The Honeymooners: Nostalgia is sometimes not so nice

When television was in its infancy in the 1950’s, a show never to be missed was The Honeymooners. I was a young child and recall the show to this day. However, in comparison to today’s sophistication and political correctness, I wonder how it achieved such popularity. Don’t say nostalgia, as if THAT can erase all past evil and chalk it up to, “It was an acceptable form of treatment between couples back then.” When we apply what we know about domestic violence and intimate partner violence today, we should be horrified, shocked and dismayed at the treatment of women in the 1950’s and the wife as slave and one to be abused,  as portrayed in this classic comedy which all family members laughed at and looked forward to each week!

Yes, I can take a joke about things that are truly funny. A review of many YouTube episodes of The Honeymooners revealed some funny stuff between Jackie Gleason and his sidekick, Art Carney. However, the married couple’s relationship can be viewed as questionable, and in some circles, abusive. My opinion is such shows give evil people evil ideas.

The character of Ralph Kramden is a know-it-all bus driver, who gets involved in one get rich quick scheme after another and who loves to dominate and bully his wife. In fact, it appears that his friendship with best friend Norton is far more intimate regarding personal closeness and compatibility than with his wife, Alice, the begrudging housewife who serves “the master.”

Alice Kramden is your typical ‘50’s housewife, BUT, she is no pushover. She frequently stands up to her husband’s verbal, physical and psychological abuse. Writers for Wikipedia attempt to explain away his bad behavior by saying, “Ralph is very short-tempered, frequently resorting to bellowing insults and hollow threats.” Hidden beneath the many layers of bluster, however, is “a soft-hearted man who loves his wife and is devoted to his best pal, Ed Norton.” How can we be so sure of this?  We have a very insecure male who is barely scraping by to provide a living for his wife who is not at all ambitious, with the exception of lifting a fork. His world revolves around bowling and he doesn’t appear to care about bettering his situation in real meaningful ways. And so, he finds fault with everyone else.

How often has the character of Alice been frustrated, angry, in tears or wanted to run away from her apartment prison? Although we may not have seen blatant physical abuse, there was plenty of physical gesturing/threats, pounding on or throwing inanimate objects, screaming and verbal threats.

Ralph’s mother in law constantly reminds him of his weight and that he is a bad provider to her daughter. The character of Alice apparently studied to be a secretary prior to marrying Ralph, and according to the storyline, she was one of 12 children with a father who never worked. Talk about lost dreams for these two characters caught up in the life within a Brooklyn tenement. This series was supposed to mirror the working class of the 1950’s, but, were the innocent 1950’s really so bad? Was the working class so angry?

It appears to me, that current life is a lot more complicated, with far more sources of anger upon which abusers can blame their unacceptable behavior.

 The Evolution: 

Historically, the start of The Honeymooners began as a six-minute sketch on the DuMont Television Network and then as one of the featured sketches beginning in 1953 on the Jackie Gleason Show (a variety/comedy hour) moving to the CBS Network. The Gleason show was a rival for the ever popular, I Love Lucy show.

Several actresses were considered for The Honeymooners co-starring wife role. However, some of the actresses were blacklisted during the time of the McCarthy hearings. What an opportunity for Audrey Meadows. She sent Gleason her “wake up in the morning look” in a ripped house coat when she was considered too pretty for the role. As it turned out, Jackie Gleason was paid a whopping $65,000 per episode increased to $70,000 during the second season. Audrey Meadows received $2,000 per week.

Other Characters: 

The other two characters of The Honeymooners included Ed Norton, skillfully portrayed by Art Carney, and his wife, Trixie, a rather nebulous person, portrayed by Joyce Randolph, a relatively minor role who was Alice’s best friend. Ed Norton was your average Joe working in the New York City sewer system. He was goofy, yet affable and loyal to a fault to his friend, Ralph. Although his character supposedly went to typing school, he didn’t like contained spaces. Norton was proud to describe his job as, “A sub-supervisor in the subdivision of the department of subterranean sanitation. I just keep things moving.

Back to Intimate Partner Violence… Is Ralph Kramden an Abuser?

