TV: From Victorian pure to parading bladders

TV: From Victorian pure to parading bladders


I know I’ve complained before about TV commercials, but really — it’s getting to be too much. Not only do you have to endure six or seven at a time but the content is enough to make me throw in the towel.

We’ve morphed from a Victorian age where NOTHING could be mentioned (or seen for that matter) to an age where EVERYTHING is mentioned as well as seen, and clothing went from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Fashionistas must really be frustrated now that they’ve approved wearing plaids and stripes at the same time. I hear the mini-skirt is being revived so you can expect heart attacks will be on the rise again.

But to get back to the commercials. It’s not bad enough that paid actors urge you to try drugs that may not cure you and can actually kill you, but TV has hit a new low with bathroom commercials. I remember a distinguished North Stonington dowager once complaining (about 40 years ago) in an agitated voice that TV was “bringing the bathroom into the living room.”

That particular voice is probably stilled by now, but those words come back to haunt me when I’m reminded that one particular brand of toilet paper is touted as being softer on your, well, you know, better than another, or you see a Clorox mother chasing a bowel movement around the room as her son proudly points it out.

I’m incensed when I see people actually brushing their teeth with the toothpaste dribbling out of their mouths and vow never to use whatever it is they’re advertising. I like Kelly Ripa okay, but wonder why, when she has a pretty lucrative contract for a TV show she has to push toothpaste and mouthwash. If we’re so dumb we don’t know such things exist we deserve to have icky teeth and smelly breath.

Do I need to know if I use Activia my digestive system will be eternally grateful? Or that acne is a medical condition that can happen at any age? Do I really need Genie Bra constantly nagging me about the need for full-figured support? What about that terrifying ad that recalls the need for a product to relieve long-gone hot flashes and night sweats? And will they ever quit harping on prostate problems?

How about those scary dinner rolls that fly through the air and hit you in the kisser? And what about that cartoon-shaped “bladder” that drags you around town by the hand? And, oh yes, it’s not bad enough that every part of us is spreading in every direction, they’ve got to tempt us with nut spreads, chocolate spreads and every other “spread” they can think of.

You may think me jaded when it comes to TV. But I’m not. I’m the same person who spent an hour with Jessica Fletcher in Cabot Cove every Sunday and now looks forward to “Hawaii Five-O” and “Blue Bloods” on Friday even though the insane fees for TV service are going through the roof. (You must remember that place where the good old reliable antenna once stood and foil wrapped around the rabbit ears shoveled snow off the screen.) But enough of that ...

I think we may have settled “The Case of the Mysterious Lot on Elm Street.” Remember last week when I whined about the vacant lot at the corner of Elm and Cross streets? Well, sharp-eyed Phil Gately suggested (seeing as all the other addresses on that side of the street were even-numbered) perhaps the address was 46 Elm St. rather than 41 and a couple of other people agreed. There you go again, making sense Phil. In any case, thanks for pointing that out ... we had a lot of fun with it!

Historian Barbara Mehringer often loans me interesting tidbits from Suns past that I like to include in this column. She found one about the one-story stone garage constructed on the former site of the Bliven Opera House at 125 Main St. (It’s now the home of Avie’s sporting goods store.) Built “back in the day” as people like to say these days, it was built by the Morrone Brothers to accommodate about 35 automobiles in a sales and repair garage. They announced plans to build the facility around 1926-27 and apparently business was good because not too long after that they found it necessary to construct an addition to the building. Joseph Morrone told a representative of the newspaper, “Like the present garage, which was opened in August 1926, the addition (50 feet) will be granite and concrete construction: The rear wall of the original building is to be torn down.”

You may recall in a recent column we mentioned the U.S. government bought a tract of land on Napatree Point, “beginning a little beyond the Halcyon House” to construct Fort Mansfield. Well, Halcyon House was an old summer hotel and was torn down in sections in December 1925 and moved to Wequetequock where carpenters reconstructed it for use as an ice house for the Pawcatuck Ice Company. Company executive Joseph C. Lee said the new storage building would have the capacity to hold 1,000 tons of ice. Holy Fattachini!

At a meeting of the Westerly Town Council on the morning of May 1, 1944, it was announced the Maritime Commission of the U.S. had selected the name “Westerly” for one of the new fleet of Victory Ships to be built for the American Merchant Marine at Baltimore, Md. It was suggested the town make some sort of presentation to the ship and its crew when it entered service — perhaps an inscription on a plate to be placed on the ship, or the creation of a library or the provision of phonographic (or was that pornographic?) equipment with a selection of records. The commission advised it would supply further details should the community be interested.

I don’t know whether that ever happened or not, because everybody was busy fighting World War II.

Gloria Russell lives in Westerly and was a long-time reporter for The Sun.

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