Category Archives: memory lane

‘What Happened to Childhood?’ (2013)

Play before “play dates.” Imagination. Playing ball all day with trees for bases, and getting forty hits that day.

Yeah, it was better.

https://leeduigon.com/2013/06/19/what-happened-to-childhood/


Memory Lane: A Place, and Horseshoe Crabs

I couldn’t find a video that quite captures what I want to write about. So imagine these horseshoe crabs, only now it’s night-time, under a glorious full moon with no other light for miles around. And the horseshoe crabs are coming into the shallow water to mate and lay their eggs.

Years and years ago, Patty and I used to go to Long Beach Island in the spring, for weekends. We liked to fish by night, along the rim of a shallow cove in Barnegat Bay. On a few of those nights, the horseshoe crabs came in, silent and graceful, with only the faintest ripple of the water in the faintest breeze. We felt as if we were seeing something God ordained before He shaped Adam out of the dust of the earth. Something, maybe, that was old in Heaven before it was ever known on earth.

It’s all gone now. They filled in the little cove and built three-story condos on top of it, and the whole place is lit by floodlights all night long. There’s no hint that the little cove ever existed. And you can’t see the starlight on the water anymore. The floodlights drown it out. Maybe there never was any starlight, either. Maybe we dreamed it.

But if we did, the dream beats the stuffing out of condos and floodlights.


Sanity Break: the Woolly Mammoth

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Sometimes writing about current events just wears me out. For refreshment, I turn to God’s handiwork.

Behold the woolly mammoth, as painted by the great Charles R. Knight. This was the first prehistoric animal I fell in love with. I used to dream about them. A truck would sound its horn at night, out on Route 1, and I would think it was a mammoth calling to the other mammoths.

And I don’t know why, but somehow I conceived the notion that my Aunt Betty, the nun, had the ability to obtain for me a mammoth of my own, and I used to pester her about it. Give me a break, I think I was only five years old. Poor Aunt Betty. She made me a little toy mammoth out of some kind of fur. Well, she tried. If I still had that toy, it would be among my treasures. But not as great a treasure as she herself would be.

When God restores His whole creation, I’m sure there will be mammoths once again. And we will enjoy them with our loved ones.


Memory Lane: Gracie’s New Year’s Eve

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We had a local character on our block, Gracie, who was, shall we say, flamboyant. She drove a pink Cadillac. She decorated her house to look like something in a fairy tale. And her outdoor Christmas decorations were indescribable.

She also used to go to Times Square in New York City every New Year’s Eve, and to the Roosevelt Hotel where Guy Lombardo played. She always hunted for the cameras, and several times succeeded in getting on TV. Most of the people in our town saw her on TV on New Year’s Eve.

After several decades of this, one of the local newspapers got interested and did a feature story on her. In it, Gracie’s age was given as 60-something.

When my Aunt Gertie read that, she almost fell out of her chair. “Why, that old so-and-so!” she cried (and a lot more than once). “Sixty? Sixty? Why, she was in my class in high school!” Aunt Gertie was in her mid-80s at the time, and somehow Gracie’s reported youth really rankled with her.

Ah, well. So what are some of you guys doing for New Year’s Eve tonight? We’re staying here, way too bloody cold outside for anything else. We have lots of fun movies to watch, our Christmas tree is here, and I have very nice Christmas cookies. Plus we have the “Feed me, feed me!” Twins, aka our cats, to keep us hopping.

We’ll understand if your plans are so wild, you don’t dare tell us about them.


Memory Lane: Shoe Stores

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I had to buy new shoes today, my old ones–only a year old–were suddenly falling apart at the seams.

I don’t know about your part of the country, but around here there are no more shoe stores–no Thom McCann, no Marmax–so I had to go to Wal-Mart. There, you’re on your own. Nowhere to sit down and try them on, I had to sit on the floor. And nobody to measure your feet with those nice sliding scales, so you can get a proper fit. All I could do was to keep plucking shoes off the display and trying them on until I found a pair that sort of fit.

Where are the Thom McCanns of yesteryear? What was so wrong about the neighborhood shoe store, that it had to perish? Another small amenity bites the dust.

Maybe I can find a better pair online somewhere–only then, of course, you can’t try them on and walk up and down the aisle before you decide to buy them.

Sigh.


Memory Lane: At Home with Mommy and the Ironing

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One of my earliest memories came back to me this morning.

