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Monday, July 17, 2017


I love expressions from the past, especially the ones we see in classic films. These expressions were once applied universally to our lifestyles and the technology of the time but most have become a bit out of date.  For those of a certain age, you will understand them; for the younger crowd, maybe not. Either way I’ll give a short explanation on each:

Asleep at the switch. I still hear this occasionally as a description of someone who is not giving full attention to something. However, it originated from the days when railroads had humans doing a lot of work that is automated now. If a guy didn’t change the tracks for a train going to Chicago and it wound up in Cleveland, he definitely was asleep at the switch.

That and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee. Yes, there was a time when coffee was a nickel a cup. I saw a sign in a diner when I was a kid that read "cup of coffee, cigarette, and a toothpick: 7 cents." Throw a nickel on the counter at Starbucks and see what you get.

Came in over the transom. Does anyone remember transoms? They were windows above the door that many old hotels and houses had to allow for better ventilation.  In some comedy movies with stars like The Three Stooges, you may see them going through the transom.

Put through the wringerIf someone was working too hard, they may have said they were “put through the wringer.” Many years ago the wringer was used to squeeze the water out of washed clothes before they were hung in the backyard to dry on the “line”. The “line” was a piece of rope the clothes were hung on to dry.   The clothes were held on the line by “clothes’ pins”.  Wringers were replaced long ago by the spin cycle in modern washing machines.

Best thing since sliced bread. Sliced bread was quite an invention at one time and anything that was also newly invented and convenient could be referred to being the best thing since sliced bread.

Film at 11. That was the tease for TV news in the days long before live reporting.

Beam me up Scotty. "Star Trek" technology from the 60s and an expression you may still hear occasionally.

Let’s get cranking. Popular in the days when cars had cranks to start them; no ignition switches and starters then.

Dial her up. This comes from the days when if you called a girl you liked; it would be on a rotary dial phone. No push buttons in those days.  No caller ID or call waiting either.

Here is one of my favorites.  In the great crime film from 1931, "The Public Enemy", James Cagney is a wise guy crook driving a new stick shift fancy roadster. The stick shift (or synchromesh transmission) was a new item at that time and when a valet goes to park Cagney’s car, he grinds the gears. Cagney shouts, "Hey, stupid, be careful! That thing’s got gears. That ain’t no Ford!"
Cagney was referring to the Model T Fords of that era which, as he said, didn’t have gears.

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in "The Apartment" 
Here is a quiz:  In the mid 1930’s, actor Warren William played Erle Stanley Gardner’s lawyer Perry Mason in a series of films.  The Perry of that era was a lot different from the latter day  Raymond Burr series.  William played him as a playboy drunk.  In one film Perry is returning to his office after a night on the town when a friend describes him as “so drunk that as the elevator went up he began doing the rumba to the starter’s castanets.”  Can you explain what his friend meant?  If you know the answer, you are a true classic movie expert.  If you don't know the answer, here it is:  In the old days, buildings that had a lot of elevators usually had a guy guiding people into which car to use. He was called a "starter." and when a car was full of passengers he would click a set of castanets as a signal for the elevator operator to take take his passengers to their various floors.  Needless to say that was a job that became obsolete fairly quickly.

For a look at a "Starter" in action google "The Apartment" (1960) starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine from YouTube and fast forward to the 12:00 mark.  In this scene a starter walks by and clicks his castanets to elevator operator MacLaine to let her know her car is full.

It's a good example of how things were done in the past.  The things we do now are in the present but don't hold your breath thinking they will never change.


Jim McAllister said...

This month it's a look back at some old time expressions that we don't hear much anymore. I think the example of Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon on the elevator in a scene from "The Apartment" is a good example of this. Has anyone seen an elevator "starter" recently? Problem not since clicking those castanets to tell an operator the car was full is a long gone job.

Thanks for reading. Please leave question if you wish. JM

Mike Slater said...