I reviewed about a dozen episodes of the Honeymooners on YouTube. Although the viewer can make the case that Alice was very capable of giving it back to Ralph with biting sarcasm, what would be the consequence if she had not stood up for herself? Would Ralph eventually follow through with his gesture “to the Moon, Alice!” and make contact?

On the other hand, being submissive and following an intimate partner’s demands to the letter in no way shape or form guarantees safety. So what’s a woman to do? Anger and jealousy over perceived infractions will often continue to fuel the partner’s behavior. Alice does not have to do anything wrong in the eyes of the world. What Ralph perceives and does is what matters in the end with such toxic relationships.

A Few Examples of Ralph’s Verbal Abuse from Episodes of “The Honeymooners” 

“Alice, you’re a riot…. I’d like to… (Waving fist); Boys and Girls Together episode;

“Just be careful Alice, Be careful… The life you save may be your own”; A Women’s Work is Never Done episode;

“Oh Boy, are you ‘gonna get yours… Just once… Pow” Peacemaker episode;

(Talking about not washing his bowling shirt or darning his socks) “… I’m gonna put in a new system right now. When I come home, if it isn’t done the way I say, you get one demerit. Do you know what happens to you when you get ten demerits…? A Woman’s Work is Never Done episode

Take my advice and do not let your kids watch The Honeymooners.
Parting Comments:
Alice/Audrey Meadows: Audrey Meadows was a lot more savvy than Alice. She was the only actor on the series who requested financial compensation and residuals be written into her contract for the viewing of shows over time. In real life, she served as Director of the First National Bank of Denver for 11 years, the first woman to hold such a position. She also was instrumental in the design of flight attendant uniforms and customer service policies at Continental Airlines (her late husband’s company).

Smart woman!!! She protected her financial interests and was a pioneer career woman too! Ralph would have been so jealous!

Please go to It may help you… It will certainly help someone you know!



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The Wrath of the “Fire Gods” Took Nine Lives in South Carolina

CORRECTION Charleston Fire

The Charleston 9 Will NEVER Be Forgotten

It happened on June 18, 2007, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Victims of the Sofa Super Store Warehouse

Rodney Bradford Baity, age 37 was the first firefighter to be located-  Described as a “gentle giant, a man of few words, with a prankish nature at work and a dedicated  husband father who always got down on the floor to play his kids;

James a Drayton, age 56, with 32 years experienced, he was very dedicated to helping others in any way possible.He was a former Marine with a myriad of interests including – cooking‚ crabbing‚ vacationing on cruise ships‚ fixing things‚ working on cars‚ listening to James Brown‚ dancing‚ and being around children, and being a stagehand in local theater.

Melvin Champaign, 46,  struggled in childhood and was raised by his Grandmama “for his safety”. Melvin  was beloved by many and talented beyond compare – always the role model and paying it forward for others. A black belt in karate, working with youth, a carpenter, musician and songwriter, a member of the Army, who also had a passion for the ministry and earned his  Associate’s degree in theology. He married, had three children and also worked as an ironworker.  He returned to Charleston from Tacoma Washington in 2003 and  fulfilled another life long dream of becoming a firefighter until the time of his death in 2007.

Michael French, age 27, aka “Frenchie”  or “Mikey”, began his career as a volunteer firefighter at age 14,. He worked for several departments and ultimately achieved assistant Engineer in one year versus the 2 to 3 years for others to achieve. He was born on Valentine’s Day and a sweetheart from the beginning. He was laid back‚ never in a hurry‚ rarely got excited‚ but always busy. He ever stopped according to his mother. Frenchies was a devoted husband and father to a girl and boy. Frenchies was also an avid hunter and fisherman who never lost his primary passion for firefighting.  

Theodore “Mike” Benke, age 49, had nearly a 29 year firefighting career. He was the consummate soccer and all other activity” Dad  to  3 children and 3 grandchildren – always doing for others! For example He was always driving kids to soccer and baseball practices/games‚ school‚ field trips‚ working in the yard‚ homework‚ housework‚ (especially laundry‚) cleaning the pool‚ or whatever needed to be done. He ALWAYS found time to have fun with his family. He especially loved racing and telling people how proud he was of his family. He was described by his wife as a gentle soul who disliked confrontation , but filled his life with love and laughter.

