Saturday, May 30, 2015

WESTERNS ON THE AIR -- THE GOLDEN AGE OF RADIO REVISITED

By:Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Most of us have heard the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover”. Well, there is another popular quote that says, “Never judge a book by its movie”. Both statements are valid. How many times does a book cover fail to attract a reader, or even convey what the book is about? How many times has a favorite book been changed when adapted to film? The film might be popular, perhaps even a blockbuster at the box office, but for faithful fans of the novel, they preferred the author’s writing. For most fans of the original work, the best compliment a director or film company can receive is, “The film remained true to the book.”

Without question, we live in an age where books are accessible in many types of formats. We can read them the old-fashioned way by holding an actual printed book in our hands, or create a cyber library on any number of electronic devices where all your favorite books (or new releases that interest you) are at your fingertip – regardless of where you are in the world. For those who prefer to hear a book read aloud by professional actors or narrators, there are audio books.

How many of us remember having bedtime stories read aloud to us as children? My children loved to hear me read stories aloud to them, and I had no amount of endless fun doing various voices in many a tale – including all the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. For myself, as a child, I remember my mother telling me how she would listen to radio shows as a child. She compared it to how you can use your imagination to visualize a book and its characters when you read it. Someone is bringing that story to life…and with sound effects.

As an adult, I now understand how she felt listening to those old time radio shows. You see, several years ago I discovered a wonderful channel called Radio Classics (Channel 82) on Sirius XM Radio. Thanks to the dedication and efforts of Greg Bell, (Greg Bell Media) program director and host of Radio Classics, I have been introduced to the Golden Age of Radio. I’ll be honest. I am now totally addicted to Radio Classics. I listen to this channel in my car. I listen to it at home. And I have purchased many old radio shows on my iPhone that I listen to on a daily basis.

So, today, I am going to address the wonderful world of old time radio shows; in particular, the early audio adaptations of books and/or original written works of dramatic fiction. As a writer, I especially enjoy listening to how the weekly episodes of these radio dramas were crafted, and the techniques used to bring that drama to life – from the plotting, pacing, and dialogue, to the wonderful performances by the actors and use of sound effects. As a theatre major with a background in acting, I both admire and respect the diverse talent of the performers featured on the various radio dramas. Just as popular books were adapted to radio plays and film, many radio shows were adapted to television, usually with different actors.

Without a doubt, the Golden Age of Radio captivated millions of faithful listeners, and one of its most popular genres was Westerns.

Imagine yourself transported back in time. The year is 1952. You are seated with your family waiting for the opening of one of the most exciting western dramas on the air. You hear the sound of a horse and rider galloping hard and fast as if in pursuit, followed by the echo of a gunshot. A voice speaks…

“Around Dodge City and the territory out west, there’s just one way to handle the killers and the spoilers, and that’s with the US Marshal and the smell of gun smoke. Gunsmoke, starring William Conrad -- the story of the violence that moved west with young America; the story of the man who moved with it…Matt Dillon, United States Marshal.”

GUNSMOKE:

As mentioned in the above opening of the series, the original version of this western drama starred William Conrad as US Marshal Matt Dillon. It was considered the finest western drama that ever aired on radio. I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I prefer the radio version to the television series of Gunsmoke which aired from 1955-1975. [Pictured: William Conrad as the original Matt Dillon]

Conrad’s portrayal of Marshal Dillon is brilliant, captivating the audience with subtle nuances and a powerful strength that display his range of acting, and provides a visual performance to the listener of a US Marshal that is strong, brave, scarred, complex, and engaging.

From 1952 to 1961, CBS Radio aired 432 weekly episodes of the 30-minute western drama -- all wonderfully written, directed, produced, and performed. Supporting cast members [pictured below] were Georgia Ellis (Kitty Russell), Parley Baer (Chester Wesley Proudfoot), and Howard McNear (Doc Adams). An extremely talented and versatile character actor, some of you may remember Howard McNear portrayed the lovable Floyd the Barber on The Andy Griffith Show in the 1960s. I might add there was no Festus on the radio version of the series. Chester was Matt Dillon’s soft-spoken, kind-hearted right hand.

