#157: Second Report of the New Rochelle Genealogical Society

157.1  Laura Meehan…From Brooklyn…married at age 17, altho she said at the time she was 19, so approximately 25 when the show begins. No middle name that we know of…no siblings ever mentioned, nor any nieces or nephews which would imply siblings…and she smokes. Nicknamed “Laurie” thru the first half of the first season only…sometimes called that by Rob, occasionally by Buddy, Sally, and Jerry (altho Jerry calls her “Honey” in 2-42…and Rob’s Uncle George calls her “Laurie” in 3-70.)

157.2  When Rob first meets her at Camp Crowder in the flashback episode 1-5, she’s a dancer with the USO and gives her name as Laura Meeker…that’s after Mary Tyler Moore’s then husband Dick Meeker…they were married in 1955 and divorced in 1961. Her maiden name isn’t mentioned again for another 54 episodes, until 2-59 when we meet her old high school beau Jim Darling (Robert Vaughn) who calls her Laura Meehan. True, Laura’s parents appear in 2-37 (the famous “Rosebud” episode) but they aren’t referred to by name, either given or surname…altho we are told her mother was a Middleton…so we actually hear “Middleton” before “Meehan.”

157.3   Laura’s parents only appear once more (3-87)…Rob calls his father-in-law Alan…we never find out Laura’s mother’s name…but they are Meehans from here on out. Laura’s double maiden names of Meeker and Meehan are generally considered to be a continuity mistake beyond salvaging, but I believe there is a very simple way to explain it. When she introduced herself as Laura Meeker she was a USO dancer, so to that extent, she was in show business…and Meeker could very well have been a stage name…perhaps to her ear easier to pronounce…Mee’n? Mee-han?…or to spell…Mee-? Mea-? Me-? Once she and Rob got serious, she went back to being Laura Meehan…no reason not to, since all Rob’s in-laws would be Meehans. Makes sense to me…

chart 544

157.4  As you can see in Chart 544, Laura has a bunch of aunts, uncles, and cousins…and no  indication who’s on what side of the family, with the exception of Alan’s older brother Edward, mentioned in Rosebud 2-37, when both sides are arguing about a name for the coming Petrie bambino. Laura points out “there’s already an Edward Jr. in the family.”  Depending on family tradition, he needn’t be the son of Edward Sr., but I think it’s highly likely…still, technically it’s only speculation. Only 2 of Laura’s cousins have last names…Sally’s blind-date Thomas Edson (not Edison)…appears in 1-3, before we have Meehan or Middleton…or even Meeker for that matter…but cousin Donna Palmer is in 3-78, when we do have Laura’s parents’ last names. Thanks for complicating it, writers…

157.5  Now speaking of Edwards…you’ll notice 3 Edwards in Laura’s parents’ generation…couldn’t they all be the same person? Unfortunately, no. Her unmarried cousin Donna’s father is Edward Palmer, not Meehan, so Donna’s mother Matilda is the sister of one of Laura’s parents. Couldn’t Uncle Edward, husband of Aunt Mildred, be Alan Meehan’s older brother? Well, does he look older? Granted, actors can play roles older or younger than their actual ages, but it is interesting to consider the relative ages of these actors as of the day TDVDS debuted, Tuesday Oct. 3 1961…

chart 545

157.6  The real reason this Uncle Edward can’t be Edward Meehan comes when he and Aunt Mildred are saying goodbye to Laura in 3-69…Rob never came home that night to visit with them, being lost in Red Hook with amnesia. Edward is a touchy-feely kind of uncle, but Mildred has a thing about kissing on the lips, so he has to kiss “our favorite grand nephew” Richie on the cheek. He then goes to kiss Laura goodbye on the lips, but is again intercepted by Mildred…kind of an odd bit of business, but suggesting Laura is not blood kin, so fair game in his mind, given his initial gusto and subsequent disappointment…ook. So I’ve speculated that Aunt Mildred is Alan Meehan’s sister and Laura’s aunt by blood…yes, she could very well be a Middleton, but “our favorite grand nephew” suggests they have others, and one could certainly be a son of Edward Jr., not supposing the existence of more relatives than we have to, Occam’s Razor-wise.

157.7  As to where the other collaterals hook up in the tree, we don’t know much. As I mentioned, we do know the names of cousin Donna’s parents…Laura asks after them in 3-78. We also know that cousin Grace is Uncle Howard’s daughter…Laura’s always been like a daughter to him, he says, and his daughter Grace has always been like a niece. Jane Dulo’s character is called “Cousin Margaret” in the credits, but she calls him “Uncle Howard,” so she’s his niece, not daughter. This episode 4-106 is the one where Rob is sick with the flu, but tries to pretend he isn’t for Laura’s party. It’s her turn to host a party of relatives for their Uncle Howard…whom nobody likes, but it is her turn. BTW, Cousin Edabeth who gets married up in Albany (5-149) is played by the daughter of William “Life of Riley” Bendix.

