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.

Hisbits: Chief Justice/Mr President

A college boxing champion, his physique was more Babe Ruth than squared circle pugilist. I’m sure his college associates made jokes about this heavyweight, yet active young man. William Howard Taft, aside from being our 27th President, he was also our 10th Chief Justice. A position that he had dreamed of all his life, becoming President was due to his obligation to the country, and not a personal desire of his own. In later life, the Chief Justice would comment that he was so happy with his current position, he didn’t remember ever being President.

His Father Alonso had been Secretary of War and Attorney General under President Grant. He would go on to serve as Secretary of War under Theodore Roosevelt. While many would consider his Presidency lackluster, he appointed six Justices to the court. He and Andrew Jackson share the third spot in most appointments behind Washington and Franklin Roosevelt. Taft supported Booker T. Washington, and African American entrepreneurs. A western scout and a Texas Ranger disarmed a would be assassin a few feet away from President Taft. Two states joined the Union during his Presidency, New Mexico and Arizona.

Upon leaving the White House, he dropped eighty pounds. His revived interest in the outdoors led him to explore Africa. The former President carried a cane of petrified wood, a gift from a college professor friend. With both the physical weight, and the weight of the Presidency off his shoulders, he seemed to excel. The one term President became the President of the American Bar Association, truth be told, it was a position he probably liked better.

On June 30, 1921, the day that he had waited for all his life arrived. President Harding nominated him for the position of Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The vote was sixty to four in favor of the former chief executive. He is the only man in our history to hold both offices, but make no mistake, this was no footnote in history. His was a renaissance in the era of the court, a turning point for the judicial branch. One that it had never seen before, and possibly no one since has impacted it in a more positive fashion.

The building they are housed in, isn’t the house that he built, but it was the one Taft ordered. Before he lobbied for an actual building, they were forced to meet in the old Senate chambers. The court, in many ways, was ran like an afterthought. While it was completed five years after his death, it owed it’s existence to the Chief Justice. He reorganized the disjointed appellate system and brought order to them in a manner that they had never seen. As Chief Justice, he once more returned to the White House, this time to give the Oath Of Office to Presidents Coolidge and Hoover.

Chief Justice Taft loved the rule of law, believing in the upholding of what was good and right with our country. He is one of two Presidents to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, sharing that honor with President Kennedy. Four other Chief Justices are entombed there. His judicial legacy extended beyond his lifetime, as President he appointed both his predecessor, and the man who became his successor. Associate Justice Charles Evan Hughes, whom he had successfully nominated as an Associate Justice, followed him in the position of Chief Justice.

It’s little wonder that the photo of Chief Justice Taft is more noble and relaxed than that of President Taft. He was a man who knew his duty, and committed to it. A man who believed in fighting wholeheartedly, and not battling what he called a “finicky war”. As Americans, we are beneficiaries of both his terms of service. This truly heavyweight champion, proved that no matter how you find the duty thrust upon you, you can achieve the American dream.

HisBit: The Resolute Desk

Wikimedia Image

Like many of our nation’s treasures, it was built in England. From the Mayflower to the founders, our roots run across the shore to Europe. Even the Lady who stands in America’s harbor, arrived with a French accent. Like her, the Resolute Desk is made more and not less American by it’s heritage.

It began life as a ship in Her Majesty’s Navy, and was part of an artic rescue mission.  It served admirably, until the icy waters stranded her, forcing Captain and crew to part company. Later, an American ship rescued it, returning her to America.  

At a time when our two countries were politically at odds, a Senator from Virginia, James Murray Mason, proposed a bill. His idea was to purchase the boat, repair it, and send it to England as a gift. Soon the talk of war ceased, many crediting the Resolute in the process.

When old ships die, they usually are only remembered in paintings and history books, but not the Resolute. At least three desks, not two, were made from its timbers. One to the widow of Henry Grinnell, a man connected with the rescue mission. Another for Queen Victoria, and a third for an American. 

