Pop Culture

Pop Culture

November/December 2016 Pop Culture

Holiday Memories – How Local TV Took Christmas in a Great New Direction

Here’s one for you: Remember when the Christmas season started the day after Thanksgiving and ended Jan. 1? My wife, Janice, and I track the first mention of Christmas every year (a Wal-Mart ad on Labor Day this year) and then see how long it takes before every last decoration is taken down. Even so, we love the holiday season and all the memories that come with it.

Local TV and radio gener – ated a lot of those memories. WEWS was the first TV station in Ohio, and its first broadcast in 1947 was the annual Cleveland Press Christmas Show from Public Hall. They brought out the big guns, too. Jimmy Stewart, the star of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” hosted, and word is it was a spectacular show.

A TREE AND A KEY Those were the days when people went to downtown Cleveland for first-run movies, nightlife and shopping; the Christmas season kicked it into high gear. You saw the giant tree at the Sterling-Lindner Davis department store, got lunch in a little toy stove at Higbee’s Silver Grille, and then a visit to the “Keeper of the Keys,” Mr. Jingeling on Halle’s seventh floor.

Starting in the mid ’50s, Halle’s ran a Mr. Jingeling segment on Captain Penny’s show on WEWS every day beginning the day after Thanksgiving and usually ending a day or two before Christmas with an hour-long special.

It was a daily story with Mr. Jingeling and the Play Lady spinning some sort of a tale that involved the latest toy. Remember, this was live TV, and after the show, Max Ellis, Earl Keyes or one of the other actors who played Mr. Jingeling headed back to Halle’s to meet fans and hand out special paper keys.

It was so cool to be a kid in Northeast Ohio back then.

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Featured January/February 2017 Pop Culture

Memories and Musings-About Pop Culture for the Generation that made it Meaningful

My wife and co-author, Janice, and I are always chasing down our pop culture history; we usually don’t have to look very far. A few weeks back we headed to the state capital for a visit to the Ohio History Connection. We’ve seen a lot of famous firsts in Northeast Ohio that are documented at the center.

WE’RE NO. 1

Some of those firsts are cultural (the first rock and roll concert — the Moondog Ball — in 1952), traditional (the first U.S.Christmas tree on Public Square), convenience (home mail delivery), medical (the first blood transfusion) and technical (the first use of a gas mask).

Some are annoying, like the world’s first automatic traffic signal at University Circle. And some were the result of necessity; Cleveland’s Crane Candy Company needed a product that wouldn’t melt in the summer heat and came up with Life Savers.

Now, here’s the comparison between Cleveland and Columbus. When you go to a supermarket down south you see a lot of stuff on the shelves we don’t have here because Columbus is considered one of the nation’s best test markets. Even so, Cleveland has bragging rights for introducing some-
thing that is often maligned but has been used by just about everyone.

I tip my hat to one of my public speaking students, Haley Held, for bringing this to my attention. In 1964, Cleveland was the test city for Pop-Tarts.

That’s right. Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts were introduced in Cleveland before anywhere else. The Huffington Post reports the original name for the product was the Fruit Scone, but Andy Warhol was making “pop art” an everyday word. Add a “T” and Pop-Tarts were born. As soon as they hit the shelves, people went batty for the new toaster pastry, and within two weeks the company ran out of product.

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Radio Redux – Technology Keeps Us Listening

Welcome to Boom!, a look at this area’s popular culture and its lasting effect on our generation. I’m Mike Olszewski, and my wife, Janice, and I have been documenting this part of our history in a series of books aimed at preserving that part of our lives and bringing back plenty of memories.

I’m teaching college now, but before that I spent a long time in radio, most notably at WMMS when it was “The Buzzard.” People often ask me, “Whatever happened to radio?” Well, the programming is there and is growing, but the way it gets to us is changing rapidly.

RADIO DAYS

It wasn’t that long ago that radio was lifestyle. We lived and died with radio, but that was before a lot of other options such as cable TV, video games, computers and the internet. Ah, the internet. Video didn’t kill the radio star. Your laptop and cellphone might be to blame.

Sure, radio is still popular, but mostly for an aging generation.

The internet quickly changed the way we access information and music, and it’s not slowing down. Author Tim Murphy disagrees to a point in a recent article, “Millennials Love Radio. Wait, What?” Portability seems to be the advantage.

“Radio is mobile friendly for the ear bud generation, and it connects with those that want to be part of their community,” Murphy writes.

True, people listen primarily in their cars, and Wi-Fi is now being installed in some upper-end models.

NOW WHAT?

John Gorman has seen both sides of the coin. The well-respected programmer of WMMS and WMJI now heads oWOW Cleveland, a locally focused internet radio station.

A handful of huge corporations today control stations, and they paid big cash to get them. Investors want a return on their money, which has led to major cuts in staff, types of programming promotion and competition.

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