I rember the saying put through the wringer because when I was about five my grandmother had a wringer washer she used and then would hang the wash on the line which dried fast in the summertime.

Glo said...

Yep, those sayings are a gas. A blast from the past. Bitchin’! Sorry about the cuss word – don’t flip your wig or have a cow. Sometimes I get hairy with my slang. Yeah, sometimes I got toys in my attic. Well, gotta burn rubber. Later gator.

Jim McAllister said...


I well remember the wringer washers which brings back a memory of an expression commonly used then when someone would get upset about something: "Don't get your tit caught in the wringer."

My mom would hang the wash in the backyard and use a "clothes prop" to raise the line higher so nothing would drag the ground.

\She hated hanging clothes in the basement in the winter because they seemed so much fresher after drying in the sun. She was right!

Jim McAllister said...

Good ones, Glo! Good to hear from you; it's been a while.

Howe about this one: "Don't get your bowels in an uproar!"

I'm still enjoying those CDs you gave me a few years ago. Great tunes.

Jim McAllister said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim McAllister said...

I knew all of them except the one about elevators and “Film at 11” No TV and no elevators in Tuba City/ I first ran into an elevator in the Professional Building at 13 E. Monroe (later VNB headquarters until 1971) My sister had a orthodontist appointment in the Professional Building and my parents let me fly from Flagstaff on Frontier Airlines DC-3 with her. It was 1951 or so. Lots of excitement that day, first flight, first elevator, and I got to sit on the pilots lap and “fly” the plane. A big day for a 10 year old. And now I’m 74!

Jim Johnson

Jim McAllister said...


Elevators were a big deal years ago and being a "starter" was considered an important job as they would usher people into the elevators and make sure that all ran smoothly so people didn't have to wait long to get an elevator to their floor. I think they disappeared as an economy move and the elevator operators were next as the automated self service elevators came into being. It was great for the buildings financially but it meant a lack of service and job losses for the operators and the starters.

I still miss the sound of those castanets!

Arizona Dave said...

Outstanding and very creative...always fun to read your articles...

Remember many of them from my past years living the good life before technology, and then it all changed...
NOW, it's 2017(Yikes), and I have a fiend who uses the caption, "I'm a 3-6-3 guy" which in his terms means he borrows money at 3%, loans it at 6%, and plays golf at 3:00 P.M.

...and I played Hide & Go Seek using the telephone pole as home base...and when you strayed away to find the hiders, they would run to the telephone pole, and shout 'HOME FREE'.

The Open Championship this week in England....I'm picking a long shot, Ian Poulter. Hi to Barb.

Stay cool.

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Dave,

I appreciate the kudos. Always good to hear from you.

I remember many hide and go seek games from the old days. It was a terrible feeling to be caught and have to become "it." I remember when someone was caught there was a call of "Ally, ally in come free!"

Poulter may be a pretty good underdog choice at The Open. He has played some good golf this year and usually make the cut so you may have picked a good underdog there. Stenson never seems to let up so I have to make him the favorite. I would like to see Spieth win as I think he is a good kid and a good representative for the States. That was a hell of a win he had with that chip in at Hartford. I wouldn't mind seeing Phil take it as a sentimental win for him.

Thanks for your comments; always good to hear from you.

Rick Kepple said...

Mornin' Jimmy. Mike reminded me ... I have to get laundry started. I wash a few things by hand in the sink and hang it out to dry, because I feel that humility is power at this time. Jen and I have thought about a wringer washer. She hates the modern washers that use a cup of water. I replaced the AC with the cheapest model that Walmart had, because it is mechanical and I put it through the barn door. Fits as snug as a bug in a rug! It was Jen's idea. It's just a shed anyway, right?

Great blog, Jimmy. The main thing that I've discovered about publishing anything is that you must be well liked by the status quo. I'm not and you are. It is what it is.

Got this new video of a paralyzed dog and the miracle of her sudden recovery. No explanation, but it's the Enchanted Farmstead. Normal is a setting on a clothes dryer.

