Monday, June 10, 2019
Charles A. Goodrich:
A Place in History
As parents, Samuel and Elizabeth Goodrich must have been amazing. One of their children, Samuel — better known as Peter Parley — produced more than 100 books for children and adults in the 19th Century and hobnobbed with some of the literary greats of his era.
A daughter, Abigail, became one of America’s first female magazine editors and provided information and advice to countless 19th Century families.
And a son, Charles, wrote more than two dozen books of history, geography and religion that helped educate generations of Americans.
For both Abigail and Samuel, their only formal education was the little red schoolhouse on West Lane in Ridgefield, ending in the eighth grade. Charles was a bit more fortunate: He went to Yale after West Lane.
Charles Augustus Goodrich was born in Ridgefield in 1790. His father, the Rev. Samuel G. Goodrich, was the third minister of the First Congregational Church. His mother, Elizabeth Ely Goodrich, was a member of one of Connecticut’s founding families. His more famous brother, Samuel, was three years younger, and his sister Abigail, two years older.
They all grew up at first in a house on West Lane and later a larger home still standing today on High Ridge at the head of Parley Lane.
After graduating from Yale in 1812, Charles Goodrich studied theology and was ordained in 1816. His first post was at the First Congregational Church in Worcester, Mass. In 1820, after dealing with much “acrimonious controversy” involving local church politics, he left Worcester and headed for Berlin, Conn., to which his parents had by then moved. There he helped a local parish while beginning to write magazine articles and books. Many of the latter he did in association with his brother, Samuel, who lived in Boston.
Among his first books was History of the United States of America, published in 1822. It quickly became one of the most popular history textbooks in the nation, and was used in many schools across the country until more than 30 years after his death. The New York Times called it “one of our best standard school books.”
Other popular books were Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (1829) and A Child’s History of the United States, first published in 1855. Both were being reprinted long after he died. Being a minister he also wrote books on religious themes, one of the most popular being Geography of the Chief Places Mentioned in the Bible (1855).
His interests also included politics and Goodrich served as a Connecticut state senator from Berlin in 1838. He moved to Hartford, home of his ancestors, in 1848 and died there in 1862 at the age of 71. An obituary in The New York Times called him “a very gifted man and a most accomplished scholar. His mental organization was active, though of that sensitive nature which caused him to shrink from rough contact with the world. Mr. Goodrich’s love for his fellow men was refined, charitable, and of the most enlarged order.”
Today, what is perhaps Charles Goodrich’s most famous legacy is a motto still often heard. Various authorities say he popularized “A place for everything and everything in its place,” by being the first person to have used the concept in print — in an 1827 magazine article on “Neatness.”
His version wasn’t quite as pithy as today’s epigram, however. He wrote: “Have a place for every thing, and keep every thing in its proper place.”
Friday, June 07, 2019
Bouncing from Fizzle to Fizz
“Red Rubber Ball,” the 1960s rock hit, and Speedy Alka-Seltzer, the animated TV commercial character, have something in common: A Ridgefield man who lived in a famous playwright’s house.
Tom Dawes co-founded The Cyrkle, which sang the 1966 hit, and later wrote Speedy’s famous song: “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh What A Relief It Is.”
Dawes, who lived more than 20 years in what was once the home of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill, was a talented musician and composer, much of whose career was spent writing advertising jingles, but who also wrote many rock tunes and a serious music, and who illustrated several books with his photography.
Born in 1943 Thomas Webster Dawes grew up in Albany, N.Y., learned guitar and bass, and “stole the show” at a high school talent show with his rendition of The Kingston Trio’s “Scotch and Soda,” said his sister, Robin Ducey.
The young Dawes was not only an accomplished bassist, but also an All-American diver, helping him earn a full scholarship to Lafayette College, Easton, Pa.
There he met Don Dannemann. In 1962, the two founded a four-member band called The Rhondells that performed in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey area.
After graduating in 1965, the band signed for a grueling gig at the Alibi Lounge in Atlantic City, N.J., performing 90 straight days from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. with two matinees Saturdays and Sundays. There they were spotted by Nat Weiss, an entertainment lawyer and business partner of Brian Epstein, manager of The Beatles. A short time later, Weiss invited them to New York to record some demos.
