Hisbits: Pyle, Sprague, and Lawson

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Wikimedia Image

When I think of the Andy Griffith show, I think of some roles individually, and others as a group. Of the groups, two that come to mind are Floyd and Goober, and Goober and Howard. In today’s #Hisbits, I would like to spotlight the actors behind the roles.Goober

George received a Bachelor Of Science degree in 1952. After that, he joined the Air Force, and later taught High School. He was accepted into the American Theater, and upon graduation from it, appeared in two Broadway plays. George decided to move to Los Angeles and to try television in 1962. Two years later, he would take the role that America fell in love with on the Andy Griffith Show, Goober Pyle.

[tweetthis]…you don’t have to prove how smart you are, instead, seek to share as much love and laughter with others as you can.[/tweetthis]

His other work included the Walt Disney company. He had animated roles in three different films, the Aristocats, Robin Hood, and the Rescuers. Lindsey would play the character of Goober in two other shows, Mayberry R.F.D. and Hee Haw. His last series as Goober would actually be the longest he ever played the mechanice. His work on Hee Haw spanned 1972 to 1992, twenty years.

George was as kind as the character, raising over 100,000 for the Alambama Special Olympics through seventeen years of a celebrity Golf tournament bearing his name. He also served as the Head Coach for the Winter Games in the Minneapolis, Minnesota Special Olympics National Competition. Lindsey setup the George Lindsey Academic Scholarships at University of North Alabama, his home state, as well as a film festival there.

The man famous for playing an uneducated, but kind hearted country bumpkin, proved something in the process. That was this, people may not only be much smarter than they appear, they can be even kinder than you first suspect. He embedded the same layering in the character of Goober Pyle, showing that you don’t have to prove how smart you are, instead, seek to share as much love and laughter with others as you can.

Howard

Every character on the Andy Griffith show had something unique to their costumes that fit their personality. From Andy’s lack of tie, to Barney’s constant wearing of it, to Goober’s hat, and Floyd’s barber’s coat, they all pointed to aspects of the character’s personality. For Jack Dodson’s Howard Sprague, it was the bow tie, the perfect prop for the lovable county clerk.

Andy himself chose Jack, after seeing him on broadway. He would return to the theatre in 1985, and to Howard Sprague on the reunion movie, Return to Mayberry. Before this, he was Ralph Mouth’s Dad on Happy Days.

My favorite Howard episode was the one where his quick thinking not only secured the local Church’s foundation, but the relationship of the people closest to him. Friends and family meant more than anything to the character of Howard Sprague. The same was true of Jack. While he played the perennial bachelor, the actor enjoyed a long marriage to art director Mary Dodson, from 1959 to his death in 1994. The bow tie loving everyman, quietly did his work, and faithfully cared for those around him.

Floyd

To tv watchers, he was Floyd The Barber, but to radio listeners, Howard McNear was the first Doc Adams on Gunsmoke for nine years. His old friend, Parley Baer, later Mayor Stoner, was Chester on the radio show. McNear, a San Diego native, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. After this, he came to prominence playing Clint Barlow on the radio serial Speed Gibson and the International Secret Police.

[tweetthis]Challenges may alter the way we do things, but they don’t have to stop us from doing them…[/tweetthis]

He was good in authoritative roles, but preferred comedy, and it fit him like a glove. In 1958, on Leave It To Beaver, he guest starred as a barber named Andy. Three years later, he would become Andy’s barber. A stroke forced him to first leave the show, but Andy asked him to return.

Even though it took the use of the left side of his body, the show made allowances for that. Any episode where you do not see Floyd walking, means that it was after the stroke. Even in those scenes where it showed Floyd standing, a frame was holding the actor up.

Disabilities are not easy, but Howard McNear proved they do not have to be either career, or life ending. Before and after the stroke, Floyd’s value to Mayberry was priceless. Challenges may alter the way we do things, but they don’t have to stop us from doing them, just ask Floyd.

