Letters From Barbara

Last year I struck up a pen pal relationship with a distant cousin. I actually wrote here about receiving that first letter as the joy of finding her letter had such a positive impact.

In an age when birthday greetings are sent on Facebook and mailboxes are stuffed with bills or junk mail, it was refreshing to receive fun mail.

Barbara and I shared book recommendations, stories about our lives and observations about the changing seasons. None of it important. In fact it was probably all trivial but it meant the world to me to communicate with a kindred spirit.

Her father was once a postmaster and she inherited from him a collection of stamps that she was using to send mail. Since they are decades old, it required a combination of stamps to equal modern postage rates and they weren’t the peel and stick kind either! Remember when we had to lick stamps? Man, they tasted bad.

So every envelope featured a variety of brightly colored little works of art that made receiving her correspondence an occasion. The fact these stamps were from her dad’s collection elevated her letters to the status of keepsake and I’m glad I kept them all.

She never mentioned this in our exchange and I didn’t ask because I figured she would volunteer the information if she wanted to discuss it – but she had cancer.

It was Melanoma that originated with a spot she had since childhood. It spread rapidly and treatments didn’t work.

In a long list of things I file under the heading Life Isn’t Fair, Barbara died on Sunday morning. She was just 68.

Its hard to believe that this creature who was full of curiosity and laughter, who naturally made everyone in the room feel important, and who had such an artful way with words is no longer with us.

In lieu of flowers, Barbara asked that people pay it forward by making a donation to a charity of their choice or by performing an act of kindness toward another. It’s a humble request from a good person.

So, if you’re reading this, I hope that you’ll take a moment to do something good for another. It needn’t be monetary or big. It can be anything that might brighten someone else’s day. Do it in her honor or in remembrance of another kind soul who has left your life.

Two Faces Of Lucy

Lucy Ricardo is personified in two statues in Lucille Ball’s hometown. One is delightful. The other made international news for being so terrible.

Meet Scary Lucy.

This statue was unveiled in 2009. The creation of sculptor David Poulin, it depicts Lucy while she famously becomes intoxicated while pitching for Vitameatavegamin.

The statue is terrible. It looks nothing like Lucy and has become known as Scary Lucy.

In 2016, the community rallied and had a new statue made – this one created by artist Caroline Palmer.

Meet Lovely Lucy.

She really is lovely. This one depicts a truer to life Lucy, animated and full of movement. She’s quite realistic.

Both can be found in Lucille Ball Memorial Park in Celeron, New York on the shore of Lake Chautauqua. Lucille was born in neighboring Jamestown but spent her teenage years in a house down the street here in Celeron.

Want to see the statues? Take the Lucytown Tour!

Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum

No visit to Jamestown, New York would be complete without a stop at the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum. Here you’ll find recreated sets, original costumes, props, home movies and more. They even have Emmy Awards representing the career of this famous pair and the show that catapulted them to television infamy.

I had studied up a good bit before going, making this less a road trip and more of a pilgrimage to pay my respects to Lucille Ball, the comedian who the writers of I Love Lucy said would do anything for a laugh.

Consequently, I was a complete nerd and fan girl over nearly every little thing. Mind you, it’s not a large museum but it’s well done and thorough enough.

There are some striking visuals and films to tell the narrative of their lives.

Then there was Lucille Ball’s 1972 Mercedes Benz.

Plus the saxophone she learned to play for the show and the burlap dress Ricky had made for Lucy in Paris.

One of my favorite features was the home movies of Lucy and Desi when they were young and happy. The marriage didn’t end well so it’s nice to think they were happy at one time.

They relate some of Desi’s story too. He was born into a family of political power and wealth – his father was mayor of his hometown and his mother was a Bacardi Rum heiress. Political upheaval forced them to flee and start a new life in this country where he faced racism while building an empire and influencing the future of television.

I also especially enjoyed the recreated sets of their New York apartment and the Hollywood Hotel where the Ricardos stayed while Ricky was filming a movie.

In all, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience here. Because this was the most important thing I wanted to do in Jamestown, I bought my ticket online before I left and arrived when they first opened at 10 a.m. to avoid any crowds. Turns out, there was no crowd at all – just me and a handful of others who seemed happy to wear their masks, use the hand sanitizer provided and stay away from others.

Want to visit? Learn more at the museum website. While in town, don’t forget to do the whole Lucytown driving tour. Learn a little more about that here.

The Lucytown Tour

America’s favorite redhead was born in Jamestown, New York. This small city in the western part of the state is where she spent her early years and like many small town young people – she spent a lot of that time dreaming of her escape.

