Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Isham Jones Orchestra performs a very nice dance number. Coal Black Mammy was a popular Al Jolson song; this version is less well known. This disc was given to me by a dear great-aunt many years ago. It is embossed with: Orms Piano House, 112-14 No Main Street, Burlington Iowa, Licensed Brunswick Dealer.
This week's Harry Lauder special is 'I Love A Lassie.' We still have a couple of Harry's numbers to record, so be sure to check in again the next few Fridays if you are one of his fans.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The finished Jewel Weed bars.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
County seats in the midwest are often marked by ornate courthouses that were built in the late nineteenth century. This courthouse is in Washington, Iowa, and there is lots of activity going on around this landmark.
The town square is in the process of a major facelift, and the activity has been entertaining. A couple of buildings have been demolished on the south side of the square and a new library is going to take their place. The rebuilt sidewalks have electric heat to melt the ice during the winter. I guess they don't believe in Global Warming.
Monroe, Wisconsin has the prettiest courthouse I have seen. Catty-cornered from this magnificent edifice is the Huber brewery, and right next to that is tavern where you can partake of good food, Wisconsin Cheese, and brewery fresh beer. Just remember to think of your head in the morning.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Tonight's selections are Rudy Vallee, and Harry Lauder. I still have three more sides of Harry Lauder to post, so everyone can have a nice collection of his delightful records. Rudy and his Connecticut Yankees perform 'Lover Come Back to Me' from "The New Moon," a musical comedy. This song was recorded in 1929, so it was an electrically recorded performance. You will notice that Rudy croons instead of shouting into the recording equipment. My dad's mother idolized Rudy Vallee, and I think this was one of her records. When she came to visit she always greeted us with a 'Heigh-Ho Everbody!'
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Free entertainment is available on the grounds, and it is guaranteed to make you feel like a kid again. A favorite of mine is the medicine show featuring Professor Barnswallow T. Farquar and his lovely wife, Polecat Annie. His songs are all at least 100 years old, and his jokes are even older!
Major Watkins has been showing old cars at Mt. Pleasant every year since the reunions began in 1950. He was one of the "Youngsters" back then.
You can't see it all in a day, so block out the weekend and head for Mt. Pleasant. Our family usually attends four days, and sometimes we stop in for part of Labor Day, too. I'm already dreaming of steam whistles.
The last two photos have been graciously donated by Engineering Johnson. Thank you, EJ!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Tonight's Harry Lauder special is "She is My Daisy" Harry recorded this one in 1909, and again in 1924; this is the latter recording.
The Red Label record is John McCormack performing a popular number. I tried looking up the date for this record, and couldn't find it in the online discographys. I will have to do some more looking to find the age of this one.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
A few feet away from the house there was a large red maple. This tree was perfectly healthy, but it forked at about 12 feet up, with included bark, and one side was leaning right over the house; it was set up to smash the home if a big wind gust came out of the northwest. I recommended that they remove this tree as soon as possible, because it has great potential to kill.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
This Kitten engine was powering a threshing machine at the Boonville, Indiana summer show on July 26. The Pinckneyville show is next week, and Old Threshers at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa will be on Labor Day weekend. The weather is great this month, gas prices are going down, so load up the family and go to a steam show!
Friday, August 8, 2008
“They called him Ad, which was short for Adolph. They called her Plinky, because when she was leaning to shoot she’d keep saying, “Throw up another one and I’ll plink it.” Ad and Plinky Topperwein of San Antonio were one of the greatest shooting teams in the world. A gun-toter in the old Southwest wouldn’t have stood a show if he’d had to draw against Ad Topperwein. Yet Topperwein had never been called upon to defend his life with a gun. The nearest approach was many years ago when an escaped lunatic tried to get in the house. And on him Ad used a club!
Ad, the son of a gunsmith of German descent, was born a few miles north of San Antonio. He started shooting when he was six. He would be seventy on his next birthday, and apparently he was shooting as well as ever. He and Plinky had a farm outside of town where they went to shoot whenever they could. Their son Lawrence was telling me about his father’s pulling off a series of difficult shots out there. And about Plinky’s saying, “Isn’t he wonderful? I don’t see how the old fool does it.” Which I suspect was slightly rhetorical because, if there was anything Plinky Topperwein loved more than shooting, it was her husband. She almost got tears in her eyes when she talked about him. They’d been married nearly forty years and earning their living together all that time by fancy shooting, and she still adored him.
Topperwein was also an artist. His first paying job was as a chalk etcher on one of the San Antonio newspapers. Even now drawing was his hobby and an outlet for some of his nervous energy. He always carried crayons in the breast pocket of his coat, and he sketched on trains and in restaurants whenever he felt like it. His drawings could be found on windows, walls, doors, and mirrors all over the Southwest; the owners were proud of them. His favorite subjects were Indian and cowboy heads and comic-strip characters. Lawrence was even better at it than his father. He too had worked for years as a newspaper artist. But now he was reporter, and he loved the newspaper business. Incidentally, he couldn’t hit the Municipal Auditorium at twenty paces.
