07 July 2012

On the Twentieth Century

Comedian Fred Allen is not too well known anymore, but there was a time when his program was one of the most popular shows on radio. Headlining various programs, Allen was on the radio from 1932 - 1949, facing direct competition from the likes of Jack Benny and Fibber and Molly McGee. Although his show was decidedly sophisticated and urbane, he aimed more at the middle of America rather than the upper crusts.

Known for many regular features on his show, one of the most interesting elements (especially all these years later) was his interviews with regular folks, actual people who did routine (dare I say) run of the mill jobs. These interviews with just plain folks (like the 1937 interview I featured on this blog with Hollywood lunch wagon proprietor Willie King) provide rare and unusual insights into their lives -- and in their own words.

I would like to share with you another interview, this time with Joe Cooper, a porter for the Pullman Company, then employed on the Twentieth Century Limited (pictured), a luxury train that ran between New York and Chicago. A life-long employee of the company, at the time of this interview Cooper had been working for them for 22 years. The Twentieth Century Limited was often traveled by the rich and famous. Here, Cooper talks about riding the rails with the likes of  Ronald Colman, George Arliss, Douglas Fairbanks, Joan Crawford, Edward G. Robinson, Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor.

You can hear Cooper's 1939 interview here (it runs about seven minutes).

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