Monday, November 9, 2015

Midwestern Hayride

Singing star Bonnie Lou from 'Hayride'
For Fairfield and the valley of the East Fork, the 1950s represents a rather important bridge that connects a more universal world to one that inevitably became curiously unique.

Amid all that, the world that touched the people of Cincinnati or Dayton was the same one that touched Fairfield, though we saw it from the outside in.


By the end of the first half of the decade, nearly everyone had access to television, that black-and-white miracle that showed us the images, stories and music from three or four stations.

Much has been written about the nostalgia that was the television phenomenon of the 1950s, so there's not much need to rehash that. You either watched a program, or you didn't. Most of that depended on who had control over the set.

And a set it was.

Tubes and a remote control that included telling the kid closest to the set to get up and adjust the volume or change the channel.

If you lived in Fairfield, you probably watched Ruth Lyons and her 50-50 Club, or you watched Bob Shreve or Uncle Al Lewis or Al Schottelkotte with the news.

Bob Braun, Rosemary Clooney, Paul Dixon, Willie Thall.

Or Midwestern Hayride.

The Hayride was perhaps the most intriguing entertainment value for the crowd that couldn't get free to watch noon-time fun with the powerfully important Ruth Lyons.

And the Hayride was known to take its show on the road.

To places like Brookville.

An article in the Brookville American, dated July 4, 1953:

Midwestern Hayride Stars To Be
In Brookville Tuesday, June 16

"The Midwestern Hayride is coming to Brookville at the Ball Park at 8 p.m. for the benefit of the Brookville High School Athletic Fund. The event will be sponsored by the Brookville Chamber of Commerce which is currently conducting a fund-raising campaign to install lights and bleachers at the park."

The high school was interested in the lights so that the football team could begin to play Friday night games. Curiously, it was apparently pretty easy to coax the Cincinnati-based Hayride to come to town for that purpose.

"The Midwestern Hayride, one of the most popular programs on radio and television in this section of the country, will send a number of the program's stars to Brookville to give the people an opportunity to see their favorites perform in person."

Charlie Gore
A number of stars meant just that.

Tickets cost $1 for adults and a half-buck for kids, according to Harold Goble, the ticket chairman.

"Among those to be seen and heard will be such stars as Charlie Gore, Judy and Jen, Bonnie Lou, The Rangers, and Herb and Kay Adams. The latter couple hail from Connersville and just recently joined the program."

If you followed the program, those names were quite easy to recognize.

"A friendly relaxed attitude that carries right through the impersonal TV camera and microphone into the viewers homes, coupled with a thorough knowledge of his art, is providing Charlie Gore's mailman with a heavy load of fan letters each week."

"The singing guitar player of NBC's Hayride is not fooling when he says that he's been strumming the strings as long as he can remember, for at the tender age of six the dark-haired handsome entertainer was winning more than his share of talent contests."

Bonnie Lou was perhaps best-known of the female entertainers on the program.

"Just 28 years old, married and the mother of a 5-year-old daughter, Bonnie Lou has spent more than half her years entertaining in radio."

She was an accomplished violinist and was more than adequate with the fiddle, the story said.

Her forte was country yodeling, a form of music that was quite popular during the 1940s and 1950s. Bonnie Lou attributed some of that to a "Swiss grandmother and a pawn shop guitar."

The "Hayride" had its origins in Cincinnati radio as far back as the late 1930s and was a nationally syndicated program by the 1950s. Its history is quite rich and its legion of alumni were quite popular and successful. But the fact that it was willing to send its TV-radio stars to Brookville suggests a folksy approach to the performers' craft.

The show endured in one form or another until the early 1970s.

The Chamber did eventually reach its goal and was able to get lights installed at the ballpark so that the hometown Greyhounds could play Friday night games.




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