Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sew long, Winmil Fabrics

I grew up in a sewing home. My mother made much of the clothing for my sisters and me, starting with the white shorts she made out of my father’s Navy whites, and the navy Easter coats she stitched up out of his dress blues. One of my favorite dresses – when I was maybe four or five – was a white pique cotton, printed with little flower carts. Although I can picture the fabric perfectly,  I still wish I had a swatch.

I liked going to the fabric store, thumbing through the pattern books- McCall’s, Butterick, and Vogue – and picking out the pattern and the material.

There were plenty of misses – that mustard yellow striped number – but enough hits (cool paisley dress with the dropped waist, the floral print a-line shift I wore to death).

Perhaps the biggest miss, however, was when my mother made bathing suits for me and Kath, and didn’t pick the material all that wisely. Kath’s was a blue-and-white striped ticking, and mine was a turquoise, black, and white checkerboard. Both immediately absorbed water and turned to lead bodysuits. These bathing suits resembled the “bathing costumes” of 1900, when folks would frolic in the shallows in massive garb. We wanted to actually swim a bit, and not just wallow in the shallows. But those suits were too damned heavey. Talk about wearing something to death. That summer, my mother gave in and ended up getting us store-bought tank suits.

Both of my sisters learned to sew and made a lot of their own clothing. I gave it a bit of a whirl, but never mastered the art.

Still, over the years, I continued to enjoy going to fabric stores to pick out material for curtains (which my sisters whipped up for me), and to cover dining room seats (which I could manage on my own, 20160529_131625 (1)thanks to a good pair of clothing shears and a heavy-duty upholstery stapler). Last fall, in the midst of my reno project, I popped into Winmil Fabrics, in downtown Boston, and found a couple of remnants that went perfectly with the new-old loveseat for the den. The picture doesn’t do this justice. The fabric is simply gorgeous. For $24 I got enough yardage to have four pillows made, and to cover the seat of an old lyre-back chair.

Winmill is a funny place, and you have to wade through the polyester and sequins to find the good stuff, like the remnant table. But it’s just plain fun to go in. It’s such a throwback, with its wooden floors, and it was my go-to for buttons, thread, and press-on tape when I wanted to make curtains without bugging my sisters. Bonus points for the chatty proprietors.

There used to be fabric stores pretty much everywhere. In Worcester, there were plenty of places on Water Street. Weintraub’s, had a branch in Main South where my sister Trish was a salesgirl during high school. Woolworth’s also sold patterns and had some fabric, and I believe that department stores had sewing departments, too. At least I think that Denholm’s, the main store in Worcester did.

There are still fabric stores around – Zinman’s in Lynn has fabulous fabric. But, come June, there won’t be one around in downtown Boston. After 47 years, Winmil is closing, and its owners, Howard and Marilyn Held, are retiring. A dental office is going in.

When Held opened Winmil, Boston still had a garment district.

I remember those days.

I remember looking in at shops where the sewing machines were wearing. And the Dot Hosiery office and showroom for some reason stands out in my mind. The garment district was near Chinatown, where Winmil is located. And there was also an outpost near Boston Garden, where Forecaster of Boston raincoats were made, and where I once had a Kelly Girl gig in a factory that made jeans. (The brand was something patriotic. Was it Old Glory? There was a flag on the label. Anyway, Converse Headquarters is where that jean factory was located.)

All gone. All those stitchers and cutters are in Vietnam and Bangladesh. And no one, other than me the once or twice a year when I have a dress on, wears hose. (Me, I don’t like the look of chicken legs, and I have no desire to slather tanning chemicals on my leg so they won’t look like chicken legs.)

I suppose that next time I need needles or thread, I’ll have to get on Amazon.

Definitely not as much fun as going in to Winmil and chatting with the Helds.


The full article on Winmil is here. You may need a Boston Globe subscription to access it.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day, 2016

Memorial Day is one of those nice little three-day-weekend holidays that we don’t seem to get enough of. Funny, even though I don’t work anywhere near full time, and help myself to plenty of three-day-weekends (not to mention three-day-workweeks), I still enjoy the long holiday weekend, starting with the Thursday night traffic jam leaving Boston, now that a lot of three-day-weekends have turned themselves into four-day-weekends.20160528_143127

As always, there are a lot of tourists in town. As always, a lot of the locals are out of town, and if I still had a car, there would be plenty of places to park on the streets, which seldom happens in real life. As always – or at least for the last few years – there are flags on Boston Common, one for everyone from The Commonwealth who has been killed while fighting for our country. As always – or at least for the last few years – I will head over late this afternoon and help the volunteers remove the flags. We furl them into bunches of twenty, put a rubber band around the bunch, and put them in big Rubbermaid containers – stored and ready for next year.

