A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Secret Sister Strategy (Lost & Found: Valentine's Edition)

        This post is my Wrote By Rote entry for the Lost & Found: Valentine's Edition blog hop hosted by Guilie Castillo-Oriard, Alex J Cavanaugh, Denise Covey, Yolanda Renee, Elizabeth Seckman, and me.  Be sure to visit all of the hosts for this event.  To find the full list of participants visit the list on Tossing It Out or any of the host sites.  My post on Tossing It Out (appearing on February 1st) will also feature a related Battle of the Bands installment so please be sure to visit and vote if you can.

        Participants are sharing their stories and experiences concerning love lost and love found.   We all have stories in our lives relating to this matter.   I have several.  This is one of them--the most important one...

The Secret Sister Strategy

         As far as things go in my life 1992 was kind of a bad year for me.  My wife at the time and I had only been living in Los Angeles for less than a year when she seemed to go haywire.  The end result was that she left me and our daughters to pursue the proverbial greener grass that in the end was not all that green--but that's her story to tell and not mine.

          My world seemed upended as future dreams for that marriage were shattered and I was left to contend with holding down my job while attempting to provide as much stability and normalcy to my daughters' lives as I could muster.  With the help of God and a few well placed individuals I managed on through the next few years.  I was depressed and heartbroken, but I knew that life had to keep going.   I had kids to raise and a broken self to fix.

          A few relationships were attempted, but nothing seemed quite right with those so they didn't get far.  Those ladies wanted things to go further, but I was wary after having gotten burned already.  My priority was taking care of my children and that can be a hindrance to a relationship.  The main thing I wanted to avoid was getting involved in a relationship that wouldn't last.  When warning signals began flashing, my response was to back off and rethink the situation.  I was lonely for a partner, but I didn't want to take a step that might send me off of another emotional precipice.

        In 1996, after my oldest daughter had entered middle school, a different strategy evolved.  She had many friends, but there was one in particular that was her "best friends forever" type of friendship.  They became almost inseparable.  During their times together they obviously discussed their lives and found that they were in similar situations.   My daughter's friend's mother was also a struggling single parent.   Enthralled by the idea of becoming sisters so they could always be together they devised a scheme.

        The girls were at this time ready to enter high school.  An opportunity arose with the orientation for new students and their parents.  I sensed that something was afoot by hints my daughter had been dropping about meeting people on that evening.   After the orientation event was over, my daughter introduced me to her friend's mother.  As the girls slyly went ahead to giggle and chat with each other, this lady and I were left in an awkward position of making small talk.   My daughter's hints were not lost upon me so as we all parted I suggested to my new acquaintance that perhaps we could go out for dinner one night.  I got her phone number and told her I'd call later to make arrangements for our "date".

         As things turned out, Betty and I went out for our dinner date.  I was impressed and apparently so was she.  Betty was not confident about her ability to communicate since English was her second language, yet we always found plenty to talk about as we spent evenings on the phone and began going out on a regular basis.  Her communication was fine as far as I was concerned.   She was intelligent--after all she held a PhD and worked in the field of education.  After a year of dating we got married at the end of 1997.

        Most likely we would have never encountered one another on our own.   We found each other through the secret strategy of two young girls who wanted to be sisters.  Thanks to our daughters we were able to establish a new family.   They each gained a new parent and Betty and I gained new daughters.

           Now the girls are grown and have moved away to start their own lives and families.  Betty and I still have each other.   This year we'll celebrate our 19th anniversary.   We've been discussing our future plans for after Betty retires.   She's a wonderful lady with great values.  She is definitely a keeper.  I don't want to lose her.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Growing Up with the Movies

Lady and the Tramp
Lady and the Tramp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        Some of my earliest memories relate to movies.  When I was a child my parents, my mother especially, were fairly avid movie-goers.  In the faintness of my memory I seem to recall going to the movies nearly once a week.  It was probably not that often considering the tight budget to which our family likely adhered, but still it was probably more often than most of the other kids that I knew.

        Many Saturday mornings my mother would take us to movies that were older films that circulated in the theaters for what were likely budget showings.  We'd see monster movies, comedies, westerns, and other B films that were considered family fare and in some cases maybe not.  My favorites were the comedies of Abbot and Costello and anything scary or science fiction related.

         We always had a television when I was growing up and much of my movie viewing was right in our own living room.  There were no large screen televisions in those days so we were accustomed to watching programming on a 15 to 19 inch screen.  Since I didn't know anything else this was my norm and I never considered that television screens would ever be larger.  Another norm for us was black and white.  I had seen color televisions like the one a wealthy uncle and his family had, but my family never had one until after I was in high school.  And that color television had what I'm guessing was a 25 inch screen.

