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Quarantine Survival with Old-Time Radio

One of the things the hubby and I do almost daily is listen to episodes of Old-Time Radio.  Usually, in the evenings just before going to sleep, we pile into bed with our two furbabies and listen to one episode before dozing off into the arms of Morpheus (Did you know that shutting off electronics and avoiding looking at phone and tablet screens before bed can help you get better sleep?  Looking at bright screens messes up our Circadian Clocks and makes sleep more difficult.  So shut off the television, tablet and phone and get yourself a better night’s sleep!) 

Since most of us are stuck at home looking for things to occupy our time, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites and snazzy old fashioned radio episodes.  First up… Jack Webb. 

A tale of three Jacks…

Jack Webb is best known for his part in creating and staring in the long-running Dragnet television and radio series.  But he also had some other interesting roles. 

We’ll start with Dragnet with an episode entitled “The Big Thank You.”  In this one, seven months after her release from prison, a confessed murderess loses contact with her parole officer and it’s up to Sergeant Friday and his partner Ben to find out what happened to her.  I hope you’ll enjoy this intriguing episode in the Dragnet police drama.

From 1946 to 1947 Jack Webb also stared in Pat Novak, For Hire.  Pat isn’t an investigator, but is instead a boat operator in San Francisco and does odd jobs for cash.  In the episode “Rita Malloy” his boat gets stolen and when it turns up a man is dead and the police, of course, think “Patsy” is the one responsible. 

I’ll be frank, I can only take the Pat Novak, For Hire episodes in small doses.  Webb’s dry and cliché humor is a little over-done.  But my favorite thing about this series is the character Jocko, a drunken ex-doctor who Pat usually enlists to help him get out of trouble.  So give it a listen and see what you think of the show.

The last “Jack” tale I have for you is a really strange departure for the Jack Webb we know from Dragnet.  “The Ring of Thoth” is a story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and adapted for the series Escape.  It starts in the Louvre where an Egyptologist becomes trapped inside overnight.  He awakens to find an attendant opening the case of one of the mummies.  The attendant, played by Jack Webb, has a strange almost ephemeral voice and spins a tale that is both tragic and somewhat spooky.  Take a listen and tell me if you anticipated the twist at the end.

Noir for your radio…

Most of us know the author Raymond Chandler’s character Phillip Marlowe from old movies, especially The Big Sleep.  When I think of Marlow I always see Humphrey Bogart’s face, even when I’m listening to the radio programs of The Adventures of Phillip Marlowe.  But if I see Bogart’s face, I hear Gerald Mohr’s voice.  The funny thing about the radio series is that in almost every one, Marlowe at some point gets struck on the head and knocked out cold!  In “Baton Sinister” Marlowe is paid to deliver a tapestry, but it gets stolen before he can arrange to get it to his client. 

And speaking of Bogart, probably one of his most famous films is The Maltese Falcon where he plays Sam Spade created by Author Dashiell Hammett.  Raymond Chandler’s character Philip Marlowe was strongly influenced by Hammett’s Spade character.  But the radio version of Spade has the delightful Lorraine Tuttle playing the part of Effie and her voice and banter with Spade make the series so much more fun.  Check out “The Sugar Kane Caper” and tell me what you think of Effie and Sam, played by Howard Duff.

A few bonuses

I’ve included two other favorite radio episodes for your listening pleasure.  First, “The Veldt” an X-Minus-One sci-fi program that fans of Star Trek: TNG will enjoy (the Holodeck gone wild.)  And last a Gunsmoke episode called “Good Girl-Bad Company.”  My favorite thing about Gunsmoke is the cast of characters.  Whether its Miss Kitty played by Georgia Ellis, Parley Baer’s Chester or Howard McNear as Doc, each of the parts brings something to the soundwaves that make the series unbeatable.

So check out the playlist and discover the excitement and power of Old-Time Radio.  And then comment below or send me an email to let me know what you thought of these.


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Sessums Snippets: People’s Petroleum Building

When Jenny Dee Pierson’s heels clack against the terrazzo halls to the office she shares with her father, she’s walking through what was once called The Peoples National Bank Building.

The summer of 1929 saw industry and manufacturing cutting back on production, signaling the coming economic collapse. Workers were laid off or lost their jobs. The unemployed didn’t purchase as much, and so production declined further. A vicious cycle ensued. Thousands of banks began to fail between 1929 and 1933, but even before that, they’d begun overextending credit on speculation. The hard times got harder.

Still, with deprivation of 35% unemployment nationwide, rampant hunger and want, some of East Texas managed to stave off the coming disaster, at least for a while. Black gold in the East Texas oilfields was the reason. The Peoples National Bank Building became a center of that oil-rich prosperity.

In 1932 local Tyler attorney Samuel A. Lindsey commissioned and assisted in financing the construction of a fabulous art-deco style building. At the time of its construction, it was one of the tallest skyscrapers west of the Mississippi River. Opening its doors in November 1932, it was fully leased by 1933. And in 1934 oil magnate H.L Hunt located the offices of Hunt Oil Company in one suite of the building. Through the Depression and on until the 1950s, the building remained a prime location for offices in downtown Tyler.

Eventually, time took its toll on the building. Construction moved away from the downtown area and vacancies ran high. By the year 2000, the building was considered to be mostly unoccupied. And then three Tyler businessmen began what this humble writer believes to be a remarkable transformation. Tim and Garnett Brookshire,along with Andy Bergfeld, acquired the building, naming it the People’s Petroleum Building. They undertook an extensive renovation project to bring this spectacular Tyler landmark back to its former glory, going to extremes to maintain the historical ambiance of the stately structure.

You can see more about the building in the video below:

Since then the Brookshires and Bergfeld have undertaken a similar renovation of the more modern Plaza Tower building adjacent to the People’s Petroleum Building. With their work in renovating these two buildings and their exceptional management skills, they have drawn people back to downtown Tyler. Tenants of the two buildings (myself included) marvel constantly at their gracious administration and their innovative eye for bringing industries together. If you’re anywhere near Tyler, Texas, take the time to come downtown. Walk the square and enjoy a few quiet moments on one of the park benches. Come into the People’s Petroleum Building and enjoy a meal at Jack Ryan’s Steak and Chophouse. Or head over to the Plaza Tower for some coffee at Café 1948. And if it happens to be a Thursday, you can delight in “Tunes on the Square” while grabbing a quick bite from one of the food trucks that come by for lunch.

Downtown Tyler is an amazing mix of history and modernity, married in a way that I’m sure you’ll enjoy experiencing.

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The J.D. Pierson Mystery Series
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