Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Leo DeLyon Plays the (Lorain, Ohio) Palace – December 1954

Although the Morning Journal's current Mary Lee Tucker Clothe-a-Child program depends on cash donations to purchase warm winter clothing for school-age children, its original source of income (when the program first started in the 1920 and well into the 1950s) was a gala Christmas benefit show. It was usually at the Palace Theater and featured local bands (such as Jimmy Dulio and his band).

The emcees for these shows were often up-and-coming performers (like Bob McFadden) who went on to have great careers.

Recently I was digging around on microfilm and discovered that one of my favorite Hanna-Barbera voice artists – Leo DeLyon – hosted the show back in December 1954 at an early stage in his career. (Do you remember which animated TV characters he voiced? If you don't, I'll reveal it shortly.)

Anyway, it was announced on the front of the Lorain Journal of November 18, 1954 that Leo DeLyon would be hosting the show (below). (Note that on the same page the infamous Dr. Sam Sheppard murder trial was underway.)

Here is the text of the article about Leo DeLyon (below). It provides a nice biography of him at that stage of his career.   
Comic, Pianist, Singer
Versatile Leo DeLyon Will Spark Yule Show
That Versatile Gentleman Leo DeLyon, comic, pianist and singer, is coming to town. He will bring a fresh, sensational type of humor to his Lorain audience when he serves as master of ceremonies for the annual Mary Lee Tucker Christmas benefit show.
Three Hour Show
Announcement of his acceptance for the sparkling three hour vaudeville show sponsored by the City Club was made today by Gus Athanasoff, show director.
The show, a one night stand, is scheduled for 8 p. m. Dec. 8 in Palace theater.
Foremost trade observers have tabbed DeLyon for immediate success. His first New York engagement resulted in a wave of press notices that pushed all other amusement news in the background.
His voice, remarkably versatile in tone and depth, performs the almost unbelievable trick of going from deep basso to extreme soprano in a few notes.
Nine Different Voices
He has sung in nine different voices and can do an entire opera from start to finish. He seldom sticks to the straight and narrow, however, with the result of his efforts coming out as pure, hilarious comedy.
Sitting at the piano, DeLyon can look like a concert musician, a ragtime honky tonker, or like the zany character he really is.
Once he starts playing, it's every man for himself and may the walls hold together. He gets more laughs per line than any other comedian in the business.
New Jersey Native
Born in Paterson, N.J., 23 years ago, DeLyon displayed a remarkable talent for music. In 1942 he began his professional career with a small band in the Borscht Circuit of New York State.
Though he played piano in the group for 12 weeks, it was not until the final day the leader found DeLyon could not read music.
It seemed unbelievable that a thorough and talented keyboard stylist like DeLyon had faked his way through the summer. While admitting that DeLyon was adequate, the maestro convinced him that piano lessons could make the future brighter.
Winner of an Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout radio show, DeLyon in one of the fastest Broadway hit appearances in history went from the Strand theater to the Roxy theater, then to the Carnival.
Capacity Crown In London
At the Carnival he was instrumental in helping establish that club as one of the foremost in Gotham. He also played the New Yorker, in New York City and in such other locations as the Oriental theater in Chicago.
Nor has he limited his activities to this side of the Atlantic. He played to packed audiences in the Paladium in London and the Empire in Glascow.
He is kept busy playing theaters, night clubs and TV guest appearances and is readying a new format for his own show on TV that is expected to go on very soon.
Appearing with DeLyon on the benefit show will be the best of local talent selected through auditions. Second of three auditions for talent will be Sunday at 1 p. m. in Sons of Italy hall, 15th at Reid.
More than 20 acts appeared for the first audition held last Sunday. Final chance for talent to try out for a spot on the show will be Nov. 28, also at 1 p. m. in Sons of Italy hall. 
Tickets on Sale Saturday
Funds raised through the show will be used to spread Christmas happiness to young and old throughout Lorain county. They will provide gifts and entertainment for county home and children's home residents as well as patients in rest homes, hospitals and Pleasant View sanatorium.
Tickets for the show, all reserved seats, will go on sale Saturday, selling for $1.50 each or $1.25 each in blocks of 10.
Orders are being taken at The Journal office for patron tickets selling at $2.50 each.
The Mary Lee Tucker Christmas benefit show was a smash, with a packed audience of close to 2,000 at the Palace Theater. The nationally known vocal quartet, The Crew Cuts, came on near the end of the two and a half hour show. Jimmy Dulio's 13 man band performed, as well as the Tracey Twins.
Leo DeLyon held the whole show together with his emceeing. As the Journal noted the next day, "DeLyon, a master of versatility, highlighted his offerings with a deal that involved simultaneous whistling of one tune and humming of another. He demonstrated a wide vocal range and ability to imitate all manner of sounds, human and otherwise; he tickled the ivories, and he pretty well managed to keep his listeners in a happy frame of mind with his fast change of pace comedy routine."
Do you remember which Hanna-Barbera characters he provided the voices for? If you're a big Top Cat fan like me, then I'm sure you'll remember both of the cool cats on the show that he voiced: Spook (the beatnik cat with the necktie) and Brain (the dumb one wearing a T-shirt).
Happily, Mr. DeLyon is still with us today. Here is a link to his Facebook page.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Smith and Gerhart Christmas Ad – December 6, 1950