William Hutchinson III, age 48, rose through the ranks of firefighting beginning at age 18 and progressed from firefighter to engineer to Captain and had the reputation as a trusted and skilled mentor. He was also a barber, bringing those tools of the trade to the firehouse for haircut. He was married with two daughters. Billy enjoyed vacationing and competing in golf tournaments in Myrtle Beach, where he won trophies for his golf skills. Billy’s wife, Phyllis remembers pinning his badge‚ collar brass‚ and name tag on every duty day for 18 years.

Mark Kelsey lost his life at age 40, after a 26 year career in firefighting in the Ashley River and then the Charleston City SC Fire Department following nine years in the US Navy. His ranks included Captain, Certified Fire Investigator and Engineer prior to his death. His hobbies included motorcycle riding, on a custom chopper with “the Wolf Pack.”
Lous “LuLu” Mulkey, age 34, achieved Captain status as well as numerous awards in the line of duty, during his 11.5 year tenure with the Charleston City Fire Department  including saving the life of a fellow firefighter. He also was very involved in coaching “his boys” in basketball and football. LuLu was married to his wife  Lauren with a wide array of friends and players who loved him dearly.  

Brandon K. Thompson was the youngest of three brothers, originally from Mobile Alabama with all boys following the volunteer firefighter track. He embraced the role of firefighter , excelled in many aspects. He held awards of firefighter of the year at Pine Ridge and was the Assistant Chief and station Captain. He also wrote grants to obtain needed safety equipment.He joined the Summerville Fire Department in 1999 and joined the City of Charleston Fire Department in 2003, foregoing a potential position as engineer to “be on the nozzle and fight fires.”    

Sadly, Brandon was not scheduled to work the day of the fire, as he had swapped shifts and parshished with his colleagues from Ladder Company #5.   Brandon’s body was the last firefighter to be removed from what remained of the furniture warehouse. He  was the youngest of the Charleston 9.

The Fire Event

The fire began at 6:15 p.m. at the Sofa Super Store warehouse 1807 Savannah Highway. It was comprised of a retail store  with 42,000 square feet and a 17,000 square foot warehouse at the back of the single story building. Firefighters arrived in three minutes addressing the initial fire in the loading dock area and with adequate visibility and occasional wisps of smoke until a rear door was opened where the fire raged.


A description from the Center for Disease Control Report-

The right showroom addition to the loading dock was opened. Within minutes, the fire rapidly spread into and above the main showroom, the right showroom addition, and the warehouse. The burning furniture quickly generated a huge amount of toxic and highly flammable gases along with soot and products of incomplete combustion that added to the fuel load. The fire overwhelmed the interior attack and the interior crews became disoriented when thick black smoke filled the showrooms from ceiling to floor. The interior fire fighters realized they were in trouble and began to radio for assistance as the heat intensified. One firefighter activated the emergency button on his radio. The front showroom windows were knocked out and firefighters, including a crew from a mutual-aid department, were sent inside to search for the missing firefighters. Soon after, the flammable mixture of combustion by-products ignited, and fire raced through the main showroom. Interior fire fighters were caught in the rapid fire progression and nine firefighters from the first-responding fire department died. At least nine other firefighters, including two mutual-aid fire fighters, barely escaped serious injury.”

Contributing Factors for  the Death and Destruction-

  • Firefighters becoming disoriented;
  • Lack of  a sprinkler system;
  • South Carolina didn’t follow Federal regulations for two firefighters to stay outside a burning structure for every two firefighters that enter on “rapid intervention missions.” Rather, South Carolina previously followed a “two firefighters in, one firefighter out rule.”(Reference New York Times article below)

Many of the 43 NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety) incident report  recommendations included this sampling-

Several examples of lack of Standard Operating Procedures:

  • lack of continuous risk assessment by those in charge outside, communicating     with those inside;
  • adequate protection of fire equipment;
  • improved training of safety techniques, improved radio equipment and communications with other entities;
  • provide compliant  fire work station garments;
  • use thermal imaging cameras to assess  the fire situations;
  • require the use of sprinkler systems and automatic ventilation systems in commercial structures, especially ones having high fuel loads.