That man was President Rutherford B. Hayes as a gift for America’s kindness. With the exception of four Presidents, it has been used ever since. The decisions of World War II were made on the back of this timber immigrant. Both the pens of Kennedy and Reagan turned bills into law on it. Finally, September 11, 2001 and all the hard days that followed have been helmed at this desk.

Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, the majority of America’s executives found this desk up for the job. The reason may have something to do with it’s name. Resolute means admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering. It certainly proved it in it’s pedigree, and like so many other wonderful gifts, has added to our country’s rich history.

The Resolute desk is uniquely American. She is as much a part of our history as any other immigrant who who traveled across the world to make our land their land. I believe that, the great melting pot we are so blessed to partake in, is still the greatest country in the world.  

The artic ship that became an Ambassador, and later a truly Executive assistant knows courses can change. Waters will be tough to navigate, storms will rise, but they will also fall. One decision on its surface alters history, showing us that you and I can do the same. We know, that if we are resolute in our convictions, no obstacle can stand in our way.

Adams, Friendship, & Faith

imageA Letter From Adams To Jefferson:

Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.

He was not popular, he wasn’t celebrated, in fact he was mocked. They jokingly referred to him as “His Rotundness”. John Adams was not George Washington, but that wasn’t his problem. I doubt a second Washington would have lived up to the scrutiny of Washingyon’s shadow. Adams problem was also his virtue, he was John Adams.

Was he perfect? Are you and I? He had faults yes, but he also had virtues. Adams was asked to defend a group of soldiers that had killed five civilians in a skirmish. He knew taking the job would hurt his reputation.

What defense was he to use? He selected something that, at the time, was unpopular. Adams chose the truth. “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  – John Adams

In this same trial, he promoted a concept that would become a pillar of our judicial system. The importance of innocence. He showed that while the eyes of Justice are restricted, her heart is open.

“It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished.

But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.”

The result, six of those men were acquitted. He may not have been shaped like a soldier, but he was a champion of individual freedom. Adams never owned slaves. Decades before President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Adams abolished it officially in the Massachusetts State Constitution. This man who left the Presidency unwanted, left behind many gifts to our country.

While President, he prevented a costly war with France. He sent William Vans Murray on a peace mission to France. This succeeded in securing peace, and in even winning over the future Emperor Napoleon. This was more than most of Europe could boast.

Adams appointed John Marshall as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Marshall established the principle that laws passed, when contradictory to the Constitution, can be overturned.  Before his death, he would see his son, John Quincy Adams, follow him into the Presidency. Many more of the Adams’ line would serve in public office.

After years of political rivalry, the post Presidency allowed him to rekindle a friendship.  Thomas Jefferson and himself, former friends, had become political enemies. Now, out of the public conflict, they could rediscover what they liked about one another.

Learn this lesson of friendship, what separates you doesn’t have to dissolve your relationship. Be honest about you disagreements, but remain friends. Friendship isn’t compromise, it’s friendship. The Lord Jesus referred to Judas as a friend even during the act of betrayal. Please understand, Judas betrayed the friendship, Jesus never did!

The Church can disagree with certain points of view without a mean spirit. We can voice our problems with certain practices, while still practicing friendship with its practictioners. Adams and Jefferson were still themselves, but they were friends with different views. The Lord, who lead a sinless life, is still the sinner’s greatest friend.

Christ came neither to condone or to condemn, but to connect. Adams, the Un-Washington, was awkward, but he helped to establish the United States Of America. In this day, your Faith may be called out of date, but it’s no accident that this is the time that God placed you in.

Love,defend, and befriend. Adams did. As a result, he left his imprint on our country’s foundation. At the end of your term on this Earth, you’ll be surprised at what you see. In the end, you are exactly what God wanted you to be. You are you, and with God’s help, the combination of Him in you, will change the world.