Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rin Tin Tin and TV Memories (September 10, 2014)

Other than The Mickey Mouse Club, my favorite TV show when I was a young boy was The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. The show ran from 1954 to 1959 and I especially remember watching in on the old, round-screened, black & white TV at my maternal grandparents home in Cumberland, Rhode Island during our visits there. The show was about a young boy named Rusty who was orphaned in a Indian raid and subsequently got adopted by soldiers at the frontier Fort Apache.  Rusty and his German shepherd dog, Rin Tin Tin, helped the soldiers in weekly adventures involving the wisdom, strength, and heroism of Rin Tin Tin (not unlike the basic storylines for the episodes of the contemporary TV program, Lassie).

Today it is especially appropriate to recall Rin Tin Tin not just because the dogs who played the dog character in movies, radio series, and television programs entertained millions of children and adults from 1922 on, but mostly because Rin Tin Tin was a product of World War I and today happens to be the birthday of the original dog named Rin Tin Tin!

As explained in today's Writer's Almanac, an American soldier named Leland Duncan was stationed in the Meuse Valley of France in 1918.  He was ordered to enter and search a shelled German encampment in Lorraine, France to assess the damage and while inside one of the ruined buildings he discovered a female German shepherd with her two days-old pups.  Duncan rescued the two pups and named them "Rin Tin Tin" and "Nanette" after the finger puppets that soldiers carried around as lucky charms.  Sadly, Nanette died before Duncan got home to California, but the male pup that Duncan called "Rinty" became a much loved pet.  To learn the rest of the story behind the original Rin Tin Tin's rise to stardom, go to the Writer's Almanac link provided above.

At this point there have been some 12 generations of dogs descended from the original Rin Tin Tin and the current representative of this canine genealogy still makes public appearances and keeps alive the brand started 92 years ago.

Finally, another reason to remember Rin Tin Tin on his birthday is that my maternal grandparents had a special mug that was kept at their home for many years.  It was a child-size mug in which milk was served -- in turn -- to me, my three siblings, and my six cousins whenever they visited my grandparents and then my grandmother after my grandfather passed away.  The mug was a pink colored, plastic mug with the picture of Rusty and Rin Tin Tin on it. I am sure one of the ten grandchildren must have that mug today . . .  and if he or she happens to read this, please be sure to fill it up with milk and raise a mug tonight in memory of the original Rin Tin Tin and those visits to with Grandma and Grandpa Carpenter! 
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Photograph of the main characters from The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin in 1956 is apparently in the public domain as it was published in the U.S. between 1923 and 1977 without a copyright notice.  From left, the characters are: Lee Aaker ("rusty"); Rin Tin Tin; James Brown ("Rip Masters"); and Joe Sawyer ("Biff O'Hara").  Photographer - - Robert R. Blanch of Minneapolis, MN.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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