BreakfClubBlueBill Murphy ©2018

Today we live in a drugged society.  I’m on 5 medications myself.  The problem is with what are called ‘recreational drugs.’  Most folks today have no perception of our  practically drug-free 1940s utopia.

But we did have drugs in the 40s.  The number one drug of choice was nicotine.  And yet, my family was practically unaffected by this drug.  Of my 28 aunts and uncles, I knew of only one uncle who smoked.  My maternal grandfather had a corncob pipe (which I now have), but I never witnessed him smoking it.  And for a while, my maternal grandmother dipped snuff.  I’m so thankful that my upbringing helped me dodge the nicotine bullet!

The second most prevalent 1940s drug was alcohol.  And again, my family was largely untouched by this free-flowing drug.  At the very end of our street was the Night Owl Cafe, a neighborhood ‘watering hole’ which sold beer.  I only set foot in the place one time in the 19 years I lived on Evergreen… and that time was to get change to ride the city bus.  However, I did taste my first beer when I was 5… when my mother gave me a tiny sip of the nasty brew she was instructed to drink… as an aid in milk production… when my sister was a baby.  Crazy, huh?

The third drug of choice, and the one on which I was soon hooked, was caffeine… served hot, administered orally, suspended in delicious coffee.  My snuff-dipping grandmother lived next door.  By the time I was two, Mamaw Fairchild would stand at her back door, and Mom would watch for ours ‘s, as I toddled across the driveway and along the well worn path to Mamaw’s.

Mamaw’s kitchen was tiny.  Her small table was pushed against the rear wall, allowing for only 3 chairs around the table.  And there we’d sit, almost everyday, enjoying one another’s company while eating hot buttered toast and drinking coffee liberally laced with sugar and milk – while listening to Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club on the radio.

In my case, that happy morning ritual of 75 years ago got me thoroughly hooked on coffee.  The positive reinforcement that coffee, Mamaw, and Don McNeill gave my psyche was solidly welded in place.

Mamaw Fairchild has been gone for decades, as has Don McNeill.  Gone also is that tiny kitchen… that cherished haven of contentment.  But what has not faded are those valued memories.  Today, each sip of coffee, takes me back to those wonderful, carefree days of childhood… back to when we danced in our minds around the breakfast table, with Don McNeill.  Good Morning Breakfast Clubbers… I’ll drink to that!




Thanks Mamaw

mamaw-copy©2017 Bill Murphy

I began this blog-quest with ‘WHY I WRITE.’ This piece could have been titled, ‘HOW I WRITE.’ Whatever writing aptitude I may possess, I acquired many years ago – through radio. Allow me to explain.

My maternal grandparents lived next door. From the time I could walk, Mom would stand at the backdoor and watch as I made my way across the driveway, and into Mamaw Fairchild’s house. There, she’s serve me hot coffee liberally laced with cream and sugar, along with hot buttered toast.

Then we’d listen to Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club on the radio. It was a morning ritual, the fond memories of which I treasure to this day.

We foolishly thought that listening to Don McNeill sing and dance around his breakfast table was all fun and games. Little did we understand that work was also involved. You see – we could not see him and his merry guests as they laughed and cavorted around that wonderful breakfast nook. Our minds were required to construct that image of mirth and merriment and wonder. Little did I realize that coffee and toast with Mamaw and Don McNeill – was teaching my young brain to think, to imagine, to create what my young eyes could not actually see. It was pre-school at Mamaw’s house.

Don McNeill wasn’t my only brain-aerobics instructor. I had Arthur Godfrey, Burns & Allen, Jack Benny, Judy Canova, Bob Hope, Lum & Abner, and both Bob and Bing Crosby. (Just to name a very few.) Many of them gave their brain-workouts in our family automobile.

My paternal grandparents lived in Carthage, MS – a long 65+ mile drive on 2 lane highways. At least one Sunday each month, after church we’d head to Carthage and Dad’s parents. Our car had radio! In the 40s, it was all AM radio, often static-y. Also, it would completely vanish when driving under a bridge, or through a thunderstorm. “And Dr. Watson, I think you’ll agree that the true murderer was – crackle, crackle, crackle.”

Sunday afternoon radio was pregnant with drama. Boston Blackie, Bulldog Durmmond, The Whistler, and The Shadow. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” We’d hang onto their every word from driveway to driveway, my growing mind receiving a good workout every mile of the way.


It’s a hard habit to break, brain-exercise. I find myself easily bored with TV. When this happens I seem to hear my brain voice the words, “Hey, I want to play too!” Then I’ll walk upstairs and pick up a well worn Sudoku book from among my many copies – and let my brain out to play.

50 – 75 years from now, will my great-grandkids be hanging an old antiquated flat screen TV on the wall as a remembrance of today? I think not. But as I write these words, I look across the room, at the well-worn hulk of a 1930s-40s radio – a cherished Father’s Day gift from my dear wife Carol. Sadly, the radio’s innards aren’t in working order, but even if they were, I doubt that I could pick up Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club.

Thanks Grandma, for listening to him with me. And for helping back then to prepare my growing mind – for today.