Arcadia Lane, the street in Phoenix where your mom and I grew up—along with Uncle Chris, Uncle Brian, and Aunt Sarah—took the shape of a bent horseshoe, like a capital “L” with a soft, rounded corner. You could turn right onto it from Camelback Road while driving eastbound, or you could turn right from Jokake while driving southbound, or left from Jokake while driving northbound.
The street is still there, so you may have seen it before. It’s part of the Arcadia area, your neighborhood. But you would never recognize our house! We lived in a one-story, red ranch house, with lots of front yard, backyard, and side yard space.
Anna Jacket and Pops sold the house in or around 2004, and the people who moved in afterward took down the original house and built a whole new one, which uses more of the acreage for indoor space than for yard space, and which is higher than our house was, and a different color.
When I grew up, there was a children’s TV show recorded in Phoenix called The Wallace and Ladmo Show. It aired only in Arizona, on KPHO-TV (Channel 5) and ran from April 1, 1954 to December 29, 1989. The co-hosts were Wallace Snead—a jolly man with a big bow tie and a black, round hat made of felt, played by Bill Thompson—and Ladmo, a tall, gangly, affable fellow with a brown, felt top hat and a t-shirt with a tie printed on it, played by Ladimir Kwiatkowski.
Here’s a video of The Wallace and Ladmo Show’s theme song:
The live studio audience sat in rows that got higher as they went back, like at the movies, but with metal folding chairs. The audience members were mostly children and a few scattered parents, with uniformed brownies, girl scouts, and boy scouts taking priority seating in the first row. See?
Here’s a photo of some children who got to come up to the stage during an episode:
The best part of being in the Wallace & Ladmo audience was the chance to win a Ladmo Bag. Ladmo bags were brown paper lunch bags labeled “LADMO BAG” in special lettering, and they were stuffed with candy, chips, cans of soda, and coupons to various Phoenix establishments.
Here’s a photo of a Ladmo Bag:
On every Wallace & Ladmo episode, Wallace would look at the audience seating chart, a piece of paper showing the location of all the folding chairs, which had one seat marked. Ladmo would walk into the audience and give that day’s Ladmo Bag to one lucky winner, the person in that marked seat.
The Ladmo Bag first appeared on the show in the mid-1960s, to give advertisers their plug. TV advertisers are businesses that give money to support a TV network, in exchange for the network bringing attention to the products and services each sponsoring business sells.
Commercials are one way networks pay back their advertisers, but sometimes they use a technique called product placement, showing on the TV show something a supporting advertiser sells. For example, if the company that makes M&Ms gave money to KPHO-TV, someone on The Wallace and Ladmo Show could eat M&Ms and tell everyone how good they are, so the people watching would want to buy M&Ms.
Before the Ladmo Bag came along, Wallace and Ladmo would hold contests on the show, inviting children who won the contests to take a prize from a structure they called the Toy Cottage. That was the hosts’ chance to name all the program sponsors, by telling the children what they could pick to take out of the cottage.
But often the children couldn’t decide which prize they wanted, which caused show delays. So Pat McMahon, an actor on the show, came up with the Ladmo Bag idea. This way, Ladmo could hand out the bag while announcing what was in it, thus giving sponsors their public credit while moving the show along.
Every Arizona child wanted a Ladmo bag. In our family, your mom was the only one to win one. For one segment of the show, Wallace and Ladmo invited children to send in photos and drawings of their pets, and they chose the best ones to show on air, then invited the children who had sent in the winning photos or drawings to be in the studio audience at a future taping. Photo/drawing contest winners automatically received a Ladmo Bag, separate from the Ladmo Bag winner selected in the random audience lottery.
When your mom was in fifth grade, she and her friend Jamie drew a picture of Wallace and Ladmo, replacing the hosts’ faces with those of your mom’s cat, Midnite, and Jamie’s dog, Cinders. Your mom and Jamie sent in their picture and won! The show called in advance, to tell your mom and Jamie to watch their winning entries on air, then gave them tickets to be on the show another day to pick up their Ladmo bags.
In fifth grade, we all had a teacher named Miss Tang, who wanted us to project confidence when speaking in class. When a student used hushed tones, Miss Tang prompted us with one word, raising in pitch before she finally reached a crescendo: “Claaaaaaaassss?”
This was our cue to scream at our fellow student, using all our lung power: “PLEASE … SPEAK … LOUDER!”
When Miss Tang felt the herd seemed a bit lackluster, she asked, “What do I want you to be, class?”
To which we yelled, “AWAKE, ALERT, and ALIVE!”
“Not … ?”, she would ask, inviting us to say in our most crumbling, exhausted voices, “Dead, dull, and dreeeeeeeeary.”
When a child ratted out her fellow student for literally causing a stink, Miss Tang dutifully ordered the offender to stand and recite the following: “Excuse me, class, for passing the gas.”
Since your mom was in fifth grade when she won her Ladmo Bag, Miss Tang was the teacher to tell. Your mom and Jamie didn’t want to tell her because even though they were personally excited about their Ladmo bags, they didn’t think it was cool to be a Wallace & Ladmo viewer at that age.
Another student told Miss Tang, who scolded your mom and Jamie, saying, “You should have told your classmates.” Then she made your mom and Jamie get up in front of the class and tell everyone.
Here’s Ladmo with a Ladmo Bag:
And here’s Alice Cooper, a rock star from Phoenix, winning a Ladmo Bag.
