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Growing up in Phoenix: Thanks, Wal, for the joy you gave us

Jul 24, 2014, by Don Ketchum, Staff Writer, AIA365.com

Author’s note: This story doesn’t have a lot to do with sports, but everything to do with growing up in Phoenix and the joy and energy a kids show gave us that carries on to this day.

It was in late July and August, about like it is now.

It seemed like every late afternoon, the monsoon wind would churn dust into the desert air and it would smell like rain.

I was like many other aspiring/perspiring high school football players across the Valley, preparing for the upcoming season. I would go down to the school and sweat it out by running laps and wind sprints.

But not until I finished watching . . .

Wallace and Ladmo.

Yes, I was a teen-ager, but I watched that kids’ show religiously as I had done for many years throughout the late 1950s and 1960s. How could you resist? The show, which ran from 1954-89, was an awesome brand of comedy, adult at times, all of it fun. Bill Thompson (Wallace), Lad Kwiatkowski (Ladmo) and Pat McMahon (Gerald, Aunt Maud, Captain Super, and so on).

Thompson died Wednesday (July 23), 20 years after Kwiatkowski, leaving McMahon as the lone survivor.

The show was at its best in the 1960s, before it became more mainstream and known as the Wallace and Ladmo Show. It was on from 4-5 p.m., and kids of all ages would race home to see it. It later moved to mornings and was cut to a half-hour, but it just wasn’t the same.

In the 1960s, the show was called “It’s Wallace?’’ Before the late Mike Condello recorded the 1970s-era well-known theme song (Ho-Ho-Ha-Ha-Hee-Hee-Ha-Ha), the music was a simple honky-tonk piano accompanied by a few sound effects.

Instead of a jacket and derby, Wallace wore polka-dot shirts and a straw hat. Ladmo was the same with his top hat and tie.

There were no Ladmo Bags then. Kids got to come on, sit on stools at a counter, similar to the ones people have now in their kitchen and pick a toy from a shelf behind the counter. Toys were provided by the Toy Cottage, on 7th Avenue.

I never got to go on the show, but a friend did. I was jealous.

The trio also appeared all around the Valley and state, at Saturday morning movies, malls, Encanto Park and the old Legend City amusement park. They were like rock stars.

They also showed up at various sporting events, from high school basketball games to Arizona State football practice (Frank Kush was coach), to "pro'' wrestling events at the old Madison Square Garden with stars such as Tito Montez and Don "Bulldog'' Kent.

I liked all of the show's regular characters and even a few off the beaten path.

A few that come to mind were Mr. Grudgemeyer, who with Ladmo were constant irritants to each other; the Losers, a beatnik-type group that used vegetables for instruments (snapping celery, grating cabbage, etc.), Acqua (Wallace dressed in drag, usually a sun dress and black wig but still with his man’s watch on his hairy arm, making fun of local B-movie and TV car salesperson Acquanetta Ross, a Dorothy Lamour-type), and Boffo the Clown, whose original name was Ozob.

I also liked the cartoons, from Popeye to the Warner Bros. classics voiced by the great Mel Blanc.

It was especially good Wal, Lad and Pat when they would crack each other up, as well as some of their guests. There were many famous people who stopped by the studio, which was near the Westward Ho Hotel in downtown Phoenix. Even some of the sponsors were lampooned.

I attended a play at the Herberger Theater a few years ago. It was about the show and they had actors playing the major roles. But Bill Thompson and Pat McMahon actually showed up for a cameo. The crowd stood, applauded and cheered for several minutes. I have to admit, I was starting to get misty.

It seems a bit silly, but those of you parents and even grandparents of current student-athletes can relate if you grew up in Phoenix. You know how I felt, how I still feel.

So long, Wal-Boy. It’s a good thing today’s newspaper came wrapped in plastic, so it wouldn’t be soaked by our tears when we read the sad news. Thanks for everything, for being a friend.

 

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Movie for high school athletes addresses heat illnesses

Jul 24, 2014, by Jose Garcia, Multimedia Journalist/Historian

Before high school football teams start practicing in the Arizona heat, it’d be wise to see a film that PBS aired on Monday.

The movie, 108 Degrees — Critical Response, expertly focuses on how heat related illnesses affect high school athletes. Football practice for a lot of Arizona’s high school football teams begins next week, just as the highest temperatures of this summer are being recorded.

Here’s a link to view the film. 

The film was produced by the Arkansas Educational Television Network. 

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Xavier volleyball star Khalia Lanier makes commitment to USC

Jul 21, 2014, by Don Ketchum, Staff Writer, AIA365.com

Phoenix Xavier Prep’s Khalia Lanier, one of the nation’s most powerful outside hitters in volleyball, has two seasons left in her prep career, but the junior-to-be already has a college commitment.

According to azcentral.com’s Richard Obert, Lanier will play for USC after considering a number of other schools, including Stanford and Texas.

The 6-foot-2 Lanier led Xavier to the Division I state title last season, including an upset of powerful Phoenix Horizon in the semifinals. She is the daughter of long-time NBA star Bob Lanier.

