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May 6 in Twilight Zone History: Celebrating the 1960 premiere of 'A Stop at Willoughby'

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May 6, 2018

Today, May 6th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate a five star TZ classic, 1960's "A Stop at Willoughby."

James Daly, father of Tyne and Tim, stars as stressed-out Manhattan advertising executive Gart Williams. Gart is cut from the same cloth as Rod Serling’s Martin Sloan in "Walking Distance": Both men are ready to call in their chips. Whether it's because of his boss (Howard Smith) constantly telling him to "push, push, push" or his never-satisfied wife (Patricia Donahue) complaining about his lack of ambition, Gart's ready to jump off a building. His only solace takes place on the train back to Connecticut each evening, where he has a chance to catch his breath.

However, things start to get strange when his modern train and conductor suddenly morphs into a vintage train and conductor, stopping at an impossibly tranquil 1880s town called Willoughby.

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While his boss (Howard Smith. left) waits impatiently, stressed-out advertising executive Gart Williams (James Daly, right) tries to save a crucial account in "A Stop at Willloughby."

Calls the elderly conductor, "Willoughby, Willoughby." And for a brief moment, Gart has a vision of a better place. However, Willoughby's sun, parasols, bare feet, fishing poles and gazebo are soon replaced by the wintry scene out his train window, as chilly as ever.

Speaking for a bunch of fans, I truly believe we're all looking for a Willoughby – a simpler time, a simpler place – as was Serling.

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The affable conductor (Jason Wingreen, right) chats with train passenger Gart Williams (James Daly, left) in "A Stop at Willoughby." 

Howard Smith, the grating boss, would return as an angel boss in "Cavender is Coming." Jason Wingreen, who played the modern conductor, returns as a fleeing neighbor in "The Midnight Sun." Robert Parrish deserves huge kudos for directing this episode.

So let's raise a glass of cool 1880s summer lemonade to Gart Williams and the beauty of Willoughby, a prime tourist destination in The Twilight Zone.