I can’t believe a famous person won a Ladmo Bag! Do you think they picked him on purpose, or do you think it was just a coincidence that he was sitting in the winning seat?
Years before your mom won her Ladmo Bag, a client of Pops gave him tickets to take your mom, Aunt Sarah, and me to The Wallace and Ladmo Show.
The show aired after school. When we went, the Batmobile was on set, and Pizza Hut was there giving out personal pan pizzas to every audience member. So we got to eat pizza and look at the Batmobile while watching The Wallace and Ladmo Show from the studio audience. It was a great day! But none of us won a Ladmo Bag that day, and I never did.
Other than Wallace and Ladmo, there were a few more central characters on the show, all played by Pat McMahon. One was Gerald. You know, one day in San Diego, you said to me about your brother, “Will is being a grump.” Well, that is how I feel about Gerald. He was always so grouchy!
Here are photos of Wallace and Ladmo with Gerald:
And here is a video of both Wallace and Ladmo with a child who had written into the show, asking for a Ladmo Bag, and saying that she would even kiss Gerald if they would give her one. Watch the video and see what happened.
And here is Gerald telling Ladmo some bad ideas for the show, and sounding like a broken record:
Pat McMahon also played Aunt Maud. Aunt Maud was a direct, honest storyteller, whom children liked. Below, you can see a picture of Aunt Maud telling a story to Wallace, Ladmo, and a couple other people.
And here’s a video of Aunt Maud telling Ladmo a story in her no-nonsense manner:
Marshall Good, who dresses like he should have exciting stories about the Wild West, but whose answers are always more boring than you would expect, is another character Pat McMahon played. Here’s a picture of Marshall Good:
Here are two Marshall Good scenes. Ladmo’s last line in the second video made me laugh!
Finally, there was Captain Super … also played by guess who? Yep, Pat McMahon!
Here is a photo of Captain Super, with some children who had come to the show that day:
Captain Super was so proud of himself that it was hard for anyone else to find him super, including Wallace, who always got stuck talking to Captain Super. See?
The show no longer airs, but there used to be a mural of Wallace, Ladmo, and Gerald painted on the north side of First Studio, which was once the KPHO TV-5 studio. The mural is gone now, but here’s a picture of it:
Guess what else? Later in life, when your mom taught a class at Arizona State University, Ladmo’s granddaughter, a broadcasting major, was one of her students.
Eliza, you might be wondering where I’m going with this question. What the heck do Wallace and Ladmo have to do with the neighborhood where I grew up? Well, Ladmo lived across the street from us, not the whole time we lived there, but for a very short time before we moved in and a little afterward.
I don’t think we were the reason he moved away because if Ladmo could handle Gerald, he could deal with Anna Jacket, Pops, and their five kooky kids. Don’t you think?
By the way, when she appeared on the show, your mom told Ladmo at a commercial break that he had once lived across the street from her. When the commercials were over, Ladmo told everyone on the air that your mom—and by extension, the rest of us who were not there—had been his neighbor.
A TV star named Acquanetta lived around the corner from us. Acquanetta didn’t have a last name, but she was married to a car dealer named Jack Ross. She played Jane on the TV version of Tarzan. Ladmo was the more exciting minor celebrity neighbor because with him, a Ladmo Bag acquisition was possible … but since he left shortly after we moved in, Aquanetta was our only direct connection to the world of marginally famous people.
An older couple called the Stallcups lived in the house next door, to our right. They mostly kept to themselves, but when I went down the street selling Girl Scout cookies, they always bought many boxes from me.
A house we called the zig-zag house was a few houses down from us, to our right. We called it the zig-zag house because the family who lived there had designed it in the shape of a zig-zag. Can you imagine living in a house shaped like that? I think that would result in many painful games of tag, since you could find yourself turning in the wrong direction and bumping into walls if you got going too fast.
Our neighbors across the street and down a house or two to our right were the Hutelmyers. Uncle Chris babysat for Jimmy Hutelmyer, who had a cocker spaniel who was very tiny and hyper.
I saved the best neighbors for last: the Franks! They lived a couple doors down from us, to our left. Every 4th of July, they threw an enormous party for the neighborhood and all their friends. They had a spectacular fireworks show that lit up our block, and they had endless watermelon slices and cans of soda. We could walk back and forth between their house and ours all night, and that is what I did every year.
Sometimes when I see watermelon slices like the ones below, I still think of the Franks and that wonderful party.MRS. BRADY
Another good neighbor was Mrs. Brady. The whole Brady family was great, but Mrs. Brady was especially important because she and Pops grew up together in New York State, and when I was growing up, the Bradys lived a mile from our house.
Mrs. Brady—mother of Joe, Mike, and Mary—was the one who would bring garbage bags of her children’s old clothes over to our house to donate to us … which is how your mom ended up with the “Mary” t-shirt I told Willie about in a previous story.
Whenever we were driving home and had time, we would stop by Mrs. Brady’s house, so Pops could see whether she was home and say hi. Mrs. Brady was a great combination of a deeply reverent and totally irreverent person.
She hung a rug with an Irish prayer written on it in her kitchen, which read: “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Sometimes I would silently read the prayer behind Mrs. Brady while she said swear words in her extra loud, raspy voice. Mrs. Brady was one of a kind!
What are some of the great things about your neighborhood, Eliza? I know how much you love Antonella and Avianna, and I think it’s super cool that Antonella calls me “Aunt Katie.” She gets to use the title in place of Molly, who drops the aunt business and just calls me “Katie.” Who and what else do you love about your neighborhood?