Sunday 22 March 2020

Write if you get work; hang by your thumbs.

As a very young child, I became obsessed with the radio.  In those days, we had never heard of FM and while we had heard of TV we were never exposed to it.  No, this was plain old a.m. radio.

Back then, radio played a much bigger role in everybody's life, perhaps similar to what TV eventually did.  As I say, I was obsessed with it.  When I was six years old, I dreamed of being a radio announcer.  I don't think I could've imagined anything in life that would've been more important.

During the daytime, radio was dominated by what we called "soap operas".  They were fifteen minute programs, five days a week, with heartwarming but cliff hanging stories that begged loyalty.  Almost invariably they were sponsored by soap companies.  We had "Oxadol's Own Ma Perkins, Pepper Young's Family, the program that is brought to you by Camay the Soap of Beautiful Women, and Lucy Linton's Stories from Life, brought to you by extra soapy Sunlight.  Even the ever popular Happy Gang urged us to "keep happy in the Happy Gang way, keep healthy with Palmolive each day."

Eventually, I became a preteen and entered my early teenage years.  Of course, I became cynical.  I discovered a hilarious comedy duo by the name of Bob and Ray.  Apparently, they started as a morning combination on a Boston radio station, but I was able to catch up to them along with the rest of North America on WSYR Syracuse (I grew up in Kingston).

Bob and Ray pretended that they were serious radio announcers, often doing newscasts and other important things on their radio station.  Ray, the anchor, would send Bob out as Wally Ballou to cover such things as traffic accidents.  They had an ongoing soap opera called The Lives and Loves of Linda Lovely.  The announcer that for that program, with a great baritone voice, identified himself as O leo Lahey.  From time to time, they would interview the National Director of the American Say a Song Society who would, with a soprano fake English accent, announce that we should say songs such as "You Ain't Nothing but a Hound Dog"rather than sing them.  You get the point.

Bob and Ray would solemnly sign off every program with the following words "this is Bob Elliott reminding you to write if you get work" "and this is Ray Goulding reminding you to hang by your thumbs."  There was never an explanation as to why they said it, but as a true disciple I have always said goodbye to as many people as I could with one or other of those phrases.

As a young lawyer I got to know Margaret Day, a grandmother who told me, amongst other things, that the phrase "right if you get work" was said as a goodbye in the depression of the 1930s to people getting on boxcars to go out west looking for a job.  Maybe.  I don't know.  She remembered those days; I didn't.

After a while, I added the phrase "see you next Sunday'.  These words were always uttered by Andy from Amos and Andy on the radio to remind people to tune in again the following week.  This was a little more commercial and I can't tell you why I added it to the other two phrases.

The same above-mentioned Margaret Day, ran an organization called Young People in Legal Difficulties.  I had recently bought a cottage and was feeling guilty that most city folk never see such things.  Margaret Day convinced me to take some of her charges up to the lake.  One of them was a redheaded kid.  All I remember about him was that he had a few mental health issues.  If he was impressed with something he would say "far out, heavy duty, wired for sound, artificial hippie".  I am sure a psychologist would be happy to analyse why he said that.  I won't get into it here but that is why those phrases were added to my mantra.

My nephew, Malcolm: McCulloch, may not have heard what I was saying very well.  He started to say Owen Sound instead of wired for sound, so I added that to my mantra.

When my two grandnephews, at about the age of seven, tried to play monopoly before they grasped the rules, Callum was really out of it while his twin brother, Quinn, seemed to grasp the purpose of the game.  Quinn said, in explanation,, "it's all about the money".  He said it in such a funny way that I added that to my mantra.  My wife, Myrta, added "button up your overcoat" so why not throw that in permanently , as well.

So there you have it.  The reasoning behind why I say such silly things when I am saying goodbye to people.  My niece, Elspeth, says she intends to repeat some of this at my funeral.  She won't have a chance.  I intended to out live her.


  1. Bedeep, bedeep, bedeep, that’s all folks!

  2. Outstanding blog post. I have heard Grandpa David give those farewell words a thousand times in my life. They would bring peals of laughter from my three children when they were younger. I have never known the reason for any of the parts of that farewell until now.

    Equally important, I have just learned the reason why soap operas are called "soap" operas. For decades and decades I have wondered and never bothered to ask. The revelation has come like a clap of thunder to me. What a wonderful way to start my new week.

    Thanks, David! Your post was a delight to read.


  3. That was SO "Interesting" - Fun to Read! Now that I am 81 Yrs. - It does Bring Back 'Memories'!!!