          Back then a big screen was what they had in the movie theaters.  It was always a special event when my father and mother both took my sister and I to the movies.   Usually as a family we'd go to see whatever major release was showing--typically it would be a Bible epic like The Ten Commandments though sometimes it might be a Disney film like Bambi or Lady and the Tramp.  If there was a circus film or something that might have a juggler in it then that was a guaranteed theater excursion.  It was all fine with me as any movie was something that I wanted to experience.

          After we moved to San Diego when I was eight years old, I probably watched an average of nearly a film a day on television.   That's not to say I didn't spend time outdoors or playing with whatever it was I played with back then.  Time was in abundance so I always seemed to have plenty of time for both play and watching television.

           In those days on the San Diego television station there was a movie every week day afternoon.  I'd often watch those after coming home from school.  Then there was Saturday Night at the Movies on NBC when they would show fairly recent top tier films.  I was in front of our television set for nearly every one of those.  Some of  my favorite viewing was on Friday and Saturday nights when starting at 11:30 PM one of the stations would show films all night.  Apparently my parents were fine with me doing so because many a weekend I'd be up late, sometimes all night, watching two or three movies in a row.

           When I was entering middle school--or junior high as we called it back then--we moved to Northern Indiana.   In nearby Crown Point there was an old theater on the town square.  Nearly every Friday night you could find me there with my sister and a friend or two.  There were the James Bond films, surf movies, and the rock and roll films such as the Beatles' Hard Day's Night and Having a Wild Weekend with the Dave Clark Five.  The candy was cheap and movies were a quarter.  My mother would drop us off and pick us up when it was all over.  Those were great times.

           My childhood of watching movies was not just memorable to me, but it paved the way for a avid enjoyment of films in later years up until now.  I don't watch films like I used to, but I easily could if that were how I wanted to devote my time.   And I'd like to spend a lot of time watching movies, but there are so many other things that I want and need to do.

        The other day my wife said that when she retired we'd watch movies all day.   I'm not sure I'm ready for that much movie watching, but it sounds tempting.

          Did you watch a lot of movies when you were a child?   Did your parents take you to see movies?    What are some films that you saw as a child that had a big influence on you?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Give My Regards to Broadway (Backstage Blogathon)

In the Backstage Blogathon (click on the link for more info and the list of participating blogs) participants pick a film made before 1970 that has something to do with the workings of show biz.  This is a blog hop that definitely fits my interests in show business.  I'll tell you more about this later which should add more credibility to my championing the 1948 film Give My Regards to Broadway.  

Give My Regards to Broadway (1948)

      I happened upon this movie on television several years ago.  Serendipitously I had turned the channel just as the credits were starting to roll.  Seeing that it was a movie about show biz and vaudeville I stuck with it and I was glad that I did.   Give My Regards to Broadway is a film that so much reminded of me of my own family and upbringing that I added it to my list of favorite films.

        The story is about Albert Norwick (played by Charles Winninger), a vaudeville veteran who struggles in show business with his growing family until they are forced off the road by The Great Depression.   Taking on a regular job to lead the existence of any normal American family, Albert the Great hangs on to his vaudeville dreams believing that one day his family's act will get their big break in entertainment.

         As the years pass, the three Norwick children settle in taking on jobs when they reach adulthood.   The two daughters are ambivalent about the show biz dream while son Bert Norwick (played by Dan Dailey) shares his father's passion for the world of the stage.  When their old agent lets Albert know about a possible big show opening in New York, the family starts rehearsing their song, dance, and juggling act as Albert is convinced there will be a headlining spot for them in this new show.

        First one daughter and then the next loses interest as they fall in love and get married, abandoning the act.   At first father and son pursue their dream until complications arise that threaten to keep them where they've been since leaving the glamour life 20 years previously.  Faced with the dilemmas of what to do they must make the decisions that will decide the direction of their lives.

         This is a fun film that explores the passion of pursuing dreams, the realities faced in that pursuit, sacrifices made for the sake of  love and security, and the bonds of family and friends.  Give My Regards to Broadway is poignant and bittersweet yet ever hopeful.   It's a joyous film about life, love, family, and baseball--yes that's right.  I'll leave it to you to watch the film to get the baseball connection.

         Stars Charles Winninger and Dan Dailey do a fine job in the song and dance numbers as well as performing some very credible juggling numbers.  Actually Dailey is quite good with the juggling.  Professional jugglers Duke Johnson and Bill T. Coughlin acted as juggling coaches developing simple routines that looked good on screen while requiring minimal juggling expertise.  

         All in all this little known film makes for a delightful viewing experience.  Nicely filmed in Technicolor, the acting is excellent and the classic songs are performed with true vaudeville flair.  I was especially impressed by the story.  This is one of the most realistic films about show business that I've seen.  I'm going to tell you why I make that claim.