Tough to think of all those lives – mostly young men – lost to war. And I guess it doesn’t much matter whether it was a good war or a not so good war. (“My war’s better than your war!”) And it doesn’t much matter, either, whether you were a gung-ho patriot or a reluctant recruit, grousing all the way. At the end of the day, you didn’t get to live the full life you would have had if not for that good or not so good war. Sigh…

On holidays, I always look back on what Pink Slip had to say the year before.

Last year, I posted about Ireland’s vote to legalize gay marriage. (Up The Republic!) My first Memorial Day post was in 2007, Decoration Day. That one pretty well sums up my feelings on the day. Some things don’t change much.

On Wednesday, I’m heading out to Worcester to go, with my cousin Barbara, decorate the family graves – geraniums, a couple of spikes, a begonia for my sister Margaret’s little grave in the shade.

Whatever you’re decorating, or not, Happy Memorial Day – especially to those who were in the service, and for those who have a flag on Boston Common, commemorating someone they lost.



Friday, May 27, 2016

There’s business casual (and then there’s business casual)

Today’s Friday, so – in offices across America – employees are showing up in business casual. In some places, this is a Friday-thing only. In others, it’s business as usual. In still others, it’s anything goes. (After all, if business casual is the norm, how else can you differentiate Friday, other than to have it be the adult equivalent of PJ day?)

At my office, anything goes is actually the norm.

Since my office is right next to my bedroom, I have been known to work in my PJs. Or in a robe, straight out of the shower. I sometimes work – before and/or after – in workout clothes. Mostly I wear whatever I’m wearing for the day – jeans, khakis, knit pants, fleece, t-shirt, sweater. Mostly I’m wearing shoes, but some days I don’t make it out of my slippers (which are moccasins, so actually do resemble shoes).

When I worked full time, the dress codes were really company- dependent, and ranged on a continuum from jeans-always-okay, up through business casual, to business just short of suit, to suits or equivalent (for the ladies: dress and jacket).

Even at the jeans-always-okay outfits, I generally stuck with somewhere between business casual and business just short of a suit. Once in a while, I wore jeans to work, but not often. Decent pants or a skirt, with a nice sweater or jacket, was my norm. Suits when seeing a client.

I tended to avoid jeans because, for a good part of my career, I was one of “them”, holding some sort of management position. I wouldn’t say I dressed for success. But I did dress to convey authority and seriousness of purpose. (That sounds so prissy and/or gaggy, but it’s true.)

But it didn’t bother me that most others dressed down. Other than the guy who showed up one day in a pair of exceedingly short cut-offs and what appeared to be a pajama shirt with holes in it (and what seemed to be small blood stains – ewwww). I had a good kidding relationship with this fellow, and I did tell him I didn’t want to see him showing up in this ensemble ever again. Fortunately, he took my advice. (Or not. I just checked out his profile on Linkedin, and in his picture he appears to be wearing a pale yellow pajama shirt. Hmmmmm….)

What’s happening now in the work place is not a quibble over just how casual business casual is. I.e., do jeans fit the bill, or do we draw the line at Dockers?

No, these days it’s whether it’s okay to wear yoga pants to work.

Sometimes Amy Mains wears black yoga pants to work. She adds a scarf, accessories, and a shirt long enough to cover her backside. "Just making sure everything is as crisp as it can be when you're wearing tights," she said. 

Like many office workers, Mains, 31, wants three things from her workwear: comfort, convenience, and a professional look. Her go-to Lululemons meet two out of three, allowing her to switch from her San Francisco communications job to a studio without need of a gym bag: "It's primarily for comfort, but I do a lot of yoga," she said.

On the style front, though, a few bangles and a long shirt can't distract from the fact she's wearing clothing made for sweating, not working. Her yoga pants may be a welcome escape from the restrictive tyranny of shift dresses, but they still aren't entirely office-appropriate. Mains knows this, reserving the stretch pants for days when she won't see many other humans.  (Source: Bloomberg)

I’m sure that Amy Mains looks fit and adorbs in her Lululemons, but I can’t help but thinking that this is not quite right.