Trios

In our life, we are blessed enough to be a part of certain groups. Some are families, teams, and organizations, the joy of them is the fact that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. Too often, we allow pride to sabotage great relationships for the spotlight. Aren’t you glad that Andy Griffith didn’t feel that way? Instead, he assembled a crew of people that did their best to make everyone shine, and in the process, each left behind characters that we will always remember.

Hisbits: Sarah Of NASCAR

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Her name, Sarah Ashley Secoy, the first patient ever to survive acute myeloid leukemia. At six years old, a businessman’s employees told him her story. He was Bill France Junior, head of NASCAR.

He telephoned her father with a promise, to spread her story for an international donor across the world. He filled the airwaves with her plight, including funding a duet, “Sarah’s Song”, that France promoted to tens of thousands of radio stations.

After a six year hospital stay, in a germ free chamber, a match was found. The millions France helped raise paid for her treatment. Her survival lead to treatments that has saved thousands of children’s lives.

Perhaps Bill France Junior understood the needs of this family because his business was more than fast cars and money.  His Father, Big Bill had started out running a gas station and house painting.  He built the business, not only for his family, but with them.  Bill Junior ran a bulldozer to build Daytona International Speedway.

Many look at NASCAR as simply cars speeding around an oval track. When most race fans see an event, the names Petty, Earnhardt, and Waltrip come to mind. From now on, every decal filled car I see, will remind me of something else. I’ll think of a man who literally used his power, as a vehicle, to save the life of a little girl.

Hisbits: Keep Flying

imageShe was donated by the British, and trained by Americans, to serve in war torn France. In spite of wounds that cost her eye and a leg, after being shot down, she took flight to save 194 soldiers.

Cher Ami, or Dear Friend, was a carrier pigeon, the band was the “Lost Battalion” of the 77th division. American Major Charles Whittlesey and his men were pinned down in the battle of the Argonne between the enemy and allied forces. Having lost over 400 men, a message had to get through.

We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.”

Two other pigeons had been sent with messages, both had been shot down. Cher Ami had to survive. The enemy saw her rise from the camp and opened fire for several minutes. She was shot down once, but continued on.

The messenger arrived at camp, covered in blood, and shot through the breast. Traveling 25 miles in 25 minutes, she saved the lives of 194 men. Army medics worked feverishly to save the pigeon’s own life. In the end she survived, albeit half blind and minus a leg.

None other than General Black Jack Pershing escorted her to a boat for America. Once in the states, Cher Ami became the mascot of the Department of Service. France gave her the same medal it gave to French and American soldiers.

This was only one of the twelve important notes that she had delivered. Cher Ami knew that, in spite of the bullets fired at her, the message must get through. This small carrier pigeon defied everything to fulfill her mission.

Today in cities across this world, pigeons are called pests, in war they’re called heroes. The difference isn’t the bird, but the message it carries. Don’t allow those who view you as a pest, to keep you out of the air. You have a mission and a message, carry it through to victory!

Hisbits: Roy Acuff

imageSunstroke caused it, the premature end of his baseball career. It was followed by a nervous breakdown, and then while recovering, he began to perfect his violin skills on the porch after sunset. He would be called the king of Country Music, Roy Acuff.

The young athlete was trying out for a minor league team, the Knoxville Smokies. They were affiliated with the then New York and now San Francisco Giants. Several collapses followed the sun stroke, and he had to accept that baseball was not his future.

For a long time he couldn’t be outside until the sun went down. His Father, a Baptist Minister, gave him records of locally famous fiddlers that influenced his style. In 1932 he joined Dr Hauer’s medicine show. With no microphones, Roy learned to sing loud enough to be heard. This skill would propel him to fame very soon.

He left the medicine show circuit in 1934 and formed the band, the Tennessee Crackerjacks. Roy’s version of the Gospel song, The Great Speckled Bird, landed the band their first recording contract. They also recorded The Wabash Cannonball in 1936.