Dan Dailey, Barbara Lawrence, and Charles Winninger perform a plate juggling
routine in Give My Regards to Broadway

My Connection to the Film

        What surprised me most when I saw this film was how similar the story was to the experience of my own family.  My father was just starting out in show business with his own juggling act when this film first came out.  Like most performers, he had that dream of being a headline act in a big show.  He soon was to meet my mother who was a dancer with show biz dreams of her own.  After they partnered in marriage they put together their own dance and juggling package and began playing the still active club and show circuit in the Cleveland, Ohio area in the 1950's.

         My dad never gave up his dreams though he did maintain a good job as a bookkeeper and our family had a home and a relatively typical life.  As my sister and I grew up we became part of my parents' act, performing on weekends or special engagements whenever we could get the bookings.  It was a great life and the show biz bug easily hooked us.  We dreamed of becoming performers full time, but never quite took that step.

          Later, after my sister and I became adults, she left the act to follow her own pursuits.  A few years later I too left to pursue my own show business dream as a solo performer.  I worked successfully as a performer for about 15 years, getting married along the way and raising my own brood of kids.  As they became school age I too left the show biz life to settle down to a regular job with a normal home life.

         Having lived the life and the dream, I can understand the lure of the bright lights and the cheering audiences.  It is something that "gets in your blood" as the saying goes.   To me the film Give My Regards to Broadway precisely captures the spirit of the dream as well as the security of being tied down to regular life.

        Relatively few people who attempt to go into an entertainment career experience huge success.   Some of the luckier ones like myself and my family or the fictional Albert the Great and Family are able to enjoy enough of a successful run where we get a taste of the glamorous life.  Once that's been tasted I think most of us have a lingering desire to return in some capacity.  It's certainly true for me:  If I were offered an opportunity to go back to an entertainment career of some sort, I would be tempted.  I'd be very tempted.      

A 1967 promo photo for my family's act The Juggling Jacksons
My father Bob Jackson seated with my sister Joy, me in the center
and my mother Lois Jackson.

         If you've seen Give My Regards to Broadway, what did you think of it?   What films have you seen that come closest to depicting your own life story or your family background?     Have you ever sacrificed a dream for the sake of security or the love of another?

To watch this film online you can find it here.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Remembering Dad

Bob Jackson in a portrait taken sometime in his twenties.

     If my father were still living he would be 93 years old on January 14th.  Unfortunately he passed away 25 years ago when he was a mere 67 years of age--two years older than I am now.  Somehow that age of passing sticks with me.  It's like a milestone that I must pass in order to make it to an older age like 93 or more.   Once I've made it past 67 I feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief  and move on into the future with more confidence about living to an old age.

       My father was a pretty cool guy.  Everybody seemed to think so.  Part of his coolness was his juggling skill and another part was his sense of humor.  He liked to laugh and he liked to make people laugh.  That's probably one of the things that led him to go into show business.  He loved being on stage to entertain people.

        Bob Jackson performed his juggling act up until the last year of his life when a series of infirmities began to weaken his body and diminish his spirit.  I sensed that something was happening in that last year, but the severity of it all wasn't fully realized until a few months before his death on September 9th of 1990.   In July of that year he managed to make it to one final jugglers' convention.  His presence there was more like a farewell than a participatory event like past conventions where he  had juggled with the younger folk with nearly as much enthusiasm as they had.  He was beloved by the jugglers who knew him and sought out by those who didn't.

        Since he was my father I guess I tended to take him for granted much of the time.  He was a great provider and a good example to his children.  He worked a regular job with diligence and pursued his avocation of show business with a passion.  My father never pursued anything halfheartedly and attempted to instill this within all of us. The man had an exuberance for living and a curiosity for the world in which he lived.

        I was often intimidated by him as he could come across as a taskmaster.   Later in my life--and even during those times when his presence loomed over my formative years--I understood what he was attempting to instill within his children even though I was not always fully on board with his agenda.   He had it right when I often didn't.

        In those later years of his life, as I was bringing my own children into the world and acquiring a better understanding of fatherhood, I began to feel an alignment with my father and what he represented.  Oh, we still clashed on certain generational things, but overall I began to see how I was becoming my father.  The old feuds of differing opinions began to melt as we seemed to become closer to being peers and friends rather than father and son.  We were both heading toward an old age where the parent/child relationship becomes somewhat blurred.

        Before it all ended I took opportunities to thank my dad for the values he taught me and the experiences he brought into my life.  I was glad that I was able to do that.  Any perceived enmity between us faded into a mutual respect and toleration.  We were never the same people during our lives together and yet now much of who he was is who I am.  In many ways I feel that I fall short of what he accomplished in his life, but I think he would be pleased with where I have been in my life and where I am now.   He did the best he knew how when it came to living life.  I thank him for being that special man.

        Did you have a good relationship with your father?    Do you see a part of your parents in who you are now?   Were you rebellious when you were growing up?