Once in a while you learn something random that completely changes your view of someone. Today’s case involves someone I’ve never met but who is quite familiar to me in three different ways that I never knew were related.

Stick with me for a few minutes.

If you’re like me, you have seen the holiday favorite National Lanpoon’s Christmas Vacation at least once a year since it was made. Do you recall Aunt Bethany? She was the elderly aunt with the failing memory who wrapped up her cat as a gift. Click here to view a quick clip to refresh your memory.

The actress who portrayed this beloved character was named Mae Questel, a former Vaudeville performer whose career spanned 67 years beginning in 1930.

Her most notable work was actually providing voices for some of America’s most popular characters of the 1930s including Betty Boop and Olive Oyl in the Popeye cartoons.

In fact, she voiced Betty from 1931 to 1939 in 150 animated shorts. This was the longest run for any actress voicing this role. She reprised that role decades later for the 1988 box office hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Her role as Olive Oyl lasted for a total of twenty years. Sadly, when Hannah-Barbera began making the New Popeye cartoons in 1978 she auditioned for the role but they gave it to someone else.

Many people may also remember her for making the rounds on television soap operas and panel shows, for some commercials and for a number of other voice and on-film roles.

Pretty cool, right?

Mae Questel gave us three iconic characters, making a memorable mark on pop culture. She died in 1998 at the age of 89 from complications related to Alzheimer’s Disease.

The photo above is a Betty Boop statue outside a pawn shop in Denver.

Found Antique and Vintage Mall

Since it gets dark so early, we spent most of our Denver evenings perusing thrift stores, antique malls and bargain stores like TJ Maxx. We were pretty diligent about our retail therapy especially at Found Antique and Artisan Mall in Wheat Ridge.

They have about 65 vendors in 12,000 square feet of small rooms, nooks and crannies. It’s sort of a maze where every turn presents opportunity to find unexpected treasures like these rosettes made from old ties.

They have tons of handmade items and numerous vintage items that I had never seen before. From a mid century era baby monitor called the Baby Sitter to a sixties era Fred Flinstone/ Dino the Dinosaur toy, there are many interesting things to admire. That Flinstones toy is fabulous but comes with a $465 price tag. That was a bit out of my price range but they also have some eighties era Carebears like some I had as a child. Finding them marked vintage was a bit offputting (because I can’t possibly be old enough to call my toys vintage) but they were far more affordable than Fred.

Anyway, it’s a great store in a fantastic space and I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the Denver area. They also have a location in Wisconsin if that’s closer for you. Get the details here!

Davie’s Chuck Wagon Diner

As we approached Davie’s Chuck Wagon Diner, I reminded Johnna that I wanted to eat there for the atmosphere and offered to buy her lunch if our breakfast was terrible.

Honestly, I really just wanted to see the sign and figured it was worth the visit if the food was at all decent. There was no need to worry as the quality of the food and service surpassed even the fabulous atmosphere of this 1957 era diner.

It’s a prefab diner, manufactured in New Jersey and shipped by train to its home here on Denver’s Colfax Ave. Weighing in at 46 tons, transporting these old diners and placing them on their foundations was no small task.

Look at that sign.

Tabletop juke boxes, gorgeous tile work and a counter full of regulars make for great atmosphere. The menu features your traditional diner fare and our waitress was amazing. We hardly waited five minutes before she returned with our steaming hot breakfast plates. I had a veggie omelette, hash browns and sourdough toast and it was all delicious.

Check out these horse tiles.

And the pink tile ladies room.

And the regulars at the counter!

Davie’s Chuck Wagon Diner is well worth a visit if you enjoy diners and vintage okaces. Find the location, hours and menu at their website by clicking here!

Veterans Day

It’s hard for me to pass up vintage pictures. In fact, I have a small box of photos of strangers that I’ve picked up in antique stores and junk shops over the years.

I call them “the family.”

I mostly buy candid photos rather than portraits. Occasionally they are labeled but they typically have no names or years, no stories, and no way to identify the people in the photos.