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Fairfax AD Belcher passes football torch to Winemiller

Jul 16, 2014, by Don Ketchum, Staff Writer, AIA365.com

Interim football coach Dylan Winemiller has had the “interim’’ tag removed and now is the official field boss for the program at Betty H. Fairfax in Laveen.

Winemiller, who has guided the team through summer drills, replaces Kevin Belcher, who was promoted to the athletic director’s post at Fairfax. Winemiller has been on the football staff at Fairfax for six seasons, the last three as defensive coordinator. Winemiller also is the head track coach at Fairfax and was head football coach at North High in Phoenix.

Belcher said Winemiller and the program will continue to be a good fit, and his decisions always have been made based on the best interests of the student-athletes. He will continue in his role as a faculty member at Fairfax.

Winemiller said he will continue to devote his energies “to build a program that is second to none. The program will be highly organized and well-run. It will be a productive, positive component of the school and the local community. Discipline and effort will be stressed. Through hard work and discipline, the student-athletes will develop a great sense of pride in becoming good citizens, good students and good athletes. It is our goal to see that each and every one of our players is successful, not just in the game of football, but in the game of life.’’

The team leaves for its pre-season camp this week and will return soon after to begin preparations for the 2014 regular season.

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North hopes hiring of Busken will translate into FB fortune

Jul 14, 2014, by Don Ketchum, Staff Writer, AIA365.com

Phoenix’s North High pulled a big surprise on Monday morning (July 14) by announcing that former Mesa Mountain View and Chandler Basha football coach Bernie Busken will be its new coach.

Busken led three state-championship teams at Mountain View and coached at Basha the last four seasons.

It is a bold move for North, which has struggled for quite some time on the football field, as have its fellow schools in the Phoenix Union High School District.

And it is an interesting move for Busken. If he was looking for a new challenge, he certainly has found it. Perhaps he can become the Valley’s version of Jeff Scurran, who has done a great job turning around struggling programs in the Tucson area.

Hopefully Busken can mold the Mustangs into a playoff team, and that that success will increase athletes’ interest in playing football at North. The school has had success in basketball and in track, so there’s no reason why it can’t do so in football.

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A Message from AIA Executive Board President Doug Wilson

Jul 4, 2014, by Jose Garcia, Multimedia Journalist/Historian

A MESSAGE FROM AIA EXECUTIVE BOARD PRESIDENT DOUG WILSON ON BEHALF OF THE AIA EXECUTIVE BOARD

PHOENIX, AZ (July 4, 2014) – On June 11, Harold Slemmer and I sent out a memorandum to our member schools regarding the need to raise certain AIA fees in order to maintain interscholastic sports/activities for our state’s high schools. This was done in conjunction with expense and overhead reductions within AIA overhead and tournament operations.

Discussion among board members began in April of this year. There is often commentary and media attention after a decision by the Executive Board is made. Mr. Schmidt speaks on behalf of the Association per the direction of the Board. The Board has and continues to support Mr. Schmidt, his efforts and trust in responding to the media. Often this commentary seems to be made missing some important facts.

The Executive Board is comprised of representatives from Arizona member schools. Board meetings are open and meeting minutes are available to its member schools and the public. Member schools must realize that they are always invited to participate and share opinions. Having said that, as a member association, the organization must be run efficiently which is why member representatives vote on behalf of their constituents. No decision or action will ever unanimously please member schools and yet, decisions and actions are thought through to create the best possible outcomes.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) provides an important educational opportunity and life experience to Arizona high school students. Interscholastic programs including personnel and venues require funding. The AIA runs more than 4,000 High School Championship events and provides officials for more than 40,000 regular season games. Along with scholarships, education like Brainbook and ongoing training, the AIA is providing valuable services to its member schools and more importantly, the nearly 100,000 students involved in interscholastic activities. These services have hard costs associated with them. As a non-profit, the AIA is not attempting to create a profit and makes every effort to cut costs, negotiate with vendors and reduce expenses. To suggest otherwise, is simply to create unnecessary fodder and angst.

As the President of the AIA Executive Board, I invite all member schools to engage in a positive and meaningful way that demonstrates that this is an association of member schools striving for the best possible interscholastic opportunities for our students. I also want to admonish members of the press and the public to refrain from placing blame on individuals when in fact, they are speaking on behalf of the Executive Board representing its member schools.

About the Arizona Interscholastic Association:

The AIA, is voluntary association of public and private Arizona high schools. Since 1913, the organization has created and sustained interscholastic activities that encourage maximum student participation by providing AIA member schools with an even playing field to ensure fair and equitable competition. The AIA believes that providing interscholastic activities for Arizona high school students creates personal development opportunities with a balanced focus on academics and extracurricular activities.

Through its member schools, the AIA reaches nearly 100,000 participants in high school activity programs. The organization hosts 4,000 championship contests and maintains officiating for more than 45,000 regular season games.

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