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.

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!