When he was young, Ad Topperwein traveled with a circus doing trick shooting. The Winchester Arms Company heard of his prowess and hired him to go about the country giving sharp-shooting exhibitions. That had been thirty-nine years ago and he was still at it, for the same company.
On one of his early visits to the Winchester plant in New Haven, Connecticut, he met a girl and married her. Things were pretty tough for her at first. She either had to stay home or else go on those exhibition trips and just twiddle her thumbs. She didn’t like it. So she made Ad teach her so shoot. It wasn’t long before she was as good a shot as her husband. And then Winchester hired her too. For twenty-nine years the world’s greatest shooting couple traveled the North American continent together. But always, the home they came back to betweentimes was San Antonio.
Six years ago the Winchester people, probably for economy, had dropped Mrs. Topperwein. It almost broke her heart. Left at home, Plinky turned to other things for recreation, for she was a large woman with tremendous energy. She started bowling, and joined four bowling clubs. She was so interested that for a year she hardly shot at all.
Then one day her husband, somewhat critically, said he felt she’d been bowling too much and had forgotten how to shoot. You have to know how intense was their pride in shooting to realize what sting that remark carried for Plinky. To them, their guns were human, and their marksmanship was an emotional thing. To neglect it was like neglecting your family. So they drove out to the farm. Plinky was not only hurt but scared stiff too. Maybe I have forgotten how to shoot, she thought. Maybe I have been bowling too much. If Ad was right, she was as disgraced in his eyes, and in her own too, as if she had struck their child. They got out there, and Ad started tossing targets into the air. One by one, Plinky picked them off. Her old confidence came back, and she called for more and more difficult shots. Before they were through, she had gone through their entire old routine without missing a shot. There was never a happier woman.
Friends told me you could start an argument anywhere in San Antonio by saying that Ad was a better shot than Plinky, or vice versa. But the Topperweins said there wasn’t any argument; Plinky was better at some kinds of shooting, Ad was better at others.
I spent a fascinating evening with the Topperweins. It was just luck that I caught Ad at home, for he was on the road most of the time. If he liked you, he’d talk guns all night. And Plinky was emotional—loved everything almost to heartbreak. We sat for hours in their den, which was a remarkable, helter-skelter, gun-infested room. There were guns everywhere—in cabinets, hung on the walls, standing in corners. And from under the couch Ad would pull suitcase after suitcase, each one full of six-shooters; there must have been scores of them. He took special ones out and fondled them, always looking to see if they were loaded. He said he had found cartridges many times in guns that he absolutely knew were not loaded.
And that brings up what was, to me, the most amazing thing about this couple’s long career as professional crack shots. In forty years of almost daily shooting, they had never had any kind of accident. Never a split barrel, never a stray shot hitting anybody, never any kind of accident at all.
I asked about the wild west custom of “fanning” a gun, and Ad showed me how fast he could do it. Fanning means knocking the hammer back with the back of your hand, instead of pulling the trigger. He admitted you could fire faster that way, but he said there wasn’t any advantage in it; when you hit the hammer it threw the gun out of line. “You might fire three times while the other fellow was firing once,” he said, “But your shots would be wild, and the other fellow would kill you with one good shot.”
One day Plinky started out the front door, and there was a rattler coiled on the porch with its head up. It may have escaped from the reptile museum a block away. Anyway, its head went off with one blast from her six-gun. Next day she heard her neighbor screaming. She grabbed a rifle and ran over. The rattler’s mate also went to heaven via the Plinky route.
Ad and Plinky held some remarkable records. In 1907 Ad shot steadily eight hours a day, for ten days in a row. He was firing a .22 rifle at 2 ½ - inch wooden blocks tossed into the air. He shot at 72,500 blocks, and missed only nine. Out of the first 50,000 he missed four. He had a number of runs of more than 10,000 without a miss, and one run of 14,540. But the strain of it, day after day, almost drove him insane. His muscles and nerves were in painful knots. At night he had horrible dreams: the blocks would be a mile away; the bullets wouldn’t come out of the end of the gun. As for Plinky, her trapshooting record of 1,952 hits out of 2,000 targets was a world’s record for anyone, man or woman. She shot for five hours straight, using a pump gun. It raised such a blister that a few days later the skin came off the whole palm of her hand.
Neither of the Topperweins drank, but Ad smoked cigars and Plinky smoked cigarettes. She wondered why some of the cigarette companies didn’t ask her for a testimonial, since smoking hadn’t hurt her nerves. “Now, you don’t want any stuff like that,” Ad said.
When I started to go, they refused to let me call a taxi, and drove me downtown. They said the next time we were in San Antonio we had to come out for dinner or get shot. All right, I’d come. But not because I was scared. I figured they’ve never shot at anything as thin as I am, standing edgewise.”
From: Chapter XXV. Texas; Home Country by Ernie Pyle, William Sloane Associates, Inc. Publishers, New York, 1947
This week, Harry has a bad cold; listen to what the doctor says about that! Comedy worked at a slower pace eighty years ago.
The Brunswick disc is the flip side of last week's obscure number. This song should be more familiar to everyone.