Chicago on their way from New York or other points east. In its heyday it ran daily at speeds up to a hundred miles an hour (average speed was around 60 miles an hour), making the trip in 36 hours and 49 minutes (thank you Wikipedia). I remember seeing ads for it on the news. Man, I thought that was the coolest. Of course, by that time airline service was starting to take most of the passengers and by 1971 the line was sold to Amtrak…

I was in some small town on business and stopped in the bar of the hotel for a drink or three, and I ran into an old Scotsman who told me, “Aye, lad, there’s nothin’ like takin’ the train!” Mary and I had taken British Rail in Great Britain, from London to Edinburgh and back, when we were there in 1979, and he was right, there is nothing like taking the train.

My dad worked for the Monon Railroad, “The Hoosier Line,” in the late Fifties. He was assistant to the President, and we knew that because he was so excited when it happened, he had the announcement printed up on I think a hundred pads of paper. We used those as scrap paper for years. We also had dishes and silverware from the railroad from after they closed their dining cars. I still have a “crumber” that the waiters in the dining cars used to use to pick the crumbs up off the tablecloths. I think it’s actually real silver and probably worth about five bucks…


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Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

33 thoughts on “Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity #socs”

  1. I watched all the reruns at 1 am ca. 1979 when I would come home from the night shift of a summer job. Every episode featured a guest star getting a subdural hematoma. I guess that’s the only neurosurgical condition they knew.

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  2. ” Up and down the Monon everything is fine ’cause that rootin’, tootin’ Monon is a Hoosier line.” – one of your father’s most notable song lines.

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  3. I clearly remember that Ben Casey intro, especially the voice and the chalkboard. It seems like I got to watch some of the show, but maybe it was a little over my sleepy head since I don’t remember anything except Dr. Zorba’s wild hair.

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        1. That was one of the great things about those early TV dramas: they didn’t waste time in defining the character. By the end of the first season, you generally knew the character. Now, it’s a slower process.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. There was always a certain amount of that, but the focus stayed on the medicine in the older shows. I’m hoping one of the vintage TV stations picks up the old “Medical Center” shows. I always heard they were good, though I never watched them.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. I never watched Ben Casey although I know about it and that it was a big hit. I love trains, train stations and train rides. Even when I take the GO train to Toronto, it feels great. I wish it was more affordable here in Canada to take the train like it is in Europe but it is so expensive and quite silly. Funny, when I see that train, I think of the I Love Lucy episodes that took place on the train.

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    1. You should do a film post where significant activity takes place on a train, e.g. Some Like It Hot and A Hard Day’s Night.

      Mary and I were heavy users of the CTA’s Rapid Transit system when we lived in Chicago. The trains were mostly elevated (why many of us refer to the trains as “The L”) with some subway (mostly downtown) and the Eisenhower and Dan Ryan Expressways have trains running between the north and southbound lanes. That’s getting to be expensive, too.

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      1. Last night my wife and I watched Sudden Fear with Joan Crawford and Jack Palance. Several scenes took place on trains from NYC to Chicago and then Chicago to San Francisco. My wife was intrigued by the luxury of the train travel as depicted in the film. It’s a pretty good film. Crawford and Palance were both nominated for Academy Awards for acting in this 1952 gem.

        Arlee Bird
        Tossing It Out

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  5. I am thinking of taking the the Amtrak Starliner up to Seattle one of these days. It runs along the coast of California. The Orient Express would be really great too. I know it does not run as far as it used to.

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  6. I think it’s super interesting that your dad worked on the Monon. Now, the Monon is a trail, or a series of trails, really, for people, bikes, dogs, strollers, but it’s still an integral part of the city 😀

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    1. Good use of the track beds. The railroads generally got the best real estate, so I’m a little surprised it wasn’t developed.

      I never got much of a chance to ask Dad about working for them. He didn’t get to shovel coal or blow the whistle; Mom said he mostly wrote speeches for the president.

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  7. I am quite certain that I watched at least one episode of Ben Casey as well as the rival doctor show Dr. Kildare. Watching those shows never became a habit with me because I’m not overly enthralled by doctor or medical shows. I still don’t particularly care for them.

    Trains I do like.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I wish I had traveled more by train. We got a taste of it in England, but not much after that. I was familiar with the CTA’s Rapid Transit and some of the suburban lines (Chicago & Northwestern, The Milwaukee Road, Illinois Central and South Shore lines), but no real intercity travel.

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  8. On another blog earlier this week the question was posed What is your least favorite form of transportation?
    I said train. As a kid, my family and I took the train from San Antonio TX to Santa Barbara CA one summer @ 1970 something. Seemed like years to get there after the novelty wore off and we slept in our seats which was a tad uncomfortable. Then B and I took a train trip in 2009 as part of our 25th wedding anniversary vacation to Alaska. So memorable I cannot remember where – Anchorage to Seward maybe??? Now watching these short videos, I think hey, that’d be fun! We just have to decide where should we go???

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    1. What impresses me about the video I posted (and there are many others on YouTube) was how well-dressed people were when they took the train. I think you can say the same thing about flying until the mid-Seventies. I can remember flying to California when I was eleven, and Mom had my brothers and me in jackets, ties, and polished shoes, and she wore a dress, stockings and heels. Now, you’re lucky if people bother to cover themselves…

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  9. I wasn’t into the medical TV shows, however, Ben Casey was easy on the eyes. I enjoy train rides but haven’t been on one for some time. I enjoy the train ride that begins in Blue Ridge, Ga and goes to McCaysville. It’s a short ride and touristy but still fun.

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    1. I can’t say I’ve been into many of the medical show, but I always thought “Emergency!” (five minutes of plot, driving around with the sirens on the rest of the time) and “Quincy, M.E.” were good. I always marvel at how the paramedics on “Emergency!” can get anything right, because they don’t come across as the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree, but put them in a crisis situation and they’re right on top of it.

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