Finding the ‘golden fleece’

Since RDH Great Stories moved to Lawrence County, Indiana, we have been trying to track down the site of the abandoned pyramid and Great Wall of China models project.

The project began in the late 1970s and was abandoned in the early 1980s, left incomplete. It was the beneficiary of federal funding, but became the subject of considerable criticism.

It was awarded U.S. Sen. William Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Award. The Wisconsin senator issued the awards from 1975 until 1988, when he retired. He presented 168 of the awards.

The Taxpayers for Common Sense in 2000 listed the Bedford project funded by the Commerce Department as the second most classic example of “wasteful, ridiculous or ironic use of the taxpayers’ money.″

How much federal and other government funds were invested in the project is unclear. However, when the plug was pulled, there were insufficient funds to complete, according to published accounts

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Over the past 35 years, the site has gradually deteriorated and is marked with no trespassing signs. The remains are located at the end of a state road near Judah, Ind., surrounded by a quarry, farm land, a cemetery, and homes.

On our third visit, we determined we had found the site. We observed the “no trespassing signs,” but took pictures from the road.

If you know who owns the property, please have them contact us. We’d like to take a closer look and ask a few questions.

All photos by Ronald Hawkins.

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What are the best Christmas movies?

This Turner Classic Movies and movie fan was delighted when Jeremy Arnold, author of “Christmas in the Movies: 30 classics to celebrate the season,” appeared as a guest to introduce a “Christmas movie.”

And better way is there to enjoy a chilly, holiday evening?

The movie was “Beyond Tomorrow, a 1940 movie, this writer knew nothing about. After watching on TCM, however, we began looking at our collection of holiday movies and found the movie in a three-disc collection.

We also went looking to buy the book, but found it was on back order. So we ordered the ebook version.

It is an interesting book with several movies we didn’t think belonged on the list and others we didn’t know much about.

The movies that clearly belonged on the book include Holiday Inn (1942), Scrooge (1951), A Christmas Story (1983), Christmas in Connecticut (1945), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Love Actually (2003), Home Alone (1990), and The Shop Around the Corner (1940).

On the other hand, Die Hard doesn’t belong in the book even though it takes place during the holidays and has many Christmas elements in it. The movie, however, is far too violent to be a favorite Christmas movie.

Also, how could National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation be one of the 30 and the delightful Santa Clause movies be excluded?

Those weren’t the only movies we think shouldn’t be included. While Elf is a holiday related movie, it isn’t very good. And we’ve also found The Nightmare Before Christmas rather distasteful.

Even though we don’t agree on everything that’s in the book and what’s excluded, books that list what the writers think is best in a particular field almost always are at least entertaining and an inspiration for discussions about what’s in the book. This book is delightfully fun and well worth reading.

You just might find a movie that will make your holidays a fun, festive time.

Here’s the complete list of the 30 movies in no particular order:

  1. Miracle on Main Street
  2. The Holly and the Ivy
  3. White Christmas
  4. We’re No Angels
  5. The Shop Around the Corner
  6. Remember the Night
  7. The Man Who Came to Dinner
  8. Holiday Inn
  9. Christmas in Connecticut
  10. Miracle on 34th Street
  11. It’s a Wonderful Life
  12. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  13. Home Alone
  14. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  15. Remember the Night
  16. Love Actually
  17. A Christmas Story
  18. Die Hard
  19. Gremlins
  20. The Lion in Winter
  21. Meet Me in St. Louis
  22. Beyond Tomorrow
  23. I’ll Be Seeing You
  24. The Apartment
  25. The Bishop’s Wife
  26. 3 Godfathers
  27. Holiday Affair
  28. Trail of Robin Hood
  29. Elf
  30. Little Women

So get a hot beverage, get the movie you pick ready to watch and settle in your favorite seat.

Happy holidays!

A Bedford Winter Holiday opening

BEDFORD, IND.

One thing many small towns do just right is celebrate holidays. Bedford kicked off its winter holiday celebration Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, with a variety of activities including a nighttime Christmas parade.

One of the great Bedford holiday attractions across from the Lawrence County Courthouse is the dazzling, multi-story 12 Months of Christmas store, which beginning next spring will be open year round. All photos by Ronald Hawkins.

