Charlie and The Theo Mack Factory


Liz sent us this pic.  Thanks, Liz!

Broken face - Liz.jpg

Let’s go back to Chicago, Illinois, around the 1910’s or early 20’s and see what teenager, Eddie Berggren did in order to upgrade his act at the woodworking shop of Theo Mack and Sons.


“How much?”

Woodcarver Theodore Mack thought a second.  “About $35.”

Eddie frowned.  He only had $17.  His movies and daily after school soda would have to be sacrificed.  “Would you take a dollar and a-half a week?”  Mack nodded.

Eddie painfully turned over the $17 allowance he had saved for the last six months.  “Go ahead.”

Later, Eddie’s new, professionally made ventriloquist dummy was completed.  “I’m naming him Charlie, after the little, scrappy newspaper boy I knew in town.”

“Charlie, huh?  Eddie, I thought you named him after my son.”

“Yes. I did that, too, Mr. Mack … sort of.”


Whether or not Edgar Bergen (who shortened his last name)  actually named Charlie after one of the sons of Theo Mack is anyone’s guess. But, in the end, however, it’s still a good story!

Here is a rare 5-minute color short from 1938 called “Unusual Occupations” where you’ll see Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy in action, the drawings made by Bergen of Charlie (@1:40) and Charlie’s displeasure at Mortimer Snerd’s creation.  Narrated by future radio announcer for the Charlie McCarthy radio show, Ken Carpenter.  Enjoy!



IMPORTANT:  For those of you on “Blogspot” I have stopped commenting because my stuff doesn’t get published when I read your entries (probably because I don’t have a “Blogspot” account).  This isn’t your fault (or maybe it is — switch to!) but comments are important and I want you to know I really like your stuff.  Also, if I comment on your story, please come and comment on mine.  I want to be your friend.  😉



This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

93 Responses to Charlie and The Theo Mack Factory

  1. James says:

    Nice historical references, bringing the past to life.

  2. wmqcolby says:

    Thanks, James. I have known a LOT about the subject of Edgar Bergen for years. I was a big fan of his.

  3. Dear Cuzzin Notnek,

    Only one problem with the video. I could see Charlie’s mouth moving. Good story and interesting video. Five out of Five Riggy Diggies.


    Cuzzin Shelley

  4. Sandra says:

    Interesting story. Friday Fictioneers is turning into a mine of information for the uninitiated. And I endorse your remarks about those websites that make it onerous to comment. Particularly those that ask for your name, your website, your email etc etc. Life’s too short.

  5. Knowing how famous they became makes your story of their beginning even more interesting. (And I agree about blogger. I barely have time to read all the stories. I certainly don’t have time to fill out forms. Thanks for mentioning that!)

  6. Liz Young says:

    Good take on my photo. I’m on – and I manage to comment on WordPress.

  7. I remember watching these guys – and we seldom watched TV in our little home (it truly was little, a bit like a dwarf house). Plus, when the TV broke, my father didn’t replace it! Too bad, so sad. Anyway, your story and video brought back fond memories.

  8. ceayr says:

    Dear Sir,
    I liked your story.
    But I liked your begging letter better.
    Or legging better letter.
    5 out of 5 Blogspots!

  9. I remember them. Guess that dates me. Thanks for the background info.
    And I agree with you as far as Blogspot comments are concerned. I do have an account, but it messes up my word press settings to comment on Blogspot from WP — and otherwise I don’t get return comments.

  10. wmqcolby says:

    I want to read your stories, Christine! Hopefully I can. 🙂

  11. What a great yarn! I ‘ve learned something too – I was totally unaware of them. By the way, I’m a Blogspoter. I hope we manage to communicate with each other!

    Click to read my story!

    • wmqcolby says:

      Thanks, Keith. Glad to be of service.

