Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Remembering Red letter

(The Sun-Commercial got the headline wrong. This was about the anniversary of his death and the date should be September 17th.)

Letters to the Editor

Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007

Celebrate Red's birthday

Red Skelton died 10 years ago Sept. 10. Take a moment to remember one of America's greatest clowns and a native of Vincennes.

My early memories of Red Skelton are of him doing his seagulls, “Gertrude and Heathcliff,” on TV. One of my special memories is when I met him in person. He came to my high school drama class in Muncie and performed at Ball State University.

I knew him as a movie comic. It took research to find out about his career in radio and TV. I found out I was exposed to Skelton's characters through cartoons. “Junior the Mean Widdle Kid” and “Sheriff Deadeye” inspired characters such as “Tweety Bird” and “Yosemite Sam.” Radio and TV episodes gave me a better understanding of his characters.

While I lived in Anderson I made trips to Vincennes to see how he was remembered in his hometown. What I found was a clipping file at the public library and at the Vincennes University Lewis Historical Library. I was able to visit Vincennes right after he died. Outside the Vincennes Sun-Commercial office, Skelton was remembered with a wreath and black sash on the “Freddie the Freeloader” bench.

I wish I could have attended the memorial service that week. VU announced it was going to name the new performance center after Red Skelton. I thank Dr. Phillip M. Summers for telling me about the unveiling of the footprints in cement and introducing me to Vincennes' local expert on Red Skelton, Doug Carroll.

I kept up-to-date on the performance center. My hope was to use my knowledge and passion to help with the Red Skelton collection at VU and to keep Skelton's memory alive. I quit my job in Anderson and moved my collection of Red Skelton items to Vincennes.

My goal is to bring back those memories and bring them to a new generation.

Mark Kratzner


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