Sometimes I buy them because the photos are cool and I simply like old photos. It also makes me sad to see them languishing in a box on the floor, unwanted and without anyone to remember them.

This 8×10 of a sailor was a dollar in Denver last year. He looks like just a kid and I’m sure he was. It’s not labeled. No name or year.

I wonder what ever happened to him. I hope he made it home. I wonder if there’s anyone left in his family to even know his name or wonder what he looked like or how smart he looked on his uniform.

Our history is teeming with stories of young men and women who joined up, generously signing that proverbial blank check to our nation. Far too many don’t ever make it home. Others do but leave a piece of themselves in far off lands, instead bringing home more trauma than anyone should have to endure.

On this Veterans Day, I hope we all will remember that.

Say thanks to a veteran in your life. Say thanks to a stranger. Be grateful to the kids like this one who you never knew. After all, they served for all of us even though they didn’t know us either.

It’s the least we can do.

Robinson Grand Theater

It’s been a fixture in downtown Clarksburg, West Virginia since 1913. Although the original Robinson Grand Theater looked a little different – it stood more than seventy feet off the sidewalk and had a covered walkway leading to the front door.

It was built as a vaudeville house and was part of the Keith-Albee Vaudeville circuit. Entertainers like Edgar Bergen with Charlie appeared here as did Jack Benny and Amos and Andy.

The theater was enlarged and remodeled in 1927, becoming just the thirteenth theater in the country to install equipment for showing “talkies.” Now the theater could seat 1,500 people and the design sounds both elaborate and impressive.

Sadly, most of that was lost when a fire broke out and destroyed the stage and most of the house but left the facade intact. Owner Claude Robinson promised the community he would rebuild the state’s most modern theater and he did. It reopened to great fanfare just seven months later on Christmas Eve 1939.

While they maintained the 1927 facade that was soared by fire, the 1939 version of the interior is what remains today.

The theater continued to operate well into the eighties, showing modern classics like Star Wars and Jaws. It changed hands, underwent another remodeling, hosted events and remained a community gathering place for some time before decline eventually led to closure.

The theater was acquired by the city in 2014 and the city undertook a massive project to renovate, restore and honor the integrity of this incredible Art Deco community landmark. The city viewed it not only as an opportunity to bring the arts to the citizens of their rural area but also as a means for encouraging economic development.

Today, you can host your own event here or attend events like movies, concerts and plays. I have seen pictures of the interior and visited the exterior on a quiet Sunday morning. It all looks magnificent.

The details on the sign and marquee remind me of an elaborate crown fit for a queen and the entire building brightens up the downtown.

Plan to attend an event here and get more info about the theater by visiting their website.

Seventy Years Of Lucy

The groundbreaking television show I Love Lucy premiered on this day in 1951. Seventy years ago. It was the first tv show to air in ten million homes and has aired in over seventy countries since then.

I visited Lucille Ball’s hometown this spring and have written about things to see and do there as well as how the show changed television history. Their influence during these early years of television is remarkable. Lucy’s on-screen parter was also her real life husband and business partner Desi Arnaz. Together, they built an empire that gave us the studio audience, multiple cameras, syndication and even shows like Star Trek and Andy Griffith.

You can read about the impact that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had on television history here.

My Jamestown visit was loads of fun. The National Comedy Museum is located here and there’s a wonderful local history museum in addition to the Lucy attractions. Lake Chautauqua provides great opportunities for outdoor recreation and you’re close to Lake Erie.

I highly recommend staying at the Doubletree in downtown Jamestown because that puts you within walking distance of most attractions. You get free parking and it’s a good neighborhood. The Lucytown Tour takes you past Lucy murals, statues and landmarks including her childhood home. For me, the best part was seeing the recreated TV sets and watching their old home videos at the Lucy- Desi Museum.

Before you go, be sure to spend some time watching a few episodes of the show! I watched the entire series this winter and had a great connection to the sets, props and other artifacts on display at the Lucy Desi Museum.