      I also read your story and I laughed pretty much. I know the “secrets” of vent and this was hilarious! Sorry to comment here, but blogspot wouldn’t let me on. 😦

      Five out of five “he had a hand in it”. 😉

  12. jellico84 says:

    Loved this little story. I’ve been toying lately with making some puppets for the kiddos to play with when they come over. Your story just added to that inspiration. BTW, I agree with blogspot blogs, it’s difficult to comment, nowhere to like, so I just skip over them most of the time.

  13. draliman says:

    Never heard of this chap, but nice little “origin” story!

  14. wmqcolby says:

    See the video. It’s only five minutes and it’s not boring. You might become a fan yourself! 🙂

  15. Lynn Love says:

    Great tale Kent with a lovely chunk of history thrown in for good measure – what a sacrifice for that young man but it looked like it paid off. You really know your vent stuff, don’t you? 🙂

  16. I love stories based on fact. thanks!

  17. wmqcolby says:

    You are welcome, Louise. 🙂

  18. Life Lessons of a Dog Lover says:

    I enjoyed seeing the other side, the humble beginning and struggle that we know lead to great success.

  19. Mike says:

    Thank you for the video link – it was a great memory jog. I recalled watching this duo, and laughing, just great as was the flash fiction. I know what you mean about the blog spot sites, when I am tired I just can’t cope with the extra hassle of filling in all my contact details.

    • wmqcolby says:

      YEA!!! Someone KNOWS! Outside of me and Cousin Shelley, The FF Queen. 😉
      I think it was because Charlie was like a living cartoon character with a personality rather than a novelty illusion.

      Thanks, Mike!

  20. plaridel says:

    i find this story very interesting the way it was written and considering that i don’t know these folks. 🙂

  21. Oh I do love this.. I have to say I have always find a ventriloquists a bit creepy… 🙂

  22. wmqcolby says:

    Well, Bjorn, did you know that America’s great ventriloquist in the video, Edgar Bergen, was the son of Swedish immigrants? He was born in Chicago and lived in Decatur, Michigan and was four when his parents moved back to Sweden for awhile. They later returned to Chicago and by then, Edgar even knew how to speak the language. I think his daughter, Candice Bergen, studied there briefly.

    And, Sarah don’t think creepy next time … think talented and funny! 😉

  23. Rowena says:

    Thanks for the great story and the clip. I’ve had such an entertaining and informative journey reading through all the stories lately. I totally agree with you about Blogspot. I put a lot of thought and a lot of myself into my comments and it can feel like a slap in the face when you can’t get your comment up. Also, it doesn’t let writers know you’ve appreciated your work.
    I also hate have to jump through hoops to leave a comment, especially those spot the difference photos or pick out all the photos with a car in them. Life’s too short to be scrutizing stuff like that.
    Can’t understand why Blogspot doesn’t improve this. Or, why people still blog there.
    Best wishes,

    • wmqcolby says:

      Thanks, Rowena. Yes, the stories have been not exactly what I would have expected them to be and that’s great. Yours, everyone’s, have not disappointed. Occasionally a prompt comes along that does that kind of job of inspiring different and unique ideas and that was a good pic. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Rowena says:

        You’re welcome. It’s been bucketing down here and reading through the responses was a real treat this afternoon. Hope you have a great weekend.
        xx Rowena

  24. Michael Wynn says:

    Thanks I enjoyed this and also your comment about Blogspot entries which I’m afraid I can’t comment on either although I’d like to. I tend to comment on everyone’s where I can, which amounts to about 60 a week, usual response 20 -30. Every week I try to remember who doesn’t return the favour but am never quite sure, so end up covering most anyway.

    • wmqcolby says:

      That’s fine. It;s just that Blogspot doesn’t allow for me to answer for some reason. Filling out the forms, that’s not the problem. It’s having to do all of that AND have Blogspot not publish it! Frustrating.