Jim McAllister said...


I remember when Walmart first arrived in Kansas City. They owned the retail business. They are still doing well it seems but places like Amazon are sure making a dent in their business.

Retail is a bitch; there is always someone trying to undermine the leader. Amazon has a lot of advantages by not having brick and mortar outlets.

Rick Kepple said...

I mentioned the "shed" thing only because the manufacturer referred to the barn as such. Confirmed. It's a shed. Jen wants the barn left pretty much like it is. A studio. She's the boss. She liked the dog film that she's in, but asked for a couple of changes to be done. I'd love to put that closeup of her at the end. Sneak it in. Increase the views by 50 percent. In my dreams ...

Amazon and Walmart compete. Smoked almonds for example. I've bought a big container for as little as $15 on Amazon, but I've seen the price go up to $26. We like those Cracker Barrel mac and cheese of different flavors. I do most of the cooking and I like better dinners, but not steak. We can't afford that.

I saw Food Stamp recipients buying high dollar steaks for a party and I thought that was a myth. Best part? They were Trump supporters. It's the Ozarks. Forget everything you think you know about how things work.

Jim McAllister said...

Politics are really a mess now. I love seeing the liberals fret over everything Trump does. They better get used to him since the next election is far off.

Rick Kepple said...

All the world's a stage. I think Trump's new reality show is really a hit, but just to get ratings, he's got to endure the trouble he's caused. Really, he needs new script writers. The show is horrible. But people eat it up, so I guess POTUS has a hit.

In a bit here, I'm gonna holler at Jen up to her place cause supper's pertineer ready. She's so hungry she could eat a horse! Poor woman's favorite uncle passed this morning, so I gotta be extra nice to her. During scarfing the vittles, we'll watch some drama on TV. I let Jen choose cause she's the breadwinner, you know. Yes, Jen wears the pants in the family, which is disturbing because men's dresses are coming into style. Anyway, supper's ready.

midnightsstaff said...

I think it's more a matter that politics were always a mess but we were mostly in the dark without a flashlight until talk radio shined a light on the subject.
Problem is- talk radio has no solution to offer, just endless talk.
I'ts better to listen to Rufus Cappadocia or Takenobu, watch the clouds play in the sky and let the politicians lie to each other rather than to me- time better spent and after all- psychopaths gonna psychopath ...

Heavens to Betsy Rick, you are living the good life in the Ozarks, what more could a man ask for?
Good farmland in the lower latitudes will be at a premium in the next few years, by now you should have begun a co op of local truck farmers, grow non GMO veggies and smuggle them to third world states like Delaware, Mass and Conn to sell at a premium.
.. forget weed, Organic veggies are the new money stream...
Might want to consider the business model for something to fall back on if the Enchanted Farm doesn't eventually pay out..

..'What a revoltin' development this turned out to be'.. ~ Chester A. Riley- aircraft assembly line worker..
circa. 1952 ish.
I grew up thinking he was a war hero after seeing a few WW-dos war movies as a kid, those things have dropped out of fashion lately; I remember distinctly him and a couple of other Hollywood marines holding off the Japs right down to 'fix bayonets'.. I guess that's one reason eye witness witnesses are nearly useless eh?
Well it served to get a lot of high school kids that once in a lifetime chance to see the world, if lucky Germany if not the meat grinder of Vietnam or worse- Amarillo Texas in winter..
I guess Kansas City would look good for someone that has spent some time in Amarillo.

Wonderful weather lately except for the wind gusts.. pool needs another cleaning it appears..
.."man may work from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done'- until Betty Friedan showed up that is.. least new music is great.

Forget politics Jim, it's all Kabuki- just keep on truckin'..
..Did Glo do a 'drive by'?..

Jim McAllister said...


I got all the great assignments: Sept '61 to Oct 61: San Antonio. Oct. 61 to December 61: Amarillo. Jan 62 to Sept 65, Whiteman AFB in rural western Missouri. In '63 I had a chance for a TDY to Germany from June to October. I jumped on it. That 4 months over there drinking 10 cent Heinekens and Lowenbraus chasing the frauleins was worth it were worth the rest of the bad assignments.