One of the aspects I enjoy most about the radio version of Gunsmoke (apart from Conrad’s performance as Matt Dillon), is the quality of the production. The sound effects are wonderful, and really set each scene with great realism of the period and the action. One episode has Matt and Chester riding into an Indian camp to question the chief about a murder. As Matt and Chester discuss what they see – namely the women and children going inside their tipis to hide, and the men lining up to face the intruders – you know the potential for danger is high. Anything could happen. In addition, the scene is enhanced by the hushed conversation between Dillon and Chester, the subtle sound of saddles creaking, the slow, steady steps of their horses, and even the sound of a protective lone dog barking at the strangers. Everything works perfectly. And that dog, a minor detail perhaps, was so beautifully executed that it captivates the listener and contributes to the tension. The scene was brought to life and the audience saw in their mind’s eye what was happening.

Each episode of Gunsmoke is well written, entertaining, and suspenseful. Dodge City comes alive through the writing and performances of its characters, and just like life in the Old West, there were no guaranteed happy endings. For Marshal Dillon especially, the fact he cannot save everyone is a reality that irritates and haunts him. The expectations of everyone weigh on him, and you often wonder why he doesn’t just quit. Life was a struggle for everyone in and around Dodge City, but the pressures upon Matt Dillon are a burden few men could bear.

Matt Dillon as portrayed by William Conrad is truly the LIFE FORCE for Dodge City. No question about it; this town would not survive without him. The townspeople know it, and he knows it. Yet, power and authority does not corrupt him. It is his sense of loyalty, of decency that keeps him there. This US Marshal is tough, a stoic man who often projects a very surly disposition. If he smiles or laughs, it’s rare. You soon realize this persona is his mask – perhaps the only way he can do his job. There is a gentle side to him, even an almost boyish charm that sparkles through when he lets his guard down.

Quite honestly, I have become such a fan of this radio series that I listen to it on Radio Classics whenever I can. I have also purchased an album of 50 original episodes on CD. Additionally, I am so impressed with the talent of the man who first brought Matt Dillon to life that I want to share with you some of what I have since learned about William Conrad.

As a prolific actor with a broad range of acting ability, William Conrad was highly sought after during the Golden Age of Radio for numerous productions. He had an unforgettable deep voice, and could play a hero or villain with equal finesse. Conrad once stated he’d played more than 7,500 different characters on radio. I might add that many of these roles were done at the same time. He would act on one show then cross over to do another character on a different show, etc.

From 1947 until 1954, he was the voice of the popular radio adventure series, Escape. Years earlier, when just 22 years old, he acted in and produced The Hermit’s Cave, a horror radio series.

His career spanned 50 years. As a highly respected actor, he worked in radio, television, and film. He was also a director and producer. In fact, he directed many episodes of popular western television shows, including The Rifleman, Have Gun Will Travel, and Bat Masterson. Bet you didn’t know that William Conrad also narrated the popular television show, The Fugitive. His voice can also be heard narrating the opening of Chisum, starring John Wayne. And let’s not forget Conrad’s more light-hearted skill as narrator for six years on Saturday mornings with the Rocky & Bullwinkle animated series.

I think it’s safe to say that at one time or another in your life, you’ve heard (or seen) William Conrad as a performer. Unfortunately, today, many remember him more for his appearance in later life than his talent. For me, especially since discovering the original Gunsmoke radio series, his 9-year portrayal of Matt Dillon is without equal.

Having said that, I don’t want fans of the television series to be up in arms with me. The television series was exceedingly popular—especially to new audience members and their children who never heard (or knew about) the radio series. But what you may or may not have known was that there was another Matt Dillon, the original Matt Dillon. Needless to say, Conrad had quite a fan base that were upset someone else would portray the US Marshal on television. I would have been as well.

Thus, we return to changes made (sometimes necessary) when adapting books for films or television, and changes in casting actors as characters that people have come to love. When you read a book, you envision a particular character. It can be frustrating when someone who doesn’t seem right for the role is cast to portray that character. You only hope the director knows what he/she is doing. Sometimes the casting works; sometimes not. Sometimes an actor brings a different yet appealing element to the character. And very often you realize the actor was chosen more for looks and popularity than talent.

