through Binghamton, N.Y., one enters Twilight Zone birthplace
appeared in the March 4, 1989 New York Times.
By JAMES BARRON / New York Times News Service / BINGHAMTON. N.Y.
You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. Next stop, the town where Rod Serling grew up.
It was disguised as “Homewood” in one of the first “Twilight Zone” episodes. Now it is home to the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation, which recently unveiled a Serling plaque and is lobbying for a postage stamp commemorating Rod Serling. Television writer. Producer. Deep voiced omniscient narrator.
"He never forgot this place," said Yvonne Gabel, a charter member of the foundation.
"Some people can be on Johnny Carson, and he'll ask where they're from, and they mumble. Rod Serling was never afraid to say, ‘I’m from Binghamton.’”
And Binghamton is not afraid to say Rod Serling is from Binghamton.
Thanks to the I50-member foundation, the world has Rod Serling mugs and buttons that say, "Everyone has to have a hometown, Binghamton's mine."
Last year there was "Rod Serling 1988 Home-Town Calendar."
It was filled with photographs of Serling in Binghamton: Serling at 17; Serling at 35, attending the 1959 rededication of the Broome County Airport, his arm around the Aviation Queen; Serling at 49, goring the 1968 commencement address at Binghamton Central High School.
It has been 13 years since Serling died from complications during heart surgery. And Sybil Golden berg is about to be installed as president of the foundation. ("We're net a fan club," she said. "Absolutely not.")
Sybil Goldenberg. High school classmate of Serling's. Was in a high school play with him. (“’Excursion,’” she said, about “people hijacked by a garbage scow across the Atlantic.”)
Now runs a theatrical makeup supply store called "Sweetcheeks." Yellow wigs. Orange wigs. And, in brown boxes in the back of the store, the Rod Serling archives.
"He was a devil," she said. "He was always very glib. And I’m not going to say everyone loved Rod, because that wouldn't be true."
But to people raised on television, couch potatoes who are as familiar with "Twilight Zone" plots as 16th century Londoners were with sonnets. Serling was an unforgettable character, with his close-cropped black hair and his clipped, choppy on camera style.
"He was as important a figure in 20th-century literature as Mark Twain, as Edgar Allan Poe," Gabel said.
"He's equal to Jack London. He did it for TV, not necessarily for theater, as Arthur Miller did. And his voice was so distinctive."
"Who, Roddy's?" Mrs. Goldenberg said. "That was an affectation. Nobody speaks that way."
Helen Foley, Retired schoolteacher. Mast famous student: Rod Serling. Or, as he himself said in a "Twilight Zone" episode broadcast on April 29, 1960: "Miss Helen Foley, who has lived in night and who will wake up to morning. Miss Helen Foley, who took a dark spot from the tapestry of her life and rubbed it clean, then stepped back a few paces and got a good look at the Twilight Zone."
Miss Helen Foley, who liked what she saw on the television screen, with Janice Rule playing her. "I said, "Wonder if Rod thought 1 looked like her," Miss Foley said. "I liked that because she was good-looking."
Miss Foley and Mrs. Gabel are leading the push for a postage stamp. "If they can have one for W. C. Fields, that drunken old sozzler," said Miss Foley, "They can have one for Rod Serling."
Petition for Stamp
Miss Foley wants a good-looking stamp. Not a 1 cent stamp like the one that honored the author Margaret Mitchell several years ago.
"Foundation members have been collecting signatures to send to the Postal Service. They have also arranged for a local book publisher to be their lobbyist. "He goes to Washington all the time," Miss Foley said.
"But Mrs. Gabel said the Postal Service had already indicated that the soonest a stamp could be issued, assuming the agency agreed that Mr. Serling deserved one, was 1992.
That would be the 33d anniversary of the debut of "The Twilight Zone" Thirty-three years since "Walking Distance," the episode featuring the band shell and the carousel in a local park.
"Lots of Luck, Bob"
Robert A. Keller. Another classmate. Now director of art and design at Broome Community College here. Says 1992 would be 49 years after he and Mr. Serling graduated from high school. ("Lots of luck, Bob — Rod," Mr. Serling wrote in Mr. Keller's yearbook.)
As Mr. Keller tells it, Mr. Serling's 12th birthday party, in 1936, might be worth commemorating. "I was not the kind of kid to do anything daring, but his family had a Japanese samurai sword hanging on the wall," Mr. Keller said. "And at that party I took it down and brandished it, and another guy grabbed it, nicking my finger in the process."
A minor incident, perhaps. But what about those high school dances at an outdoor pavilion? "Rod once reminded me, 'I had the first pillar staked out, and you had the second,"' said Mr. Keller. "We used to take our dates behind those pillars and sneak a little smooch."
There is no historical marker commemorating that. But there is a Rod Serling marker in front of the high school. And like something out of "The Twilight Zone," it disappeared and reappeared in recent days.
Extraterrestrial beings had nothing to do with it. It seems that the city Cultural Affairs Department took it away for cleaning, without telling anyone. After Miss Foley sounded the alarm, the police had a dragnet out, unaware that the culprits were not even in a different dimension, but right there in City Hall.