  25. Am a big fan of historical fiction. This one scores big. Good job/

  26. That is probably how it happened. Follow your dream!

  27. wmqcolby says:

    It was how it happened, it just needed a dramatization. Yes, follow your dream! 🙂

  28. I do so love these snippets based on reality. I’m also with you on the commenting thing. I may not always be able to comment in the first day or two, but try to get to everyone who comments on mine and more if time allows!

  29. wmqcolby says:

    You’re pretty consistent and the comments, Clare, as I try to be. People need to switch to wordpress. 😀 And thanks for reading. I have been kind of getting the historical bug myself.

  30. Another walk down memory lane … love it and the video. Thanks for adding it.
    I can see Bergen’s mouth moving too. It’s funny the way we didn’t think too much about that years ago when we’d been watching. Was it harmless times of acceptance or people just thought it was funnier to see his mouth moving? Jeff Dunham does a superb job with that. Also, his characters are so current and different. I love the old guy with the angry wrinkled face. Gosh … I didn’t realize I liked puppetry so much. BTW … I think that was a great deal of money way back. Anyway …
    Un cuento muy bueno …. y tambien quiero visitas como usted y Rochelle. Gracias por decirlo.
    Isadora 😎

    • wmqcolby says:

      He actually was a very good ventriloquist and skillful puppeteer. He said that he got sloppy with his lip control because he was on radio. He even made Charlie call him out on it many times. People who knew him, though, said he was flawless when he knew other vents were in the audience. I think Jeff Dunham is brilliant, like The Great Lester was (the father of modern ventriloquism — Bergen learned stuff from him) because he revolutionized the act. Bergen was more of a character builder and Charlie was his best creation.

      Muchisimas gracias for tu comentario. 🙂

      • A little late to reply … I am amazed at how much you know about ventriloquists. I read on a comment you left somewhere that you had enjoyed it for awhile. I guess you did a lot of watching while you were enjoying it. I’m thinking it’s like playing an instrument. If you love it you’ll play even when you don’t have to. I enjoyed learning all of these things about ventriloquists. I hope someone brings it up at a party … LOL … maybe, I will. Thank again 😎

  31. subroto says:

    Excellent take on the prompt, five out of five wooden puppets. Hmm can’t comment on blogspot? All this time I thought it was just my stories.

  32. HonieBriggs says:

    Well, how timely and clever. We were on a similar wave length. Sort of.

    • wmqcolby says:

      Yes, I saw that. You know, success is taking creative action. Usually in ventriloquism the dummy was a novelty telling jokes, etc. and not very engaging except that it talked and said funny things only. Bergen created a real-life type dummy from a newspaper boy. BINGO! He did something that got him noticed and he knew a lot of people so he was able to “network” his way to success.

  33. Clearly the history bug runs in the family! What a fun piece, Kent. While I saw something so dark, you saw something so fun; love that bit the most about FF! And what a fun old video!! I remember the duo later in life, but so fun to see how it came about. Bravo!

  34. wmqcolby says:

    Well, I’m glad you liked it, Dawn. Thank-you. Though The Queen and I are not “blood” we DO have that mutual thing going on. Edgar and Charlie are hilarious.

    As for perspective on the prompt, though, I’m going to be honest. I think our FF Bunch likes to take the easy way out by writing dark stuff. It’s easy to write about the baser instincts of humanity. It’s hard to write about the positive things and it’s more of a challenge. This doesn’t mean there’s a lack of cleverness or creativeness on their part, we have some wonderful folks here. I’m just saying that, thematically, it can be so unedifying. I avoid the dark if at all possible because everybody’s doing that. I can write some REALLY dark stuff or I can write some real good positive stuff. Plus, I hate being pigeonholed. 😀

  35. gahlearner says:

    What a fun story and I absolutely adore that video. I had never heard of the three of them.

  36. Best kind of a story is when you learn something new! FIve stars! 😀

  37. wmqcolby says:

    Thanks, Loré. Glad you got to learn something new. 🙂 There are other Youtubes of them, check them out. They are really funny.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s