Here's a Christmas-themed ad for Smith and Gerhart Inc. The ad for the iconic Lorain store appeared in the Lorain Journal on December 6, 1950.

There's plenty of goodies for the ladies in this ad: "razzle-dazzle" rhinestone jewelry consisting of pins, necklaces, bracelets and earings; genuine calfskin leather purses; and nylons that were S & G's "very own brand" – Elynors.

Their own brand? Does that mean that "Elynors" is some sort of mashup of the words "Elyria" and – ?

Apparently not. It seems that Elynor Fashions was based out of New York and was known for a wide variety of goods and services, including ladies hats, coats, suits, blouses, sweaters, hosiery and underwear. The company had its own namesake stores in some markets, and merely made their merchandise available to stores such as S & G.

Anyway, the ad is a nice reminder of the days when illustration ruled the day in the advertising world.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Comes to O'Neil's – 1954

I've done quite a few Christmas posts on O'Neil - Sheffield Center over the years on this blog (including Christmas 1955 and 1960, Santa's arrival in 1959 and 1963, and the Talking Christmas Tree. I guess it's because the shopping center left such a big impression on me as a kid.

Well, here are two more ads for O'Neil - Sheffield Center, both from 1954 – the year it opened. Both ads ran in the Lorain Journal on November 22, 1954.

First up is the ad announcing Santa's arrival in a helicopter – same as he did in later years.

In the same edition of the Lorain Journal was this full-page ad trumpeting the arrival of Christmas at the center for the very first time.
Note that the Talking Christmas Tree had not yet made its appearance in 1954. Instead, a 40-foot live 'community' Christmas tree is promoted.
The full-page ad does a good job of making the case to go out there and check out all the wonderful holiday sights. The center's ideal location between Lorain and Elyria did indeed position it as the community place to shop (much to the detriment of Downtown Lorain) until Midway Mall was built.
I never did feel the same way about Midway Mall as I did about O'Neil's. Maybe it's because the mall was in Elyria and didn't have that connection with Lorain that O'Neil's did. Or possibly because it was such a headache to get to Midway Mall (still is) with having to go up and over Route 57 to get there.
We'll see in a few years whether the planned highway improvements in that area (and the removal of the bridge) result in a revival for Midway Mall.
Meanwhile, the 'reimagined' Centre of Sheffield remains. Even in its new configuration, it still brings back holiday memories for many local Baby Boomers.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jingles and the Other "Not Forgotten Box" Mascots Part 2

So when did Jingles come out of hibernation and become involved with the Not Forgotten Box at the Chronicle-Telegram?

It was during the 1969 campaign – although he was but a nameless bear at that point. Here's the photo of Jingles and his pal, little Christy Murphy, that appeared in the C-T on December 6, 1969 (below).
As noted, he was originally donated by Penneys at Midway Mall.
He was such a big success that he was brought back the following year. The announcement of his return was the headline of the Chronicle-Telegram of November 27, 1970. It read: Not Forgotten Bear back at post.
The article, written by Pat Geisler, charmingly told the story of how the bear decided he'd rather work for the C-T than end up as a gift himself. "Donated last year by the J. C. Penney Co. at the Midway Mall, he was originally intended for some lucky child. But the bear, himself, took things in hand, and refused to leave his post at The Chronicle-Telegram  “Please," he begged, “this is what a bear like me was just made to do." Of course, C-T personnel argued back. After all, wouldn't he be happy in some warm, loving home, where he could have a little boy or girl all his own?

