Robert Porter McKimson Senior, Foghorn Leghorn + The Year of the Rooster

To my readers: Welcome to the first post in my new blog thread: A Person + Place/Time/Thing

Robert McKimson was born October 13, 1910 in Denver, Colorado. He worked for Disney for a while, but is best known for animating and directing Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Bros. Cartoons. He was a contemporary of Chuck Jones.

According to his son in the wonderful short documentary Drawn to Life: The Art of Robert McKimson, McKimson suffered a concussion in an accident. When he recovered, the concussion had improved his powers of visualization, and he became an even faster and better animator.

Robert McKimson created and/or  directed shorts with a stellar list of cartoon stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Bugs Bunny. He also created the Tasmanian Devil. He also created Speedy Gonzales. And, if they weren’t enough, he also created the indomitable Foghorn Leghorn, an oversized rooster with an oversized voice and accent.

As a kid I got such a kick out of Foghorn Leghorn. He was loud, blustering, and incredibly funny (I admit that I still think all these things as an adult, too!).

A few years ago I went to check out the Wong Tai Sin Temple in China’s New Territories. It’s dedicated to the gods of medicine, but upon entering the temple grounds I was met by statues that were oversized animals of the Chinese zodiac including – you guessed it – Foghorn Leghorn’s Asian brother.

In honor of Robert McKimson and his larger-than-life rooster, (“Well I say there, boy! I say!”) I am reprinting the post I wrote describing the statues. – Jadi

I spent a few weeks north of Hong Kong in the New Territories. The transportation system is easy and each day I went exploring. I’d read up, select yet another fascinating place to discover, and off I’d go.

Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin
Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin

As a massage therapist I went to pay my respects to Sun Si-miao Zhen Ren, Perfected Master and god of Chinese Medicine. Taoists honor him as a god of healing. Even today, the ill and infirm (or people wishing to stay healthy) visit his temple to make offerings.

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So I headed to Wong Tai Sin Temple. Inside, I was met by wonderful bronze statues of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac!

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I managed to photograph all but the ox and dog.

Horse
Horse
Rat
Rat
Rabbit
Rabbit
Snake
Snake
Goat
Goat
Monkey
Monkey
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Tiger
Pig
Pig
Dragon
Dragon
And there he was: Foghorn Leghorn!!

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The temple is just outside a metro stop, smack dab in an urban area. Who would have suspected that Foghorn Leghorn resides there?

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In memory of Robert McKimson, 13 October 1910 – 29 September 1977

Foghorn Leghorn.png
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

NOTES: © 2015 & 2021 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Adventures in China’s New Territories 4: The Gods of Medicine. Photos © Jadi Campbell or Uwe Hartmann. More of Uwe’s images from our earlier trips to China and Hong Kong and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

My Imaginary Friends: #7 An Insect

When my nephew Niko was quite young, I took him to the Woodlands Park Zoo. Late that afternoon I watched a young man standing at a building; he kept peeping into the box he was holding.

I couldn’t contain my curiosity. “Excuse me,” I said, “but can I ask you, what’s in the box? You keep checking on it.”

He answered me with a solumn look. “I work in a grocery store. One of the stockboys was opening a box of fruit and got bitten by this.” He opened the box and we gazed down at a very large, very irridescent insect with huge pincers. “It was in the box hiding underneath the fruit,” he said. “The store manager’s worried it might be poisonous. I called and made an appointment to come in to the zoo and talk to their entomologists. We don’t know if we should send the guy who got bitten to the hospital.”

A decade later I used that memory to write a scene of Jeremy, a character in my first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories. The insect has morphed into a Thai giant centipede, and Jeremy is bitten. – Jadi

Jeremy unpacked the two crates of baby pineapples and stacked them on their sides in the bin. The sweet smell of the fruit put him in a good mood. Jeremy was humming ever so slightly under his breath as he broke the next exotic produce crate open and began to unpack its contents.

“F**k!” he screamed. The front of the store suddenly went silent and his coworkers came running.

Jeremy knelt on the floor cradling his right forearm and breathing in and out heavily. “Something just bit me,” he said in a strangled voice. He began to hyperventilate.

