Goodbye, dear Ludlow
When I was pregnant with my oldest child, I had the notion that talking to my baby – even before she was born — would give her a leg up in her linguistic skills. So I talked to her quite a bit during my pregnancy. And I listened to talk radio.
Not angry political talk radio. And not boring NPR. I listened to a guy in Atlanta named Ludlow Porch, a man who never once failed to make me laugh.
One morning, Ludlow read a bogus letter on the air by someone claiming to be outraged because school children in the City of Atlanta were being required to matriculate. It set off a flurry of phone calls by people who had no idea what they were talking about, people who obviously had no idea what the word “matriculate” meant. One old guy called in and identified himself as being from Alabama. The longer he talked to Ludlow about the problem of children matriculating in schools, the more agitated he got. Finally, Ludlow said to him, “I don’t want you to be too upset about this because survey after survey has shown that there is less matriculating going on at the University of Alabama than at any other major college in the United States.”
Ludlow was the source of some of my favorite sayings, like “He can’t find his fanny in a phone booth.” Or “She don’t know her rear end from page twelve.” Once, his step-brother, the late great humorist Lewis Grizzard, asked him what he wanted played at his funeral. “Volleyball,” Ludlow quickly responded.
Thankfully, I had a job that allowed me to listen to Ludlow while I worked. I listened to him nearly every morning throughout my pregnancy. I had my baby late one Tuesday afternoon, and on Thursday, the first morning after we were released from the hospital, I turned the radio on when he came on the air at 9:00. I was nursing my new little girl, and I watched, amazed, as my baby let go of my breast and turned her little head trying to find the voice she recognized. I’d heard of babies recognizing their mother’s voices, but I’m wondering if that’s the first time a two-day-old baby knew the voice of a complete stranger.
Occasionally, he would have listeners call in to rattle off punchlines. You see, Ludlow believed that a good punchline could make you laugh, that you didn’t even need to know the joke. He was right. My favorite Ludlow Porch Show punchline was this: “Honest, officer, the midget was on fire when I got here.” It cracks me up, even though I’ve never been able to find out what the joke behind that line is.
I may never know. Ludlow died last week. His funeral was Saturday, and it was open to the public. I’m betting there were a few volleyballs in attendance.
Despite all the hilarity on the Ludlow Porch show, he is going to be remembered first as a kind soul. Because what people mention most when they talk about Ludlow Porch is how he signed off the radio every single day: “Whatever else you do today, find someone to be nice to.”
Have you ever known a person who just made you feel better simply by being in his or her presence? I never met the man, but listening to him made me feel good. I want to leave people feeling better than they did when I arrived, so Ludlow’s the model for the kind of person I want to be.
Oh, and he was a hell of a good linguistics teacher. My girl, by God, knows how to talk.