Editor's note: Bob Lind died Aug. 2, but he always wrote columns months in advance of publication. The Forum will continue to publish Lind's new columns like the one below until there are no more.
Summer has slipped by, but Verle Bleese, now of Seattle but formerly of Fargo, writes that he well remembers the hot summer evenings in Fargo in the 1940s when the houses became so warm it became difficult to sleep.
“Many people would sit on their porches in the evening waiting for the house to cool down,” Verle writes. “But this was mostly possible if the porch was screened to keep mosquitoes out.
“Mosquitoes were a bad problem when you were outside during the summer,” he writes, then passes on this story:
“A friend of mine read in a magazine of a device that would kill mosquitoes between two blocks. Wow, if he had that, he would be the most popular guy in the neighborhood! So he mailed in $3.50 plus postage.
"When the package arrived and was opened, he found two blocks of wood 3 inches square and nicely varnished. The instructions were that one must put the mosquito between the blocks and hit the blocks together, thereby killing the mosquito — yes, between the two blocks!”
Old radio shows
Then Verle goes into the “long winter nights and the wonderful part radio played in making those times more bearable by airing many entertaining programs.
“At 8 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, we listened to Don McNeil’s 'Breakfast Club.' As the day progressed we had the soap operas in the afternoons. Then came the children’s programs: 'Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy'; 'Captain Midnight'; and 'Flash Gordon.' These programs were usually sponsored by breakfast cereals. To obtain some gift you had to send in a boxtop with your money to get the gift.
“At 6 p.m. we listened to Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians, followed by the newscasters, like Gabriel Heater with his slogan, ‘Ah, there’s good news tonight.’ We also had Walter Winchell and H.V. Kaltenborn and his commentary on the news. With the war on, there was lots to report.
“For entertainment, on Sunday at 6 p.m. we heard Don Wilson introducing the Jack Benny show, with the ads for five flavors of Jell-O: strawberry, raspberry, orange, lemon and lime.
“Jack Benny and his wife, Mary Livingston, gave us comedy along with the soloist Dennis Day, and with Phil Harris’ orchestra and Rochester, who drove Jack’s Maxwell car.
“6:30 brought the Fitch Band Wagon. Their slogan was ‘Don’t despair, use your head, save your hair, use Fitch shampoo.’
“7 p.m. brought the Edgar Bergen and Charley McCarthy show with Mortimer Snerd. Also later came 'One Man’s Family,' the story of the Barber family.
“Monday brought Dr. IQ, the 'Mental Banker.' A person from the theater audience would be asked a question, and if it was answered correctly, they would be given a gift of silver dollars; if not, they would receive a box of Mars candy bars.
“Tuesday evening,” Verle continues, “brought Marian and Jim Jordan as 'Fibber McGee and Molly. Harlow Wilcox introduced them with a commercial on Johnson’s wax. We remember Fibber’s famous overflowing closet. Also in the cast were Mayor Terwilliger of Wistful Vista, Mr. Peavy the druggist and Harold Peary as Gildersleeve.
“Wednesday brought 'Gang Busters' with the description of a most wanted criminal and where to call if you saw him.
“We cannot forget the Lone Ranger with his horse Silver and his faithful companion Tonto. This plus the Ranger’s silver bullets and his cry ‘Hi ho Silver’, all to the tune of the 'William Tell Overture.'
“Then Henry Aldrich and the melodious calling of his name by his mother.
“'Mr. District Attorney' was always good listening. I remember his oath of office: ‘It shall be my duty as district attorney to prosecute to the limit of the law all persons accused of crimes perpetrated within this county and to defend with equal vigor the right and privileges of all its citizens.’"
("How’s that for a memory?," Verle asks. Pretty good, pal!)
“On Friday, I remember the Fred Allen show. Fred, with his wife, Portland Hoffa, had a 30-minute show. Fred had ‘Allen’s Alley’ as his feature. He would select a current topic and take it to the people in the alley, who were Mrs. Nussbaum, Titus Moody and Sen. Claghorn. They all gave their opinions in a humorous manner.
“Lastly,” Verle concludes, “I don’t want to forget 'The Voice of Firestone' and the 'Bell Telephone Hour.'
“These programs were wonderful to listen to.”
No doubt many of you remember them, also, neighbors.