When Gunsmoke was being adapted for television, the visual medium was still in its infancy. It may not have mattered what an actor looked like on the radio, but what if the television audience didn’t like the way someone looked. A similar parallel can be made when famous movies stars of the silent era lost their careers because their voices were not appealing to audiences when talkies were introduced. One cannot help but wonder if the "powers that be" felt 5’8” William Conrad (although extremely popular in the role on the radio) did not project the heroic physical image for Matt Dillon they wanted for television. Thus, 6’7” James Arness was cast in the role. Then again, it should be noted that the radio series was still airing new episodes on a weekly basis and quite popular when the television series started. In addition, all the radio series actors were replaced for the television series.

The interpretation or portrayal of Matt Dillon by James Arness was very different. Perhaps the show’s producers felt it best to have the televised version of Dillon differ in some way from the radio version. Arness also may not have wanted to imitate the way Cannon portrayed Matt Dillon, but make the character his own. Many fans of the television series believe he succeeded. The show did run for 20 years. Still, much as I respect the man’s dedication, hard work, and tenure on the television series, by comparison, I find the portrayal of Matt Dillon as originated by Conrad the more compelling, engaging, interesting, relatable, and imposing characterization of the US Marshal. Matt Dillon as portrayed by James Arness -- especially in the early years of the series -- had a stiff, almost wooden presence at times. Despite his height, he was a soft-spoken, kind, honest man. He also rarely showed emotion or even inflection in his voice. William Conrad as Marshal Dillon, portrayed a more complex lawman – still honest but flawed. He was kind at heart but also could be moody and temperamental. The range, nuances, and complexity of the radio Matt Dillon humanized him. At the same time, although the viewer could not see Conrad's height, his performance proves more believable as someone the bad guys would have found more threatening.

I might add that although Conrad did not have the long-legged lean physique Arness possessed, he was not the overweight man many remember him being 20 years later when he starred as Los Angeles police detective Frank Cannon on the crime drama series, Cannon. Even then, despite his hefty physical appearance, the power of his acting and talent could not be denied. His performance on the series won critical acclaim and repeated Golden Globe nominations.

Gunsmoke was co-created and produced by Norman McDonald, who later produced and/or directed other mega popular radio shows including Escape, Suspense, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, Have Gun Will Travel, and Fort Laramie.


FORT LARAMIE:

Every Sunday in 1956, CBS offered the radio drama Fort Laramie, starring a young Raymond Burr as US Cavalry Captain Lee Quince. As many remember, Burr would later star in two popular television shows, Perry Mason and Ironside.

There were 41 episodes of this weekly 30-minute western drama that aired on CBS radio in 1956. Each episode focused on the drama and suspense of life in the US Cavalry and the men stationed at Fort Laramie. The responsibility of Captain Quince was not just for his men at the fort but settlers as well. He also had the tension of dealing with 5,000 Sioux living on a nearby reservation. Great insight is given into the daily life of the period, the responsibilities of the US Calvary, the good and bad men who served in the Cavalry, and even the wives of officers also living at the fort. From a historic standpoint, especially if you write or enjoy reading western fiction, this series was excellent.


THE SIX SHOOTER

This western opened with the following introduction: "The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged; his skin is sun-dyed brown. The gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl. People call them both The Six-Shooter.”

The Six Shooter aired on NBC radio from 1953-1954, and starred film legend James Stewart as Britt Ponset. The 30-minute weekly drama series focused on Ponset (Stewart), a cowboy (obviously good with a six-shooter), who traveled all over the west. Sometimes Ponset might be a member of a cattle drive, or working for a ranch between moving on. Stewart’s portrayal of the good-natured, honest cowboy was spot-on and the episodes varied in content. The Six Shooter was entertaining, offering some suspense involving life and death danger, as well as poignant human interaction among interesting characters. Stewart also brought a natural ease and humor to his character, and how Britt Ponset might react to people or a situation.


