Pizza and the Ed Sullivan Show


Jeff Gilliland

By Jeff Gilliland [email protected]

One day this week a fellow employee and I were discussing the Beatles. We happened upon the conversation because on Saturday a Beatles tribute band will be playing at the Highland County Senior Citizens Center.

I was telling my boss, Gary Abernathy, that I have never been much of a Beatles fan. I certainly admire their body of work, but for some reason most of their music never really appealed to me.

Gary and I were discussing the Beatles’ original U.S. appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. He told me he remembers watching the show at his grandparents’ home and how it always kind of stuck with him because they seemed so different – a bunch of long-haired boys from England and such. I would have only been 3 at the time, so I have no memory of it, other than from replays I’ve happened across over the years.

But I do remember the Ed Sullivan Show, which aired Sunday evenings on CBS from 1948 to 1971.

I was just a little kid, but watching the Ed Sullivan Show was part of my family’s Sunday evening routine. After Sunday evening church services my family would return home, turn on the Sullivan show and enjoy a treat of pizza, chips and pop, just about every week.

It was a special time and I later learned that it took a special effort from my parents to pull it off each week. Family finances were not one of my concerns at the time. In fact, I thought we must have been fairly well off since we never really seemed in need of much. But my mother has told since that she and dad sometimes had to round up spare change to make sure they could treat their children to a special Sunday evening.

I don’t remember a lot from the show, other than Ed Sullivan’s kind of scary face. What I remember is always spending a leisurely Sunday evening surrounded in the warmth and comfort of my family.

The pizza pretty much always came from Fawley’s. It was located in a little brick building in the 200 block of North West Street in Hillsboro that’s currently for sale. The pizza place went out of businesses decades ago, but the building still stands, and for some reason I have clear memories of walking in its front door and anticipating the treat that was to come.

The Sullivan show was replaced by the CBS Sunday Night Movie when I was 10, but the family Sunday pizza nights continued, probably until my college years when I moved out of the house.

In my early teen years – probably even well into my later teens – my choice of Sunday evening shows changed to the Wonderful World of Disney. If my memory serves me right it started at 7 p.m. So since church services started at 6 p.m., I’d try to rush whoever was driving away from visiting after services so I could get get home for the start of Disney. We only lived about 3.5 blocks from the Park Avenue Church where we attended services, so if the weather was good, and my parents were lingering at church, I’d jog on home myself, turn on the tube, and wait for the pizza, pop and everyone else to arrive.

There was another advantage to being the first one to the TV. That usually meant I got less argument about what we were going to watch. But no one ever fussed much about Disney.

My paternal grandparents often joined us on pizza night. And in the summer months, we’d often drive out to Rocky Fork Lake with them after church and enjoy our pizza at a lakeside picnic table, usually not far from what was then Banty’s Pizza on SR 753. Today it’s called Joey’s.

On those occasions my parents usually had trouble making us sit still long enough to stuff down a couple pieces of pizza. My siblings and I were more interested in throwing our pizza crust in the lake to see if it would attract fish (it usually did), skipping stones across the lake, or doing just about anything near the water.

From time to time I relive those days with my own family. In fact, we enjoyed a pizza beside the lake on Father’s Day afternoon this year.

I don’t eat much pizza these days. It’s still near the top of my favorite foods list, but somewhere along the line my stomach decided it didn’t like pizza much, or any tomato-based product for that matter.

But sometimes I can’t resist. And pretty much every time bite into a piece of pizza, I’m reminded of those Ed Sullivan days long ago, safe and secure, surrounded by family.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

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