In the 1980’s, when I was often wearing a suit (menswear skirt suit, silk shirt with some type of bow), a quite popular outside of work outfit was black stretch pants worn with a long, tunic sweater. It was comfortable and convenient, that’s for sure. And those long tunic sweaters did the strategic backside covering. But – and I may be blocking some memories out here – I don’t recall anyone wearing this type of get up into even the most casual of offices. I sure didn’t. 

Yoga pants?

Thanks to ponte pants, “a firm yet stretchy style with an elasticized waist—an industrial strength version of yoga pants that have become a workplace staple” – women do have a pretty decent comfy, convenient, and professional alternative. Admittedly, they may still have to carry a gym bag with their yoga get-up in it, but aren’t they carrying a gym bag with their yoga mat and water bottle in it already?

So I’m going to be a clucking old prude here and say that – maybe other than in the most casual of environments, and then only on Friday – yoga pants aren’t a good idea for the office.

But then I think of myself, walking around in my gym clothing.

I live downtown, in a big city. My gym is in the middle of downtown-downtown – stores, office buildings. And I certainly don’t change when I get there. I wear my gym clothes, which are pretty much the equivalent of yoga pants and a t-shirt, on my walk there. And on my walk home. Often on that walk home I stop in a store. I do food shopping at Roche Brothers. I bop into CVS or Staples for something. I may even drop by Macy’s, if I have something quick to pick up – nothing the requires trying on, but maybe some makeup or a new pillow. Through much of the year, I have a long-enough jacket disguising the yoga-pant-ness of my outfit. But this time of year, I guess it’s all hanging out.

So let me quote Pope Francis here. Yoga pants in the office? “Who am I to judge?” Just be sure to cover your assets, ladies.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

That jacket’s very smart on you. (As a matter of fact, it is.)

Many years ago, I bought a pair of blue and white striped denim pants from Land’s End. Of course, they looked just fine on the young adorable model in the catalog, but I couldn’t tell whether they were just a bit on the fuddy-duddy side of the duds continuum.

Anyway, the first time I wore them, I went out to see my mother in Worcester. My Aunt Margaret was there visiting. I walked into the house, and the two of them began falling all over themselves to compliment me on the new pants. I’m guessing that I was about 40, which would have made my mother about 70 and my aunt about 80. Just what I wanted: two of the older set gushing over my new pants and wondering where they could get a pair of their own.

Well, the answer to that one was simple: one of them could have the pair I had on.

What I most remember is my aunt telling me how “smart” the pants were – one of her favorite descriptors when it came to fashion.

That may well have been the case in her mind, but those smart pants soon found there way into the St. Francis House donation bag. They were probably ragged. At least I never saw a homeless person walking around the streets of Boston with them on. (I have seen other of the more distinctive items that I’ve donated over the years.)

Those smart pants came to mind the other day when I saw an article on Bloomberg on a smart jacket that Jacquard by Google and Levi’s are collaborating on.

I wasn’t familiar with Project Jacquard. In fact, the last time I heard the word Jacquard mentioned – likely in combination with the word knit – was probably during the era when Liz and Peg were raving about those wretched pants. In fact, the words may well have been uttered by one of them. But Google’s Project Jacquard is ultra high-tech:

Project Jacquard makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms.

Everyday objects such as clothes and furniture can be transformed into interactive surfaces.

First up, the Levi’s trucker jacket:

The Levi's® innovation team and Google teams joined forces to create a modern version of denim that is interactive and yet authentic, remaining true to the century-old tradition of denim manufacturing.

The smarty-pants Levi jacket is loomed up out of threads that have conductive, metal-based fibers in the material. Then there’s the removable “smart tag” that enables:

…the jacket to connect to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth. Gesture controls and specific functions can be customized with the help of a companion app, but there's no word yet as to whether that app will be immediately available for non-Android users. (Source: Bloomberg)

Not that I’m in the market for one of these suckers, but it’s nice to see something happening first for us Android folks, rather than the Apple i-brigades.

Among the tasks the jacket can perform: offering up suggestions for nearby coffee shops (or other types of venues), providing an ETA to your destination, and changing tracks on your playlist. All of the info is conveyed by audio, so you're not distracted by screens. By next spring, Google will release further details on battery specs and whether smart tags can be interchanged between garments; those logistics and the jacket's price are still in the works.

I’ll just bet the price is still in the works…Ka-ching.

As for me, I make far more modest demands of my jackets. I want them to keep me comfortable. Warm and dry.