FRONTIER GENTLEMAN

Frontier Gentleman aired on CBS radio every week during 1958, and starred John Dehner, another talented and very versatile actor during the Golden Age of Radio. Dehner portrayed J.B. Kendall, an English journalist for the London Times.

Each episode of this weekly series featured Kendall as he traveled the American West documenting his experience on the frontier for publication with his employer back in England. Sometimes amusing and often dangerous, each episode featured different plots and characters that Kendall encountered, including some actual historical figures of the period such as Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, and Jesse James..

Like William Conrad, actor John Dehner was a very prolific, popular radio performer. Not only did he portray the lead character on Frontier Gentleman, he also starred as the original Paladin in another western radio series, Have Gun, Will Travel.

Dehner's range of acting ability enabled him to portray a variety of characters, and he often appeared in guest roles on Gunsmoke and other westerns. His career spanned 40 years, and included radio, television and film. An interesting fact is that he originally worked as an animator for Walt Disney. The next time you watch Fantasia or Bambi, you’ll be seeing some of John Dehner’s animation.

The above-mentioned westerns are just a few of the radio shows that can still be heard on Radio Classics (Channel 82) on Sirius XM Radio, and/or purchased at such sites as Amazon.com, iTunes, and www.RadioSpirits.com.

You can also learn more about Radio Classics and their schedule of various radio programs (including a variety of genres) by visiting Greg Bell Media at www.gregbellmedia.com. or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GregBellMedia?fref=ts.

I am so happy to have finally discovered some of the wonderful radio shows my mother talked about, and am grateful they have been preserved, and are available to young and old alike today. Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoyed this post. ~ AKB



For more information about best-selling author, Ashley Kath-Bilsky, visit her Website at www.ashleykathbilsky.com. You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ashley-Kath-Bilsky/302554710513 , and Twitter at https://twitter.com/AKathBilsky

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Heroes and Heroines That Aren't Perfect--by Cheryl Pierson



How do you feel about a hero or heroine who isn’t physically perfect? As a reader, are you interested in those kinds of characters? What about as a writer—are these the kinds of characters you want to introduce and develop in your storylines?

The first book I ever read with an “imperfect” hero was THE TIGER’S WOMAN, by Celeste De Blasis. The story takes place in San Francisco, 1869, and seems to be one of those that people either love or hate. For me, it was an eye-opener—I’d never read a strong, masculine, virile hero who had any kind of infirmity. Jason Drake’s is a limp.

http://www.amazon.com/Tigers-Woman-Celeste-Blasis/dp/038529042X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432778646&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Tiger%27s+Woman

Another one that comes to mind is A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen Woodiwiss. The heroine is “sold” by her father to pay his gaming debts to a mysterious man, Lord Saxton, who keeps himself covered to hide disfiguring scars from a terrible fire. I can’t say too much about these books without giving away spoilers, but both of them have many reviews that speak for them and their quality.

http://www.amazon.com/Rose-Winter-Kathleen-E-Woodiwiss-ebook/dp/B000FC13JU/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1432778357&sr=8-3&keywords=kathleen+woodiwiss

Mary Balogh’s book SIMPLY LOVE (one of the “Simply” quartet) is the story of an English aristocrat who has lost his arm and eye, and his face has been disfigured on one side. These are war injuries from “the Peninsula Wars”—and of course, he believes no woman will ever want him. He’s become reclusive. Enter Anne Jewell, mother of a nine-year-old son. UNWED mother, to be exact.

http://www.amazon.com/Simply-Love-Quartet-Mary-Balogh/dp/0440241979/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432778821&sr=8-1&keywords=Simply+Love

Our own Kathleen Rice Adams has a short story, THE LAST THREE MILES, in the Prairie Rose Publications anthology, WILD TEXAS CHRISTMAS (yep, another Christmas story!) “Can a lumber baron and a railroad heiress save a small Texas town?” With Kathleen writing it, you can bet they’re going to give it their best shot, even though Kathleen’s hero in this one is confined to a wheelchair!

