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Vacation at Fred's Landing

There’s a mystery about the two versions of “Vacation at Fred’s Landing”. The MPI DVD notes say that the one in Box 3 Volume 9 is the 6/19/54 episode and yet in Box 6, Volume 24, it says that that version is a “remake from Volume 11”. Yet it says it’s the 6/20/53 version, (and the other version is in Volume 9, not Volume 11). My boxed VHS set of Lost Episodes has the version in Volume 24 (the tape is numbered "39") and says it’s the 6/20/53 version. “The Honeymooners Lost Episodes” by McCrohan and Crescenti gives no time for the 6/20/53 version, saying “It will not be syndicated but will be available from MPI on Videocassette. The 1954 episode is in syndication.” It lists the 1954 version as lasting 30:52. When I first watched Volume 9 I noted the time was 31:13, so I assumed this to be the 1953 version and that the date was wrong. Then I watched the version in Volume 24 and it was timed in 31:23. All of this created total confusion.

The importance of this is that the 1953 version of “Vacation at Fred’s Landing is noted on both the MPI VHS and DVD notes as “”This rare Honeymooners episode is the first ever to run 30 minutes.” In other words it’s the first transition from a 10 minute sketch to a 30 minute story. It’s actually not the first 30 minute episode, (the 12/21/51 and 12/20/52 Christmas episodes were) but those episodes don’t really tell stories: they are a variety show that takes place in the Kramden’s apartment. And they don’t have any scenes outside of the Kramden’s apartment: “Vacation at Fred’s Landing” does. So the 1953 episode has considerable historic significance.

So which one is which? I finally decided the episode on the VHS tape and in Volume 24 is the 1953 episode. The clues are Joyce Randolph’s hairdo and Ralph’s bus uniform in the first scene of each. If you look at the episodes immediately previous to these: “Guest Speaker”, which is in Volume 11, and “Good Buy Aunt Ethel”, which is in volume 24 with what I think is the 1953 VFL, and you will see that in 1953 Ralph was wearing a lighter bus driver uniform with a brighter cap and an open jacket while Joyce is wearing a light-colored sort of “pageboy” cut. In 1954 Ralph is in a darker uniform with a zipped up front, similar to the one he wears in the “Classic 39” and Joyce has a darker, more “grown-up” and lady-like cut.

Viewing the two versions, we can see how much difference timing makes. The 1954 version seems rushed. There are a couple of flubbed lines that seem to throw things off a bit. It’s just not as funny, although neither version would be among my favorites.

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