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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 • Posted May 18, 2011

Princess for a Day?...

Grady Nutt, the late Christian comedian, knew better than to trifle with his daddy when high noon came on the farm. The hour marked a sharp departure from chores looming from pre-daybreak to post-sundown. Filling the 60 minutes, in order of importance, were Dallas radio station KRLD’s gospel music program and the hearty victuals Mrs. Nutt offered for lunch. The man selling radios knew a gospel music man when he saw one, and Mr. Nutt shelled out the money for the battery-powered model. His heart danced at the prospect of hearing the Stamps-Baxter quartet every day….* * * * *“We kids knew to steer clear of Dad’s radio,” Grady recalled, “We didn’t want him to blame us for running the battery down.”It was 1936; the Great Depression had a strong hold on the country, and the old farmer took no chances.To avoid tuning in the wrong station, he sawed off the dialing knob so his radio would ALWAYS be set on KRLD….* * * * *Just as Mr. Nutt was partial to gospel music, women across the land were locked in daily to hear a radio network personality, Jack Bailey. He’d call out to a Hollywood studio audience and listeners across the land, “Would you like to be queen for a day?”Yelling ensued, because they all dreamed of such a day. Millions reached for their hankies, ready to hear woeful appeals by four contestants on each 30-minute show. (It ruled radio airwaves from 1945-1956 before becoming a TV show from 1957-1964.)My mom wouldn’t miss it….* * * * *Embellishment and reaching “way back” are important when one speaks to the same audience four times in a 36-hour period. That was my challenge during a recent conference for senior adults in Denton.I reached back to a “Queen for a Day” yarn, describing “blubberings” my mom thrived on. We had just one radio, and she was the tuner.I was eight years old, so I could listen to the wind blow, door hinges squeak, cows moo, birds chirp or Bailey and his parade of pleading prize plunderers….* * * * *“I’m unemployed,” one of the contestants muttered between sobs. Bailey asked her about earlier work experience. Previously, she had been a cotton picker, and before that, a chicken plucker.“What happened?” Bailey questioned.“I lost my cotton-picking, chicken-plucking jobs,” she moaned….* * * * *Between conference sessions, 88-year-old Ellen Cupp of Denison told me I “got it right” about the contestants’ moans and groans.“Did you listen to it, too?” I asked.“Listen to it? I was a contestant out in Hollywood back in 1957,” she replied….* * * * *“I guess my story wasn’t sad enough,” she lamented. Attending the show with her three sisters-in-law, she was “floored” to be selected as one of the four contestants. “I didn’t have a big, needy family, I didn’t have any medical horror stories and I didn’t cry,” Mrs. Cupp explained.“The lights were hot, and I was scared, so I hurriedly requested a deep freeze for our garden produce.”…* * * * *The winner that day, like those on most days, cried. She had a big family with runny noses instead of running water. It was her chore—among many others—to get water fetched the best way she could.Oh, how she’d like to have her own backyard water well, so she could draw up a bucket whenever needed.Yep, she pegged the audience applause meter, earning the crown and ermine robe, relegating Mrs. Cupp to the runner-up slot….* * * * *Back in Denison, Ellen’s late husband, Gene Wakefield, had started the rumor that his bride was going to be on the show, urging everyone to “tune in.”Truth to tell, all he knew was that she and his sisters had admission tickets to the show.Ellen’s mom took off from work to join her son-in-law in front of the TV. Sure enough, Ellen was a contestant. “When they saw me, Mom thought my husband was going to have a heart flare-up,” Ellen remembers.…* * * * *I was taken aback that a member of my audience had actually been a contestant, and asked her why she didn’t wave her hand when I did the spiel.“I figured you’d tease me,” she responded.Ellen, a warm and engaging woman, is sprightly, energetic, courageous, optimistic, hard-working and beloved in her community. Nearly 60 years ago, she was “princess for a day.” She won several minor prizes, including a pressure cooker helpful in “canning the same old way.” But, those who know her best say she’s a “queen for life!”…* * * * *Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send email to: newbury@speakerdoc.com.; phone, 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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