The Controversy of Flame Retardant Chemicals in Furniture and Health Risks-  

In the Charleston Fire,The burning furniture quickly generated a huge amount of toxic and highly flammable gases along with soot and products of incomplete combustion that added to the fuel load.

A Brief History of Toxic, Flammable Furniture- (According to the National Resources Defense Council-(a New York City-based, non-profit international environmental advocacy group)-

Since 1975, furniture foam has been laden with flame retardant chemicals to meet the standards of California’s Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117). But recently, (2014) studies by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other groups have found that ame retardant chemicals in furniture are ineffective at preventing, limiting, or slowing down res.2 Further, the chemicals don’t stay in the furniture—they migrate out and collect in indoor dust. When people touch, inhale, or accidentally eat contaminated dust, ame retardants enter their bodies. Young children are especially vulnerable to flame retardant exposures.Flame retardant chemicals are associated with a variety of health risks, including cancer, hormone disruption, and diminished cognitive capacity.

Eleven responses were obtained  from 16 major furniture manufacturers , with 9 completing their survey.

On June 18, 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown directed the state to revise TB117. The revised standard, TB117-2013, improves re safety by addressing how fires actually start, eliminating the need for ame retardant chemicals. Effective January 1, 2014, companies can voluntarily comply with TB117-2013. The standard became mandatory on January 1, 2015.”

Even in 2018, I would estimate that this is still very much a work in progress. However, the two larger questions regarding loss of life for the Charleston families would be; How much of the toxic chemical load contributed to the loss of life in the Charleston fire?And, how do you weigh the need for fire retardant against the potentially harmful health risks today?

I would say ask a firefighter.  They care about saving lives. A balance between the two concerns must be achieved!




Eleven Years Later-

There is no doubt that safety standards, procedures, equipment, staffing,  and communication has vastly improved since the Charleston Nine Fire. Although there was much devastation and loss of life, invaluable lessons were learned in the midst of fire, black soot,  toxic chemicals, tears and everlasting grief.

One positive outcome was the formation of the FAST team – The Firefighter’s Assistance and Support Team was an outgrowth of this tragic Charleston event designed to help firefighters on a peer to peer basis for their grief in the performance of their jobs,  in assisting others, dealing with their  loss and making professional referrals and resources available to these brave first responders. This program has grown to include other departments.

Listen to my Shattered Lives podcast- 



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Victim, Survivor, Thriver: A New Perspective on Grief


From my perspective, after nearly 37 years, I take comfort in the knowledge that through the devastation left by the murder of my father, I have been able to thrive, bring comfort, knowledge and assistance to others in entirely different ways than I ever thought possible!

Over the past several years, mentors, including Susan Murphy Milano, homicide survivor and nationally known Intimate Partner Violence Expert and Advocate, Delilah Jones, President of ImaginePublicity, and Monica Caison, Founder of the CUE Center for Missing Persons, have given me opportunities and have made indelible marks on my life.  Thankfully, each of them has helped me graduate to true thriver mode in a myriad of ways. And, so can you!  

I would like to share the contents of a unique and valuable concept, with credit given to Dr. Barbara Whitfield a thalantologist (An expert in the study of death and dying). This chart is vital to the understanding of this progressive, useful concept.

As the theory goes, after having experienced a trauma, a person progresses, or gets stuck in a progression, from being labeled a ”victim,” then a ”survivor, followed by a “thriver.”

Upon discovering this material, I was delighted to identify myself as a “thriver” in nearly every category! Reading from left to right (Refer to chart)  from victim, to survivor to thriver, you can really see the progression of less needy, more independence and self-confidence in a person’s healing progression.

I challenge each reader to determine where they fit here and now on this chart. It is a perfect way to determine your emotional health goals. It is truly a map for post traumatic growth. Once you realize this, bask in your progress!