"The bear thought long and hard about it.  “No,” he finally said. He would miss the excitement, and all his friends at the C-T. He would miss having a real job to do. and he would miss being needed. So, the bear stayed. This year, he sits comfortably, again, at his post beside the Not Forgotten Box, waiting to thank all those who bring toys for children, and to guard the toys for Santa Claus till Christmas. And, sometimes, when people come to bring a toy to the box, if they watch very, very closely, and still believe in magic, he smiles."

Since then, the bear – christened "Jingles, the Christmas Bear" by the start of the 1971 campaign – has been the mascot of the Not Forgotten Box. And every year, the Chronicle-Telegram makes the giving season fun by coming up with a new angle to Jingle's story.

In 1995, he was kidnapped and held for ransom for almost a month – and the toys poured in to get him back. When he was set free, as the December 23, 1995 story explained, the abductors had been "won over by the 25-year-old, brown-furred, black-eyed, 3-foot-6, 17-pound symbol of the Chronicle's annual toy collection. They brushed his coat to a gleam. They put a Chronicle T-shirt on him. They tied a holiday bow to his collar.

"Jingles came back to the C-T precisely at 1:30 Friday afternoon, in the passenger seat of a sheriff's cruiser driven by Deputy Steven McCroskey."

In 1996, Jingles got married. His wedding to Noel, a large white plush bear, took place in front of church pews stuffed with er, stuffed bears and other plush animals.

Jingles' best man was a stuffed lion (below) – although I don't know if it was Lloyd or not.
Anyway, here's hoping the Not Forgotten Box is another big success this year – and I'm sure it will be. Special thanks to the Chronicle-Telegram for its devotion and support for their community through its campaign – as well as its dedication to making it fun through the use of their beloved mascot, Jingles.
Don't forget – Saturday is the last day for donations at the Not Forgotten Box in the Chronicle-Telegram lobby. Click here to visit the C-T website for all the details, as well as a great gallery of photos of donors posing with Jingles.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Jingles and the Other "Not Forgotten Box" Mascots Part 1

(Photo Courtesy Chronicle-Telegram)
Anyone who reads the Chronicle-Telegram is familiar with newspaper's long-running Not Forgotten Box campaign, which begins right after Thanksgiving each year. For more than 50 years, the C-T has stationed the Not Forgotten Box in its lobby to collect new toys and food to benefit local families and ensure that no child is forgotten on Christmas Day.

According to the official history, it all began back in 1956 when a former C-T business manager, C. Russell Stokely, began a toy collection for children at Green Acres Children's Home in Oberlin. At that time, the box was named the "Santa Box." By 1957 (according to my research and contrary to the 1958 date commonly given), the box had acquired its more familiar name.

The official mascot for the Not Forgotten Box is Jingles, a huge stuffed bear. For decades, Jingles has kept an eye on the donation box, and posed for photos with the generous donors who drop by the C-T offices.

But Jingles wasn't always the mascot, according to my research.

In the early years, there didn't seem to be any mascot associated with the campaign. But according to the December 4, 1965 Chronicle-Telegram, a stuffed king of the jungle maintained a vigil next to the toy box that year.

The paper stated, "Joey Denes, 2, wasn't really lion-hunting when he visited the C-T lobby the other day, rifle in hand, with his mother, Mrs. Rudy Denes of RD 1, Diagonal Road, LaGrange. It was a friendly safari, he assured Lloyd, lion mascot of the Not-Forgotten toy box."

Here's the cute photo of Joey and Lloyd that ran with the article (below).

The article also stated, "Lloyd is lonely. Also worried. Lloyd, you recall, is that large lovable plush lion who is serving as mascot this year of the Not Forgotten Box campaign for toys. His post is beside the box in The Chronicle-Telegram lobby where he can welcome all the generous people who bring toys for Christmas giving to children in needy families. Lloyd loves children and wishes a lot of youngsters would come in with their gifts of toys, to meet him and perhaps give him a hug."

