“It’s a lovely day today,
so whatever you’ve got to do,
you’ve got a lovely day to do it in, that’s true.”
—- Irving Berlin
Tonight while channel surfing before Mike settled on some college football game, we landed on an old episode of Lawrence Welk, and just for some chuckles, we had to watch a bit.
In the 50’s, the Lawrence Welk Show was must-see TV for us Dineens. On Saturday nights after dinner, we five kids took turns having our baths, drifting into the living room to plop in front of the TV until our bedtimes. Lawrence Welk was cornball even back then, and we mocked his accent, his stiff smile, and those “champagne” bubbles floating over the band members. But what else was on? We only had four channels, and besides, Mom liked the show. My dad was no fan of the maestro, but he was a sucker for anything the Irish tenor Joe Feeney belted out.
While we watched the show tonight, I could almost feel wet hair on my neck, freshly shampooed for Sunday church. On those long-ago Saturday nights, while Myron played his accordion, the so-so-sweet Lennon Sisters harmonized, and Mr. Welk waved his baton, I sat in my pajamas and robe on the couch next to my mom, handing her bobby pins from a tin box so she could roll my hair in pin curls. While Norma Zimmer warbled some saccharine tune, Mom wrapped a kerchief around my head so the pins would stay in place while I slept. Then, on Sunday morning, I’d be off to Mass with wreath of frizz on my shoulders.
Tonight’s blast from the past was in color — garish compared to the black and white images in my mind’s eye. The schmaltz-o-meter was blowing up on this episode from 1973, a tribute to Irving Berlin. 1973! I wouldn’t have guessed that Lawrence Welk’s brand of entertainment would have survived past the mid-sixties, but — go figure! — he remained on the air until 1982.
I’m pretty sure that by ’73, I was about ten years beyond my last viewing of a Lawrence Welk episode. Yet, the show was still hanging on. While most of us were singing Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and Elton’s “Crocodile Rock”, Myron Florence played Berlin’s “Always” on the accordion, Bobby Burgess and his partner Cissy King whirled around to “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and gussied-up couples from the audience shufflled around the dance floor to “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” When we were glued to “All in the Family” and “Mannix”, there was still a sliver of the market share — my grandmother, for example — tuned in to a duo crooning “Easter Parade.”
Then, the show continued to air, at least somewhere, for another nine years. Cheesy? For sure, and with a shelf life of a bright orange box of Velveeta.