    From Victim to Survivor to Thriver


Victim Survivor Thriver
Doesn’t deserve nice things or trying for the “good life.” Struggling for reasons & chance to heal Gratitude for everything in life.
Low self esteem/shame/unworthy Sees self as wounded & healing Sees self as an overflowing miracle
Hyper vigilant Using tools to learn to relax Gratitude for new life
Alone Seeking help Oneness
Feels Selfish Deserves to seek help Proud of Healthy Self caring
Damaged Naming what happened Was wounded & now healing
Confusion & numbness Learning to grieve, grieving past ungrieved trauma Grieving at current losses
Overwhelmed by past Naming & grieving what happened Living in the present
Hopeless Hopeful Faith in self & life
Uses outer world to hide from self Stays with emotional pain Understands that emotional pain will pass & brings new insights
Hides their story Not afraid to tell their story to safe people. Beyond telling their story, but always aware they have created their own healing with HP
Believes everyone else is better, stronger, less damaged Comes out of hiding to hear others & have compassion for them & eventually self Lives with an open heart for self & others
Often wounded by unsafe others Learning how to protect self by share, check, share Protects self from unsafe others
Places own needs last Learning healthy needs (See Healing the Child Within & Gift to Myself) Places self first realizing that is the only way to function & eventually help others
Creates one drama after another See patterns Creates peace
Believes suffering is the human condition Feeling some relief, knows they need to continue in recovery Finds joy in peace
Serious all the time Beginning to laugh Seeing the humor in life
Uses inappropriate humor, including teasing Feels associated painful feelings instead Uses healthy humor
Uncomfortable, numb or angry around toxic people Increasing awareness of pain & dynamics Healthy boundaries around toxic people, incl. relatives
Lives in the past Aware of patterns Lives in the Now
Angry at religion Understanding the difference between religion & personal spirituality Enjoys personal relationship with the God of their understanding
Suspicious of therapists– projects Sees therapist as guide during projections Sees reality as their projection & owns it.
Needs people & chemicals to believe they are all right Glimpses of self-acceptance & fun without others Feels authentic & connected, Whole
“Depression” Movement of feelings Aliveness



©Barbara Whitfield 2003



Coming Full Circle with a Legacy

Motorcycle Flat Tracks 2017Sometimes a person’s past crosses path with future generations to create something very special. Such was the case during Christmas when I was witness to a rite of passage that dealt with a part of my Dad’s legacy as a former New England Motorcycle Rider and Champion of hundreds of competitive races.

At times, we all re-gift an item when we think that others can utilize or appreciate it more as the recipient. However, this was more than a simple re-gifting.  Before I reveal this 60 year old item which has withstood the test of time, let me acquaint you with the affiliated organizations and some history.

According to one of my Dad’s best friends and fellow rider who now lives in Alabama, my Dad primarily participated and excelled at the following:

Scrambles (Cross country or hare scramble races are off-road competition events. All riders in a single class start on the same row and the event is an all-out race to the finish. They are conducted on several-mile-long marked courses through woods or desert and over rugged natural terrain). Half track and Short track (i.e-quarter mile) competitions as well as Enduro. (Enduro is an endurance test between the rider and the terrain. Enduro racing is physically and mentally demanding as the rider endures low-hanging tree branches, fallen logs, rocky upgrades, splashing through streams and riding up and down hill on gravel, dirt, sand and even mud for long distances). Motorcylcle jumps (See YouTube Video below)

History of the New England Riders Association   

As of this writing, I could find no formal documented history of the New England Riders Association. Today they list 1,172 members. However, I know it has been around for 60+ years for the love of motorcycle riding and the respect for the sport.

New England Riders is a self-organized, inclusive motorcycle group whose members are known for their love of “time in the saddle.”

“Despite having no dues, membership, rules or officers, the NERDs plan regular group rides to some of New England’s finest destinations. The discussions on

New England riders is a non-profit organization  and does accept donations to help fund the events. The New England Riders community welcomes all makes and levels of riders. Due to the mileage we put on our machines in all kinds of weather, the majority of the NER membership favor touring, sport touring, cruising, and ADV motorcycles. Courtesy, respect and safe group riding technique are valued attributes amongst the NER community.”  


Forging Paths Where the Faint of Heart Don’t Go

Among the many events, there was trail riding, hill climbs, paved track racing, many rallies and regular road riding. My Dad rode dirt bikes on trails where there was none.  It took skill, agility, and fearlessness. Races were captured on 16mm film in those days. My brother is the keeper of many glossy black and white  photos, a treasure trove of the era. Here’s a more current YouTube example of what Connecticut dirt bike hillclimb riding requires:

And there were ramp jumps; yes! I remember my Dad up in the air “…flying through the air with the greatest  of ease, that daring young man on the flying trapeze, his movements were graceful, all people he could please…. “

Watch this- (No doubt, 55 seconds of terror for some!)