In 1938 they changed their name to the Smoky Mountain Boys, and joined The Grand Ole Opry. The first audition didn’t go well, but the second gained them the spot. Shortly after that, the dobro player Beecher Kirby joined the group. Roy had met him at a Knoxville bakery. The man would become famous as Bashful Brother Oswald, his stage name.

In the forties, the band went to Hollywood, appearing in at least four pictures. Roy played a singing sheriff in Night Train To Memphis. He also starred in Home In San Antone.

A dispute with management caused Roy to leave the Opry in 1946. A few years earlier he and Fred Rose had formed Acuff-Rose Music. They signed Hank Williams Sr in 1946. Their company became the most important publishing company in Country music.

The non Opry years saw Roy run and lose the Governor’s race for the Republican ticket in 1948. As well as several years touring the western states. He eventually returned to the Opry, but wasn’t as popular as the younger singers, Ernest Tubb and Eddy Arnold. Roy considered retirement, but had a resurgence in the early seventies.

On March 16, 1974, Roy was the headliner all over again. That night, the Opry moved from the Ryman to the Grand Ole Opry house. The first show began with a picture of a 1939 Roy and the Smoky Mountain Boys. A recording of George Hay introducing them was followed by a live performance of the Wabash Cannonball.

Before his death in 1992, he would be given both the National Medal Of Arts, and a lifetime achievement award from the John F. Kennedy Center. Roy also has a star on Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame. The title that described the singer, yo-yo and fiddle player best, was the one I grew up hearing, Roy Acuff, King Of Country Music.

Hisbits: The Voice Of Otis

imageHe was Goofy, Owl, and Otis. Hal Smith’s career was about playing characters people loved. Most didn’t know Andy and Barney’s lovable still finder, was also Disney’s favorite dog. From Mayberry to villains of Scooby Doo, he lent his voice to countless classics.

The Petosky, Michigan native was born in 1916. He spent his formative years in Massena, New York. After High School, he married Louisa in 1936. They would remain married for fifty one years, until her death.

From around the time of his marriage, he was a Disc Jockey until 1943. Then, Hal joined the United States Special Services. It was a theatrical unit, entertaining the troops, during World War II.

Once the war was over, it was time to travel to Hollywood. Parts in multiple TV shows from Dennis the Menace to Red Skelton began his career. Between 1960 to 1968, he was Otis Campbell. The kindly town drunk, according to Don Knotts, didn’t drink in real life.

A decade prior, he began his other legacy, one that would entertain generations, voice work for animation. When the first man to play Goofy, Pinto Colvig died, Hal took his place. His other Disney roles included Owl on Winnie The Pooh, and Flintheard Glumgold on Ducktales.

Hal worked for Hanna Barbera on such shows as Quick Draw McGraw, and Huckleberry Hound. From 1960 to 1961, he filled in as Elmer Fudd, when the original actor passed away. More than once, he gave his voice to Winnie The Pooh himself. It is rumored that a character Hal played on Space Angel, Taurus, inspired Gene Roddenberry to create Star Trek’s Mr. Scott.

Hal’s role as Goliath, in Davey And Goliath, spanned 1959 to 1975. His later animated roles were equestrian, playing Phillipe the horse in Beauty and the Beast, and Jafar’s stallion in Aladdin. Radio listeners knew him as Mr Whittaker on Focus On The Family’s Adventures In Odyssey.

In 1986, along with Andy and the rest, they filmed Return To Mayberry. Only over time, Otis had changed. He was still lovable, but now he sold ice cream instead of drinking.

The character had his own key to the jail, while the actor had one to our hearts. From a leg of lamb to outsmarting Barney, Mr Campbell could do it all. Apparently so could the voice of Mr Smith. Isn’t it ironic? Otis always wanted Andy to read him a story, while Hal Smith made a life out of telling them.