Lloyd was featured throughout the campaign that year. Here's another photo and caption (below), that appeared in the paper on December 15, 1965.
I'm not sure how long Lloyd was king of the toy box, but by 1967 some monkey business was underway – along with a new mascot.
He was unveiled in the November 29, 1967 edition of the Chronicle-Telegram in an article written by Connie Davis
"Looking for action? Then come over to the lobby of The Chronicle-Telegram. Things are really jumping here now and a big toy monkey with the shiniest brown eyes you ever saw is responsible. He's Jumpin' Jack, mascot for the Not Forgotten toy collection campaign this year. Jack is on loan to us from the Elyria Furniture Company through the courtesy of Myron Averbook. He's going to help us in the big task of collecting about 2,000 toys so that every needy child in the Elyria area will be happy on Christmas morning.
"Jack is a joyous volunteer with a great big smile on his simian face. He loves kids. Whenever he sees a child bringing a toy for the Not Forgotten box he jumps with joy. And how he jumps! His red- and-white checked shirt balloons out, his arms wave up and down. Jack wants every boy and girl in this area to come and see him jump."   
Here's the photo that ran with the article (below).
But when did Jingles make his very first appearance? For that, you'll have to wait until Part 2 of this story is posted tomorrow!
I'll bet you can bearly wait.
Don't forget – Saturday is the last day for donations at the Not Forgotten Box in the Chronicle-Telegram lobby. Click here to visit the C-T website for all the details, as well as a great gallery of photos of donors posing with Jingles.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Santa Makes the Front Page of the Lorain Journal – Dec. 9, 1926

If you ever had any doubt about the existence of Santa Claus, this portion of the front page of the December 9, 1926 Lorain Journal –  published 88 years ago yesterday – might convince you otherwise.

Right there on the front page, the paper included a large photo of the beloved icon, with this caption: "Our photographer journeyed all way to Arctic to get exclusive pictures of Santa Claus. The closeup of most popular old gentleman in world, shows he is in good health and ready for a busy Christmas."

The photo is credited to Underwood and Underwood, pioneers in the field of news bureau photography according to this Wiki page.

Anyway, as usual – the other items on the front page are just as interesting as the item being spotlighted. There's a grisly murder in Conneaut (that in the article is compared to a notorious murder earlier that year in Troy, Ohio), as well as a humorous account of paying a traffic ticket "cafeteria-style" in Elyria.

But what about the article with the title, "SHEP DRINKS NITRO; BOOM! IT'S ALL OVER"?

All right (sigh), here it is. It took place on an oil field in Irvine, Kentucky. A dog drank about a pint of nitroglycerin. The oil men tried, but were unable to catch him. So the workers cleared out of the area, and the owner of the dog (fearing that he would come home, I guess) removed his wife and ten children from their home.

The dog ended up chasing a rabbit over a fifty foot precipice. He fell and…well, you know the rest.

They should have erected a monument to that rabbit.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

1954 Sears Wish Book Ad

Remember the Sears Wish Book?

That's the subject of today's ad, which in the Lorain Journal on November 4, 1954. It's interesting seeing that the cover was a charming illustration, instead of the photos that we Baby Boomers were used to seeing on the catalog cover in the 1960s.

Here's a color photo of the 1954 Sears catalog depicted in the ad.
Courtesy Ebay
Picking out things that we wanted in the Sears Christmas catalog was an annual ritual in the Brady household during the 1960s. It never occurred to me to question why Santa Claus preferred us to do it that way.

Here's another Wish Book cover, this time from 1968 – one that I'm sure we looked at.

It's funny thinking back about thumbing through the Wish Books. There was such an amazing array of stuff that you could spend hours just soaking it all in.

There were always several pages devoted to the Peanuts gang (such as the 1969 page at left), with plenty of books containing reprints of the comic strips. Remember, Peanuts wasn't carried in the Journal in the 1960s, so our only exposure to Snoopy and Charlie Brown besides those paperbacks were the couple of TV specials that were broadcast once a year. (Come to think of it, one of the early specials – Charlie Brown's All-Stars – is never repeated at all.)

One year, my brothers and I all received Sears pajamas for Christmas with Snoopy on them. My Mom has a particularly sappy Christmas shot of the three of us wearing them (which I won't reproduce here – sorry).

The Sears catalog had a lot of exclusive things. I remember that for years Sears had the rights to produce Winnie-the-Pooh products (of which I had many, being a fan of the Disney cartoon). But the book was also filled with all sorts of strange toys that we'd never heard of. I remember seeing a photo of  Jimmy Nelson's Danny O'Day ventriloquist doll and wondering who he was.

Sadly, Sears no longer produces the Wish Book, having ceased in 1993 (click here to read an article about the book's passing.)

If you'd like to relive the memory of flipping through the pages of a Wish Book, though, visit this website. (Someone has gone to the trouble of scanning entire Sears catalogs through the years, so get a glass of milk and some cookies and do some wishin' just like in the old days.)

Finally, click here to visit a page on the Sears Archives website to learn about the history of the Wish Book.