Many of you readers will remember Gene London as he broadcasted (telecasted) his show on channel 10 from 1959 to 1977 and sang this beloved song:
"Come right into the General Store: we have licorice, gumdrops and sourballs, anything you're hankering for, you'll find in Cartoon Corners General Store. There's lots of stories and songs that you know, toys to build and a big pit belly stove, Cartoon fun with your favorites so, Let's ring up the curtain on this show! There's something else I've forgotten, let's see. Of course, Gene London, that's me!"
(Then a box of confetti fell on his head. The General Store was next to a fictional confetti factory.)
I talked to London at his Reading, Pa climate-controlled studio where he has stored the exquisite movie star costumes he will be sharing with the public on October 2 at the Reading Public Museum. The exhibit will run until May 2010 partnered by Albright College. His knowledge of former movie stars and their costumes ignited memories of their movies that I watched in 1930, 40 50 and on reruns today. Among the stars' costumes are: Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, Grace Kelly, John Wayne, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe and Mae West.
Although London's career started in New York, it was as a very young counselor at Summerdale Day Camp that Gene London was really born. Owners of the camp, Sam and Ruth Browne, steered him to Philly and, eventually, to the influence of Dave Garroway, a popular broadcaster of the time. "Cartoon Corners (General Store) was born which was a great success from the start. Within months, I was on seven days a week and twice on Sunday, The overflow of commercials created a demand for more kid shows, and 'Pixanne' was born," he recalled.
London, recently showcased on Channel 12 about his forthcoming Movie Star Costume Show, credited his mother as a dominant influence.
London said, "I loved movies. Mother and I used to watch them and cry. (My mother was beautiful. She wanted to be in movies, but I became the performer instead.) People need to cry. We are afraid to cry.
"I'm open to emotion which is rare for a man. I am sensitive. The movies for us old-timers were so satisfying.
"I was always an artist, but my preparatory work was with puppets (University of Miami) was a big help in my career."
London, Senior Citizen, is still thin, has sparkling brown eyes and informed, "I have never had to use voice amplification." (His speech is soft, rapid and informative.)
As a storyteller myself, it was easy to agree with London when he stated, "When you tell stories, children are fascinated and into the joy of the moment."
He summarized, "I was like the Pied Piper; I made things look easy. I enjoyed what I did. I never cared for sports like many." London's father was an influence more so after the retired for managing a grocery store. "My bothers worked in the store, but I just enjoyed it. My father liked my enjoyment."
London stressed over and over the joy of living. Regarding harsh economic times of today, London advised, "We need God, and we need to find ourselves. There are many ways to do that.
London would like to perform at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville. I think he would fill the place. The charisma and joy radiates from his personality. His comment was "Everybody loves the movies and the costumes and me!"
Signing off now, as Keystone Connie, agreeing with the former star of "Cartoon Corners" is many areas. We need good movies to learn and lose ourselves for awhile. Phone me at 610-933-0669.