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Senior Center folks recall laughs of George Burns

Visitors to the Coshocton Senior Center on Friday celebrated the life of actor George Burns with the program Remembering George Burns.

Born Nathan Birnbaum on Jan. 20, 1896, in New York, Burns was the ninth of 12 children. He quit school in the fourth grade and entered amateur contests hoping to get into show business full time. In 1922, he teamed up with Gracie Allen and soon realized she was getting all the laughs.

"All of a sudden, the audience realized I had a talent. They were right. I did have a talent - I was married to her for 38 years," Burns said in materials presented during the program.

With success came love, and they married on Jan. 7, 1926, in Cleveland. They were described as one of the happiest couples in show business, symbolizing style, dignity and class. Their first radio show was broadcast on Feb. 15, 1932, with Gracie searching for her long lost brother and her fictitious run for president where she actually received write-in votes in the 1940 election. The couple moved on to television as the first comedy series depicting the home life of a working couple. The show lasted from 1948 until 1958. Gracie passed away in 1964.
In 1975, George made the movie "The Sunshine Boys" and won an Acadamy Award in 1976 for Best Supporting Actor. George believed he would go on forever and was booked to play the London Palliium for his 100th birthday celebration but suffered a severe injury in a fall and died 49 days after his birthday.

George smoked cigars as a comic prop throughout his career and said, "I smoke 10 to 15 cigars a day. At my age, you have to hold on to something."

Audrey Welker of Coshocton said she recalls George and Gracie and liked their show.

"I don't know too many people who have lived to be 100," she said. "Cigars didn't hurt him a bit."

Bonnie Ankrum of Coshocton said at her age you can recall all the stars.

"I don't know too many who have reached 100 though," she said.

Bonnie Grace remembers hearing the couple on the radio when she was a little kid.

"They were so funny. Not like the programs they have on today. More like 'Leave It To Beaver,'" she said. "The program focused on people leading long productive lives and their greatest accomplishments may not have come until they were in their 80s, which shows you are never too old to stop trying new things."

Coshocton senior citizen Helen Young, who is in her 80s, still plays golf, worked as a waitress until three years ago and stays very active.

"You can't keep a good woman down. I keep busy as ever," she said.

Source: Coshocton Tribune