http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Texas-Christmas-Cheryl-Pierson-ebook/dp/B00PZ9EV38/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432778910&sr=8-1&keywords=Wild+Texas+Christmas

My own foray into writing a hero with a physical impairment is more modern. It’s a Christmas short story called THE WISHING TREE. Our hero, Pete Cochran, has been to the Middle East and suffered a devastating wound—the loss of an eye—shortly before he was to come home. Now, he works at his dad’s Christmas tree lot, just trying to heal his own mind and spirit…and then, a miracle happens. Maria Sanchez and her son, Miguel, stop by the lot one day and everything changes. You all know I believe in happy endings, but I don’t want to give any spoilers!

http://www.amazon.com/Wishing-Tree-Cheryl-Pierson-ebook/dp/B00P444VIY/ref=sr_1_24?ie=UTF8&qid=1432778998&sr=8-24&keywords=The+Wishing+Tree

What about heroines? I’ve read books about heroines who have been lame—I can’t remember the titles right now. How do you feel about “imperfect” heroines? Are those more interesting than the heroes who suffer a permanent wound?

I would love to hear from everyone about this. I’m very curious as to what y’all think. So let’s hear it—and if you have read or written any books to add to this list, please DO!

I know it’s not Christmas, but I will be giving away 2 digital copies of THE WISHING TREE to two lucky commenters today! Thanks so much for coming by!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

RAGS TO RICHES CATTLE KING OF TEXAS


This is a true story of rags to riches. Christopher Columbus “Lum” Slaughter claimed to be the first male child born of a marriage contracted under the new Republic of Texas. He was born on 9 February 1837 to Sarah (Mason) and George Webb Slaughter in Sabine County.  Lum was a ranching pioneer, banker, millionaire, and philanthropist. Yet at one time, he was so poor he had to ride bareback because he didn’t own a saddle.

Christopher Columbus "Lum" Slaughter
He was educated at home and at Larissa College in Cherokee County. As a boy he worked cattle with his father and at age twelve helped drive the family's ninety-two-head herd to a ranch on the Trinity River in Freestone County, where the family moved in 1852. Because of his expertise in herding cattle across the often swollen river, he was regularly employed by drovers bound for Shreveport with Brazos-country livestock. At age seventeen he made a trading expedition hauling timber from Anderson County to Dallas County for sale and processing Collin County wheat into flour for sale in Magnolia, Anderson County, a trip that yielded him a $520 profit.

With what must have seemed vast wealth to him at that time, he bought his uncle's interest in the Slaughter herd. Having observed the better quality of the Brazos stock, he persuaded his father to move farther west. They selected a site in Palo Pinto County, well positioned to provide beef to Fort Belknap and the nearby Indian reservations. In 1856, Lum drove 1,500 cattle to his new ranch.
On 5 December 1861 (possibly 1860), Slaughter married Cynthia Jowell of Palo Pinto, Texas; they had five children. After being widowed in 1876, he married Carrie A. Averill (Aberill) in Emporia, Kansas, on January 17, 1877; they had four children.

When open war with the Indians broke out in 1859, he volunteered his service and was in the expedition that unexpectedly liberated Cynthia Ann Parker from a Comanche camp. With the withdrawal of federal protection during the Civil War, Slaughter continued to fight Indians as a lieutenant in the Texas Rangers. He also served under Capt. William Peveler in Young County in the Frontier Regiment, part of the effort to maintain frontier protection during the war.

Nadua and Topsannah, 1861
Cynthia Ann Parker and Prairie Flower
When the Confederacy fell and Indian harassment continued, Slaughter and other ranchers started for Mexico in search of new ranchland. During the expedition Slaughter suffered an accidental gunshot wound that incapacitated him for a year, causing a nearly ruinous decline in his cattle business. After his recovery he started a cattle drive to New Orleans in late 1867, but en route contracted with a buyer for a Jefferson packing business to sell his 300 steers there for thirty-five dollars a head in gold, a large sum. At some time during this period, people began referring to him as Colonel Slaughter.