Just the other evening I was thanking my lucky stars that I’d gotten a spring weight down parka this year so that I could be comfy at a Red Sox game when it was cool and damp (but not raining). That jacket was plenty smart enough for the likes of me, although I will say that when I bought it, I was unaware that the color of the annual Boston Marathon jacket was going to be turquoise this year. My heart did sink a bit on the day before the Marathon when I saw all these runners ambling around in their this-year’s-jackets.

Not that anyone would mistake me for a Marathoner, mind you. It’s just that I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was pretending to be one.

Despite the Marathon confusion, the purchase of that dumb jacket was a smart choice. This is New England, and there really and truly is a need for a down parka that’s lightweight and trim, and can be worn during the spring and fall when it’s cold but not that cold.

Sometimes I have had jackets that weren’t quite as smart. Take the supposedly rainproof summer windbreaker from LL Bean. I really wouldn’t have ordered it if the information had mentioned one key attribute: the jacket was porous. Who wouldn’t want that type of smartness in a jacket worn during a shower? What are umbrellas for, anyway?

I’ll leave the really smart clothing to the young folks for now. I have a hunch, though, that, as us Boomers trudge along into geezerhood, there’ll be plenty of need for smart clothing to zip itself up, to fasten those pesky bras, to save us with airbags from breaking a hip.

Bring it one. I just won’t need it to connect to anything via Bluetooth. I will not be needing the ETA of a 3 a.m. trip to the bathroom.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Nice work if you can get it.

Other than sitting around reading, I can’t think of an more ideal profession than working for a foundation. The thought of giving all that money to all those worthy causes, getting to play a real live Michael Anthony, who fronted for John Beresford Tipton on the 1950’s TV show The Millionaire…Well, what could be more fun?

Sure, you’d have to turn down many worthy causes, but think of how much fun it would be to filter out the true unworthies, the charlatans, the faux causes.

Thus it is that, when I have a PowerBall ticket in my possession, I spend time fantasizing about the foundation I would set up, and how I would dispense my largesse. I would not, of course, have to take any compensation, as I would have cagily reserved enough of the lottery winnings to set myself and those near and dear to me up for life.

This is not very likely to happen, of course, but – just in case – I will be going out and buying a PowerBall ticket later today.

Anyway, my secret and unlikely to be fulfilled career goal came to mind when I saw an article by Sacha Pfeiffer in the Boston Globe on a fellow who’d gotten himself appointed trustee to a private foundation. Mark Avery was no relation to May and Stanley Smith, whose charitable trusts he worked for. But he got his position as a trustee the old fashioned way. He inherited from his father.

Between his compensation – way back in 2003, when the Globe’s Spotlight Team did a series on trusts, Avery made $600K a year, plus legal billings (milk that cow!) – and his spending habits, Avery did quite well for himself vis a vis the Smith trusts, which together were worth $500M. But then Avery managed to burn through $52M from one of the Smith trusts. And it took him just six months. How did he manage that feat?

Avery’s blizzard of spending in 2005 included purchasing an air charter company (despite having no background in aviation), Gulfstream executive jets, World War II military aircraft, Czech fighter planes, helicopters, rocket launchers, a patrol boat, and a yacht. He also paid off more than $600,000 in personal debt and bought a $700,000 home. (Source: Boston Globe.)

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is what a $500K patrol boat looks like:


Avery won’t be needing it where he’s going. Which is the hoosegow. For 13 years.

[Ass’t US Attorney Steven] Skrocki and others launched a federal investigation in 2005, and discovered that Avery had persuaded his two fellow trustees — now dead, but at the time in their 70s and “medically challenged” — to “loan” him $52 million in Smith funds. Avery told them he planned to use the money to start an aviation company that would be used for trustee travel, according to court documents.

An aviation company for trustee travel. I see.

Instead, he went wild, making extravagant purchases that prosecutors said “did nothing” to benefit the trusts. Within months, the company was crumbling, Avery was on the cusp of bankruptcy, and the $52 million was gone

Avery would probably have been okay if he’d been content with his pittance of a trustee salary, and whatever he could wave the way of his law firm.  After all, another Smith trustee, Ruth Collins, appears happy with the $125K she draws for 10 hours of work each week. Plus a slight add on:

Her Corte Madera, Calif., company, Adminitrust, billed the Smith trust nearly $1.3 million in 2014 for “trust administration.”

This kind of self-dealing is actually legal, so you’d think Avery might have been a happy camper with his salary plus legal compensations. But it’s the old story. Avery just got greedy.