Hisbits: The Study Of History

  Canon fire, secret alliances, romance, and discovery, these are the events of history. For too long school children have been condemned to see it regulated as a memorization of dates. At some point, people turned one of the most interesting courses of study, into a boring textbook.

A handful have sought to change this. The writers David McCullough and Dorothy Kearns Goodwin are among them. Their books, 1776 and A Team Of Rivals have made adults aware that history never had to be dry and lifeless. Documentarians like Ken Burns, with The Civil War, sought to bring it to life as well. History is about our heritage, not a collection of times.

Rugged men and women braved the wildernesses of this, and other countries, to turn them into places where the ongoing generations could live safely. Kings fought wars over the destiny of continents. Men went to space to explore God’s intricate designs in the Heavens.

All of this is history, whether you remember a single date or not, you’ll never forget the lives involved. Stories such as how a German Prince fell in love with an English princess who went on to become of the most powerful rulers Britain had ever seen. The life of Victoria and Albert is not only fact, it’s one of the great love stories of history.  

Learn how the conqueror of France’s men discovered the key to unlocking Egypt’s mysteries. It’s a new way to view Napoleon. One more Hisbit, did you know he was born on an island called Corsica, and not on the French mainland.  

This should be the way both children and adults learn history. This is what our Hisbits articles are about. To share with PruittWrites readers a love of history at its most exciting. 

We hope that you enjoy learning not so much the when’s of history, but the bits and pieces that are real life adventure and intrigue.

Hisbits: The Road To Pixar

  When I say Pixar, characters flood your mind. Andy’s toys, Sully and Mike, a super family in witness protection, and a house filled with balloons parade through your mental horizon. The funny thing is, it all started with a divorce, a failed computer system, and a fired artist.

George Lucas, Yoda’s Dad, was in trouble. His divorce was truly costing him his fortune. He made the decision to sell his computer graphics division to a friend. A computer guy who had just lost the company he founded, named Steve Jobs.

The company sold the Pixar Image Computer, mostly to the government and medical facilities. They did have one other buyer, the Walt Disney Company. They planned to use the system to modernize two dimensional animation. It would replace the need of having a separate hand painted image for every movement Mickey made.

It didn’t sell well unfortunately, even though they had hired a former Disney artist to showcase the system’s potential. John Lasseter, had worked on Disney classics such as 101 Dalmatians, and Lady and The Tramp. He had lost his job due to pushing computer animation, and making a few corporate enemies in his excitement for his art.

Post Disney, John Lasseter was given a different title to work at Pixar. The man that hired him wasn’t supposed to hire an animator. He began to make shorts advertising the system. One of the characters from it is now the mascot you see at the beginning of every film. They did something right in the midst of all of this, Disney finally asked them to make a movie.

The year they did, they had to sell off the hardware division and lost thirty people. John had spent his time learning technology from two of Pixar’s three founders, company president Ed Catmull and Executive Vice President Alvy Smith. He had also taught them about telling stories. The result was a movie called Toy Story, and thanks to Pixar’s Chairman Steve Jobs, they didn’t just work for Disney, they were now partners.

Success wasn’t all that followed, CEO Michael Eisner and a battle for power at Disney almost ended everything. Pixar was severing ties with Disney, largely due to what they felt was mistreatment at the top. Bob Iger, the new president, reached out to Walt’s nephew Roy and his friend Steve Jobs.  

A new agreement happened, Pixar was bought by Disney, and John Lasseter now ran the very animation studio that fired him. Since then you may have heard of movies like Tangled and Frozen, and Inside Out. What started out in chaos turned into a beautiful story. Insert a cameo by The company’s good luck charm and frequent cameo star, John Ratzenberger (Cliff Claven of Cheers), and you’ve got the makings of … well, you know. 