More History

In dirt track racing the course is usually an oval, where only left turns are made. The racer uses his left foot as an outrigger to balance the bike as it’s leaned far into the turn, much like a road-racing motorcyclist uses his knee sliders to aid cornering.  The steel shoe, or hot-shoe is an integral part of flat track racing.

Motorcycle Steel Shoe

I recall my Dad’s steel shoe being somewhat rudimentary, although a vital piece of equipment on the flat tracks, compared to the lighter weight, more high tech versions of custom boot wear today. My Dad’s friend related that he was the only racer to use steel shoes on certain tracks as compared to his colleagues. In fact, he constructed his own steel shoes from an old Plymouth car bumper.  Refer to this blog in which a rider turned artisan meets the need-

On the Cover of Motorcycle Magazines  

Unfortunately, I can’t display the actual cover in which my Dad was featured in Cycle Sport and other magazines of the 1950’ and 60’s. However, a couple of vintage editions that are similar mentioned articles about my Dad within the magazines were these available for purchase online by a collector with descriptions. 

1961 October Motorcyclist Motorcycle Magazine Back-Issue

Contents: Ohio State Scrambles, photos of Joe Oden, Dick Stouffer, Jim Borer, Warren Longacre; East meets West – Don Gore heads Eastern Scrambles Team to victory; California Highway Patrol motorcycle training – safety first; Speed Week at Bonneville; 1962 Harley-Davidson 8 new Models; Summer of ’61 by Richard Wyler; Theory and tuning of the 2-stroke; Watkins Glen / Carroll Resweber; Honda Rider Doug Woodward in record run.
Contents:Joe Leonard wins Springfield; Pinup: NSU Prima Scooter with lovely miss and postman; Belgian Grand Prix – Jack Brett; Colonial Tour – Williamsburg and Jamestown; 2-Page Harley-Davidson Ad with Joe Leonard, Bud Mayes; Two Yanks visit the Isle of Man; Altoona – Don Gore; Ariel 500cc Red Hunter Road Test;


Television Fame

There are certain achievements recognized worldwide. To name a few; the Pulitzer Prize, appearing on Oprah, lecturing at a TedTalk, etc. But, in my Dad’s era, to truly have  made it to the top with his athleticism was to have raced on the former TV series, “ABC’s  Wide World of Sports”.  He did so, I believe, from Daytona Beach, Florida in the 1960’s. The series ran from April, 1961 to January 1998.  

To be known among the best racers the world, what a milestone! We watched this show every Saturday night. As a family,  we attended many of his races all over New England on Sundays to cheer him onto victory. It was exciting to see all of the racers round the corners at high speeds with steel shoes helping to balance the bikes. His motorcycle, with the big, bold, black #47 emblazoned on the front won nearly all of the races or came in close to #1 with his friend and rival, Charlie Vincent winning many races as well.

The Gift

One of the hallmarks of being a New England rider was to proudly wear their duds; whether it be a classic leather jacket, leather gloves, boots, homemade steel shoes, or a sporty racing jacket. In fact, the coat I will describe looks very similar to classic college varsity jackets.

December 2017- A Legacy Continues

At some point in time after my Dad’s murder, my brother Scott inherited various items.    I did not know that the vintage jacket, characterized by a navy blue color with bright yellow lines at the bottom and length of the sleeves (resembling the yellow lines of the roadways), snap yellow buttons, and the rider’s name embroidered on the left chest was the  signature jacket worn in the 1950’s and 1960’s by these consummate athletes.  

And so, at Christmas 2017, a classy and stylish “millennial niece” was given this vintage jacket as a gift from my brother.  Whether it hung in the closet too long, whether it did not fit him any longer, or whether it was just time to pass it on to another generation, I can’t say.  But, I was impressed. After a little dry cleaning, perhaps the good people of Denver will see this coat proudly worn by the one and only grandchild my Dad never knew. I hope she recognizes the significance. I hope that my Dad’s fans, will smile and look toward heaven! See the photos of Cara, “modeling” his jacket below.  


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