Now in my PowerBall-funded foundation, all will be on the up and up.

Once I go, whoever’s left holding the bag will get paid for their work. Up to an on the up and up point. Mostly, they’ll get paid to wind the thing down and pay the thing out.

No patrol boats, no Czech fighter planes. Just make some worthy causes happy. A list will be provided, with a few blank spots so that my trustees can add their own favorites. I’ll give them two years to close things out. A year to recover from their profound grief over my untimely demise which, whenever it happens, will no doubt seem untimely – at least to me. And a year to enjoy playing Michael Anthony to my John Beresford Tipton. Have at it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Google invents the 21st century cow-catcher

As a card-carrying pedestrian, I have quite naturally been concerned about the coming of the self-driving car. Bad enough trying to catch the attention of some jamoke about to run a red light while texting when I’m in the middle of the cross-walk. Let alone trying to make meaningful eye contact when you’re jaywalking, which I believe is actually common-law legal in Boston. (Just like common law marriages are recognized in some states, the fact that everyone in Boston jaywalks just must mean it’s legal, if not exactly promoted.)

But what if there’s no pedestrian-hating driver to shake your fist at? No asleep at the wheel jerk who you can wake up by whacking the side of their car as it glides through a stop sign without stopping?

I suppose we’ll still be able shake our fists at the passengers. But the jerks we’ll be waking up won’t be asleep at the wheel. They’ll be dozing. Or carrying on with an all-important collaborative work conference. At best, our whack at the side of the car will startle them a bit. They’ll no doubt shrug their shoulders, give us a wan smile, and get back to the important business of business.

What will pedestrians be able to do in this brave new world? Maybe we’ll all be issued jetpacks, so we can hurtle over these self-drivers?

Perhaps there will be no need. Google – which has saved us in so many ways, c.f., from having to remember the name of the guy who played the butler on Spin and Marty (J. Pat O’Malley); from having to know how to read a map; etc – has come up with a solution to the problem of autonomous vehicles mowing down formerly autonomous pedestrians.

The company received a patent [last]Tuesday describing a way to reduce pedestrian injuries in an accident with a robotic vehicle. The impact of the Google Pedestrian Catchercrash, Google suggests, would expose a coating that glues the person to the front of the car. (Source: Mercury News)

"The adhesive layer may be a very sticky material and operate in a manner similar to flypaper, or double-sided duct tape," the patent said.

The pedestrian-as-fly-paper won’t do much to prevent the initial impact injuries, but will prevent anything more from happening when the body is thrown out of the way – or into the path of another car (self-driving or not). This approach, of course, is not without its downside. If, say, the self-driving car that caught you up in its gluey cowcatcher went on to smash into a building, or tree, or Humvee, you could end up worse off than if you were shot into the air and landed in a rhododendron bush.

As for “similar to flypaper.” Well, sort of. After all, no one would want the hood of their car to be covered with the insects, leaves, pebbles, Dunkin Donuts napkins, plastic CVS bags, etc. that would stick to the flypaper. So,

An eggshell-like layer covering the adhesive would protect the sticky surface during everyday driving, but shatter in an accident to reveal the glue.

If you’re wondering how easy it would be to get glue tough enough to hold you on the front of a car off – or to get you off of, “the patent included an option to use a "releasable adhesive" that would allow the person to be unstuck "after a period of time."”

Google may not go through with this invention, but just wanted to make sure that their intellectual property is protected just in case.

Overall, in the long run, we’ll probably be safer on the roads when vehicles are entirely autonomous. But that’s in the long run, in the meantime, we’ll be needing those cowcatchers.

My bigger worry is not about taking the driver out of ‘car and driver.’ It’s about what’s going to happen to the millions of truckers, UPS delivery guys, and Uber drivers when they’re no longer needed.

What, exactly, is it at the people are going to do when all the tasks that can be automated are automated?

Thanks to having been married to an economist, I understand that in the long run we’re all dead. But what are we all going to be doing in the meantime?

A tip of the cap to my friend Valerie for shooting this one my way.


Monday, May 23, 2016

A horse is a horse, of course, of course…

Like any good Baby Boomer, I spent much of my childhood glued to what was then known as the small screen, and later on as the boob tube. Who cared what it was called? Although in our house we were all readers, card players, and game players, and no strangers to the great outdoors (where kids in the olden days played unless there was a hurricane), there was also plenty of TV watching.

