THE ANNUAL GEORGE R. STEWART-JIMMY STEWART CHRISTMAST POST

Annual George R. Stewart, Jimmy Stewart Christmas Post


If It’s a Wonderful Life can be a tradition at Christmas, why not this post from a year ago about the connections between that great film and George R. Stewart?  So here it is, with only minor editing to bring it up to date.

But it has a bonus at the end – a radio interview with one of the stars, who was – of course – doing charitable work in the Central Coast area when Tom Wilmer of local PBS station KCBX found him:

It’s A Wonderful Story


This is the time of year when most of us watch the classic Christmas movies.  A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sims, Miracle on 54th Street, A Child’s Christmas in Wales,   (An almost unknown gem, produced in Canada, starring Denholm Elliot); and, of course,  It’s a Wonderful Life.

Here in Arroyo Grande, the local theater,  owned by a man who loves movies, shows one of those classics each Christmas. The admission is a can of food or a toy, to be donated to those in need – in the spirit of the movie.  …To see such a film on the big screen, surrounded by local neighbors of all ages – to see how the children love the film – it is a reminder of what we’ve lost.  Now we watch movies on TV, but usually alone, and always less intently – a kind of digital sampling of the films.  Like a CD, we miss much when we do that.  But in the theater watching Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street  we missed nothing.  And – how long since you’ve experienced this? – the audience clapped and cheered when the judge decided that, yes, Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Claus.  It was a fine traditional twentieth century American Christmas experience.

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For most of the people I know, It’s a Wonderful Life   is the Christmas movie.  So those who are George R. Stewart fans should know about the connection between that classic film and GRS.

George R. Stewart was raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his mother’s family lived.  His maternal grandfather, Andrew Wilson,  planned to be a teacher, and even helped found a school nearby (which would become the prestigious Kiski School).  But he couldn’t earn enough to support his family; so he went into the mercantile business.  He  had a hand in a hardware store there, owned by another Stewart.  That Stewart’s son was James Stewart, also born and raised in Indiana.

George and Jimmy looked alike.  With all the similarities in family history, geography, and physiology, you’d expect they were related.  But they  shared only one possible distant relative.  And they lived in different worlds, in Indiana.  The George Stewarts went to the middle-class Presbyterian church on the flats; Jimmy Stewart and his parents went to the upper-class Presbyterian church on the hill.  GRS went to a public high school out west, Jimmy to a prestigious private school in the east.

Still, the lives paralleled in remarkable ways.  GRS and his family moved to Pasadena; he went to Princeton; and after marriage moved his family to Berkeley, California.  Jimmy went to Princeton, then moved to Pasadena; and spent his life in Southern California.  GRS wrote books, two of which were filmed.  Jimmy made films, like that grand Christmas classic we all love.   GRS worked at the Disney studios for a time, an advisor to Walt himself.  Jimmy worked at many studios, creating characters and stories that touched the hearts of millions.  Ironically, GRS did not like the media, and apparently did not attend movies often, if at all.

Their paths apparently never crossed.  GRS and his family left Indiana for California in 1905, when he was 12.  That was the year James Stewart was born. Out west, nothing in their interests or their work brought them together.  Since the film we now consider a classic failed in its initial run, it is unlikely GRS would have seen it even if he did go to the movies.

Yet, in this Christmas season, we should remember there is one thing they shared; and thanks to the film, we share it with them:  The experience of life in a small American town in the early 20th century.  Like a trip to Disneyland, a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life enfolds us in such a place.  For a time, we walk the streets and meet the people of the town and the time where both boys grew up.

Please follow the rest of the story at: The Annual George R. Stewart, Jimmy Stewart Christmas Post

A CHRISTMAS STORY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

A SIMPLE GESTURE CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING

Marilyn had been doing battle for days with UPS and FEDEX about vanished Christmas deliveries. It was frustrating and not funny. Her frustration got to me too, since I can’t help fight this particular battle. It finally got sorted out, but it left us tired and not feeling any kind of holiday spirit.

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Add that we have been intermittently under siege from “whatever is going around,”while trying to fend off another of the seemingly endless viruses that leave us feeling old and tired. Factor in the latest appalling, comic strip news from the president-elect. We are bummed out. Wishing the holidays were over before they had begun. Whether you celebrate or not, this ought to at least be a season with hope for a better New Year to come, but this one? Good riddance to 2016, but 2017 was not looking better.