Great stories from Bedford Indiana have arrived

 

 

BEDFORD, Indiana

In case you have wondered what happened to RDH Great Stories, we have been in the lengthy process of moving to Bedford, Indiana, in Lawrence County.

This is a beautiful city, far different from the Indianapolis suburban town of Mooresville, which has its own strengths. Bedford is rich in scenic beauty, history and tradition.

Bedford is the self-proclaimed limestone capital of the world. And if you drive down Ind. 37, south of Bloomington, you will quickly see why it has made that claim.

There’s even one mystery we are trying to unravel regarding the abandoned project to build small models in limestone of the Great Pyramid and the Great Wall of China. We’ve been told, since it involved federal  funds, that it was abandoned after being declared the worst example of Congressional pork barrel spending. That’s understandable to some extent, but we would still like to see what remains of the abandoned project.

Still, there are lot more things to see and learn about. For example, Mitchell was the hometown of three astronauts including Virgil Gus Grissom, the second U.S. astronaut in space who died years later during the testing of an Apollo craft.

Grissom’s Mitchell connection is duly noted with signs and an impressive monument at Mitchell Town Hall.

If you drive north to Oolitic, you will find a statue of a nearly forgotten comic character. The statue is a part of a salute veterans.

The character is Joe Palooka, who was featured in an American comic strip about a heavyweight boxing champion, created by cartoonist Ham Fisher in 1921, according to Wikipedia. The strip debuted in 1930 and it was carried at its peak by 900 newspapers.

The strip was eventually adapted for a short-lived, 15-minute CBS radio series, 12 feature-length films, nine Vitaphone film shorts, a 1954 syndicated television series, comic books and merchandise, including a 1940s board game, a 1947 New Haven Clock & Watch Company wristwatch, a 1948 metal lunchbox, and a 1946 Wheaties cereal box cut-out mask. In 1980, a mountain in Pennsylvania was named for the character, according to Wikipedia.

After a 63-year run, it ended Nov. 24, 1984. The impressive statue, however, remains.

Least we forget, Bedford North Lawrence High School, led by star Damon Bailey, won the Indiana High School men’s basketball championship in 1990, when Indiana had only class in the state champship.

There’s lots more that we’ll be covering from our new base, but it seemed to be time to tell you a little bit about Bedford and Lawrence County.

 

All photos by Ronald Hawkins.

All You Need is Love rocks again at Abbey Road on the River

The great All You Need is Love from Belleville, Canada, performs a Beatles song May 28, 2018, at Abbey Road on the River in Jeffersonville, Ind. The audio isn’t the best, but the video shows what dynamic performs these guys are. Video by Ronald Hawkins.

Flashback to Beatles in Teen World

One of the positive things about people knowing you are an enthusiast (we prefer that to “fan”) of a particular subject, team or band is that your friends from a long time ago or even recently sometimes give or send you something they’ve found gathering dust in their home or have recently bought.

Beatles fans are about the best when it comes to this. Pete Dicks of Beatles and Beyond in England has been great and sent us several books a few years ago. Others have sent me music that we wouldn’t have found elsewhere.

RDH Great Stories collection has grown substantially since we have been giving Beatles presentations and have had Beatles exhibits at several locations in central Indiana.

Today, we received a particular treat. We’re going to send you even back further into our past first though. In the summer after finishing the 6th grade, Richard Thompson and Ronald Hawkins put together an imaginary baseball magazine, clipping items from real magazines and writing stories to go with them.

Years later, Hawkins was the editor of the Thomas Jefferson High School newspaper and Thompson was the sports editor and cartoonist.

Until he retired, Thompson was a great educator, artist and more, following a track that he moved toward in high school. Hawkins went on to work for more than 40 years on newspapers, magazines and other media.

Mr. Thompson sent Mr. Hawkins a package that arrived today. It was a wonderful surprise. Mr. Thompson knows Mr. Hawkins is a Beatles presented and collector.

The item was a magazine from December 1965. Here are few images from it:

We doubt if this offer is still good!

1973-1977: ‘Heavyweights’ dominate the Oscars

The creative teams involved in making the Best Picture winners from 1973-1977 feature “heavyweight” directors, actors, themes and, yes, even a movie about heavyweight boxers.