In the meantime, while Dannemann was finishing up some service in the Coast Guard, Dawes signed on as bass guitarist with the touring band for Simon and Garfunkel, whose new hit, “Sounds of Silence,” was topping the charts. Paul Simon struck up a friendship with Dawes and offered his band three new songs, including one he had co-written, called “Red Rubber Ball.”
When Epstein, Weiss’s partner, heard The Rhondells sing “Red Rubber Ball,” he arranged a deal for the band with Columbia Records.
At Epstein’s urging, the group changed its name to The Cyrkle — allegedly John Lennon suggested the spelling — and “Red Rubber Ball,” as a single and with an album of the same name, was released early in the summer of 1966. The song wound up #2 on the Billboard top 100 list (at the same time The Beatles “Paperback Writer” was #1), and sold more than one million copies.
Adding to their sudden success, The Cyrkle was invited to open for The Beatles on the British band’s final American tour in August that year. (Band members wound up playing poker several evenings with the Fab Four.)
Later in 1966, another tune, “Turn Down Day,” reached #16 on the Top 100, but it was to be The Cyrkle’s last hit. The band released a second album, “Neon,” which critics have said contained better songs, mostly written by band members like Dawes, but it did not sell well. The Cyrkle made a soundtrack for the B movie, “The Minx,” and produced a few more singles in 1967.
“I got sort of frustrated with the whole situation,” Dawes said in a later interview. “We kept on coming out with what I thought were good singles, and very little was happening.”
Brian Epstein’s death in August 1967 may have been the final straw; The Cyrkle disbanded soon after.
Fortunately for Dawes, Nat Weiss got him a job producing the jingle for the new “Uncola” advertising campaign for 7-Up, the soft drink. The band spent only a few hours recorded the music.
“Somebody handed me a check for $10,000,” Dawes recalled. “I said, ‘Hey, maybe I want to stay in New York and do this.’”
That was the beginning of a 20-year career of writing jingles for major ad campaigns, including L’eggs hosiery (“Our L’eggs Fit Your Legs”) and American Airlines (“We’re American Airlines, Doing What We Do Best”).
After he married fellow jingle writer Virginia Redington in 1978, the two collaborated on such campaigns as McDonald’s “You, You’re the One,” Coca-Cola’s “Coke Is It,” and American Airlines’ “Something Special in the Air.” Ginny Redington was also a songwriter whose work has been recorded by Sarah Vaughan and Gladys Knight.
(Encouraged by Dawes, Dannemann also went into the jingle-writing business; he did the tunes for Continental Airlines’ “We’re Going to Move Our Tails for You” and for Swanson TV dinners, among many others.)
Dawes retired from the ad business in 1990 and focused on photography and serious songwriting. He did the photography for several of his wife’s books, such as “Victorian Jewelry: Unexplored Treasures” (1991) and “Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830” (2007).
The couple teamed up to write “Talk of the Town,” a well-reviewed 2004 musical about members of the Algonquin Round Table that ran off-Broadway for two years and then became a cabaret show at the Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room, where the Round Table group lunched. The two spent years researching Round Table members including Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Harpo Marx, Heywood Broun, George S. Kaufman, and Edna Ferber. “We also interviewed family members when possible,” Dawes said. “We read at least 100 books to find out everything we could that related to the Round Table. It took us time to weave together the characters, the humor, and the story line.”
In the early 1980s, Tom and Ginny Dawes bought Brook Farm, the former O’Neill homestead at 845 North Salem Road, living there for more than 20 years. In 2005 they sold the place for $3 million and moved to nearby Weston where Tom Dawes died of a stroke two years later.
Long after they disbanded, The Cyrkle — whose other two members became a surgeon and a lawyer — got together twice in the Lafayette area; in 1986, at a poverty benefit and in 1995, at their 30th college reunion.
When Dawes died, The Cyrkle’s most famous hit was frequently played on the radio in his honor.
“Usually when I hear ‘Red Rubber Ball,’ I’m happy,” Don Dannemann said at the time. “This time it was sad. I thought: Oh, my god, I can never sing it with Tom again.”
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