The day manager Lynnie Wendels pushed through the others wielding a metal stool. “Sit!” she commanded. She somehow got Jeremy onto the stool with his back bent over and his head down between his knees.

The others made a ring and offered suggestions. “Keep your head down, Jeremy! Just try to breathe, long slow deep breaths. That’s it, guy; you’re gonna be okay.”

“What was it?” Lynnie was still trying to ascertain what had happened. Jeremy raised his head and his face was damp from pain and shock. He held out his arm. “What in the -?” Lynnie didn’t finish the sentence. On the inside of Jeremy’s forearm, just above his wrist, two puncture marks stood out against the skin. The wounds were swelling and their red pulsated in angry color.

-from my chapter Punctured in Broken In: A Novel in Stories

Thai giant centipede, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand
Thai giant centipede, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

NOTES: Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos and images © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts. 

 Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Dylanphilia

It all began with my friend Charles Urban. He suggested that I read not just one but two brand-new biographies of Bob Dylan.

You want details? Is this ever the book for you

The first book, The Double Life of Bob Dylan: A Restless, Hungry Feeling, 1941-1966 is by Clinton Heylin. Known as the world’s foremost expert on His Bobness, Heylin was asked to examine the papers Dylan sold to Tulsa. When he did so, Heylin decided he needed to revise his Dylan biography. This new book is meticulous and exhaustive.

Weaves a spell like Dylan’s lyrics

The second book, You Lose Yourself, You Reappear. The Many Voices of Bob Dylan was written by Paul Morley. This book is more stream-of-consciousness, weaving back and forth through the influences on Dylan’s life and personas.

I read the books in tandem and had a blast. Not only did they revise my opinion of Bob Dylan (I loved his music but could take or leave his voice). I vanished into Dylan’s myriad rivers’ flows….

Now I listen with fresh appreciation. And the experience of reading about Dylan somehow inspired me to mix and match my own personal, + cultural, + worldly reference points. I became suddenly – and wildly – prolific. In a week I came up with more than fifty (50!!!) posts. A new blog thread was born, which (and what else did I expect after 2 books on Dylan) is actually two new threads spun together: Today’s Birthday and A Person + Place/Time/Things.

My last major blog thread was The Animal Kingdom, written in honor of another Bob – my dad.

Watch this space. Today’s Birthday and A Person + Place/Time/Things will be debuting soon.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. To see Uwe’s photos from our trips go to viewpics.de. PS: And it keeps growing…. The new blog thread currently has 70 posts in the queue. Thanks Charles!

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. My newest book  The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. My first book, Broken In: A Novel in Stories, was named a semifinalist for the 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Hurdy-Gurdy

We just took our first trip in 17 months. This was the longest we’ve ever gone without traveling. COVID-19 restrictions have made it tricky to leave the country. You never know where the next outbreak is going to come from, and we weren’t excited at the prospect of quarantining for two weeks on a border somewhere. So, we did a road trip inside Germany….

Our first stop was the UNESCO World Heritage city of Würzburg. [1]

Würzburg’s Residential Palace was built from 1720-1744 by Balthasar Neumann and is the most important building from the Southern German Baroque era. Definitely worth a visit! But I want to talk about a little statue I found in the Court Gardens in the back.

‘Twas then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man Came singing songs of love – Donovan

“Look! It’s a hurdy-gurdy player!” I exclaimed.

“What’s that?” Uwe asked.

“A strange instrument that the musician cranks to play: It buzzes and drones. Donovan sang about it.”

See the crank he’s turning?

The hurdy-gurdy is about 900 years old and maybe came from a fiddle. An even earlier version was the organistrum and required two people to play it, one to crank the handle and the second musician to pull up on the keys. It was used for choral music. The hurdy-gurdy or something like it, the lira in the Byzantine Empire, was described by Ibn Khurradadhbih. The next version of the hurdy-gurdy was called the symphonia. It was smaller, with three strings and keys that could be pressed from underneath. Present-day hurdy-gurdies have either a guitar body or a lute back.