Hisbits: Ernest T Of The Bronx

  Did you know Ernest T. Bass was born in the Bronx? Howard Morris, the actor who made the mountain man famous was born to a Jewish family in 1919. He, Carl Reiner, and the future Commandant Klink of Hogan’s Heroes, Werner Klemperer, were in the same unit in World War II. It was a company of actors assigned to entertain the troups in the Pacific. Samantha Stevens father on Bewitched, Maurice Evans, was the company commander.
Howard was a classically trained Shakespearean actor, who found fame playing numerous roles on Sid Caesar’s Show Of Shows. Most people today aren’t familiar with the comedy sketch program, but Howard Morris delivered some extremely hilarious performances, viewable on YouTube. As I mentioned, this same man, comfortable with Hamlet and Macbeth, will forever be to us, “It’s me, it’s me, it’s Ernest T.” He picked up his southern accent while stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 
In addition to Ernest T, Howard directed episodes of the series, appeared on Broadway, and guest starred on series such as the Dick Van Dyke show. In the early 1960’s, Howard began to do voice work for cartoons. He was the first Mr. Peebles on Magilla Gorilla and the first Adam Ant. You may know him as the Gopher on Winnie the Pooh, Wade the duck on Garfield, or as the voice of the Hamburgler.

He continued to act and direct for most of his life, including reprising Ernest T’s role in Return To Mayberry. While Howard passed away at 85, his image has and will continue to entertain generations. All who love Mayberry will keep laughing at the smile that launched rocks, broke windows, and crossed Kelsey’s ocean.

Hisbits: Theodore Roosevelt Part Two

 

Public Domain Picture

My fellow-citizens, no people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, … with gratitude to the Giver of Good who has blessed us with the conditions which have enabled us to achieve so large a measure of well-being and of happiness.

To do so we must show, not merely in great crises, but in the everyday affairs of life, the qualities … which made great the men who founded this Republic in the days of Washington, which made great the men who preserved this Republic in the days of Abraham Lincoln.

Those two paragraphs are the first and last of Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration speech. When I think of Roosevelt, I think of a dynamo, a devoted son, a loving father, and a brave warrior. This speech shows that he thought of himself as something else, “My fellow citizens…” In other words, not above or superior to any in his birthright, for all in this marvelous land were Americans. That’s one of the things that I love about Roosevelt, more than anything else, he was a product of his country.

He loved, slept, ate, and breathed with a fascination of our land. That does not mean that he did not see the ills of it. One of his first acts as President, upon the assassination of President McKinley, was to promote fair labor for the working man. His entire policy towards business and labor was in this philosophy, “a square deal for every man.” Roosevelt wasn’t in favor of advantage on either side, but instead, a level playing field for healthy competition.

Fascination with our country did not limit his view of the world however. When Russia and Japan could find no solution to their war, he offered to broker peace. On top of the end to that war, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Another issue loomed beyond our borders that he felt needed his attention. Since 1534, a water passage through the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, was desired by world leaders from Spain Thomas Jefferson, but it took Theodore Roosevelt to make it a reality.

As President, he would take time for countless projects, but most of all he took time for his children. He was as rambunctious as they were, taking great joy in their antics and animals. The White House was more than a capital, or a symbol, it was a home. Theodore Roosevelt made sure that the business of the Presidency never interfered with his calling as a father.

By the time he spoke the first two paragraphs that began this post, Theodore Roosevelt had been President three years. Made President by an assassin’s bullet, he was elected in his own right in 1904, and promised not to seek a second term. He kept that promise, campaigning for William Howard Taft.  As time went on, he did not agree with Taft’s policies, so he ran against him in the next election, splitting the vote three ways.

We think of Roosevelt as a man who always won, but it’s how a man handles loss that shows his character. He had experienced the death of his first Wife early in life.  After a tragedy such as that, anything else pales in comparison.  He could handle much minor losses, including a reelection to the Presidency.

In this case, the “Bull moose” and his third party, would not succeed. While he failed to win, a would be assassin also failed to kill him. The bullet went through his coat, and lodged in his chest muscle, never to be removed. The papers of his speech were credited with keeping the bullet from penetrating further. Even in defeat, Roosevelt withstood attack.