157.8  All thru the series you kind of get the feeling that when they talk about their “families,” they mean their fathers’ family…so these party-goers could all be Meehans. On the other hand, the fact that both Uncle Howard and Laura’s mother appear to be so much younger than Laura’s father hints that Howard’s a Middleton…curiously, neither of Laura’s parents are present at the party to settle it one way or the other.  Bear in mind, the actual ages of the actors are simply guidelines in analyzing their characters…otherwise, Cousin Margaret is 2 years older than Uncle Howard. It’s one way in which our world, the “real world,” can be used to understand the show’s internal universe…but it must be taken with a grain of salt…tubfulls, really…and that’s land salt, not sea salt…I’m Old School.

157.9  At any rate…apart from her parents appearing twice, just about everyone else on Laura’s chart, as with the Helpers’ relatives last week, appears or is mentioned only once. The lone exception is Aunts Mildred/Martha/Matilda…one can imagine these were thought to be the same person in the minds of various writers over 158 episodes…the aunt with the little-old-lady-name-that-begins-with-M. The Uncle Edward played by Hal Peary…who BTW was replaced in the role of Throckmorton Gildersleeve on the radio show “Fibber McGee and Molly” by none other than Willard Waterman, Uncle Howard…could then be Donna Palmer’s father, if Matilda and Mildred were the same person…and Aunt Mildred lives in Ohio, as does Aunt Martha. But unless there is absolutely compelling evidence, as last week with Jeanie/Janie in 1-1, different names mean different people, at least to me.

157.10  And Laura has other relatives who aren’t mentioned by name…an uncle who’s a dentist (2-43), a cousin whom she once stepped on to get a better view of Marlo Brando (4-114)…these could be somewhere on Chart 544….no way of knowing. Now…as to the other half…

157.11  Robert Simpson Petrie…The middle name of Simpson is mentioned twice (1-24, 5-140)…and its origin is something we’ll get to in a moment…suffice to say, in the final episode 5-158, when Laura reads the title of Rob’s completed book, she says “Robert F. Petrie”…yes, F and S can sound similar, but she very clearly says F. Born and raised in Danville, Illinois, as was Dick Van Dyke…Rob’s father was from Seattle. He is left-handed…in Jerry’s first appearance (1-7) he calls Rob “Lefty” 3 times, then never again…doesn’t drink, but does smoke…on this show, who doesn’t?

157.12  Attended the University of Illinois, majored in “Dramatics, Journalism, English” (1-5)…then in the early 1950s served in the army…3-69 says signal corps, 5-137 has it as special services, entertainment…mostly at Camp Crowder outside of Joplin, Mo., but later in Anchor, Texas (5-146). Met Laura at Camp Crowder and was married while still in the service. Following that, worked for 2 years back in Danville at either a TV station (2-49) or a radio station (4-124), before moving to New York to work on the Alan Brady Show.

157.13   Most of the place names used on TDVDS are real…altho Rob once mistakenly calls Danville “Westville” (4-108)…but before the Petries moved to New Rochelle, they lived in “Willitstown” (4-119), a fictitious place named after Dick’s wife Marge Willet, said to be an hour’s drive from New Rochelle.

157.14  The Petries’ address is 148 Bonnie Meadow Road. Some sources give the number as 448, which I didn’t catch watching the episodes…altho sharp-eyed viewers will notice that the large package addressed to Rob in 1-16 reads 468.  Still, the Helpers’ gave their address as 146. Carl Reiner lived at 48 Bonnie Meadow Road in New Rochelle, and Rob Reiner grew up there…and the real one only goes up to 99.  And Google Maps will tell you Bonnie Meadow Road is in Scarsdale to the north, but it isn’t…they’re confused because the northern tip of New Rochelle uses Scarsdale’s zip code…but you don’t have to be.

scarsdale

157.15  Rob has one sibling, his younger brother Stacey…altho there is a small but interesting blip. In 1-8, Sally asks, admiringly, do you have a brother? Rob responds: “He’s married.” When we first meet Stacey Petrie in 1-26, he’s only engaged…she asked him.  This is another case where I believe it’s fair play in the Fan Logic Game to assume Rob merely misspoke…he said “married” when he meant “engaged.” As to the rest of his relatives…when compared to Laura’s family…

chart 546

157.16  …what Rob lacks in collaterals…uncles, aunts, and cousins…he makes up for with a patrilineal side that goes back more generations. But first a word about their parents. They conveniently appear once per season…both sets in 2-37 and 3-87, Rob’s only in 1-12, 4-104, and 5-144. A past visit to “Grandma and Grandpa in Chicago” is mentioned in 1-9…undoubtedly Rob’s parents. And as you can see, while Laura’s parents are played by just 2 actors, Rob’s are represented by no less than 5. In the first season, the Empress Carlotta’s Necklace episode, its Will Wright (yup, Ben Weaver from “The Andy Griffith Show”) and Carol Veazie. Isabel Randolph takes over as Clara from the second season on…she appeared twice in the first season, as Rob’s sponsor’s wife Martha Bermont and as Richie’s teacher Mrs. Givens. And at least these 2 actresses look somewhat alike, compared to Rob’s 3 fathers.

