Sunday, November 07, 2010

Requiem for the Midwest

There are two things to be covered here at mwbh during the month of November. One is what the Church refers to as "The Last Things." The other is a requiem that is somewhat different from the one we did on All Souls Day. We will remember things as they once were.

I would hardly be the one to look to The New York Times for insightful commentary on "flyover country." But David Brooks did the Grey Lady proud with a piece last Thursday entitled “Midwest at Dusk” (free registration for viewing required).

[T]his is the beating center of American life — the place where the trajectory of American politics is being determined. If America can figure out how to build a decent future for the working-class people in this region, then the U.S. will remain a predominant power. If it can’t, it won’t ... People in these places have traditional bourgeois values, but they live amid a decaying social fabric ... They disdain Wall Street but admire capitalism. They are intensely patriotic but accustomed to globalization ...

The economic situation has changed little in the thirty years since I've left. (See "My Year of Living Dangerously", 12/15/09) Still, life has moved on in southwestern Ohio, in the place where I grew up. I still remember with great fondness how it once was.

WLW was a 100,000 watt "clear channel" radio station in the 1930s. Even after the FCC limited its power to 50,000 watts, it alone occupied a place at 700 kilowatts, and was heard throughout most of the country, especially at night, becoming known as "The Nation's Station." Even its television station, WLWT, was a landmark in its own right. With affiliates in Columbus (WLWC, Channel 4), Dayton (WLWD, Channel 2), and Indianapolis (WLWI, Channel 13), it constituted a network unto itself. In fact, for much of the 1950s, Cincinnati actually produced more network programming than New York City.

Saturday night was when we sat around the old black and white set (as we were the last house on the street to get color) and watched "Midwestern Hayride" starring Dean Richards, who always ended the show by saying he'd see us in church the next day. (We were Catholic, so we didn't see him, not that I remember.) The Queen of the Hayride was Bonnie Lou, whose rendition of "Beautiful Brown Eyes" cannot be embedded here (don't ask me why), but click on the title to watch.

Bonnie's voice over harmonies with herself were well known by way of her recordings with the local King Record label (the same one that recorded rhythm and blues artist James Brown in his early years), which included some rockabilly hits, which earned here a place in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Still, as we look at the present, things do not stand to improve anytime soon. I for one do not expect to return from this place of exile until I retire, perhaps ten years from now, if then. As Brooks explains:

American politics are volatile because nobody has an answer for these people. They will remain volatile until somebody finds one.

More on Midwestern Hayride in a later segment. Right now, I have to listen to some Chet Atkins.


the Egyptian said...

How about the Ruth Lyons 50/50 Club and the Paul Dixon Show. My Mom hated Dixon, said he was a dirty old man. I always remember Lyons with her bouquet of flowers to hide her mike, always a lady and her co hosts Bob Braun and Marian Spelman. almost went national, tried for 6 months but Ruth hated the loss of control. Those were the days

David L Alexander said...

"How about the Ruth Lyons 50/50 Club and the Paul Dixon Show."

All in good time.