After this, along with his son Kermit, he went on an expedition to South America. It did not go as planned, tropical fever almost killed him, but again he survived. He would be plagued by reoccurring illness, as the result, for the rest of his life.

Later in life, Taft and Roosevelt would rekindle their friendship, knowing that it was more important than politics.  It was not long before his death in 1919, that the once close friends mended their feud.  It shows that forgiveness should always be given a chance, no matter the age or the argument.

Throughout his many setbacks, Theodore Roosevelt continued to love his God, his family, and his country. A man of faith, he loved to sing in Church, he enjoyed spending time with his family, and defending his country. Roosevelt knew what was important above all other things.

His greatest loss came late in life. It was that of his son Quentin, a fighter pilot, shot down over German lines.  Distraught, the former president sought permission to lead a volunteer regiment overseas during World War 1, but it was never granted.  Unable to do so, he did what he could to support the War stateside. Roosevelt was a man never ready to stop fighting or learning.  The morning after his death, they found a book under his pillow that he had been reading.

The Colonel, one of his favorite titles, had many throughout his lifetime. Son, brother, husband, father, Police Commissioner. A member of the New York Assembly, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Rough Rider, Governor, Vice President, and President.  These are only a few of the offices that he held during his life, but without a doubt, one he was proudest of, was that of a citizen of these United States Of America.

Click here for Part One of our look at Theodore Roosevelt

Hisbits: Ella Completely 

Wikimedia Image
Wikimedia Image

Completely, that’s one of the meanings of her name. It’s also the definition of her influence in the world of Jazz. For no name evokes more power in that genre’s history, than the name Ella Fitzgerald.

[tweetthis]She went from a singer to a headliner who turned forgotten words into her industry’s greatest prize.[/tweetthis]

She was 17 when she won first prize on Amateur night at the famous Apollo theater. Soon after, she was signed by Chick Webb’s Orchestra and began appearing at the also famous Savoy. It was this orchestra that she would go on to lead after his death in 1939.They renamed the band, Ella and her Famous Orchestra. She continued as it’s leader until 1942, then began her solo career. Their music had been Swing, but its decline introduced Ella to her destiny, first to Be-Bop, and then Jazz music in general.

Working with Dizzy Gillespie, she loved Be-Bop. She described it as making her voice do the same thing as the band’s horns. Scatting was easy for Ella, and she would have stayed solely in this segment, if not for Norman Granz, her manager.

Upon leaving Decca records, he felt she was limiting her range. His suggestion was an album that became The Cole Porter Songbook. This record of Porter’s music showcased that Ella had simply to sing, to change the musical world.
From 1956 to 1964, she made eight songbook albums.

These make up a large portion of what we now call, The Great American Songbook.  It’s a collection of our musical history. While unquestionably Jazz royalty, her songs spanned genres, crossed cultural lines, and entertained all around the world from the White House to London and beyond.

Lady Ella, as she was also labeled, had many famous stories, but this one is my favorite. It was in 1960, halfway around the world, during the album Ella In Berlin. She forgot the words to the song Mack The Knife. For anyone else, this would have been a disaster, but this was Ella. She filled in the areas with scat, and won a Grammy for the song.

As for influence, this was the lady who helped bring Sinatra out of retirement in the seventies. Her performances and collaborations ranged from Count Basie to Rod Stewart. When I think of her though, one man stands beside her, Louis Armstrong.

They made three albums together, in my opinion, the combination of her amazing voice with his gravely tone can’t be beat. These two individuals who began with almost nothing, more than most, built more than record labels and a genre of music. They were a symbol of what hard work can accomplish, and where it can take you.

It was this commitment that propelled her from an orphanage escapee to a bandleader, a normally male position. She went from a singer to a headliner who turned forgotten words into her industry’s greatest prize. That made it possible for a little girl who wanted to sing, to become the Queen of Jazz. Ella, completely, it fits.