Musicians in high courts played the hurdy-gurdy until it fell out of favor, and the hurdy-gurdy is mostly familiar now as an instrument used by roving minstrels. According to Wikipedia, in the Ukraine hurdy-gurdies are still played by itinerant, often blind, hurdy-gurdists called lirnyky. [2]

The instrument was saved from obscurity, helped no doubt by Donovan’s song in 1968. He wrote Hurdy Gurdy Man while studying Transcendental Meditation in India with the Beatles. Apparently, he wanted Jimi Hendrix to perform the song. Now, that would have been one hell of a recording! As it is, George Harrison helped with the lyrics. Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones all performed on the recording before they went on to form a little group named Led Zeppelin.

All my life, Hurdy Gurdy Man is one of those songs that floats in my consciousness. It’s as mystic and magical as a tale told by a wandering troubadour.

Thrown like a star in my vast sleep
I opened my eyes to take a peek
To find that I was by the sea
Gazing with tranquility

‘Twas then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man

Came singing songs of love
Then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Came singing songs of love

“Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy” he sang

“Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy” he sang
“Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy” he sang

Histories of ages past

Unenlightened shadows cast
Down through all eternity
The crying of humanity

‘Tis then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man

Comes singing songs of love
Then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Comes singing songs of love [3]

NOTES: [1] My readers know that Uwe and I make a beeline for World Heritage sites. They’ve always, always been worth the effort! [2] wiki/Hurdy-gurdy [3] Source: LyricFind. Hurdy Gurdy Man lyrics © Peermusic Publishing. PS: I learned a lot writing this post!

© Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was named a semifinalist for the 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Prize.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

 

I’m a Semifinalist for the International 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award!

I am extremely honored and very definitely pleased to announce that my first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories is currently a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award. See the list here: Hidden River Arts News

Writers have strange solitary lives and we really do hunch over our desks at all hours, snarling at people to keep away… until moments like this one. Writing honors are rare and seldom! This is the first award listing that Broken In has garnered, and the third of my books to receive one!

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. My short story collection The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase Broken In: A Novel in Stories or my other books.

 

Hiroshima at 8:15 A.M.

To mark the 76th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, I am reprinting my post 8:15 A.M. This tragedy must never be repeated. – Jadi

At 8:15 a.m. some 65 years later,

Birds perch on the Dome.

It’s startlingly calm. A becalming place

Green, tranquil, filled with standing statues

tourists with cameras and

prayers for peace and

pray-ers for peace and

Classes of school children

running

water everywhere.

They bring chains of 1,000 cranes

folded in loving memory of Sadako Sasaki

Her cranes became tinier

leukemia advancing until

Sadako folded symbols of longevity and healing

with the aid of a pin.

At 8:15 a.m. some 76 years later,

Five cranes hold sentinel on

ruined

blackened

girders

The skeleton now, simply,

called the A-Bomb Dome.

Statues are the world’s countries’ monuments

to Hiroshima reborn, arisen

declaring her residents will,

forever, live

in a place called The City of Peace.

Classes of children, schooled in knowledge of what

unthinkable tragedy

took

place

here

stand for photos before the fountain with the flame

in the center burning

until the last nuclear weapon is dismantled;

Before the cenotaph shielding

names of the dead, reopened, names

added on August 6th.

The Peace Park, the terrible

hypocenter.

And the tourists with cameras?

We bear witness. We come to

ask, Why?

How many

angels danced on the head of a pin?

We come to see The Truth or

as much truth as we can bear.

Seeing demands the clearest sight

possible when your eyes are filled

with the pin pricks of tears

Water,

like the water the burned begged for as they died

The peace fountains spouting outside the museum

the river that flows

calmly, becalmingly

near the A-Bomb Dome,

where the cranes have taken up residence.

(17 October 2010 21:27 p.m. Updated 6 August 2021.)

NOTES: Text © Jadi Campbell 2010.  Previously published as 8:15 A.M.  Photos © Uwe Hartmann. I wrote the first version of this poem while we visited Japan in 2010. The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m.on August 6, 1945. Sadako Sasaki lived 2 kilometers from the epicenter. She was 2 years old at the time, and died of the radiation exposure 10 years later. Sadako is famous for folding origami cranes. According to the Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted a wish: Sadako hoped to be healed. Today classrooms of children all around the world send strings of paper cranes to be displayed at Sadako Sasaki’s memorial in the Peace Park. Her statue and story are a powerful reminder of the innocent lives lost.