157.17  But the big problem with the dads is that he’s Edward in his first season appearance, Sam for the others…a continuity goof so glaring that there’s simply no way to explain it. Another bit of strangeness is that Denver Pyle, as Uncle George Petrie from Danville, speaks with a Southern accent….while none of the other Petries do, not one, ever.

157.18  As to some of the other relatives…in 5-133 “The Great Petrie Fortune,” Dick Van Dyke himself portrays Sam’s Uncle Hezekiah, Rob’s grand uncle…at the reading of his will, the only other relatives present (not Sam nor his father, notice) are Uncle Hez’s half-brother Alfred Reinbeck and Luthuella Detweiller, whom he introduces as “our cousin.” Well, half-brothers with different last names mean they share a mother, who had 2 husbands…how Cousin Luthuella fits in is anybody’s guess.

157.19  Now a good deal of genealogy on both sides is revealed in episode 2-37 “What’s in a Middle Name.” And for the record, their son Richie Petrie’s middle name is not “Rosebud”…it does say that on his birth certificate, but even if it doesn’t literally say “R.O.S.E.B.U.D.”, that’s what is meant…because as Rob tells him he actually has 7 middle names…he is Richard Robert Oscar Sam Edward Benjamin Ulysses Davis Petrie…this was done to please all the relatives, who each preferred…

rosebud

157.20  And in this episode, various family connections are spelled out…including that Sam already has “2 nephews named Sam.” Now in playing the Fan Logic Game, I decided to include speculations of my own on the charts as green lines…and I noticed I really wasn’t doing much speculating. I mean, putting cousins, uncles, and aunts on one side of the family or the other is in most cases pure guesswork, without a shred of evidence to back any of it up…so I haven’t been doing it. So in Chart 546, I do indulge in a bit of speculation about Rob’s middle name Simpson.

157.21  And it definitely is Simpson…at the end of 1-24, Laura calls him “Robert Simpson Petrie.” And he confirms this when applying for unemployment in the flashback episode 5-140, in his exchange with the clerk, played by the wonderful Reta Shaw. She asks for his middle name and he replies “S”. She says: “S?” He says: “Simpson…I was named after…um…Simpson”  and he seems embarrassed to be revealing this information. Why? While the laugh-track laughs at it, the point of this gag escapes me…but let’s run with it. One possibility is that it’s his mother Clara’s never revealed maiden name…a common practice, nez pah?

157.22  Another possibility stems from the Rosebud episode…Grampa Petrie never explains why his choice is Ulysses David…altho when Rob is explaining it all to Richie on the blackboard, he says that David was his (Grampa Petrie’s) father’s name. It is then not much of a leap to assume that Ulysses was Grampa Petrie’s own name, and perhaps further his full name was Ulysses Simpson Petrie. Not for nothing, but he did name his son Sam, which was President Grant’s nickname at West Point, after U.S. or Uncle Sam. This of course all falls into the Fan Logic category of unsupported but entirely plausible… 😉 😉

chart 547

157.23  Finally, because it does give you some revealing insights…real world versus TDVDS universe…above are Rob’s relatives with the ages of the actors, as I did with Laura’s family, as of the show’s debut, October 3 1961…next week, we’ll look at the families of the rest of the show’s characters.

wicked petrie

makeup

A couple of interesting screen captures. For whatever reason, they used a ton of make-up on Rob in 1-1, the pilot episode…then never again, thank goodness. Sometimes more, sometimes less…the above is the worst of it.

shirt green

And from 5-154, here’s Rob acting in a low-budget movie with Italian sex kitten Lucianna Mazetta*, played American actress Jayne Massey, who seemed to specialize in “foreign” roles. Now I always assumed that when a woman is wearing a man’s shirt like that, it was the first thing she grabbed when getting out of bed…and that’s all she was wearing. This up-skirt…or should we say up-shirt…reveals something a bit more modest, more’s the pity.

* Mazetta was Rose Marie’s birth name…Italian father, Polish mother…an outstanding mix…and I know that for a fact…!!!

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Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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One thought on “#157: Second Report of the New Rochelle Genealogical Society

  1. “For whatever reason, they used a ton of make-up on Rob in 1-1, the pilot episode…then makeup to try to cover it up then never again, thank goodness.”
    Dick van Dyke quit his role in Bye Bye Birdie for a long-shot TV show: The Dick Van Dyke Show. As we know, when a person with Herpes simplex is under a lot of stress they often have outbreaks with cold sores. This was the case for Dick during the filming of the pilot. So, they used a ton of make up in an attempt to cover the sore.

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