Is there no silver lining? Anything to look forward to?

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Bleak thoughts were racing through my head as I made a deli run to pick up a few items. I flashed a smile to the friendly lady at the counter. Civility is a requirement, even if I’m feeling down. She totaled up my purchases while I pulled out my debit card and started to hand it to her.

“Nope,” she said. “Not need, it’s all paid for.” indicating I wouldn’t need my card.

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I looked around confused.

The gentleman standing next to me smiled and softly said, “Happy Holidays”.

I left the deli, a bit stunned, but smiling. Sometimes, the world surprises you. In a good way. Maybe there is hope after all.

CELEBRATING OURSELVES – SHARING MY WORLD, SPECIAL HOLIDAY EDITION 2016

SHARE YOUR WORLD – SPECIAL HOLIDAY EDITION 2016


What is your favorite holiday?

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Our anniversary. I know it’s not a national or religious holiday, but that’s part of why I enjoy it. No pressure. We can do a lot, a little, nothing … or delay it until the time is more convenient. It’s our personal holiday. We can do whatever we like.

What types of food is associated with your holiday?

Sushi in Dunham

If it is just us — and it usually is — Japanese. Sushi, sashimi, and tempura. The last time we went out — and I think it was, indeed our anniversary, we realized the rice we cook at home is better than the stuff they are serving in the restaurants. My green tea is better, too. We have become rice and tea snobs. Now, if I could just master the art of tempura!

Do you travel for your holiday?

Frequently, yes. It’s a good time of year, mid-September. It’s one of the reasons we chose that date to have the wedding.

Good weather, usually. It is past the worst heat of summer, but before the danger of snow. Also, hopefully, it’s not in the middle of hurricane season. We’ve traveled to Cooperstown twice (that’s upstate New York). To Maine several times (Ogunquit, Jackman, Freeport, Kennebunk). Locally to Cape Cod (Hyannis, Barnstable, Martha’s Vineyard, Bourne).

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Us ... Coney Island ... 2007 or thereabouts.

Nathans at Coney Island

Up to New Hampshire (Lincoln and the mountains nearby). Vermont (friends in Peachum). Various places in New York, especially and most memorably to Coney Island — Brooklyn, don’t you know.

And we’ve stayed home and partied. Gotten remarried twice.

We’ve gone to Arizona twice. Last year, we deferred the journey until the following January because we wanted to be there in cooler weather, this time. Our previous visit was late August/early September and you could cook eggs on the sidewalk, depending on how you like eggs.

This year? It’s number 27, a sort of off-year. So maybe we’ll celebrate our birthdays instead. We were born a month apart, me in March, Garry in April. I’ll turn 70 and he turns 75 … which is definitely not an off-year. I feel we ought to do something, but it will depend on money … and the weather … and if I think we can actually gather enough of a crowd to make a party. Everyone lives in a different states these days. Gatherings are difficult. Moreover, you absolutely cannot predict weather in early spring in New England. It might be gorgeous … or blowing a blizzard.

Is it a religious or spiritual holiday?

Define religious. Define spiritual.

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Is there a gift exchange?

Not so much anymore. Tokens. Cards. These days, if we need or want something, we get it. We had been saving for a rainy day, but then we looked up and realized … “Hey, it’s raining!” Usually the trip and travel is the gift. And the cameras we are carrying!

How long does the celebration last?

There’s no rules about this. We start talking about it months ahead. We ponder. I look to see if I can squirrel away a few bucks and I check prices on places i think we might want to go … and which aren’t so far away that the drive would be more stressful than fun. Otherwise, we go out to dinner. And that’s good too.

GRUMPY, GRUMBLY. RAINING, TOO

I was having a weird, unpleasant dream when I woke up. One of those dreams where someone (in this case, not me) is running around desperately trying to get something important done and no one is paying attention or offering to help. I eventually woke up, realized my back hurt and the only solution was to drag my carcass out of bed. Coffee is the drug of choice for surviving mornings like this. I believe the ultimate crisis would be running out of either coffee or half-and-half (half milk-half cream for those of you who don’t live around here).

Gibbs

Gibbs

Anyway, good moods are not much in evidence. Got a call from Rosie my friend and she described the general mood as grumpy, which was the first thing anyone said today that made Garry smile.