Rick Kepple said...

I have a new film coming out today, Jimmy and Middy. Jen will be appearing in the film about a dog that falls paralyzed. Jen and I had to carry her out on a stretcher for a day or so and suddenly she started walking again! Jen nursed her back to health. The music score was chosen by Dannie O'Reilly.

Heavens to Murgatroyd Middy, I'm somewhat retired. Jen's orders. I just make films and farm chores. You'd love JJ. She's fixing up a Dodge four-wheel drive truck. One of her most ambitious plans is building a tree house in the woods.

Middy asked, "What more could a man ask for?" Well, a much larger home studio, a skid loader with trailer pulled by a dump truck for Jen, a better bathroom and an outside wood furnace to heat both Jen's place and mine. Rome wasn't built in a day, Middy.

Jim McAllister said...


Murgatroyd? Great word; the great comedian and actor Billy DeWolf originated that name I believe. He was a funny SOB from the 1940's and his character of Mrs. Murgatroyd was hilarious.

midnightsstaff said...

Rick I have been thinking, you might want to get a 'fainting goat' to do stand in work, with the right lighting and some creative make up one of those critters without horns could easily be sold as a wolfhound.

(for instance, that one with the white band could pass for a border collie with creative camera angle)
They practically faint on command, that's good for retakes, but a real pro like you probably don't do many retakes anyway.. good to hear things are finally on track.. we're pulling for ya..
I agree, Rome wasn't built in a day but it was destroyed in a very short time and it was from the corrosion of society from within..

Jimmy Durante used to sign off each show with a tribute, I wonder how many people without looking could name her?- or how many people could name the five separate rights guaranteed to every citizen in the first amendment?

Rainy day women.. .."well they stone ya when your trying to be so good, they'll stone you just like they said they would"..
.."Say goodnight Gracie" .."Goodnight Gracie"..
those were the golden years and we can't go back but it's a beautiful day eh?

Jim McAllister said...


Great post as always. You haven't lost your touch!

I can still see Jimmy D walking through the shadows and lighting saying "Good night, Mrs. Calabash; wherever you are."

I always thought he was hilarious in films of the 40s and was one of the original rotating stars on the 50's "Colgate Comedy Hour" along with Donald O'Connor and Eddie Cantor. He had a great part in "The Man Who Came to Dinner." (1941).

Rick Kepple said...

There are no goats here, unless Jen wants them. The neighbors had a fainting goat and one of their horses killed it. Goats can get a little mean sometimes and hurt horses.

Here Jimmy. This is the film starring Jen aka JJ Pritchett and Bella the dog falling to paralysis and suddenly recovering. It's a true story! Dannie O'Reilly helped choose the songs for the film.

Fun fact. JJ Pritchett is the model on the CD cover with music performed by Rockabilly Hall of Fame inductee, the late Al Vance: Live in Concert sold on Amazon. He is most famous for the song, "Every Woman I Know (is crazy for an automobile). (not on the CD with JJ)

JJ is also the person most instrumental in getting Dell Mack to talk about the past so I could unravel the mystery that led to his induction into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. She's noted for that in the story I wrote that is now Nashville music history.

Yes Middy. Jen and I have talked about getting a goat or two, but just for the weeds. Jen used to have a pet goat years ago. She's called, "Animal Planet."

midnightsstaff said...

Vaudeville supplied a lot of early teevee talent, George and Ethyl Mertz (Frawley and Vance) were another pair that morphed into the new media along with George Burns and Gracie Allen..
I quit Teevee a few years ago along with movies and such, something got broken along the way and there is no putting it back together again, the closest you can come is to watch some of the old classics on Turner classics I guess.
Some cars don't even have ignition switches now, I remember hand cranking a model A when I was a kid, my friend's dad had one stored in the garage that Grandma left, and we used to tool it around that one horse town in the Panhandle.