Some shows we watched as a family: Ed Sullivan, Perry Mason, Sing Along with Mitch, Wagon Train, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, College Bowl. These were entertainment aimed at grownups, but they were pretty tame by today’s standards. And since most homes contained one TV, there was no doubt what show was going to be watched if there was something the kids wanted to see vs. something the ‘rents wanted to watch. There were, of course, viewing hours reserved for the kids, and the schedule included weekday day-timers like Captain Kangaroo and the Mickey Mouse Club, and all those low budget Saturday morning shows like Fury, Howdy Doody, and Range Rider.

And then there were the in-between shows that had “family” written all over them. Donna Reed, Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver. The big attraction of these shows to use kids was that they had kids in them, and that’s what we mostly wanted to see. I was fascinated by any show that featured children, and early on interpreted them as providing a true portrait of how Protestants lived. Two-to-three kids, no one ever yelled, kids squabbles were nowhere near a blood sport, big houses with nothing stray sitting around – like a magazine or a library book… I didn’t know anyone who lived like that. I didn’t know any Protestants. Ergo…

The family I most envied on these Proddie shows was the Greggs on Bachelor Father. Who didn’t, at one point or another, want to dump their family of origin and go live with a rich, handsome uncle who doted on you? I didn’t like thinking through how this was going to happen. First of all, I really didn’t wish my parents and siblings dead. Just, on occasion, temporarily out of the picture. And I didn’t have an uncle like Bentley Gregg – played by the dashing John Forsythe – waiting in the wings to come swoop me up in his convertible while the rest of my family was, say, confined somewhere with typhoid fever, from which they would all recover in good time. The closest I came to a dashing uncle was my Uncle Jack, who was quite good looking and a part-time musician. But he had a wife and a kid, and no convertible, so he wasn’t going to swoop in and save me.

But I digress…

I don’t recall my parents ever shared the watching of the supposed family shows. I suppose they were sitting somewhere else, talking or reading Ellery Queen mysteries.

They must, however, have seen them occasionally, as my father dubbed the boy next door “Eddie Haskell”, after the sneaky-sly-phony friend of Beaver’s brother Wally. (My father had pretty good instincts that there was something no quite right about our young neighbor. Decades later this fellow went to federal prison on a kiddie porn charge.)

But mostly the family fare shows were kids’ terrain.

One with crossover appeal, however, was Mr. Ed, a show about a talking horse. Mr. Ed did not speak to everybody. He spoke only to his owner, Wilbur Post, and much of the plot revolved around people thinking that Mr. Ed and WilburWilbur was a bit dotty because he was often overhead talking to himself. Of course, of course, we in the audience were in on the gag. We knew Wilbur was deep in conversation with Mr. Ed.

A couple of time, Mr. Ed would break out and say something to a kid. When Wilbur would ask him why he took the risk of exposing himself as a talking horse, Mr. Ed would answer “Who’s going to believe a kid saying a horse can talk?” (I can’t recall the context in which it came up, but there were a number of occasions on which my husband would use this line, always noting that he was quoting from the famous Mr. Ed.)

It is difficult to explain, in this day and age of special effects – Mr. Ed’s lips moved when someone tugged on thin nylon thread under his lip - and sharply written dialog, just how funny and charming this little show was. Or at least is in my memory.

Of course, of course, I haven’t seen an episode in 50 years, but I remember liking it and finding it funny in a way that I didn’t find many of the supposedly funny shows funny. To me, the Lawrence Welk show was funnier (and least in the make-fun sense) than, say, Green Acres. No doubt I would find Mr. Ed ridiculous, corny and embarrassing. But back in the day, it was one of my favorites.

Anyway, Bamboo Harvester, who played Mr. Ed, died quite a while back. But Alan Young, who played Wilbur, died just last week.

When the show was being cast, the story goes that comedian George Burns, who ran the production company that was producing Mr. Ed, told his casting staff, “Get Alan Young. He looks like the kind of guy a horse would talk to.”

Not a bad epitaph, as epitaphs might go.

And we could, of course, all take a lesson from both Wilbur and Mr. Ed.

From Wilbur, we learn how to be a good listener, a good friend, and how to keep a secret.

And from Mr. Ed we learn – or not – to never speak, unless we have something to say.

So long, Alan Young. You done good by us little TV-watching Boomers.


A Pink Slip shout to Rick T., my brother-in-law, who was hot off the press, sending me a link to this bit of news.