The cenotaph is opened each August 6th and the newest names of the dead are added. Its arched form provides a shelter to the souls of the victims.

The Peace Park contains statues dedicated by countries around the world; a museum; and monuments. We visited at night and the Dome (the only building left standing after the blast) was occupied by cranes. The image of this World Heritage Monument and the symbolic birds took a powerful hold on my imagination. When we returned at daylight to visit the park it overflowed with classes of laughing children, stunned tourists, and an atmosphere that is impossible to describe. It is a place of shared tragedy, and humanity.

The cranes were still there, perching in the Dome.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out.

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was named a semifinalist for the 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Prize.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

My Imaginary Friends: #6 Rocky

When I was a kid, we spent every summer in the woods. On the day school let out, either early in the afternoon before lunch time, or ten to fifteen minutes before the end of the school day, a scratchy announcement came over the school’s intercom. “Will Jadi, Pam and Barbara Campbell please collect their things and come down to the Principal’s Office?”

All the other kids watched us with round-eyed excitement. “You and your sisters got called the Principal’s Office, what’d you do, you guys must be in biiig trouble!” they chanted.

My parents would be standing at the front doors to the elementary school, chatting with the principal or his secretary. Out in the street the VW bus waited, packed to the gills. If that microbus was a fish, it would have been a stuffed bass.

Tiger the cat lay on the front dashboard. We got a dog a few years later and the family dog and cat accompanied us everywhere.

Once the kids had been collected, my parents drove to the camp we called home from that last day of school until the week before school started again.

**

My father was a research entomologist. He and his Forest Service crew set traps in the woods to see what might be eating gypsy moths. Each year those traps yielded a flying squirrel (one glorious year, two of them). Dad brought them back to the cabin where we’d set up a cage for the creature we inevitably named Rocky.

The campsite we returned to every June had a screened-in porch that filled the side of the building looking at the lake. We put Rocky’s big cage there, built him a nest up by the warmth of the bricks of the back of the fireplace, and let him out each night when he woke up.

Watching Rocky fly through the air of that porch was better than any t.v. show.

 Years later, I wrote about a little girl visiting her cousins. They always have critters, and she meets a flying squirrel for the first time. His name, of course, is Rocky. – Jadi

Flying Squirrel Images | Free Vectors, Stock Photos & PSD
Image courtesy of Free Vectors, Stock Photos & PSD

Hannah and her brother clustered with their cousins in the cabin’s screened-in porch. “What’d you catch this summer?” she asked.

Dom was carefully lifting a cardboard box out of a wide mesh wire cage. “A flying squirrel! We named him Rocky. Right now, he’s sleeping. Flying squirrels are nocturnal. That means they wake and get active at night.” Dom pointed at the wall. “Rocky likes to fly around the porch. We helped Dad build a home for him!”

Hannah saw that Uncle Aaron, with the help of the children, had erected platforms around the backside of the fireplace.

“And he really flies?”

“No, Princess,” Dawn answered. “Rocky has webs of skin between his legs and torso. They spread when he leaps to give him flight conductivity.” Like all the Schroyers, Dawn’s speech became pedantic when she got the chance to explain something. But Hannah wasn’t listening. Exclaiming, she crowded close as Dom gently lifted a tiny furry body out of the box and handed the creature to Ryan. Large black eyes looked at her.

“He kind of looks like a chipmunk. Can I hold him next?” Hannah put out a hand.

Ryan shook his head. “Mom says, never disturb him during the daytime. But we wanted to show you him. Tonight when he’s active we’ll let him out of the cage for a while. When Rocky gets used to you, he’ll eat out of your hands!”

“What else have you got?”

“Alive or dead?”

Hannah looked at Dom in horror.

“She means animals that are living, as in, breathing,” Jake prompted.

“You remember the ranger camp on the north end of the lake?” Dom asked. “Dad knows the head ranger. He brought us Rocky. Remember how last year they brought us a flicker with a broken wing?”

“So, this year we have Rocky, one diamond back turtle, and three frogs,” Dawn listed proudly. “We had a garter snake, but Mom made me let it go already. We put all the others in the fish cage out by the dock for the summer; we’ll let them go later. We have to keep Bello away from the frogs, though! That dumb dog thinks he can eat them!”

