News of the Week: The Sounds of Summer, Ghost Towns, and 10 Recipes (Yes, 10!) for Onion Rings

Beep! Crack! Vrooooom!

Morning commute traffic on a freeway.

I don’t have air conditioning in my apartment, so in the summer I keep my windows open all the time. I live in a neighborhood with a lot of businesses and traffic, not far from both downtown and the highway. That means, unlike during fall and winter, every sound that happens outside, I hear in my apartment. I hear the big rig trucks as they go past my windows, the cars speeding through the intersection, the fire trucks, even people as they walk by and engage in conversation (something that can get rather boisterous on a Friday or Saturday night after they’ve had plenty of liquid refreshment). Oh, and a lot of car horns. Right this moment, there’s a guy in a Toyota in front of my building with his hand on the horn, impatient about something or someplace to go.

We always think of the differences in seasons only when it comes to weather (a crack of thunder almost made me jump out of my shoes a couple of nights ago), but what we hear is different too, and summer brings its own sounds, whether it’s a baseball meeting a baseball bat, the music of a Ferris wheel, or the march of a parade going by. I don’t mind the sound of any of those things, because unlike car horns, they’re associated with happy things. But all I can think about on this first full day of summer, the day when the kids are ecstatic and everyone’s thoughts turn to warm temps and shorts and barbecues, is that I can’t wait until the day a few months from now when I close my windows and everything gets a little quieter.

I could write about the smells of summer too, but I’d rather not think about those.

Hey, Let’s Buy a Town

Abandoned town in the California desert.

Do you have an extra $925,000? Have I got a ghost town for you.

Cerro Gordo, an abandoned mining town in California five hours north of Los Angeles, is for sale. It was founded in 1865 (the year Lincoln was assassinated) and was once the state’s largest producer of silver and lead.

You get 314 acres of land, plus 22 buildings, including a hotel, a saloon, and a chapel. You can shoot your own westerns there, or if you’re really rich (which I assume you are if you’re spending almost a million dollars on a town), you could fix it up and actually make it a non-ghost town again, one were people live and work. Imagine owning a town!

We could start a GoFundMe page for it. Who’s in? We could rename the town “Postville” or “Rockwell.”

Abraham Lincoln for Sale

Ghost towns aren’t the only historic things up for sale. Several of President Abraham Lincoln’s items are on display at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, and many of the 1500 artifacts, including his hat, gloves, and pen, might be put up for auction to help pay off the museum’s loan debt. Needless to say, not everyone is happy about it. Here’s the story from CBS This Morning.

Corresponding for 40 Years … Via Cassette Tape!

A collection of cassette tapes on a table.

I’ve talked many times here about old-fashioned correspondence and communicating with friends and family in ways that don’t involve a smartphone or social media. I was talking about handwritten letters and using the landline telephone. Not for one second did I ever think that people still corresponded via cassette tape.

That’s what these two Massachusetts women have been doing for 40 years. They started it after one of the women moved away (and to bring this back to something I mentioned above, they started it the day Elvis Presley died, August 16, 1977). Sure, they could use email or texts, but why stop something fun you’ve been doing for over four decades, where you can actually hear each other’s voices and keep up a tradition?

I’m all for this. The only question I have is, where the heck do you buy cassette tapes? I think I know where to get typewriter ribbons more than I do cassette tapes.

RIP D. J. Fontana, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, and Georgann Johnson

J. Fontana was Elvis Presley’s drummer. He played on such classic songs as “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “Jailhouse Rock” and appeared with Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show and the famous “68 Comeback Special” in 1968. He died last Thursday at the age of 87. 

Speaking of Elvis, here’s Bill Newcott on a new DVD set of the King’s best movies. 

Matt “Guitar” Murphy was another music icon, a legendary blues musician probably best known for his work in The Blues Brothers. He also played with such people as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. He died last Friday at the age of 88. 

Georgann Johnson was a veteran actress who had regular roles on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and Mr. Peepers (she played Tony Randall’s wife). She also had roles in movies like Midnight Cowboy, Shoot the Moon, and the classic nuclear war TV movie The Day After. She also appeared in many Broadway productions. Johnson died June 4 at the age of 91.  

Quote of the Week

“Not very tall. Or big. Just sayin’. I kinda liked it. Sort of.”

—a reviewer of the Great Wall of China, one of the quotes in this smart New York Times piece about the world of negative online reviews

This Week in History

Stan Laurel Born (June 16, 1890)

My favorite story about Oliver Hardy’s partner involves Dick Van Dyke. He accidentally came across Laurel’s number in the phone book one day. It was a long shot that it was actually the Stan Laurel, but … it was! He was living in an apartment in Santa Monica. Van Dyke and Laurel talked on the phone and became good friends. Van Dyke even gave the eulogy at Laurel’s funeral in 1965.

Statue of Liberty Arrives in New York (June 17, 1885)

Here’s what Lady Liberty looked like when she arrived at New York Harbor (click through to see the enlarged photos on Twitter):

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: School’s Out (June 21, 1958)

Kids leaving a school building
School’s Out
John Falter
June 21, 1958

I love the composition John Falter has here. He could have concentrated on the kids in close-up, their faces locked in big smiles. But he decided to do it from a little further away, capturing the school’s flag, the bus, and the bikes in the rack. If you look closely, you can see one of the kids throwing papers in to the air in celebration.

By the way kids, it’s already June 22. Enjoy the summer now, because you’ll be back in school before you know it!

Post Writers You Should Read

On the cover above is a Nero Wolfe story by Rex Stout, titled “Murder Is No Joke,” which was serialized in the Post in three different issues: June 21, June 28, and July 5, 1958. The story was later retitled “Frame-Up for Murder” and was part of the novella collection Death Times Three, released in 1985. You can read it for free at the Internet Archive.

After two films and several radio adaptations, there were two different TV shows based on Nero Wolfe, one a short-lived A&E series starring Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton and the other an even shorter-lived NBC series starring William Conrad and Lee Horsley, as well as various TV movies and pilots that never went anywhere, including one that was supposed to star Orson Welles.

Today Is National Onion Rings Day

Onion rings are a summer food, right? You can get them everywhere, but I associate them with carnivals and amusement parks, something you have along with fried dough and corn dogs and cotton candy on a stick. Something in a box you hold in your hands as you walk around the fairgrounds, looking for the next game to play or ride to ride.

They come in two distinct varieties: crunchy and wimpy. The crunchy are thick and crispy and really hold up. The ones I get in a local restaurant are thin and limp and just not the same (though they sure are tasty). Of course, you can make your own at home, too. Here are ten recipes — some with eggs in the middle and some wrapped in bacon — from the National Onion Association.

On a related note, yes, there is a National Onion Association.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events​

International Body Piercing Day (June 28)

If you’ve ever wanted to pierce you body, today is the day to do it.