Lucille flunked out of acting school but had a successful modeling career before fate gave her the opportunity to try a career in Hollywood. She eventually experienced fame, wealth and heartbreak, spending her remaining years in the spotlight.

While she visited Jamestown, she never lived there again after moving to Hollywood. However, Lucy’s children saw fit to return her ashes here and to support the efforts that cemented her legacy in the city for generations to come.

In fact, her influence can be felt in a number of ways including a tourism economy built around her name. Everywhere you look there are businesses like hotels and restaurants that cater to visitors like myself who come for the Lucy attractions.

Most notably, there’s a museum that tells her life story as well as that of her husband Desi Arnaz. Here you can see recreated sets from I Love Lucy, view home movies and see some of their possessions like her car and the saxophone that Lucy played in the show.

There are also five murals around the city that depict some favorite scenes like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory during everyone’s favorite episode called Job Switching.

There are two statues of the famous comedian. One is beautiful, the other not so much. That’s a story for another day!

You can drive past her birthplace and childhood home as well. Both are private residences but passersby are welcome to pull over for a quick photo. I read that someone has purchased the childhood home with intentions of opening it as a museum but there was no activity afoot last week.

All of this can be done in a day and the museum provides a driving tour to make it easier. They call it the Lucytown tour and you can view it here!

Come back tomorrow for a museum tour!

Lucy, Desi And TV History

Comedy legend Lucille Ball was born and spent her formative years in Jamestown, New York. This city is just over five hours from my home and an ideal destination for a long weekend. I told you yesterday that I had ran away from home. This is where I went.

The city offers a trail of Lucy attractions including murals, homes she lived in, a museum and her final resting place. I grew up watching her and have a soft spot for the I Love Lucy tv show. My adventure these last few days took me on a road trip to Jamestown and a few other points between here and there.

Honestly, there’s so much to share that I really don’t know where to start so I’ll begin at what was the beginning for me.

The casual observer likely doesn’t know the many ways I Love Lucy was groundbreaking when it was created in the fifties but it’s important because the influences can still be felt in television production today.

Lucy and her husband Desi Arnaz took a smaller salary in exchange for ownership of the show. They weren’t just paid actors. They were gambling on themselves and their ability to make money off the show they owned.

Television was still quite primitive when they premiered in 1951 and the film used wasn’t very good. Desi demanded that they use a higher grade of film and that the show be filmed in front of a live studio audience. This created some very specific problems to be solved – especially with regard to scheduling and the large space needed for the various sets that were needed.

They wanted to create a sense of reality to the show that you can’t achieve with the single camera typically used at the time so they began using three cameras to capture the live action of the actors from different angles. Desi even had a new kind of film editing machine created and invented the rerun. Desi invented the concept of syndication still used for shows today. Even today, the money is in the syndication rights.

In this country, many doors were closed to Hispanic people and it was extraordinary for this Cuban man to be married to a white woman on television. What was more extraordinary was how enthusiastically American audiences embraced this unlikely couple.

This was also the first show to feature a pregnant woman in the storyline. That alone was groundbreaking.

In short, their contributions to the development of television entertainment and culture were extraordinary.

Why do I know all this?

Well, I basically fell down a rabbit hole a few months ago and only climbed up for air by visiting Jamestown this week. You see, I picked up the I Love Lucy series on dvd for cheap at Christmas and have spent the last few months watching the series in order.

Along the way, I supplemented with some YouTube interviews, watched the 50th anniversary special, and read some articles as well as Lucy’s autobiography.

This is what happens when I have too much time on my hands.

By the time I made it to Jamestown I was well informed and completely nerded out over museum items and the whole darn experience.

This week we’ll talk about the museum and take a tour of Jamestown! Stay tuned!


These last few days have been pure bliss and even reminiscent of the good old days before the pandemic. That’s because I ran away from home, escaped reality and went adventuring.

My travels took me to Jamestown, New York which is Lucille Ball’s hometown. There’s a whole Lucy trail including a museum as well as other fun things to do in the area. I also took in some sights along Lake Erie on the way back.

There are lots of stories to tell but, for now, I just want to say that it is possible to travel and to be safe. It’s possible to support museums and small businesses without taking a lot of risks. It’s possible to have fun and see new things and feel like your old self.

Even. In. A. Pandemic.

You may need to adjust your expectations and strategize how to do some things but it can be done.

I am fully vaccinated and chose to do things that don’t involve a lot of people. The most important museum that I wanted to visit had potential to be busy so I went to when they first opened to avoid any crowd. Honestly, though, I never encountered a crowd at any destination.

Stay tuned. I’ll give you a tour of all the things I did.