Hannah listened, tasting a familiar sour jealousy. Her father was allergic to cats. And dogs. And anything with feathers. They had talked Fred into a tank of guppies one Christmas, and before Easter the fish had floated belly up, covered in lurid, fuzzy moss. That was her family’s single venture into pet ownership.  – from my short story Princess Rain Clouds in The Trail Back Out

NOTES: Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos and images © and property of Jadi Campbell. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

 

Hard Times in Sugar Town!

Available now for free viewing on YouTube: Hard Times in Sugar Town! This show presents parallels and insights into our present-day crises….

Filmed in nostalgic black and white, Hard Times in Sugar Town is an evening of songs from the Depression Era and an original story by yours truly, featuring Derrick Jenkins, Tiffany Estrada, and Frank Eisele.

Directed by Charles Urban with Enel Kerler as Assistant Director and Susan Schwarz as The Host.

NOTES: Story © Jadi Campbell 2021. Enjoy our show!

The Junkie at the Train Station

I was on one of my first solo trips. I had a youth Eurail pass, surely one of the greatest deals on the planet. I carried a backpack that weighed almost as much as I did, and I’m sure my face had that open, I’m off to see Europe, whoopie!, look on it.

I took a train from Germany to Denmark to visit a friend of a friend. My destination had hard to pronounce letters like æ and ø in the name. Go to the area of the tracks for local trains, Anita’s letter instructed. Look for a little red train, about three cars. Like something out of a Hans Christian Andersen tale.

It was early morning as I waited on the station platform. A woman about my age approached me. She had on jeans and her arms and legs were incredibly skinny. Her hair was lanky. She wore a dirty beige coat with fake fur trim. She asked me something, and I shook my head. For once I was glad I lacked the language. I don’t speak Danish, I told her.

I was dismayed when she immediately switched to English. Can you give me some money? Anything? She swayed on her feet. I’m very, very tired, she told me.

I realized I was being hit up by a junkie. Please, I’m just so tired, she repeated. Her voice was flat, no affect, just the monotone of the addicted. I was afraid she was going to fall over. A little red train arrived, it really did look like something out of an exotic fairy tale, and I climbed on grateful for the escape.

***

On another trip, several decades later, I was on a train that stopped for the customary inspection on the tracks between Holland and Germany. The border control officials emptied out the backpack of a young guy. He stood impassive in the hall of the train car, his belongings spread out on the floor. He looked, rough. Like he’d spent all of his trip in hash bars. Please, I’m just so tired, I suddenly heard an earlier voice whispering.

The dead giveaway might have been the huge marijuana leaf patch he had sewn on his jeans jacket. They removed several plastic baggies – not marijuana – from an inside pouch in his backpack. He was invited to get off the train with the police officers, and we traveled on….

***

There are the angels that look over young folks traveling by themselves. On that first trip on my way to Denmark, I had to wait several hours very late at night in northern Germany for my connecting train. I remember a lot of really, really drunk people in a nearby bar. A man from Africa came and sat with me and kept me company. We shook hands when our respective trains finally arrived. Thank you for sitting with me, I said. I’ll never forget what he told me: People need to take care of each other.

There are demons that prey on young people. I think of the heavy drug users I’ve seen around the world (I’ve only given two examples, there are so many more), and can only repeat the refrains from Steppenwolf’s songs out of the soundtrack of my high school years. How quickly a magic carpet ride becomes God damn the pusher man.

NOTES: Text © Jadi Campbell 2021. In my first book Broken In, Lisa goes traveling in Bangkok and sees way more than she ever imagined.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase Broken In: A Novel in Stories or my other books.

Hard Times in Sugar Town

POSTED ON  by URBANSPY777

 

HARD TIMES IN SUGAR TOWN by Jadi Campbell

“History does not repeat itself – at best it sometimes rhymes.” –  Mark Twain

HARD TIMES IN SUGAR TOWN by Jadi Campbell

July 5 at 20:00 hrs in MERLIN

HARD TIMES IN SUGAR TOWN is an evening of songs from the Depression Era and an original story by Jadi Campbell featuring Derrick Jenkins, Tiffany Estrada, Frank Eisele. This show is the FIRST LIVE installment of the DARK MONDAY @ series in 2021!

