George Bailey is a name which brings instant recognition. Jimmy Stewart played that memorable role of a small-town banker in the 1947 Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life. If you’ve never seen the movie, don’t let another year go by. It won’t hurt a thing to watch it out of season.
There’s another George Bailey, a real one, who hails from Dooly County. He was born in Vienna in 1939 and grew up working with his father at H. H. Bailey Grocery. Unlike the movie character, Vienna’s George left his hometown and headed to Atlanta in 1957 after high school graduation. He moved away the same year I turned five, but we’ve gotten to know each other through my column.
George reads my weekly musings online and sometimes posts a comment for one he’s especially enjoyed. In January, after reading “Wish List 2021,” he credited me with providing some good “points to ponder.” That struck me as a great name for a column, so I generously rewarded him with 100 points.
Now, however, I’m in a bit of a quandary. He wants a catalog.
My friend George is suspicious that the points I gave him aren’t on par with S&H Green Stamps. Just between us, they’re not even close to Blue Horse Notebook Paper coupon prizes. For the sake of full disclosure, my rewards program is not an original concept. It was copied from a television series which ran a number of years back, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
Jane and I enjoyed that weekly show which featured Wayne Brady, Ryan Styles, Colin Mochrie, and other notable comedians doing impromptu skits before a live audience. I’m not sure an audience can be anything other than live, but maybe that’s a point to ponder. It was filmed in California so I shouldn’t make assumptions. Drew Carrey, the host, would describe a situation then shove the comics out an open plane door to fly or die. It was amazing how quickly they sprouted wings.
Drew opened the show by saying, “Welcome to Whose Line Is It Anyway, the show where everything is made up and the points don’t matter.” That’s the same system I diligently adhere to. No matter how many points you accumulate, there’s no need to secure them in your safety deposit box. Redeeming points at Joiner’s Corner is harder than finding an Amish electrician.
Perhaps I should have made a list of points to ponder in today’s column, but instead I’m only covering the first one that came to mind: Why did Arnold George Dorsey change his name to Engelbert Humperdinck?
I’ve read that when Arnold was struggling to launch his music career, his manager suggested a rebranding. That same manager had been successful in steering Thomas John Woodward to stardom, the singer better known as Tom Jones. Success is hard to argue with, but also hard to define at times.
Some name changes are easy to understand. John Wayne seems ideal for a big fearless guy on a horse. It evokes an image of boldness which was perhaps lacking as Marion Robert Morrison. But he’d have probably become The Duke under either name and would have sounded just as convincing when he said, “Drop that or I’ll blow ya straight to Jesus.”
And Roy Rogers clearly has more melodic appeal than Leonard Franklin Slye. My father grew up when Roy was King of the Cowboys on the big screen. My memories are of watching his television series and admiring how he would shoot the gun out of another man’s hand instead of killing him. It can’t always work that way in real life, but it’s a worthwhile approach when circumstances allow.
Roy was a man of faith and character, a professing Christian who tried to set a good example for others. An old quote of his still rings true. “Today they’re making pictures that I wouldn’t want Trigger to see.” Roy died in 1998. I don’t know how far back that quote dates, but the trend toward trashy entertainment keeps gaining momentum on big screens, stages, and remote controls.
Whatever name we remember Roy Rogers by, he left another quote worth pondering. It seems a perfect way for a singing cowboy to bid his friends adieu, so maybe it’s okay for a rambling columnist too. He said, “Until we meet again, may the good Lord take a liking to you.” And many years later a gray-haired kid with a small corral of words added a heartfelt, “Amen.”
Hopefully, you’ve found a few points worth considering today. Now it’s time to do some pondering of my own. I don’t have a clue what to tell George Bailey about that catalog.