With his new stake he began regular drives to Kansas City in 1868, selling his herds for as much as forty-two dollars a head. He sold his Texas ranching interests in 1871 and in 1873 organized C. C. Slaughter and Company, a cattle-breeding venture, which later pioneered the replacement of the poor-bred longhorn with Kentucky-bred blooded shorthorn stock. By 1882 a herd shipped to St. Louis received seven dollars per hundred pounds, several times what he could have made selling in Kansas. His income increased until it reached $100,000 per year, at which time he began giving away money to charitable purposes, donating from 10 to 25 per cent of his income to philanthropy each year.

In 1873, Colonel Slaughter moved his family to Dallas and a few years later dissolved his partnership with his father. About 1877 he established one of the largest ranches in West Texas, the Long S, on the headwaters of the Colorado River and there grazed his cattle on the public domain. Desirous of becoming a gentleman breeder, Lum purchased the Goodnight Hereford herd in 1897 and the 1893 Chicago World's Fair grand champion bull, Ancient Briton. In 1899 he acquired the famous Hereford bull Sir Bredwell for a record $5,000.

C.C. Slaughter home, Dallas
Through these purchases Slaughter's purebred Hereford herd became one of the finest in the business. Around 1898 Slaughter undertook a major land purchase in Cochran and Hockley counties. He bought 246,699 acres, leased more, and established the Lazy S Ranch, which he stocked with his Hereford herd and mixed breed cattle from the Long S and consigned to the management of his eldest son.

In 1877, Slaughter helped organize the Northwest Texas Cattle Raisers' Association (later the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association), for which he also served a term as president in 1885. He was the first president of the National Beef Producers and Butchers Association in 1888, an organization formed to combat market domination by the meat-packing industry.

Frequently titled the "Cattle King of Texas," Slaughter became one of the country's largest individual owners of cattle and land. By 1906, he owned over a million acres and 40,000 cattle and was the largest individual taxpayer in Texas for years. For a time "Slaughter Country" extended from a few miles north of Big Spring for 200 miles to the New Mexico border west of Lubbock. By 1908–09, however, he opened his Running Water and Long S Ranches to colonization and sale.

Hereford cattle
Failure of the land company promoting colonization caused much of the land to revert to his ownership by 1911. Under the management of Jack Alley, it was restored to profitability by 1915. Slaughter maintained strict control over his operations until 1910, when he suffered a broken hip that crippled him for the remainder of his life, compounding problems caused by his failing eyesight. He consequently turned the business over to his eldest son, George.

In addition to ranching, Slaughter participated in banking in Dallas where he helped organize City Bank in 1873 and invested in the bank's reorganization as City National Bank in 1881. At that time he became its vice president. In 1884 he helped establish the American National Bank, which evolved by 1905 into the American Exchange National Bank (later First National Bank). He was vice president from its organization until his death.

Slaughter was a Democrat and Baptist who contributed two-thirds of the cost for the construction of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and served as vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, as president of the state Mission Board from 1897–1903, and as an executive board member of the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 1898–1911. His support of a plan to retire the consolidated debt of seven Texas Baptist schools and coordinate their activities into a system capped by Baylor University assured its acceptance by the general convention in 1897.

C. C. Slaughter breaking ground for what
would become Baylor Hospital in Dallas
Slaughter also contributed generously to the establishment of the Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium, which later became Baylor Hospital in Dallas. This is especially interesting to me, as both our daughters were born at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. He also contributed to the medical school and to the Nurses Home and Training School.

Colonel Slaughter often summed up his philanthropic philosophy saying, "I have prayed the Master to endow me with a hand to get and a heart to give."

Slaughter established this Free Clinic for Minorities
He died at his home in Dallas on 25 January 1919. However, his death precipitated a tangled family financial scandal. Less than a week after his death, his younger brother Bill, with whom he had had a long and strained financial relationship but who managed the Long S, was accused of fraud. Bill had attempted to sell his nephew Bob Slaughter’s new Western S Ranch on the Rio Grande in Hudspeth County to an unknown company from Mexico. 

