Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy

“If By Chance Some Day You’re Not Feeling Well And You Should Remember Some Silly Thing I’ve Said Or Done And It Brings Back A Smile To Your Face Or A Chuckle To Your Heart, Then My Purpose As Your Clown Has Been Fulfilled.”

Red Skelton

Red Skelton Museum (80)I grew up on the comedy of Red Skelton. That’s because my dad grew up on Red and still watches his old shows and movies to this day. I’ve been plotting for some time to visit the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy in Vincennes, Indiana and finally pulled it off this fall.

Red was born in Vincennes in a little house just across the parking lot from the museum. His father died two months before Red’s birth in 1913, leaving a single mother to raise four young boys in poverty. Red took on odd jobs to help out the family income but hit the road when he was just fifteen to pursue a career in show business.

a58He started out in vaudeville and medicine shows before performing on Broadway, radio, television and the big screen. By the height of his career, he  was one of the most respected comedians in America and a gifted entertainer. In later years he wrote stories, painted portraits of clowns and continued performing in venues large and small across the country.

The museum is a beautiful 3,500 square foot facility with interactive exhibits that spotlight props and memorabilia donated by Red’s wife. I tried to imagine what the museum experience would be like if I weren’t familiar with his work. It wouldn’t mean as much but it would be interesting all the same.

There’s a lot about early tv and radio, signed photos of show biz friends and some great artwork. They do a nice job putting his story into the context of national events. There are also lots of opportunities to see Red at work. They also show a more vulnerable side of Red Skelton than most fans would know about – his early years in poverty, the death of his young son and the blow to Red’s career because of changing television audiences are all covered.

But for a fan, it’s seeing the costumes and the props that really makes the visit worthwhile. Each of his most famous characters is represented with costumes, props, video footage and memorabilia.

Red Skelton believed that it was unnecessary to use bad language or dirty jokes to get a laugh. Yet he could impersonate a drunk like nobody’s business. He was known for his interpretation of the Pledge of Allegiance that I absolutely love.

If you go, be sure to have a look around downtown Vincennes. There are some neat shops and restaurants and a mural. Check out the museum website for details.

Backroad Wanderings

National Road Monday (69).JPGA good road trip is one of the best things life has to offer, if you ask me. On Friday I headed west to Vincennes, Indiana, following the interstate most of the way and just trying to make time. There were things I wanted to do in Vincennes and needed as much time as possible. But for the rest of the weekend, I avoided highways when possible and wound through the two lane roads of rural Indiana.

It is here, on narrow roads through small towns and corn fields that you find so much to look at. Jamming to the likes of the Jayhawks and CCR for much of the way, I had a marvelous time just soaking it all in. Not everything is pretty, mind you, but I find beauty in odd places – the shape of a building, the way a tree arches over the road, the way the sun glimmers off giant modern silos next to an old barn that’s just starting to lean. Sometimes I wonder how a place became the way it is and that question keeps me entertained for a few more miles.

Guess I’m a bit of a nerd that way.

There’s nothing more liberating than taking a road just to see where it goes, especially when you find something unexpected along the way.

While I did have some destinations in mind for each day, there was no rush to reach them, no worries if I didn’t. When I came back into Ohio, from Richmond I picked up the National Road and had a fabulous time just seeing the sights all the way to Springfield’s Heart of Ohio Antique Mall (if you love antiques, you really need to visit here).

Traveling the interstate is great if you’re just trying to make time, say if you’re hauling propane or an 18-wheeler full of paper towels or something. But there are so many things I would have missed if not for two lane roads.

Like this giant peach, just north of Vincennes. And why wouldn’t it be next to some ears of corn and a yellow replica of the Washington Memorial?


Speaking of peaches, the town of Huntingburg is home to the Rockford Peaches and the 1894 baseball stadium used as the set for the Gina Davis/Tom Hanks classic A League Of Their Own. I couldn’t get inside but could see a few interesting things through the chain link. I’m already plotting a return visit next summer to see a game!


Another planned destination was the Mayberry Cafe in Danville. I’m still not clear on why they have such a thing in Indiana since the show was set in the south but the town does have a real Mayberry vibe. The town was busy for a Sunday afternoon and I loved it. With the small town vibe and the proximity to Plainsville and Indianapolis, it seems like a great place to live.


Then there’s all the stuff you just see along the way. I’m dying to know the story behind some of it and, in a few cases, my circling back for a closer look resembled what they used to call a Chinese Fire Drill.  Do kids still do that today? 


Danville and the road there (71).JPG

My friends, I guess what I’m trying to say is that the journey is the destination.  I hope you enjoy yours.