The weather isn’t helping. Yesterday it snowed, which wasn’t nearly as heartwarming as I might have wished. It has been bitterly cold for the past few days, but started warming up during the storm. Now it’s quite warm. And raining. The dogs don’t like rain. Snow is okay. Anything is okay. But not rain. They act like whipped curs when required to go outside — which, being dogs, is not optional for them.

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As I write, they are crashed out on the sofa, Bonnie perched on the sofa with her face staring out the picture window. She’s keeping her eyes open. You never know. Santa might show up with more toys. Their basket of toys is reduced to the rabbit, a pretzel, the little dog, and one of the two hedgehogs. I think the other hedgehog went out through the dog flap and won’t be seen until spring. I tossed the second starfish this morning. He (she?) was torn open and the stuff was coming out. I think Gibbs has been eating it. Not doing his stomach any good.

Definitely moody.

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Scrooge McTrump has sucked the joy out of the holidays for us. We have to accept that this is what it is, and for the next bunch of years, is is also what will be. We have to find ways to cope, but we are bummed. Worse, most of our friends are at least as bummed as we are and quite possibly in an even worse head space. I’m dreaming of long space voyages to worlds without politicians or political parties. A simple world where merely surviving keeps you busy.

Mostly, I hate the idea that the last president I will see in my lifetime will be … no, I can’t say the name. I’m not ready. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll be able to spit those sounds out, but not yet. After all, it’s still 2016, so what could possibly go wrong?

MOODY | THE DAILY POST

ECLECTICALLY YOURS – ODDBALLS AT CHRISTMAS

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: 2016 Week 50


The oddest thing about this week is that it is two weeks before the end of the year. I’m still not sure how we got here so fast.

My house is full of religious iconography. Ancient symbols live harmoniously together in display cases and shelves. This one is from the mantle in the living room. It is a very old bronze of Vishnu riding Garuda, a (modern) bronze dancing Ganeesh, a very small Christmas tree, all against a backdrop of Bergman’s “Jerusalem.”

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May your holidays be eclectic!

A cowboy nutcracker guards the fortress

A cowboy nutcracker guards the fortress

Merry whatever you celebrate! It’s all good to me!

AND IT COMES AGAIN …

Thursday photo prompt – Christmas Present – #writephoto


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The little tree sits neatly on our coffee table. Not a big tree. No lights on it, there not being any convenient electrical outlet nearby. Yet it is satisfying. Pretty, festive, neat. Cheerful without taking over the house.

I remember the big trees of years past. Hulking great trees covered with easily shattered glass ornaments. Shivering with lights and tinsel. I recall all the the years of not being able to decorate the bottom of the tree because cats found the shiny, dangling glass balls irresistible. The dogs found tree an overwhelming temptation too, especially the boys. No amount of heart-to-heart conversations about Christmas tree etiquette with them ever convinced a dog to not imbue the tree with his own personal essence.

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People always called Christmas pines real trees, as if there was something intrinsically superior to cutting down a living tree, hauling it indoors, then decorating it. Only to watch it slowly die. Then dragging it outside to be collected as trash, or give it a Viking funeral in a bonfire.

I’ve always hated taking the tree down. It wasn’t unusual for me to leave it up until Valentine’s Day or later. I hated watching it die and refused to admit it was. Like the cut flowers I  never throw away until they are completely crisp and brown.

This little tree is an elegant fake. It will never die because it has never lived. It can return every Christmas and will never become trash on the curb. I prefer it this way.

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The surprise is how much we enjoy our small, quiet Christmas. It doesn’t feel like deprivation. We can watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” again. Maybe add “White Christmas” as a bonus. Cuddle the dogs.

No more maxed out credit cards or guilt over not buying the right gift … or spending weeks decorating, wrapping, and preparing. And ending up exhausted, with an empty bank account and a vague feeling of disappointment. This year, my one big blowout gift is for us: I’m getting a team in to clean the house. I’m neat, so it’s not a disaster area. I do the best I can, but cleaning this place thoroughly is beyond me these days. So happy Christmas to me! We shall go into the New Year clean.

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Christmas day will be a dinner with friends. He’s not feeling too well, so we’re going there. I understand. These days, our health and the health of friends is not a given. We keep fingers crossed that it’s going to work out and everyone will be fine — and the weather will coöperate.