C, C. Slaughter grave, Greenwood Cemetery, Dallas, Texas
Learning of the fraudulent negotiations and backed by his brothers, Bob confronted and fired his uncle. Although Bill Slaughter later filed a $3 million slander suit against his nephews, he apparently never collected anything from it. Colonel Slaughter’s family continued to give to causes close to the heart of C.C. Slaughter, and Baylor Hospital became one of many testaments to his generosity.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Picture Perfect Kiss


www.laurirobinson.blogspot.com


The post isn’t about the west, but I hope no one minds. While in California earlier this month, I visited the Unconditional Surrender Statue in San Diego. I knew of the ‘kiss’ but not the story behind it, which is worth sharing. I hope you think so, too.

I need to note, there are several versions of the story, and this is the one the Naval Institute (which is also part of the display in San Diego) shared.

The famous 1945 photo wasn’t staged, nor did the two people know each other. Matter of fact, the picture didn’t even become famous until years later, and the two people didn’t even know about the picture until the late 1970’s. 

Greta Zimmer was a dental assistant (at the time they wore the full ‘nurse garb’) in New York and on August 14, 1945 was at work as usual. After dental patients coming into the clinic said the war had ended, during her lunch break, Greta went down to Time’s Square to read the news herself on the lighted Times news zipper in the windows on the third story of their building. 

That same day, George Mendonsa was looking forward to spending his last day before being shipped out again with his new girlfriend, Rita. Because Rita liked how he looked in it, George wore his uniform to take Rita to a matinee that afternoon. Shortly after it began, the show was interrupted by the announcement the war had ended. 

George and Rita left the movie theatre and hurried to Times Square, where a multitude of people had gathered, reading the same lighted message as Greta. Gaiety overtook the entire area, and people rushed into ‘water holes’ where shot glasses of whiskey were passed out in celebration. George tossed back more than one glass in his excitement. Jubilant, he rushed back out into the crowd, and there, amongst the mass, he saw an angel. He remembered a time when he’d rescued maimed sailors from a burning ship, and how the nurses, angels in white, took care of them afterwards. 

In the heat of the moment, George rushed to Greta and without asking permission, kissed her. 

Greta’s first response was defense (in some photos—several were taken by other people besides the Life magazine reporter—her hand is clenched in a fist and rising). Perhaps because she understood George had no intention of hurting her, she surrendered to the kiss.  

Afterwards, without a word, Greta and George parted. George did offer Rita, who had watched the kiss from the sidelines, an apology for what had happened, but she had no objections. Greta simply returned to work. Little did they know that Alfred Eisenstaedt, a Life magazine photographer, had snapped four photos of them. One which would become his most famous photograph, Life magazines most reproduced, and one of the most popular photos of the 20’s century.

Years later, when the photo gained popularity, a search for the identities of the nurse and the sailor had several people coming forward, claiming it was them. Neither George nor Greta knew about the photo until contacted. George and Rita (who had been married several years then) recognized the photo because of Rita in the background, and Greta recognized herself because of how straight the seams where in her stockings, she took extra care in assuring they were always perfectly straight. 

One last fun thing for us about the statue in San Diego is that the walkway leading up to it is engraved with the names of people who donated money to have it erected. As my sister and I were walking along, I looked down and said look at that. Our parents were Earl and Mary, and there were their names. The donor’s names were actually Dr. Earl and Mary Parson. As you can see, we strategically covered up those parts.

Now, wasn't that worth sharing?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Top Ten Ways to Die in Yellowstone


Top Ten Ways to Die In Yellowstone
by: Peggy L Henderson

For my post today, I thought I’d stray away from the usual western-themed topic to talk about one of my favorite things - Yellowstone!
Yellowstone had been in the news a lot in recent weeks, from "bears chase tourists in Yellowstone" (that's the sensationalized headline the news media would like you to believe),  to boulders crashing down on a popular trail, to a teen getting gored by a bison, and a man falling almost to his death in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (huge kudos to the park rangers who rescued him). 
As summer approaches, and folks flock to the national parks, it's important to remind everyone to use common sense and follow the rules, and not become a statistic and to stay safe. 

Here are some gruesome facts about ways people have been knows to die in Yellowstone, whether it was early tourists in the 1800’s, or people visiting the park today.


