Eric on The Road

Journeys into the offbeat, off the beaten path, overlooked and forgotten - by Eric Model

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Passing: Walker Edmiston Voice of the Keebler Elf (AP)


Published: February 28, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Walker Edmiston, an actor who was the voice of many cartoon and puppet characters, including Ernie the Keebler elf in TV commercials, has died. He was 81.

Edmiston died of complications from cancer at his home in Woodland Hills Feb. 15, said his daughter, Erin Edmiston. He worked until becoming ill in January, she said.

Edmiston was born Feb. 6, 1926, in St. Louis, Mo., and moved to Los Angeles in 1947.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Edmiston had a children's show on local television, ''The Walker Edmiston Show,'' which featured his own puppets, including Kingsley the Lion and Ravenswood the Buzzard.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he voiced many characters on shows created by Sid and Marty Krofft, including Dr. Blinkey and Orson the Vulture on ''H.R. Pufnstuf'' and Sparky the Firefly on ''Bugaloos.''

Edmiston also had acting roles in episodes of such TV series as ''Gunsmoke,'' ''Mission: Impossible'' and ''The Dukes of Hazzard,'' and performed for nearly 20 years on ''Adventures in Odyssey,'' a radio series produced by the nonprofit group Focus on the Family.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The 2007 Canada Games Begin Way Up North in Whitehorse

The Canada Games is a high-level multi-sport event muti-sport event with a National Artists Program held every two years in Canada, alternating between the Canada Winter Games and the Canada Summer Games. Athletes are strictly amateur only, and represent their province or territory. Since their inception, the Canada Games have played a prominent role in developing some of Canada's premier athletes, including Lennox Lewis, Hayley Wickenheiser, Sidney Crosby, Steve Nash, and Suzanne Gaudet.

The Games were first held in 1967 in Quebec City as part of Canada's Centennial celebrations.

The year 2007 brings the Games north of the 60th Parallel for the first time (February 23-March 10). Whitehorse, Yukon is the host city, but the event, in fact, is a regional things. The Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut have joined together to make the 2007 Canada Winter Games a Pan Northern celebration.

In addition to the games themselves (21 sports ranging from hockey, curling and skiing to synchronized swimming, fencing and table tennis), there will also be cultural performances, a marketplace, exhibitions of northern art, and northern culinary delights. There's also be a special competition of Inuit Games and Dene Games.

As interesting as the games and surrounding events is the setting.

Whitehorse, a city of some 23,000, is the territorial capital of the Yukon. It lies at Historic Mile 918 (current kilometrepost calibration is kilometre 1,425.3) of the Alaska Highway and is the former terminus of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway from Skagway, Alaska (although the rails are still there, the train only goes as far as Carcross now). At the head of navigation on the Yukon River, the city was an important supply and stage centre during the Klondike Gold Rush.

It has been the territorial capital since 1953, when the seat was moved from Dawson City after the construction of the Klondike Highway.

The city gets its name from the White Horse Rapids, which were said to look like the mane of a white horse. The rapids have disappeared under Schwatka Lake, behind a hydroelectric dam, which was completed in 1958.

Nowadays Whitehorse is a government town, and it is the home of the main campus of Yukon College. A $45 million (CAD) multiplex centre has been built for the games.

Like most of the Yukon, Whitehorse has a dry subarctic climate. But interstingly, winters there are warmer than some Canadian prairies cities. Whitehorse experiences annual temperature average daily highs of 21 °C (70 °F) in July and average daily lows of −22 °C (−7.6 °F) in January. Record high temperature was 34 °C (93 °F) in June 1969 and the lowest was −52 °C (−62 °F) in January 1947.

According to Meteorological Service of Canada, Whitehorse has the distinction of being Canada's driest city, mainly because it lies in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains. Surprisingly, despite its relative cold, Whitehorse was ranked among Canadian cities with the most comfortable climate. There is little precipitation with an annual snowfall of 245 centimetres (4.75 ft) and 163 millimetres (6.4 inches) of rainfall.

For more info, see:

Sources: Canada Games 2007; Whitehorse, Yukon;; and

Notes from New Orleans: Mardi Gras Morning (NPR News)

From - February 20, 2007:

Just after sunrise on Mardi Gras, the first music of the day fills the streets of New Orleans. Dixieland jazz great Pete Fountain leads the way with his clarinet. Fountain, 77, is back, despite losing his house to Katrina.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Celebrating the "Traditional" Washington's Birthday

Now that most of the sales are just about through, maybe we can actually turn to the George Washington part of Washington's Birthday.