He had a Cushman scooter and a pony too, rich kids always had the great stuff but everyone shared then- it's no fun having toys without friends and I guess he knew it.
Rick could write a book on that aspect of life, and I suspect he may have.

My dad nearly had a heart attack when I told him I was a Marxist,
-he liked Ike but I liked Groucho..
.."a little traveling music maestro- and aa-way we go".. for a big man he was light on his feet.

Jim McAllister said...

I'm with you on TV. We used to have favorite shows like Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, etc. but the stuff today can't compare so we avoid it. They are playing to a different generation.

I remember those old Cushmans. The scooter was a Cushman "Eagle" and had a rod on the side used to shift gears.

Jackie was amazing with his ...."and away we go." He was a fat guy but had some natural athletic moves. He transitioned nicely from comedy to straight acting as illustrated by his transition in "Cool Hand Luke." That was a great film with good roles by Jackie, Paul, George C. and especially Piper Laurie.

Jim McAllister said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim McAllister said...

Butch Waggoner
12:04 PM (7 hours ago)

to me
.."New York, New York.. what a hell of a town, people ride trains like a mole in the ground"..

Trick question Jim, this is Arizona- I doubt many here ever rode packed elbow to jowl in an elevator- much less one in the forties.
Elevator wranglers were an east coast phenom.. castanets were used in whorehouses by the madam to signal 'time's up'..
..same thing I guess.

Jim McAllister said...


I think you're right! Castanets are useful for a lot of purposes I guess especially when there is a need to get one's attention. Carmen Miranda would be happy to know that!

It's amazing the jobs that have become obsolete. I remember the Terrace Hilton hotel in Cincy when my dad worked there as a bell captain. They had elevator starters and operators. By the time he retired in the late 50s they were both gone.

Rick Kepple said...

That's nice of Middy to suggest that I create a novel of my life. He's one in a long line of people who want me to tell my life's story. I can recommend Jimmy's blog as a place of wisdom. Mystery keeps me popular.

A shrink explained that people would view me as "eccentric" because I live on a little farm, which also makes me by definition, Conservative. Jen and I are downsizing the studio to just stringed instruments and selling the Yamaha e-Drums and that will save a LOT of space in a small room and leave the Green Screen open. Jen likes my films and that's what she wants me to focus on. I wonder if I could inspire Jen with a pair of castanets? I'm thinking Halloween ...

Jim McAllister said...


One never knows. Maybe castanets will be the next big craze. If any of the elevator starters from the old days are still around maybe they could give castanet lessons! I never dsid know how they made the damn things click like they do.

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks Jim this is the funniest movie and I think I've seen, I have watched it several times.

Sent from my iPhone

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks for the comment, Marita.

"The Apartment" was a great film. It was released in 1960 and won many deserved awards. I miss guys like Jack Lemmon. He was equally adept at serious or comic roles.

It was good to see Fred MacMurray get a role in that film also. 1960 was a bit past his prime in films but he held his own.

Best to Rocky.

Rick Kepple said...

Middy, I have everything money can't buy. It would be nice to have the heavy equipment back, but I can buy all my food. Jen just gardens for beauty. I garden for food, but no kitchen means no preserving fruit and veges anymore. Plus with the loss of Food Stamps and the ridiculous requirement to go to China for an American job (that's where all the jobs ARE!) is just ridiculous.

Jen got a security camera because we've had thefts of groceries and pet food. Yeah, the rich get to keep more of their money, their myths tell them, but it will lead to the rich folks paying for final burial expenses, if that's what they want. I can afford to take care of Jen and that is it.

Pony lives on the farm, because Jen rescued it. The previous owner was a millionaire who went into the heroin trade and I put up with his "better than thou" nonsense until he threatened to shoot the animal. The law caught up with him.

As you may recall, I only have a studio, because there is no other option for work that I can do. Thanks to SN help, I have created a lot of films. As the government suggested; I did explore my creativity.

