Boomers Knew Hans Conried

It was sixty years ago, in January of 1963, that Fractured Flickers appeared on TV. The show only lasted one season, but its host, Hans Conried, appeared time and again in movies, TV shows and cartoons watched by boomers for decades.

The premise of Fractured Flickers was a crazy mash-up of old movie footage that was re-captioned, with a new storyline that had little, if anything, to do with what was appearing on screen. In addition to the flicker footage, the show featured often tongue-in-cheek interviews by Conried with popular TV personalities of the time, such as Barbara Eden, Bob Denver and Rod Serling.

Classically trained in theater, Conried started out performing in Shakespeare productions and Broadway shows before lending his voice to characters in radio shows in the 1930s. His huge range as both a dramatic and comedic actor, coupled with his ability to perform a multitude of accents, made him a most-sought-after actor for all types of productions. By the 1940s, he was voicing cartoon characters; he was the voice of Wally Walrus on The Woody Woodpecker Show (1944-48). Watching the cartoon in syndication may be the first time many boomers heard Hans Conried’s distinctive voice.

In 1953, Conried appeared in the Disney classic film, Peter Pan, as the voice of Captain Hook. That began an association with Disney that lasted through the 1970s. This led to roles in segments of The Magical World of Disney (starting in 1954), like the riverboat gambler named Thimblerig in Davey Crockett at the Alamo (1955).

Other cartoons where boomers heard his voice include his characterization of Snidely Whiplash on both The Dudley Do-Right Show (1959-61) and The Bullwinkle Show (1960-63). He was also the narrator on George of the Jungle (1967), and voiced several Dr. Seuss characters in animated TV specials like Horton Hears a Who! (1970).

Here is a not-so-thinly disguised version of Snidely Whiplash (still voiced by Hans Conried) repurposed for a breakfast cereal series of commercials:

Boomers also saw Hans Conried in movies, including the title role of Doctor Terwilliker in the now cult-classic, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), which happens to be the only live-action movie written by Dr. Seuss.

Conried appeared in recurring roles on several TV shows during the boomer years, most notably as Uncle Tonoose on Danny Thomas’ show, Make Room for Daddy (1953-64). His guest starring roles on a huge number of popular TV shows is also where boomers witnessed the huge talent of Hans Conried. Here is a partial list of TV shows on which he appeared:

I Love Lucy (multiple roles, 1952)
Maverick (1958)
Dragnet (1957)
The Donna Reed Show (1959)
Mister Ed (1962)
Gilligan’s Island (1964-65)
Burke’s Law (1964-65, recurring role)
Ben Casey (1965)
Lost in Space (1967)
Hogan’s Heroes (1968)
The Monkees (1968)
The Beverly Hillbillies (1968)
Daniel Boone (1968)
The Brady Bunch (1969)
Love American Style (multiple roles: 1969, 71, 72, 73)

Despite being born in 1917, Hans Conried had a ubiquitous influence in the formation of boomers’ expectations for cartoon voiceovers and comedic scenes throughout the boomer years. He passed away in 1982.

Where do you remember seeing or hearing Hans Conried, boomers?

Boomers Watch Their Print Phone Books Disappear

The end of printed phone books has been predicted since the dawn of the internet in the 1980s. Nonetheless, a majority of homes from coast to coast continued to receive printed phone directories up until recent years. Though many areas of the country eliminated the print version in the early 2010s, other areas have continued the practice, including Mister Boomer’s area … until now.

Boomers recall seeing and using phone books their entire lives. The first printed phone directory appeared in New Haven, Connecticut in February of 1878, generations before Baby Boomers. It was a single page that listed all the names (but not numbers) of the people in town who had a telephone. George Coy was awarded the Bell Telephone franchise in that city, and came up with the directory idea along with inventing a switchboard with which to connect one person to another. Prior to Coy’s switchboard invention, telephones were on direct lines, causing a cacophony of connections and eavesdroppers on the line at any given time.

By 1878, people saw the logic of separating residential listings from business listings, and the Yellow Pages was born. The color of the paper was different, but also, unlike residential listings, which were alphabetically ordered (and dubbed the White Pages), business listings in the Yellow Pages appeared in categories of business first. Residential listings would remain in the White Pages. At the dawn of the Baby Boom, Bell Telephone continued to hold the monopoly on phone service in the country, and the annual delivery of printed phone directories was commonplace.

Mister Boomer has chronicled his own family’s phone trajectory from a party line to a private number, and on eventually from dial phone to push button. Yet, like most families, the phone books were a constant in his household. They were kept in a lower cabinet in the kitchen, closest to the phone on the wall.

Many boomers may recall literally being raised by a phone book, used as a booster cushion on a dining room chair, long before they could read. The sheer size of the books in metropolitan areas suggested uses other than phone number look-ups, like a quick foot stool in a pinch, or booster seat for the youngest family member to reach the dining room table.

As boomers became teenagers, the anecdotal info Mister Boomer has accumulated says that most families discouraged the use of an operator in favor of using the phone books to look up numbers. This may coincide with some areas beginning to charge a fee for directory assistance in the 1970s, and on to the breakup of the Bell Telephone monopoly in 1982.

Coupled with the news of discontinued printed phone books is info that personal directory assistance has been or is also being eliminated by many companies. The first online directory appeared in 1996. Instant look-ups online have completely replaced the need for human assistance. The fact that younger people prefer not to even make phone calls is perhaps a topic for another day.

What memories of printed phone books come to mind for you, boomers?