The federal holiday Washington's Birthday is intended to honor the accomplishments of the man who is known to his fellow citizens as "The Father of our Country". Celebrated for his patriotism, leadership, and statesmanship, the holiday also encourages the investigation of early colonial life, the importing of slavery from the Old World, and what it took to achieve a young country's independence in the midst of not all its citizens being free.

The holiday is also a tribute to the General who created the first military badge of merit for the common soldier. Revived on Washington's 200th birthday in 1932, the Purple Heart recognizes injuries received in battle. Like Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Washington's Birthday weekend has turned into yet another time to honor the country's veterans.

This year marks the 275th anniversary of George Washington's birth (February 22, 1732 (NS) and on February 11, 1731 (OS)), and the 75th anniversary of the reinstitution of the Purple Heart.

The largest and most comprehensive events take place in Alexandria, Virginia (home of Mount Vernon). There is a month-long celebration highlighted by what is described as the longes-running George Washington Birthday parade.

However, other communities join in the celebration as well. Eustis, Florida continues its annual "George Fest" celebration begun in 1902.

In Arkansas, the third Monday in February is "George Washington's Birthday and Daisy Gaston Bates Day," an official state holiday (honoring an Arkansas native who was an Civil Rights leader, journalist, publisher, and author).

Since 1862, there has been a tradition in the U.S. Senate that George Washington's Farewell Address be read on his birthday. Citizens had asked that this be done in light of the approaching Civil War. The annual tradition continues with the reading of the address on or near Washington's Birthday.

Is it Presidents' Day or Presidents Day ?

Once one sorts out the confusion between Washington's Birthday and Presidents Day, there is a more fundamental question: How do you spell the non-George Washington version of the holiday ? Many sources differ on where to put the apostrophe in the holiday.

For a lengthy discussion on the issue, see (excuse the title language - it is still interesting):

Just Why is it Presidents' Day & Why Is It When It Is ?

I'm from an era when February had three holidays - Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's Birthday - with Valentine's Day in the middle (Groundhog Day was a curiosity lasting for about 1 hour during morning radio drive time).

Now things are different. They say that Presidents Day is an outgrowth of George Washington's birthday.

Washington was actually born on February 12, 1731/32 of the Julian calendar, in use before England's calendar reformation in September 1752. His birthday is equivalent to February 22, 1732 in the Gregorian calendar used since 1752. Later in life, Washington himself considered February 22 to be his birthday.

Public celebrations for George Washington's birthday actually predate his term as president, in honor of his service during the Revoltionary War.

Observance of Washington's Birthday on the third Monday of February dates to the Uniform Moinday Holiday Bill of 1968, which became effective in 1971. A draft of that bill called for a Presidents Day to honor both Washington and Lincoln, but the Judiciary Committee voted the change down. The Congressional Record notes that had supporters insisted on changing the holiday's name, the entire bill would have remained in committee. Supporters of the bill assured Congress the Monday selected would be a day on which Washington's birth date would occasionally fall, but this was incorrect. The Monday on which Washington's birth date would have occasionally fallen would have been the fourth Monday in February.

In the late 1980s, advertisers began playing a role in changing the holiday title. In 1986, when Congress implemented the second federal holiday tribute to an American-born citizen, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of Georgia, they chose a Monday on which King's birthday would occasionally fall. With neither Washington's birthdate of February 22, due to the Congressional error, nor Lincoln's birthdate of February 12, ever falling on the third Monday, the way was open to promote a generic agenda.

Advertisers, noting the discrepancy, began to aggressively amalgamate separate Lincoln and Washington birthday sales into a longer "Presidents Day" sales period. The popularity of the term grew, and in the process the emphasis on Washington and his achievements began to diminish.

Interestingly enough, although Georgia celebrates Washington's Birthday, the Governor is accorded the right to designate when state holidays occur. In Georgia, Washington's Birthday is recognized the day after Christmas.

Finally, There is an urban legend that when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was implemented in 1971, President Richard issued a proclamation calling for a Presidents Day on the third Monday to honor all U.S. presidents, including himself. Each February both the Law Library at the Library of Congress and the Nixon Library field an upsurge in calls on this question. No evidence of this exists in Nixon's official papers.

As of 2006, the federal government and many state and local governments still officially designate the holiday as Washington's Birthday. Many private employers and calendar makers refer to it as Presidents Day.

(From Wikipedia)

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Largest Outdoor Winter Festival in North America

Where do you think it (the largest winter festival in North America) is taking place (February 2-18) ?

ANSWER: Ottawa, Ontario

It's Winterlude.

