A Bulletin reporter seven years ago was setting up a story on Manteca accordionist Darryl Bain. At one point I overhead his response to a remark Bain made on the phone by asking, “who is Lawrence Welk?”
Okay, Alex, I’ll take “Sure Signs You’re Getting Old” for $50.
A quick check of the office soon revealed that virtually everyone younger than 57 — my age at the time — had no inkling who Lawrence Welk was.
The man responsible for champagne music enjoyed a 27-year run on TV as host of “The Lawrence Welk Show.” He died in 1993 at age 89. Yes, I know. If he were alive today he’d be 116 years old.
I wasn’t a fan of Lawrence Welk but my grandmother was and so was my mom the few times she wasn’t working on Saturday nights. This was back in the Dark Ages when most people had black and white TVs, On Demand and VCRs were things of science fiction and you drove your parents up the wall listening to rock music on transistor radios when you weren’t spinning 45s you bought for 89 cents at Tower Records.
After asking the Welk question I just had to ask one more. Since Lawrence Welk often competed in the same time slot Saturday nights with “Gunsmoke” I asked around to see if anyone remembered Matt Dillon.
Several didn’t but one person did offer, “you mean that washed up teen idol from the 1980s?”
Alex, let’s try “Prehistoric” for $150.
For those who remember the Pueblo, a world without Miley Cyrus, and when white Converse high tops sold for the outrageous price of $7 and were available only at hardware stores I meant Matt Dillon as in Marshal Matt Dillon. Gunsmoke was only on TV for 20 years. James Arness played Matt Dillon and rest assured he wasn’t a teen idol. Heck, I don’t really ever remember seeing him kiss Miss Kitty. No, that’s not Miss Kitty as in Hello Kitty merchandise. It’s Miss Kitty as in Amanda Blake.
I’ll think I’ll try “Manteca trivia” for $200.
The answer is Dennis Weaver.
“Who was the one-time Manteca resident who played Matt Dillon’s trusty helper Charles Goode in Gunsmoke and starred in the movie classic ‘Duel’.”
Never heard of Duel? That’s probably because they never made it into a trilogy and they didn’t use transformers to blow up the world or action heroes that killed 55 people before you were halfway through your Junior Mints.
Weaver as Chester walked with a slight limp and could be expected at least once a week to utter his trademark line, “Mis-ter Dil-lon, Mis-ter Dil-lon” as he hurried down the streets of Dodge City to summon the marshal. (And no, Dodge City isn’t the name of a car dealership. It is a city in Kansas that was once part of the new frontier which is not a reference to Star Trek but the Wild West.)
Gunsmoke was back in the days when TV shows didn’t need gratuitous sex, saucy language, or violence to enthrall viewers. There were people who died but the good guys that adhered to a sense of community decency ultimately prevailed.
Weaver’s Manteca connection was in 1937-38. His parents were migrant workers who ended up in Manteca to pack fruit at the height of the Great Depression. (For those who do not know a world before cell phones, that was when people had to choose between feeding their families or themselves.) Weaver made friends with an older Manteca boy, George Hogrefe. Hogrefe’s family took a liking to Weaver and offered to let him spend a year with them from 1937 to 1938 when the Weavers returned to the Show Me State.
Weaver got a part-time job alongside Hogrefe to clean the El Rey to help pay for room and board as well as provide spending money. It was there where he was able to take in movies that Weaver developed a love for acting.
Alex, how about “Manteca trivia” for $250?
The answer is, “The Towering Inferno.”
“What was playing at the El Rey Theatre in Manteca when it burned on Aug. 6, 1975.”
Of course if you’re under 40 you weren’t even born in 1975. It was an era when multiple screen movie houses were unheard of and people were actually allowed to smoke in public places. That included theaters. Today enlightened America bans smoking but allows alcohol to be consumed in theaters.
Let’s switch to “Assassinations” for $50, Alex.
The answer is, “June 5, 1968.”
“What is the day that Robert Kennedy was assassinated?”
I actually had a conversation once with a woman 20 years younger who thought we should date. Instead of asking the obvious and inquiring whether she was doing research on old geezers or if she had misplaced her glasses, I proceeded to point out we had very little in common hence we wouldn’t be able to carry on a decent conversation, let alone a relationship.
To make my point I asked her if she remembered the Kennedys. That sparked an enthusiastic response that they were one of her older sister’s favorite punk bands as a young teen in 1980. Those weren’t the dead Kennedys I had in mind.
I’ll take a stab at one more category, Alex. How about updated trade mark lines for $500?”
The answer is, “A one, and a two, and play that funky music white boy.”
That’s easy. “How would Lawrence Welk introduce Wild Cherry?”
No, not Wild Cherry as in Pepsi but Wild Cherry as in the rock band.
It was back in the Pepsi Generation. And, no, that is not in reference to the days when people overdosed on sugary drinks and caffeine before Mike Bloomberg came along to save us all.