Maybe this was the way it was supposed to be. Warm, friendly, quiet. Low key — with not a single shred of disappointment. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah. And a joyous anything else you celebrate. Whether you are having a crowd or just yourself, may it be a time of comfort and joy.

CHRISTMAS PAST

My Top Ten Christmas Songs

Dead Artists Edition, by Rich Paschall


As I listened to holiday songs on the local Christmas songs radio station, one fact became apparent over time.  Almost all of the songs I hear are performed by artists who have gone on to that great holiday party in the sky.  This is, of course, a nice way of saying they are dead.  Nevertheless, we continue to listen to their songs year in and year out.  In fact, some of these have been flying across the airwaves for many decades and there is no sign they will ever stop being played.

It is safe to say that all of these songs have been covered many times over.  Any singer with staying power in the industry has a Christmas album.  It is true that a few of these songs received great success by other artists when released, but there are certain versions of these holiday hits with the ability to live on long after the artist has gone.  It is these well-remembered and honored songs that fill my playlist.

Your 8-track and cassette tape versions of these may have become tangled and broken, your records and CDs may have become scratched and broken, but you can still download and stream these hits because they are not going away.  First I will offer up an honorable mention.

In 1977, David Bowie (1947-2016) was to appear on the Bing Crosby Christmas television special recorded in London.  He was asked to sing Little Drummer Boy, but did not like the song and asked for something else.  As a result a counterpoint to the song called Peace on Earth was written for Bowie and Crosby sang Little Drummer Boy.  We could simply say the rest is duet history, but that would not exactly be true.  The now well-beloved version may have died away if not for the popularity of a bootleg recording.  As a result, RCA released the song as a single in 1982.  Sadly Crosby died after the show was recorded and before it was ever played for the public.

Now if you will put the yule log on the fire, get a glass of eggnog and some Christmas cookies, we will present my top Christmas tunes from artists whose songs continue to echo down your decked halls.

10.  Blue Christmas, Elvis Presley (1935-1977) The song was first recorded in 1948, but the 1957 recording by Elvis remains the most popular.

9.  Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Gene Autrey (1907-1998) The 1949 song hit number 1 on the charts.

8.  A Holly Jolly Christmas, Burl Ives (1909-1995) The song was released in 1965 after being featured the previous year in the animated cartoon classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

7.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland (1922-1969) The tune was written for the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis.

6.  Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms (1933-1997) The 1957 “Rockabilly” sound was an immediate hit and eventually went gold for Helms.

5.  Christmas Time Is Here, Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) The jazz musician is best known for composing the score to 17 Peanuts animated television specials and a feature-length film.  The first of these was A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965.  Words to this jazz tune were provided by the Charlie Brown television producer, Lee Mendelson (b. 1933). The network, as well as the producers, thought the show was too depressing and predicted a failure with the public.  It won an Emmy, a Peabody and the love of generations of kids.

4.  The Christmas Song, Nat “King” Cole (1919-1965) The tune was written by Bob Wells and another will known singer, Mel Torme, in 1945.  In June 1946 Cole recorded the song, then recorded it again in August with more instruments.  The second version was released.  There was a third recording, then a fourth in stereo in 1961.  It is that last version you here so much today.  Torme also recorded the song some years later, but it is the Nat King Cole version that is best remembered.

3.  (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays, Perry Como (1912-2001)  The popular crooner recorded the song in 1954 and sang it for the next 40 years.  “Mr. C” recorded it in stereo in 1959 and it is this version you probably hear today.  Like many popular television variety stars of his era, Como continued holiday shows after his weekly TV shows ended.  This video is from his 1969 Christmas special.

2.  It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Andy Williams (1927-2012).  Williams was another popular television crooner.  The song was written in 1963 and recorded by Williams for his first Christmas album.  It was used on his television show the same year and became a Christmas standard over time.  Now it is one of the top 10 Christmas songs of all time.  On this video, Williams appears to be singing along with the popular recording.

1. White Christmas, Bing Crosby (1903-1977) The Irving Berlin hit was apparently written for the movie Holiday Inn (no-telling with the prolific Mr. Berlin). Crosby first sang it on his radio show in 1941 but recorded it in 1942 for the Holiday Inn movie. It was recorded again in 1947 as the original master wore out from frequent use. The song appeared in two other movies and Crosby sang it for the rest of his life. This video is the final performance. He died soon after, doing what he liked best, playing golf.