Winterlude is a very large festival of outdoor activities including public skating and skating displays, snow and ice sculpture competitions, musical concerts at the Winterlude Snowbowl, children's play areas, an 'ice lounge', bed and waiter races and numerous off-site events.
Winterlude is most famous for the Rideau Canal, which is cleared to become the world's largest skating rink for the time of the festival and hosts numerous events, such as skating displays and musical concerts.

Other primary sites include Jacques Cariter Park in Gatineau which is turned into a massive snow park with slides and structures, events and activities for children and the snow sculpture competition. Confederation Park is the site for the ice sculpture competition, the ice lounge and musical concerts. Dow's Lake has a large skating area and hosts the various bed and waiter races.
Related activities include special exhibits at the Ottawa museums, special events at the Byward Market and a 'loppet' type race is held in Gatineau Park.

The traditional food for Winterlude is called the "Beaver Tail", a fried dough type pastry. It is sold from several stands at Winterlude event sites and along the Canal. Other food-related activities include a Chili Cook-Off held at the Byward Market and several restaurants act as 'official restaurants,' usually serving special Winterlude foods and drinks.

Official Winterlude Web site
Rideau Canal Skateway
Rideau Canal skating conditions
Winterlude Activities
Ice Sculptures / Snow Sculptures

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Passing: Hank Bauer - Left Baseball Mark in New York & Baltimore

NEW YORK (AP) - Hank Bauer, the hard-nosed ex-Marine who returned to baseball after being wounded during World War II and went on to become a cornerstone of the New York Yankees dynasty of the 1950s, died Friday. He was 84.

Hank Bauer and Joe DiMaggio celebrate their 1951 World Series win over the New York Giants. Bauer and the Yankees won 9 AL pennants and 7 World Series in a 10-year span. (Tom Fitzsimmons / Associated Press)

Bauer died of cancer in Shawnee Mission, Kan., said the Baltimore Orioles. Bauer managed the 1966 Orioles to their first World Series title.

A three-time All-Star outfielder, Bauer played on Yankees teams that won nine American League pennants and seven World Series in 10 years. He set the Series record with a 17-game hitting streak, a mark that still stands.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Passing: Frankie Lane, Popular Post-War Standards Singer (Washington Post)

From The Washington Post:

Frankie Laine was one of the most popular singers of the 1950s. In his six-decade career, he sold more than 250 million records.

Mr. Laine sold more than 250 million records during a six-decade career. At his peak, he was a frequent presence on TV variety shows and had his own CBS program in the mid-1950s as a replacement for Arthur Godfrey. He was invited to perform at the world's top concert halls and nightclubs, including the London Palladium, New York's Copacabana and Las Vegas's Desert Inn.

Often playing himself, he starred in several musicals from the early 1950s, including "Sunny Side of the Street" and "Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder." He sang the title songs of many western movies, including "Man Without a Star" starring Kirk Douglas and "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" with Douglas and Burt Lancaster.

But such is life that when Frankie Lane died this weeks at the age of 93, obituaries attached as his greatest accomplishment that he was the voice of the TV theme song for the western "Rawhide".

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Passing: Elizabeth Tashjian, Founder of Nut Museum - Self-Described "Nut Artist"

I know I've been at this "on the road" stuff for a while, when I look back at an interview I did with Elizabeth Tashjian, founder of the Nut Museum. That talk now goes back some twenty years.

Known as the "nut lady", she preferred being called a "nut artist" or "nut culturist". In any event, this all came to mind, when I saw a post indicating that Elizabeth Tashjian had passed away at the age of 94.

No matter what you call her, this woman was a one of a kind personality - the kind of stuff that brought the likes of Charles Kuralt visiting.

For example, an obituary in the New York Times states that " she died died without fulfilling her dream of opening a nut theme park certain to surpass Disneyland . (Her reasoning: Squirrels are cuter than a certain mouse.)".

She did achieve fame, if not fortune, through the Nut Museum - which filled a room of Ms. Tashjian’s 17-room Gothic Revival mansion in Old Lyme , Ct.. The objects have since been in museum and library exhibitions.

The New York Times piece described her museum as follows: It ".....fits comfortably within an American tradition of enthrallment with odd collections, including museums of vacuum cleaners, toilet seats, mustard, postcards, potted meat, Antarctic dogs and dirt. But it aspired to be an art museum..."

For more on the Nut (Lady)/Artist/Culturist, see:

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Black History Canada (Historica)

It's Black History month, and there are lots of resources to inform, educate and inspire.
Almost all deal witht he story of Black History on the U.S. side of the border.

But the story of enslavement and the efforts at attaining equality was not solely based in the U.S.. The struggle for dignity and equal rights did not stop at the border.