Jen and I are selling the Yamaha electronic drums. I'm going to focus on films.

Rick Kepple said...

I am blacklisted, Jimmy. I applied for a 10 point preference for my military service to be hired into the government years ago and a very nice young man looked at me and said, "you're blacklisted." SN told me the same about publishing too. That's why it's so impossible for me to get a book published. Sorry, Middy. My life story won't happen. I know it depresses you, but wait five minutes and you'll get over it.

Trump in office is the greatest thing since sliced bread, as far as counterintelligence goes. I love that guy. Nothing says, the rich need to be tested for mental illnesses to determine if we should even listen to those people or not, than the Trump family. Sure thing for a law like that, if you ask me.

Jim McAllister said...


How about the transgender thing? Sometimes I think I am asleep and just dreaming this stuff.

Mike Slater said...


I think it's more like a nightmare. Could you imagine Gen. George Patton being told he had to have transgender troops in his army?

midnightsstaff said...

.."Sometimes I think I am asleep and just dreaming this stuff"..
Have you ever considered the possibility that you are indeed in a trance somewhere, locked in a rubber room on a slow drip, wearing a funny 'smoking jacket'?

It would go a long way in explaining things today, and what would be the difference in the long run?

Rick you simply don't believe in yourself it seems, I thought you were making progress..

Do you realize there are countless people dying in the deserts each year, and walking hundreds of miles to just get in this country to access what you were born into?- an opportunity..
I think you have learned to pull your punch right before impending success most times, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat is a bad habit- you can unlearn counterproductive behavior.

The more you start believing in yourself the easier it will be to get past that last thing that stands in your way- to take a great man's football analogy Vince Lombardi once said - "it's not that you get knocked down, hell, everyone gets knocked down.. it's in the getting up out of the mud and back on your feet that makes a difference". slightly paraphrased of course.

Castanets are like Chihuahua's - owned by women, and annoying to the rest of us.
..speaking of annoying, DJT on Twitter is like a kid with a flashlight.

I just can't imagine a Clint Eastwood horse opera scene with him with a cigar in his mouth saying...
.. "L̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ Tweet me"..

Jim McAllister said...


We need Patton NOW! He was a great ass kicker.

Rick Kepple said...

Middy, kinda late in the game to get into the entertainment business to make a living, don'tcha think, Middy? That should have happened when I was in my 20's.

What progress? My life has gotten worse. I live in a barn after the house burned. How is that progress? I don't own a car anymore and I have to get rides. That's not progress. I don't garden anymore. That's not progress.

Jen has suggested that I buy a car. No one's got a reliable one for me to get to my VA appointments and she works and can't miss days. And I am not inclined to get a loan, so there goes that notion. Oh well. No cancer treatment. Shucks. It is what it is.

Rick Kepple said...

Jimmy! You have dreams about transgenders? Good Lord, man! Granted, a few of them look really fine, but they're like an Ozark Tease and it's NOT real.

Mike Slater said...


We need a Patton in the senate to kick some Republican ass. Start with the RINO's McCain, Collins and Murkowski.

Jim McAllister said...

I agree 100%. The Republicans are a bunch of pussies!

Rick Kepple said...

If you love Trump, then grab a Republican. Jimmy alluded to that, you know.

Rick Kepple said...

Middy said something about me not believing in myself, but I think it's because I don't measure up with the Rich and Famous folks, isn't that right? There is no famous personality showing up with cameras and announcing, "We're here to build you a first class studio!" That's all fake!

I've got this famous friend and owns a multi-million dollar studio in Nashville and he said that I must "remain humble" to be successful in my studio. Right. So the shed is too luxurious, but his studio isn't? That explains why no one records in my place.

It doesn't explain the famous singer who visited, promised to take me to the TOP for filming his music, didn't pay a dime and then he said to get rid of Jen. Never saw a dime from that one. Bodo, SN, doesn't matter. Rich people don't pay anything.