Watching the Radio – The Teddy Bear’s Picnic

In 1950, when I was a child, my family’s favorite past time was listening to the radio. In the afternoons, Mama listened to Our Gal Sunday, Amos and Andy, Fibber Magee and Molly while she ironed pillowcases and sheets.

My favorite show was an hour-long children’s show on Saturday morning, Big Jon and Sparkie – No School Today. Jon Arthur almost single-handedly produced the show. He was also the various voices of his characters and used sound effects and music to enhance the realism. His main character was an elfin creature named “Sparkie”, who, like Pinocchio wished to be a real boy. Their adventures often included solving mysteries involving various characters called Daffodil Dilly and Mayor Plumpfort.

I would awake early Saturday morning, take my blanket and alarm clock into the dining room, and lay on the floor in front of the radio. Mama wouldn’t allow me to turn on the radio until 8:00 AM, so I watched the clock creep toward the exciting hour. At exactly 8:00 AM, on went the radio, the volume real low, and I was transported into Big Jon and Sparkie’s world. The theme song was “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic.” I can still remember the words…

It’s picnic time for teddy bears. The teddy bears are having a lovely time today. Watch them… catch them unawares. See them picnic on their holiday. See them gaily gad about, how they play and shout. They never have any cares. Beneath the trees, where nobody sees, they hide and see as long as they please, ’cause that’s the way the teddy bears have their picnic.

Technology marched on. We got our first television in 1952, which provided new family entertainment. Live pictures made my imaginary world of mysteries and elfin creatures seem dull and lifeless. Saturday morning, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse cartoons tempted me to abandon Big Jon and Sparkie.

Looking back, I think giving up radio shows for television took away something special about ‘watching the radio’. Wrapped in my blanket on a chill Saturday morning while my family slept in late, I used my imagination to create the characters and see the events in Big Jon’s quaint little tales. My seven-year-old creations were far more interesting than the Hollywood produced flickering black and white characters.

Over the past 70+ years, with the advent of even more technology, big screen wonders, U-tube, the I-phone, the internet, much of entertainment has advanced even more. I wouldn’t want to give up all the forms of current day entertainment, but there is something to be said for wrapping yourself in a blanket,laying on the floor in front of the radio, and watching the clock tick slowly toward 8:00 AM until it’s time for…The Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

A Peek Into ‘Black Cat and The Key to the Treasure’


    From my Work in Process: Black Cat and the Key to the Treasure


Kimberlee travels alone in Germany while her friend attends a conference
Salzburg, Germany: As Kimberlee passed through the countryside, the terrain varied as the road rose and fell through hills and valleys. Around every corner, another picture postcard vista appeared. With no particular agenda, Kimberlee frequently stopped to photograph a scene.

In a green meadow, the only sound was the breeze shaking the leaves on the shrubs alongside the road. The tinkling of shiny brass bells hanging from the collars of a flock of sheep or a group of black and white cows grazing nearby produced a stirring in the heart of a captivated tourist. In another place, the gentle terrain rose up through the pasture to where a fine mist clung to the hillside. The sound of tinkling bells confirmed more animals hidden among the distant trees.

Fewer vineyards dotted the hillside as Kimberlee approached Salzburg; the town where Mozart lived, played his harpsichord and wrote melodies. Several hundred years later, his name is still a household word and millions of people enjoy his music.

She reached the center of the city, parked her car, and began to walk. Ancient ivy-laden buildings with sagging tile roofs covered the sidewalk courtyards. Church spires peeked out from behind red tile rooftops. She passed a church with dates carved into the wall reading 1200-1400. How incredible! One church was said to be 1000 years old.

Faint music drew her toward the town square where a street musician stood on the steps of an ancient church played Ave Maria on his violin. While tourists clustered around the steps, pigeons flew from rooftop to rooftop, as though drawn by the haunting melody.

Kimberlee paused. The lingering notes echoed off the surrounding ancient buildings and filled the courtyard with music such as one might imagine in Heaven. Her thoughts drifted back to another time. She imagined the cobbled streets filled with horse-drawn carriages. Perhaps one held a princess and her ladies-in-waiting. Over there, a knight in shining armor on his trusty steed, ready to joust with a dragon.

The musician drew his bow across the strings, and the final note hung in the air. He lowered his hand. The audience stood motionless. Someone coughed, and the spell was broken. Generous visitors tossed money into the violin case at the musician’s feet before they wandered away.

Kimberlee opened her purse. “That was absolutely lovely! Thank you,” she said, as she dropped a few euros into his case.

She ran to catch a tram climbing to the top of the hill where a medieval castle overlooked the city; a cold and barren place with multiple staircases reaching in all directions. Inside the castle, armor, ancient guns, javelins, chains and torture devices covered the walls. Stepping out onto the balcony, the entire city and valley lay below. It was like peeking into the pages of a storybook.

Rainy mists on the distant mountains beckoned hikers upward into the cold crisp air. To the left–rivers, towers, cathedrals, graveyards, and church spires. To the right–cobblestone streets with horse-drawn carriages, and sidewalk cafes, musicians, and archways where street vendors hawked their wares beneath colorful awnings.

After wandering around the castle for an hour and taking dozens pictures, she returned to the city below.

She came upon a street artist, sitting on a short stool, his backpack and palette of paints by his side. He leaned into his easel and applied the finishing touches to a watercolor painting of the church, where the musician had played his moving aria on the steps. Could she be one of the colorful blobs that represented the tourists?
Unable to resist the appeal of the drawing and the memory of the thrilling experience, she purchased the picture. She would have it framed and hang it in her bedroom, a constant reminder of the poignant melody that had stirred her heart.

What a magical city! After a hearty meal and very strong coffee, Kimberlee returned to her car. She drove to the outskirts of town to look for a pension for the night. Brett would be thrilled to hear about all the things she had seen today. How she missed him and wished he was by her side.