I’ve been told I have a good memory. Actually, I’d qualify that statement and say I have a good memory for stories from the distant past. I’m hopeless at memorizing poetry, lyrics, passages from books, quotes, etc.—a dangerous thing for a newsman and non-fiction writer, which is why I’ve always had to take abundant notes and frequently look things up to check facts.
But I even amaze myself, sometimes, at how I can trigger a memory from twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more years ago, and it will come back to me, not as a story, but as a special brand of video clip, a sort of dream-clip, if you will, in which not only the images are there, but also the sounds, smells and the exact feelings and mindset with which I experienced those scenes at the time. In fact, I can actually “time-travel” to that era, and experience those past times exactly as they were, or at least as they were for me, before the world changed and became the new state of mind that it is today. (I sometimes wonder if this isn’t precisely how the elderly eventually get trapped in their own past, in a sometimes blissful, sometimes anxious state, much like a dream that can suddenly turn nightmare, and that others describe as “dementia”, when observed from the outside).
But then again, it was pretty darn close to my birthday, now, wasn’t it, coming only a couple of weeks afterward? So the Little Lord Jesus and I kind of shared a season. As if to celebrate that fact, this particular year my Grandma Myrt made a special request to DJ Cliff Willis at the local AM radio station in Lima, Ohio. My mother sat me right next to the radio in the kitchen, with a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows melting on its creamy surface, so I would be there to hear when Cliff said: “Mrs. Myrtle Weber of Wapakoneta has asked us to play a special request for her grandson, Danny, who is five years old today. And here it is, ‘Christmas Dragnet’.” For some reason, I loved that story (recorded for Capitol Records on a script by comic genius Stan Freberg), which was a spoof on a noir genre TV detective show starring Jack Web and Harry Morgan, in which the strait-lace Joe Friday is investigating a guy called “Grudge” who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus (nor, he says, does he believe in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, or the Easter Bunny... “What about Toledo?” he’s asked. “Toledo...uuuh...I still haven’t made up my mind about Toledo”).
|A special gift that year, Jimmy!|
|Fredric March as Scrooge|
|Red Skelton as Freddy the Freeloader|