There is a whole Canadian narrative to be told.

This introduction from Black History Canada (Historica) through Culture Canada (

"...The earliest Black communities were established in the Maritime Provinces; Birchtown became the largest settlement of free Africans outside Africa. The first large wave of Africans to arrive in Canada were free Black Loyalists invited by the British government and promised land, provisions, and freedom for their support during the American War of Independence".

"Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia, invited all male slaves owned by Rebels to join the British cause, promising them freedom. As losses mounted, Henry Clinton, the British Commander-in-Chief, invited all slaves to join the British, again promising freedom. At least 3500 Blacks supported the British and were landed in Canada, 10% of all Loyalists".

"Blacks were the last to receive plots of land, often waiting years. Part of the problem was the amount of land to be surveyed, with too few surveyors. Land was usually remote, rocky, and too small to feed a family. Those who came into Canada on the Underground Railroad faced different obstacles. Initially, they were seen as valuable workers. Then the trickle became a flood of Black arrivals. By the 1840s and following the American Civil War, they were not as welcome, since immigration from Europe had increased. They were expected to return to the United States, but the former enslaved Blacks did not necessarily have a place to return to. Free Blacks, some of whom had been born in Canada, would have had to forfeit their homes and businesses. But they had established themselves here; Canada was their home".

For more see:

Friday, February 02, 2007

Super Bowl Sub-Story: The Competition for Fans' Hearts in Northwest Indiana (NYT)

From The New York Times; By Susan Saulny; January 30, 2007:

It's Super Bowl Weekend. Much is being written about the game and everything surrounding it in South Florida.

But another interesting side story is taking place back home up in the cold north.

Never have two teams so geographically close competed for professional football’s ultimate prize, teams based in Chicago (Bears) and Indianapolis (the Colts formerly of Baltimore - but that's a whole other story). Culturally, they are Midwestern siblings. Physically, they are but 180 miles apart along Interstate 65. Around here, Sunday’s game has become better known as the “I-65 Super Bowl.”

The north-south border between Illinois and Indiana extends from the lower tip of Lake Michigan to Kentucky. The border between Colts and Bears territory is less clear, but many fans agree it runs right through this town in northwest Indiana. “We are torn, we really are,” said the mayor, Herbert Arihood.

The dividing line is as fluid as it is invisible, snaking at odd angles through homes, restaurants, offices and bars, turning husband against wife, brother against sister, shop owner against customer.

In ordinary times, Illinois and Indiana, which share a good bit of commuter traffic and extended family ties, are not known as antagonists.

But when it comes to football, “we’re talking two neighboring states but two different reputations and styles,” said Robert P. Schmuhl, the chairman of the American studies department at the University of Notre Dame, near South Bend.

For the complete article, see:

"The United States of Florida" (NYT)

From The New York Times, By Julia Lawlor, Published: February 2, 2007:

"After traveling a thousand miles to the land of plam trees, why do Northerners in Florida huddle with the folks from home ?"

That is a question asked in The New York Times "Escapes" Section (It is a question I have often wondered). To see what they wrote, go to:

Punxsutawney Phil (Groundhog): "Sees No Shadow" - Opts for Spring

This bulletin from (7:30 est, 2/2/07):

Phil's official forecast as read 2/2/07 at sunrise at Gobbler's Knob:

El Nino has caused high winds, heavy snow, ice and freezing temperatures in the west.

Here in the East with much mild winter weather we have been blessed.

Global warming has caused a great debate.This mild winter makes it seem just great.

On this Groundhog Day we think of one thing.Will we have winter or will we have spring?

On Gobbler's Knob I see no shadow today.I predict that early spring is on the way.

For more, see:

Passing: Molly Ivins

From NPR News:

by Robert Siegel and Wade Goodwyn:

Syndicated columnist and best-selling author Molly Ivins has died of breast cancer at the age of 62. As editor of the Texas Observer during the 1970s, Ivins became famous for her biting wit as she chronicled the political antics of the Texas legislature.

A liberal who often skewered the political establishment, Ivins' work appeared in 300 newspapers.

While she got her start writing in Minnesota as a police reporter, Ivins became famous writing
about Texas as an editor for the Observer, an independent political journal. "I never saw anything funnier than Texas politics", she once said of her time covering the good-ol'-boy networks of state politics.

Her book Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? brought her national recognition. She later became a commentator for NPR's Morning Edition, and her syndicated column reached 340 newspapers, many in small markets around the country.

Diagnosed with cancer in 1999, she continued to write until her death.

For more, go to: