As a teenager growing up in the 1950s I can clearly remember sitting in front of our second-hand black and white TV with my mom and brother watching the early sit-com, I love Lucy starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. It was right up there with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
I thought I'd try and re-live some of my Lucy moments by visiting the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum in nearby Jamestown, New York. Jamestown is about a 90 minute drive from the Niagara border at Buffalo.
First, here's a bit about the show. Lucy portrays Lucy Ricardo the wacky wife of Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz living in New York City. They were in real life actually husband and wife. In the show, Ricky was trying to make it big in show business and Lucy was always trying to help, much to his chagrin. The results are hilarious. Their best friends are Fred and Ethel Mertz who live in the same building. The first I Love Lucy show appeared on television in June 1951 and the final episode April 1960.
The Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum is located in downtown Jamestown at 2, W. 35rd St., and when I first went through the doors of the shrine to this comedic couple, my memories began to flow.
My wife Ellen, who remembers the show, like myself, was amazed at the size of the museum which consists of two buildings. One building contains memorabilia of the private and screen lives of Lucy and Desi and another is the Desilu Studios which displayed exact re-creations of the I Love Lucy television studio sets .We saw sets of the Ricardos' New York City apartment living room and kitchen. Some of the 50's chairs and table are taking on a second life today disguised as expensive posh furniture. Also featured is a life-sized mural of the original studio audience. Above the Desilu Studios is a recreation of the Tropicana Club which was where Desi performed in the TV show. Today, the room is where private events are held.
For an additional fee of $7. 00 you can pick up an audio tour (like an old style telephone receiver) and as you make your way through the museum you can learn more about various artefacts, gowns, scripts, awards, etc . The audio is narrated by Lucy and Desi's daughter Lucy Arnaz. Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Adults $15.00, Seniors (60+) $14.00,Youth (6-18) $10.00,Children ( 5 and under)free. There's free two hour street side parking outside.
Visit The Festival In Jamestown, New York
Since the early 90's an annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival has been held the later part of July. This year's festival: July 30--August 2, 2015. Steve Neilans, Marketing and Communications Director of the festival said, "On tap this year is Jerry Seinfeld, Melissa Rivers, Joan Rivers daughter and Kelly Carlin, daughter of George Carlin. I can't wait." Neither can we.
After the visit we stepped inside The Pub Restaurant, 209 North Main Street, a block away .A few locals told us it was a good place to eat. Good choice. If you're from Niagara, you might remember the Diana Sweets Diner in St. Catharines. The Pub Restaurant which has been around since 1965 has the same style of old high-back wooden booths and the atmosphere is very similar. We could see why it was a favourite local eating place but also learned it was a favourite meeting place.
Other Attractions to Visit in the Area
-The Roger Tory Peterson Institute at 311 Curtis Street, Jamestown. Roger Tory Peterson is best known as an American naturalist who published many well loved books on birds.
-Robert H. Jackson Center at 305 East Fourth Street, Jamestown. Jackson was a leading American lawyer and judge known for his writings on the American court of laws.
-Jamestown Audubon Center and Sanctuary at 1600 Riverside Road, Jamestown. Five and a half miles of easy trails through fields and forests where you see many types of wildlife.
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.