The Idle American: When humor came home every day

It was a time when families found entertainment and humor on the radio. Image: WECS Radio 90.1 FM

My dad always differentiated between what was funny and what was shabby, hammering home the importance of good taste.

My dear old dad, who absented his earthly life three decades ago, loved good jokes – both the hearing and the telling – with a slight leaning toward the latter.

He shared them on workdays with his co-workers and at gatherings of kinfolk. At home, he knew that my mom and brother would hear them willingly and laugh heartily, even if we’d heard them “umpteen” times. They all brought good cheer, if only to observe the joy he projected with every telling.

Many were the days when he arrived home from a greasy day of “pipe-wrenching” for Lone Star Gas Company, often telling “a good ‘un” heard during the day. He’d get ‘em off his chest before heading to the bathroom for mandatory clean-up before dinner….

 

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Noticing his good judgment dawned on me in 1944, when I began first grade. World War II still raged, but my dad always came up with jokes and stories, told with his remarkable discretion. If there was miserable war news on radio, he spoke with reverence, softening accounts to “fit” prevailing moods.

My early memories include his stories that “Kilroy Was Here,” a statement frequently scrawled on items at unlikely places. Also remembered was our allegiance to specific thirty-minute radio shows on weeknights and the “Grand Ole Opry” on Saturdays.
He – as well as a major hunk of radio audiences across the land – loved hearing “Fibber McGee and Molly” who lived at 79 Wistful Vista.

We’d look forward to Fibber’s seemingly innocent opening of his closet door that always led to thunderous clashes of assorted metal objects that clanged for several seconds before dialog resumed. It also included Molly’s invariable reminder to her hubby when his stories seemed “pancake” flat. “Tain’t funny, McGee,” she’d say….

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Don Newbury can always find the lighter side of life.

All this to say that Dad always differentiated between what was funny and what was shabby. He’d hammer home the importance of good taste, and the dangers of “cleaning up” stories with origins that reeked of filth. “Somebody hearing such stories remembers the original versions,” he’d remind.

He was adamant about sharing “bathroom stories.” Truth to tell, he didn’t even care to tell stories that included references to “toilet paper.”

Dad thought “bathroom tissue” to be a better choice….

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My mom had a favorite expression for whatever shocked or surprised. “We’d faint and fall back in it.”

This would describe Dad’s response to many current TV commercials which he’d label to be in bad taste, or even worse. He’d shake his head at ads riding on out-of-round wheels of innuendo, mentioning that millions of viewers knew the original spiels, many that sank below bathroom humor.

He also had opinions about men at microphones who’d say something like, “My wife’s gonna kill me for telling this, but.”…. He warned that such men should never risk such dire results, because wives served as better judges of what ought–and ought not–be said….

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Finally, this about what seems as offensive as “bathroom humor.” About all we can do is laugh about bombardment of several companies that plead to remodel our bathrooms, promising to do so in a single day.

They’re offering “today only” discounts, with no payments necessary until 2024 or when the Lord comes, whichever occurs first.
Such ads are causing us to have TV “battle fatigue.” They continue to assault our senses as regularly as recent political ads that seemed unending….

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Dad would forgive – and even support – an observation of late publisher Harlan Bridwell in his weekly newspaper, the Bridgeport Index.

Harlan was watching the Super Bowl, maybe 40 years ago. CBS kept rolling a banner at the bottom of the screen promoting upcoming telecasts of hockey on CBS. Harlan knew little about hockey and he considered the ongoing promotion as a major distraction to football.

Finally, though, Harlan admitted agreement with the crude message: “Hockey on CBS,” not as an example of bathroom humor, but evidence of his rural upbringing around stables and horses….

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Dr. Newbury, longtime university president, writes weekly and speaks throughout Texas. Contact: 817-447-3872. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Facebook: Don Newbury.

Please click HERE to find When the Porch Light’s On, Don’s humorous and inspirational Memoir on Amazon.

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