Boiling in a Hot Spring
People have fallen in, jumped in to rescue dogs or personal items, or thought it was safe to bathe in . Some of the springs reach temperatures in excess of 200 Degrees Fahrenheit.



Death by Bison
Gorings and stompings by bison occur often because people don’t heed the warnings to stay at least 25 yards away. These animals may look slow and docile, but a two ton bison can charge at 35 miles per hour. That’s faster than the average human can run.


Lightning Strikes
Most lightning strikes occur while out boating or hiking, and not having adequate cover when a storm hits. 


Drowning
Aside from car accidents and illnesses, drowning claims more lives than any other danger in Yellowstone. Several deaths have been reported as recently as 2007–2010. Swimmers who underestimate their abilities, boaters whose boats capsize, and hikers who fall into a lake or river account for most of the drownings.


Poison Plants and Gases
Water hemlock looks a lot like an edible wild parsnip or carrot, but it's a virulent poison. For both of the confirmed deaths, it was, unfortunately, their final meal. Deadly hydrogen sulphide, which occurs naturally in Yellowstone, killed a worker helping to dig a pit in 1939.

Falling
One fall involved a driver who backed his car off a cliff, killing both himself and his wife. Several workers have died after falling from scaffoldings or buildings. Others who have fallen to their deaths from cliffs have ignored warning signs and wandered from established trails.




Exposure
A number of people froze to death or died in avalanches in Yellowstone during its early years. Since 1921, however, such deaths have been very rare; three people died in two separate avalanches in the 1990s.

Rolling Rocks
Setting a boulder tumbling into a canyon might seem like innocent fun until you realize there are hikers down below. One person died this way, while several others were killed by rocks that were unintentionally dislodged or just happened to fall.

Falling Trees
Although rare, deaths from being hit by a tree have happened several times in Yellowstone, either during logging operations or windstorms.

Grizzly Mauling
The first documented death caused by a bear in Yellowstone happened in 1916; the latest two, in summer 2011, after a gap of 25 years when no bear-related deaths were recorded. Visitors have died while hiking, sleeping in tents, or getting too close to a bear while trying to snap that perfect picture.



This list was complied from one of my favorite books about Yellowstone. For more details about deaths in America's oldest national park, check out Death in Yellowstone - Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park
By park historian Lee Whittlesey.
In the introduction, the author states, “Play safely, and think before you act.” 

Now go out and enjoy your national parks!


I've used several of these scenarios in my books set in Yellowstone and in the neighboring Tetons, and in one book, Yellowstone Promise, a character from the past comes to the future. Here are a few quick scenes on how I pictured my character from the nineteenth century to view some of the "touristy" things that happen in the park today:


Chase led her along more pathways toward the rim of the canyon. While the canyon itself hadn’t changed, the rim certainly had. Trees had been cleared to make way for the smooth trails, and to accommodate the parking lot. Wooden fences lined the path, and rocks had obviously been placed as barriers in areas along the edge. Signs on wooden posts announced that the area was dangerous, and people could fall to their deaths.
“Is it really necessary to post these warnings?” Sarah asked. Did people not see the dangers for themselves?

“Yes, and people still fall over and get killed,” Chase said.


The hills whipped past at an unbelievable pace. Much of her surroundings became a blur, until the vehicle suddenly slowed. In front of them, dozens of cars stood still along the sides of the path and even in the middle, making it nearly impossible for anyone to pass. People stood off in the meadow, staring and pointing at the hillside. More people ran across the path to join the others.
“What’s going on, Chase?” Sarah leaned forward, but the belt across her chest stopped her. “What are all those people looking at?” From a lifetime of habit, her hand reached to her waist, then she moved it again. Her knife wasn’t there.
“Probably a bear, with this many people,” he muttered.
“A bear? Why are people seeking out a bear?”
Chase chuckled. “To get a picture. This is one of many reasons why people come here. To see the wildlife.”
“Picture?” Sarah asked. She shook her head. Bears were to be avoided if possible, not sought out. She’d never comprehend this strange world.


Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Author of
 Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance