The tale of the airline pilot and the seeing-eye dog


So far in 2007, I am featuring a series of Moreland Memories of my own. Each thumbnail sketch reports an encounter with a noted personality which occurred while I was living in Eastmoreland, where I grew up, or in Westmoreland, where I lived for another 39 years.

Over the years I have had the privilege and honor of encountering a number of well-known personalities, some of whom I have written about in the past.

One who I have not mentioned before is humorist Garrison Keillor, creator of Public Broadcasting's 'Prairie Home Companion', and also a best-selling author and now a success in the movie business as well. I consider Keillor to be the finest and funniest storyteller of modern times, who has appeared twice in Portland in recent years. It was my pleasure to see him perform at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. I might note especially his audio tape segment 'Ode to Oregon'.

Another celebrity I have not mentioned here before is the late Ray Charles. Many years ago, I had occasion to fly from Portland to Chicago, accompanied by a blind lady and her seeing-eye dog, a Golden Retriever. We were both leaders of Recovery groups in Oregon. While in Chicago, we learned that Ray Charles, the famous blind pianist, bandleader, and singer, was entertaining at a nearby nightclub. We went to see and hear him. And we met his own seeing-eye dog, also a Golden Retriever.

Mr. Charles told the audience about an airline flight of his which had stopped for refueling one afternoon. The pilot was going for a walk to stretch his legs, and asked Ray if he could walk his dog for him. He agreed, but later the pilot had cause to regret this good deed. You see, it was a sunny day, and he was wearing sunglasses. Some of the passengers scheduled to board at that stop refused to get on the plane. Turns out they were scared to fly with a pilot who seemed to need a seeing-eye dog!

Most readers will be very familiar with the late comedian and celebrated songwriter Steve Allen. I chanced to meet him, and his wife Audrey Meadows, in 1988 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. Steve was performing at a conference known as 'The Power of Laughter Play', which drew 1,200 persons, all of whom paid $300 to attend. All, that is, except me, and a few other volunteer clowns. We got in free! During one of the breaks Audrey came up and admired my clown costume, and told me she planned to make one like it for one of her grandchildren.

Steve Allen was a master entertainer; the creator of the NBC-TV 'Tonight Show' and its first host, in the 1950's; pianist and songwriter; and the author of some 28 books. He was truly a genius. I miss him.

More of these vignettes, in next month's 'Moreland Memories'.

Elliott K. Snedecor, a lifelong resident of Eastmoreland and Westmoreland, brings us his 'Moreland Memories' each month from his beach retirement home in Newport. Nonetheless, he can still regularly be found walking the streets of his old neighborhood, reacquainting himself with the places and friends of his youth.