…………………………….

The Dirty Thirties were a time of failed crops and banks, repossessed farms, and massive unemployment. The decade generated a great creative response to the country’s suffering, with the brilliant banter of screen stars, and poignant and pointed music lyrics.

Today’s soaring unemployment, small business failures, and uncertainty about the future are reminiscent of a bygone era: the Great Depression, which lasted from 1929 until 1939 and was the worst economic downturn in modern history. The historical parallel to the Pandemic Present is remarkable and the results quite similar: insolvent businesses, shuttered store fronts, financially concerned families fearful to make large purchases, and long lines forming at food banks.

When the U.S. stock market crashed in October 1929, it brought HARD TIMES to the nation. The Great Crash soon became the Great Depression – for millions of businesses and individuals, fear and failure became as commonplace as the optimism and prosperity had been before the economic collapse during the high spirited Roaring Twenties. In the downward spiral which lasted for a decade, society was devastated. During the bleakest point of the Great Depression, about a quarter of the U.S. workforce was unemployed. Those that were lucky enough to have steady employment often saw their wages cut or their hours reduced to part-time. Sound familiar?

Mark Twain states – “History does not repeat itself – at best it sometimes rhymes.”

During the 1920s, business owners pretty much did whatever they wanted and the rich got obscenely richer. Like today’s corona virus-driven economic crash, the Great Depression devastated a nation where things were already awful for a lot of people. Like the opportunists of today, business titans of the 1930’s, such as the 18 year old millionaire Howard Hughes, actually grew their fortunes thanks to shrewd investments, fortuitous timing and entrepreneurial vision.

The downtrodden population was in dire need of distraction and uplifting entertainment to take their minds off the troubling times at hand. Even as many Americans struggled to survive, they still found ways to have affordable fun. Miniature Golf became fashionable and a plethora of Board Games such as Scrabble and Monopoly were introduced.

The opportunity to earn money while having “fun” drew many desperate couples to participate in Dance Marathons. These became more than just a form of recreation and could last for days or weeks. As long as the dancers kept dancing, they had food (usually 12 meals a day), shelter and the chance to win a cash prize. Each hour they were allowed a break for 15 minutes, during which they might lay down on a cot and have a nurse attend to them. Because they had to stay moving for the other 45 minutes per hour, dancers learned to sleep while their partner held them up and dragged them across the dance floor.

Radio was at the height of its popularity and a pleasantly inexpensive form of entertainment for 83 percent of the population that owned a wireless set. New program formats were created – Daily Soap Operas, Game Shows, Radio Westerns, Crime Shows, Mystery Programs. Listeners tuned in to hear about current events, the latest baseball scores or juicy Hollywood gossip. In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt revolutionized the way presidents communicated with Americans by talking directly to them through the radio. During his“fireside chats,” as they became known, he spoke of issues that affected everyone; like the banking crisisthe New Deal and the Dust Bowl.

This was also the Golden Age of the Hollywood Film Industry. Tickets prices were under a quarter for the whole of the 1930s – down from 35 cents in 1929, so spending time in the cinema was an affordable form of escapism for many. The technical transition from Silent Movies to Talkies was fully achieved and many revolutionary new genres were created such as Screw Ball Comedies, feature length Cartoons by Walt Disney, lavish film musicals featuring the dizzying choreography of Busby Berkley, as well as the popular series of dance themed movies starring America’s Sweethearts – Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers. What better way to forget your troubles for a few hours?

Many composers of what is today considered the Great American Songbook, wrote songs specifically for the movie industry; among them George & Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern. These were melodies with words to console, lift spirits and have the audience leaving the lavishly designed and decorated cinemas whistling and singing… ready to face yet another dreary day.

As lyricist Dorothy Fields wrote in one of her popular songs in 1936 – Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again!

Photos by Uka Meissner deRuiz

NOTES: Original post by Charles Urban and New English American Theater (NEAT). The show will be posted on YouTube and available for viewing from July 6th-onwards!

Our film version will be broadcast in wonderfully nostalgic and appropriate Black & White beginning Tuesday, July 6 on the MERLIN YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/c/MERLINSTUTTGART0711/videos