Old shows, fresh memories


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



Mamaw was born in 1899. She died 98 years later. I always enjoyed talking with her.

It’s hard to imagine all the history that passed us by during Mamaw’s lifetime. When Mamaw was born, the wild west was still wild. Butch Cassidy was still alive. Mamaw was not quite 10 years old when Butch and the Sundance Kid died in a shootout in Vicente, Bolivia.

The Wright Brothers were still dreaming about flight when Mamaw was born. It would be four more years before Orville made the first flight from the sandy hillside of Big Kill Devil Hill at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. By warping the shape of the wings of their biplane and following many experimental flights on the Huffman Prairie, just east of Dayton, Orville finally got off the ground and was able to control the aircraft.

On that day in 1903, Mamaw was a four-year-old child.

Mamaw grew up with powered flight and lived through the development of jets, rockets, the moon landing, the space shuttle, and Skylab. I appreciate that there is now a microbrewery in Dayton that is called the Warped Wing Brewery. That’s a nice tribute to the Wright Brothers technology.

When Mamaw hit 90 years old, we started having a birthday party for her every year. She loved it when the whole family got together. She also loved cake.

On her 95th birthday, we gathered, we sang, we ate, and we laughed. Mamaw was having a great time.

Her hearing was going from bad to worse. You had to yell for her to hear you. Questions were being repeated and repeated loudly.

I heard Beth ask, “Mamaw, how does it feel to be 95 years old.” There was a significant pause. I wasn’t sure whether she had heard or not.

Then she looked right at Beth and said loudly, “It hurts!” That was priceless. She smiled and laughed, and we laughed right along with her.

A few minutes later, I asked, “Mamaw. Do you remember your 16th birthday?”

She paused. She smiled. Then she started talking. She told us that it was a very nice day. She talked about her father hitching up the horses and driving the buggy into town from New Antioch. The airbase didn’t exist at that time, so Fife Avenue continued all the way to SR 73.

After their buggy ride, they enjoyed ice cream before heading for home. She remembered it as being a really great day for her whole family. We really enjoyed talking with Mamaw.

In her later life, one of Mamaw’s simple joys in life was watching “The Lawrence Welk Show” on television. To hear it, she had to turn the volume up so loud that you could clearly hear Welk’s accordion music from outside the house. She simply loved to watch the dancers and listen to the music.

I was watching and listening with her one day and she turned to me and said, “He’s really dead, you know?” I told her that I had heard that, but that his music was still great. She smiled.

Television in the last 20 years has changed a lot. I don’t think Mamaw would have enjoyed watching any of the reality shows of today. I find any program entitled “The Real Housewives of …” – fill in the name of any big city – New York, Atlanta, or Los Angeles — and I will turn the television off within five minutes. I just can’t stand to watch that real-life soap opera nonsense. That also includes anything about a bachelor or bachelorette looking for true love. That is not the way people are supposed to behave.

Nowadays, as Debbie and I get older, we seem to enjoy watching old television shows more and more. Debbie’s favorites are currently “Matlock”, “Hazel”, “Golden Girls” and “Perry Mason.”

My favorites are “M*A*S*H” and “Gunsmoke.” Not too long ago, Debbie was wrapped up in an episode of “Perry Mason.” As usual, Perry had someone sweating on the witness stand. Under Mason’s relentless questioning, the witness was about to break down and confess to everything. I interrupted the drama by saying, “Debbie, Perry Mason is really dead, you know?”

We both laughed. Then I realized… Matt Dillon is also long gone, but thank goodness for the messages and lessons they have continued to teach us.

Some of those old shows (like Lawrence Welk) are still priceless.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist