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Monday, 2011 April 4 : Volume 14, Number 4
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What We Got Here

C.W. McCall Kitteh

Found by Crispy Critter Ed Myers, on

C.W. McCall Kitteh

Previously, in The Legend-News

The original version of this article appeared in the 2001 October 22 issue of The Legend-News.

Pisgah People IS Good People

By Gene Raffensperger; photographs by Carl Voss

C.W. and Mavis dancing
C.W. McCall and Mavis dance the “Council Bluffs Shuffle” with the “Pisgah Grip” for TV filming in Iowa.

Jim Finlayson, the businessman, lives in relative obscurity in Tyler, Tex., where he runs a small advertising agency. Among the Tyler locals he is just another face in the crowd, a guy in a suit and tie trying to make a buck.

Jim Finlayson, the amateur actor, is a folk hero in at least five upper midwestern states (including western Iowa).

Pisgah is here
Pisgah is here.

Up here he’s the original “good ol’ boy,” known to his television fans as C. W. McCall, the country-talking, double-clutcher, who wheels his Old Home Bread semi to the drive-in theater at Pisgah or off the Honey Creek ramp on Interstate 29.

The object of his attention is not his invoices of rolls and bread, but the well-stacked Mavis, the gum-chewing femme fatale down at the Old Home Filler-Up and Keep on Trucking Café where she’s the waitress.

Off camera, Mavis is Mrs. Jeanne Capps, mother of two daughters, and in Dallas, Tex., her home, she’s just another pretty face. So far at least, no Dallas cabdriver has stopped and run to the sidewalk to ask Mrs. Capps for her autograph. That did happen to her in Omaha, Neb.

Then there’s Sloan, named for the little Iowa town in Woodbury County. He’s C. W.’s companion in the truck and an obvious favorite of Mavis’. Well, Sloan in as 8 1/2-year-old Golden Retriever whose pedigree name is “Champion Railroad Golden Spike, C.D.”

Other than for that fancy handle, Sloan looks like a mutt and has the disposition of a teddy bear. Sloan’s owner, Sara Lynn Jung, of Dallas, brought him to Pisgah recently and there was a mob scene with kids scrambling to scratch his ears and slap his back.

Sloan, the dog
Sloan, C.W. McCall’s dog in the TV commercial, was a favorite of children in Pisgah.

One boy yelled, “Hurry up, Mom, it’s Sloan.”

The mayor of Sloan, Iowa
Mayor Arthur Long of Sloan attended the Pisgah affair and presented a spiked collar to C.W. McCall’s dog, Sloan. The dog, named after the town of Sloan, “has brought [much] recognition to our town,” said Long.
Bill Fries
Bill Fries, an Omaha advertising man, is the creator of C. W. McCall and Mavis and is the voice of C.W. in the bread company commercials.

Bill Fries, the Omaha advertising man who wrote the scripts and was the voice of C. W. in the first six Old Home commercials, now has written three new ones, all all were shot recently in and around Pisgah, a town made famous when C. W. and Mavis went to the drive-in theater there on their first date (actually, there is no drive-in at Pisgah, population about 260).

The first commercials were shot near Irving, Tex., and the folks there paid little attention to the characters or the film crews.

Well, Pisgah paid attention.

About 500 persons turned out to watch and be a part of one of the scenes in which the setting is the semi-annual Pisgah Volunteer Firemen’s Ball.

Fries invited all those present to become extras in the dance sequence. About 200 signed standard release forms and were paid $1 each to take part.

Fireman’s Ball
Setting for the TV commercial was a fictitious “Pisgah Semi-Annual Volunteer Firemen’s Ball.” About 200 townspeople ”attended” the dance.

While the film crew ground away with overhead shots, the crowd danced and watched as the crew shot closeups of C. W. and Mavis doing what Fries described as the “Council Bluffs Shuffle” with the “Pisgah Grip.”

Earlier, Finlayson’s arrival on the set (the cement slab and little bandshell in the Pisgah Park) was the signal for a round of cheers and a call for a speech.

“It’s good to be back in Pisgah, my second hometown,” grinned Finlayson. “You folks keep Mama occupied tonight so I can have a little time with Mavis.”

Privately, Finlayson and Mrs. Capps confessed they are amazed at the attention they draw when they appear in the territory covered by the commercials. “We don’t know how to act,” said Finlayson.

“People treat us like we are national celebrities.” He added: “You know an old ad man could go through his whole career and never hit one like this. This is like hitting a wildcat oil well.”

Ron McCoon of Fort Calhoun and his Nucular Power-Plant Boy
C.W. McCall chats with Ron Photo, head of a country music band, called “Ron McCoon of Fort Calhoun and his Nucular Power-Plant Boys” in the TV commercial.

The shooting went on into the night and some of the bystanders sat on picnic tables and sipped beer. Parents brought their kids, cameras and sandwiches, and Leo Alton, 60, who runs a dragline for Harrison County, took the afternoon off to help set up the lights and his wife helped string up crepe paper and decorations for the dance scene.

Wearing his bib overalls, a flannel shirt and a billed cap, Alton was placed in a scene shot in the truckstop cafe. He was at the counter facing Mavis. Just the back of this head was seen. The shooting took four hours.

“You get paid for that?” he was asked.

“Nah, I ain’t figuring on it,” he replied.

Writer Fries assured all who did get in the commercials they would be paid the standard $1. He also told the crowd, “I’d like to tell you people that I think Pisgah is the nicest town in the world. You’ve just been wonderful to us…”

As C. W. says in one of his lines at the dance at Pisgah, “…Fun City …Yeah!”

Over the Double Nickel


I remember an event in the summer of 1968: my dad had driven our family to our vacation place, a house that my grandparents built just outside of Portage, Wisconsin. Late on the afternoon that we arrived, he drove into Portage itself and stopped at a gas station on US 51 and filled the tank of our 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon. The gasoline was regular, leaded, and 89 octane, and cost twenty-five cents per gallon.

Last Monday morning (March 28), I drove to the fitness club that I visit three times each week. It’s five miles away, and along the way I passed the local Clark station. At 8:00 AM, their posted price for regular unleaded gasoline was $3.61. Just before 3:00 PM, I took a cat to the animal hospital (just an annual checkup; the cat’s fine) which was a half-block west of that Clark station. In the intervening seven hours, the price of regular unleaded had risen 18 cents. Yes, the price was now $3.79 per gallon! For a moment, I wondered if someone’s oil refinery had exploded.

The price of gasoline here in northeastern Illinois is currently hovering around $3.70 per gallon; driving one mile costs me about 17 cents. From my house to the nearest grocery store is about three miles, so a single trip to the store and back costs me a buck. That definitely causes me to seriously consider not driving to the store if I only need a few items. If I’ll be filling up a shopping cart, spending a dollar for transportation isn’t too bad; but while in the past I may have hopped in the truck and drove into town for a loaf of bread, I don’t do that now. One dollar for gas, plus the price of bread, makes me realize that SPAM® does taste good on crackers.

I haven’t always considered my fuel consumption when driving around town: I thought it to be overhead, the cost of having a vehicle. I had a job which reimbursed me for vehicle usage, at a rate far higher than what I spent for fuel (I’m ignoring the cost of occasional maintenance). But that job is long gone; now I’m self-employed and working from home, and while I can take a tax deduction for any driving that I do for business, that amount isn’t much.

Around the time that gasoline reached $2.00 per gallon (the year 2003, I think), I began to think about what I was spending on trips, both short and long. I figured that cost into my calculations, realizing that ten cents per mile adds up quickly. Going to a really big shopping mall, 30 miles one-way, wasn’t a trip that I was going to make just for the heck of it. Even short jaunts into town, like going to the sandwich shop, looked expensive.

Truckers deal with this problem all of the time; but for us civilians, thinking about fuel consumption is a relatively new process. For truckers, the problem is even worse, because diesel fuel costs more than gasoline; a reversal of the situation that existed 30 years ago, when diesel was cheaper than gasoline.

I have encountered this fuel frugality before. Back in the late ’70s, during the Second Oil Crisis, I was living in Baltimore, Maryland. I had a friend whose parents lived south of the city on the west side of Chesapeake Bay. At least once per month we would drive down to their home in Severna Park, about 20 miles away, for a crab boil.

They were retired, on a fixed income, and the cost of gasoline was such a concern for them that they postponed many possible trips in their car until they could consolidate their errands. They only drove to the nearest grocery store — five miles away — once per week, and that trip was when they did all of their shopping for the week. Although their car’s fuel economy was better than 20 miles per gallon, the cost of 80 cent-per-gallon gasoline was “too high”. They always considered how much was the cost of fuel before deciding to perform an errand.

And that’s where I, and many other Americans, stand today: we’re not traveling as far because driving somewhere, anywhere, is too damned expensive. We’re trying to save a few dollars for the more important expenditures (hello, home mortgage!) so we’re curtailing our purchases at local businesses; and those businesses are suffering from that decline in customer traffic. Which leads to those businesses raising their prices to compensate for lower sales, which causes fewer sales to be made because of higher prices. Which leads to fewer customers driving to local businesses, and using less gasoline, which ought to mean that gasoline prices will decline due to the alleged “law of supply and demand”.

Yeah, right. What it leads to is fewer businesses in town, so that customers must travel further to reach comparable businesses, which in turn causes a rise in gasoline prices because we’re using more fuel to travel farther. And the local Walmart, which had already driven the smaller shops out of business years ago, gets larger.

A final point. Eleven years ago, when I travelled cross-country with Crispy Critters Skywalker and Snoopy in Convoy 2000, I estimated that for the 7100 miles that I travelled, my total cost for gasoline was about $310.00. If I made that same trip today, I’d be paying about $973.00. My current truck gets about 5 miles-per-gallon less (highway) than my previous car, but even at that old MPG I’d save only about $150.00. No matter, because that extra cost for gasoline would be money that I wouldn’t be spending along my route, furthering the demises of small businesses from coast-to-coast.

Amazing how a couple of bucks per gallon can kill the economy, ain’t it?

— Ed.

“Over the Double Nickel” is an occasional column by Ed. Floden, who refuses to accept your reality. Collect them all!

The Legend-News is published almost monthly by TechRen Enterprises, rave on, it’s a crazy feeling. Copyright 2011 TechRen Enterprises. Send subscription requests, unsubscribe demands, complaints, kudos, suggestions, news and other contributions to Almost everything in The Legend-News has been written by Ed. Floden, except for the stuff that he blames on someone else. “Don’t need therapy. All better now.”