Wednesday, November 8, 2017


When my parents married, their first home was a second floor apartment on South First Street in Meriden, Ct.  Our landlords lived in the small house in the backyard and her father lived on the first floor of our house.  As we grew up, our landlords became our Uncle Roy and Auntie Nee, and her father was Grampa Ganner.  I came along a year after my parents married, my brother Bill three years later, and Tim a year after that.  As for AJ and Leah?  They’re basically a second family who didn’t come along until eight and nine years later when we were now ensconced in our own home.

But back in those days when we were in the apartment, Dad was working three jobs but still was home in time to take over the household duties when Mom worked the second shift at the Meriden Hospital.  So that meant Dad had to cook dinner for us, four guys on our own.  Basically he kept it simple – French toast, hot dogs, grilled cheese, hamburgers, chicken pot pies, and of course on Fridays?  Fish sticks!

It was a great apartment.  Once you left the kitchen where most of our meals were served, with the pantry and the back stair entrance, you could go through the whole apartment in a circle – through the living room, to the den to my parents’ room, to the kids’ room and back to the living room (via a small square with the door to the attic on one side and access to an outside porch on the other.)  Oh yeah… the bathroom.  It was off the living room, behind the den, and it had one of those claw-footed bathtubs.

Dad & Tim in the back,
Bill in the cowboy hat,
Yours Truly facing the camera.
That's the bathroom behind Dad
And the den is beyond Tim.

Like I said, most of our meals were served in the kitchen.  But when Dad was in charge on the weekdays, we ate in that den, sitting on the floor in front of the television.  And along with our grilled cheese sandwiches, Dad made sure we each had a piece of paper and that we were armed with pencils.

Because it was time for ‘TO TELL THE TRUTH’!

From Wikipedia:
‘To Tell the Truth’ is an American television panel game show, created by Bob Stewart and originally produced by Mark Goodson–Bill Todman Productions, that has aired in various forms since 1956 both on networks and in syndication. As of June 14, 2016, the show is one of two game shows in the United States to have aired at least one new episode in at least seven consecutive decades, the other game show being both incarnations of ‘The Price Is Right’. As of the 2016 version, a total of 26 seasons of the various versions of To Tell the Truth have been produced, surpassing the 25 of ‘What's My Line?’ and the 20 of ‘I've Got a Secret’.

The show features a panel of four celebrities whose object is the correct identification of a described contestant (or pair of contestants) who has an unusual occupation or has undergone an unusual experience, whose affidavit the show's moderator/host reads beforehand. This "central character" is accompanied by two impostors who pretend to be the central character (or characters); together, the three persons (or pairs) are said to belong to a "team of challengers." The celebrity panelists question the three contestants (or pairs); the impostors are allowed to lie, but the central character is sworn "to tell the truth." After questioning, the panel attempts to identify which of the three challengers is telling the truth and is thus the central character.

With those pencils and our slips of paper, Dad was giving us a very primitive version of interactive TV.  The show began in 1956, but I don’t think we started playing along until 1963.  (That’s the earliest for Timmy to be aware of what he had to do in order to play along.)  And that year stands out for another reason as to why the show made an impression on me – that’s when Orson Bean became part of the basic recurring panel, along with Peggy Cass, Tom Poston, and Kitty Carlisle.  (Poston was an added bonus - many times I have watched him onscreen and seen a resemblance to my Dad.  Npt an identical twin, but as though he could have been a sibling.)

I idolized Orson Bean on that show.  Besides being so witty (and in a humor stratosphere it was tough for an 8 year old to follow along), Bean would often doodle on his answer card a quick little picture which somehow tied back in to the answer he was giving.  I thought that was so cool and I found myself creating my own doodles in the margins, also similar to the work of Sergio Aragones in MAD magazine.

And that was all thanks to my Dad, who helped nurture my interest in that world of the Toob. 

My Dad has been gone nearly a quarter century now.  And I think to the end he was puzzled by my fixation on this fantasy realm I could see in the great mosaic of the TV schedule.  But I know where I’m going with it and I like to think he is watching over my cathode odyssey.  At the very least I know it wouldn’t have had the same spark had it not been for his use of his own imagination as our quizzzzmaster.

I love you, Dad…..

(Today he would have been 88 years old....)

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