The heavyweight directors  included Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, Milos Foreman, and George Roy Hill. The actors included Allen, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, Robert  De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and Sylvester Stallone.

The Sting, 1973, directed by George Roy Hill

Many critics loved (with the exception of  Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert) “Butch Cassidy and “The Sundance Kid” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, but it didn’t win the Oscar for Best Picture.

When the actors teamed up again for director George Roy Hill’s “The Sting,” however, they won the Academy Award for Best Picture. This comic, caper film is filled with twists and turns in what in many ways is about getting revenge for a late friend.

The “sting” of a big-time racketeer pits brain against gun and brawn. The tale is told with the marvelous music of Scott Joplin and is bolstered by great acting.Others competing for the 1973 top honor included “The Exorcist,” “Cries and Whispers,” and “American Graffiti.”

The Godfather II, 1974, directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II

 

For once a sequel is deserving of the honor of its predecessor. “Godfather I” won the Best Picture award and with the acting assistance of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro among others, director Francis Ford Coppola wins the honor again with this outstanding crime drama.

Of course, The Godfather movies are about more than crime. They were about families, culture and acceptance in a world that was resistant to letting them into the great American melting pot.

In this second movie, we witness a family betrayal and death, finding a way to gain political favors, the long-reach of one’s family in the old world, and revenge on the family’s perceived enemies.

Mr. Coppola truly deserved a Best Picture honor for this 200-minute epic.

Other competitors for the 1974 Best Picture honor included “Chinatown,” “The Conversation,” and “Lenny.”

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975, directed by Milos Forman

You would have to be “cuckoo” not to find something to like about “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the 1975 winner of the Oscar for Best Picture.

EPSON MFP image

Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, (who became a counter-culture hero with his Merry Pranksters), “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is the beneficiary of a bravura performance by Jack Nicholson

The story is about a second-rate crook who pretends to be insane in order to avoid prison and be sent to what he expects to be an easier experience in a mental hospital. He proves to be an uplifting spirit for his fellow patients, but runs into a difficult adversary in the head nurse.

The cast is outstanding with several actors on the verge of stardom. That cast includes Louise Fletcher, Danny Devito, Christopher Lloyd, Will Sampson, and William Redfield.

Others contenders for the 1975 Best Picture Award included “Barry Lyndon,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Jaws” and “Nashville.”

Rocky, 1976, directed by John Avildsen

“Rocky” is not only about a Philadelphia underdog boxer taking on the heavyweight champion of the world, it also is a testament to the behind-the-scenes story of unknown Sylvester Stallone getting the movie made, starring in his film and for it to win the 1976 Best Picture Oscar.

In addition to Stallone, the fine cast includes Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, and Carl Weathers.

EPSON MFP image
Rocky

This was the first real sports movie to win the Best Picture Oscar even though “On the Waterfront” had a sports backdrop. The score is an uptempo joy.

The only problem with “Rocky” is that it led to far too many sequels.

Other contenders for the 1976 honor were “All the President’s Men,” “Bound for Glory,” “Network,” and “Taxi Driver.”

 

Annie Hall, 1977, directed by Woody Allen

Woody Allen had completed numerous outstanding films before his “Annie Hall” won the 1977 Oscar for Best Picture.

This semi-autobiographical film about his relationship with Annie/Diane Keaton is a whimsical comedy that takes on the issues of loneliness and love, family, communications, maturity, city life, careers and even driving.It’s filled with classic scenes including one with a lobster, one with Paul Simon, and many more.

As with most of Woody Allen’s movies, “Annie Hall” has a great cast. In addition to those previously mentioned, the cast include Allen regular Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Marshall McLuhan (check out his sudden appearance while Woody is waiting in line to see a movie),

Annie Hall

legendary interviewer Dick Cavett, Shelley Duvall, Colleen Dewhurst, Jeff Goldb added hislum, and Christopher Walken.

Another major plus for this movie was the cinematography of Gordon Willis, who also added his touch to Allen’s 1979 black and white visually and musically dazzling “Manhattan.”

The crop for Best Picture Oscar in 1977 was bountiful, but “Annie Hall” deserved the honor. Other contenders were “Star Wars,” “Julia,” “The Goodbye Girl,” and “Turning Point.”