I’m not old enough yet to go to school. I’m sitting on the floor of our little sitting room, playing with blocks while my mother does her ironing. Because she’s a Giants fan, she has the ballgame on: we have one of those primitive TV sets with all the knobs, you’ve really got to fiddle with it, to get a good picture. The Giants are playing the Brooklyn Dodgers, and my mother carefully lists for me the many moral defects of the Dodgers–except for Roy Campanella: not a word against him!–and explains how no right-thinking person would ever root for them. And I don’t know why, but I love the smell of ironing, and the texture of the rug, and the grainy black-and-white picture on the screen… and my mother’s company.

The very best day I ever had at school was not as good as this. Nowhere near as good as this.


Memory Lane: Sir Lancelot

My mother was a voracious reader with a love of history and legend, and she passed it on to me. I grew up on stories of King Arthur and his knights, especially her two favorites, Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad. My brother and I had toy knights by those names: they wound up having a lot of adventures with animals, dinosaurs, cowboys, and cars.

In 1956-57 there was a TV show, Adventures of Sir Lancelot, which I made sure to watch. I remember particularly well an episode in which Sir Lancelot discovered an out-of-the-way Roman fort manned by legionaries who didn’t know the Roman Empire ended some hundred years ago. Very cool!

All these years later, thanks to my mother’s stories, I’m still a King Arthur buff, still reading and writing about him and his times. Someday I’ll have to tell you how I figured out how the story of the Sword in the Stone was very likely true, albeit somewhat garbled by the passage of centuries.

Oh, to put on my armor, sling that shield across my shoulder, hop up onto my mighty steed, snatch up my lance, and ride out on adventures! My mother lived long enough to see my Bell Mountain books in print: I hope she knows that she was the one who got me started.


Did We See a Pterodactyl?

I want to tell you about an odd experience we had, some years ago. I’ve used this video of a pterodactyl model in flight because it was the closest thing I could find to what we saw.

Ten or fifteen years ago, Patty and I celebrated our anniversary with a day on the Seaside Boardwalk. It was August 8.

Coming home with plenty of daylight left, we found ourselves driving all alone on Route 34 in Holmdel Township. That in itself was quite unusual. But then we looked up at the sky.

At first we thought it was a hang-glider, because it sort of looked like one. But there’s nowhere for many miles around suitable for hang-gliding. No cliffs, no mountains, no skyscrapers. So how could he have gotten up there in the first place?

We watched it for long enough to be sure it wasn’t a hang-glider, or any kind of aircraft that we’ve ever seen, or any kind of bird. What it looked like was a pterodactyl. Unlike the model in the video, it never flapped its wings. We also had a strong impression that it was much, much bigger than any model–although with nothing to use for scale, we couldn’t be sure about its size.

It glided all the way across our field of vision, and as the car kept moving, eventually we could see no more of whatever strange thing this was. All we both can say for sure is that it sure as heck looked like a pterodactyl. As a lifelong dinosaur buff, I ought to know a pterodactyl when I see one.

Very, very strange: and we never heard that anyone else saw it.


‘Attack of the Crab Monsters’

I cannot understand my wife’s total lack of interest in such cinematic treasures as Attack of the Crab Monsters. She must be a racist. This 1957 gem of a movie accurately portrays what must be done in the event that giant crabs try to take over the world. We have been warned!


Memory Lane: ‘Modern Farmer’

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You’re going to have to reach deep into your memory banks to find this–Modern Farmer, an early 1950s TV show that aired at 5 a.m. or 5:30 on Saturday mornings. It ran from 1950-1958, then went into syndication for many more years. My old friend George, finding nothing else to do, watched it the morning he had to report to the Army, having been drafted.

This show is so old, so obscure, that I couldn’t find any clips of it on youtube. It was, of course, about farmers and farming, and I have no idea why, when I was eight years old or so, I would get up to watch it. Maybe because Andy’s Gang came on next and I didn’t want to miss Froggy the Gremlin.

It wasn’t an irrelevant show. In those days there were still farms in our neighborhood, before Democrats paved them all over. There were farms nearby that went back all the way to the Revolutionary War and earlier, owned by farmers who fought for America’s independence from Britain. Fresh corn on the cob for supper? All I had to do was get on my bike and pedal for ten minutes, and bring home the corn in my basket.

*Sigh*

We can’t get those farms back. The farmers rest in our town’s most ancient cemetery, along with others who put their lives on the line to birth the United States of America. Across the parking lot from our apartment stands a house that was a tavern in the 18th century. A small battle was fought here; the wounded, patriots and redcoats alike, were brought there to be tended to. It was said the ghost of a wounded British officer used to walk up the stairs inside that house until sometime in the 1960s, when the famous psychic investigator Hans Holzer supposedly put to rest that troubled spirit. But the lady who lived there in the 1970s said the ghost still appeared occasionally. He did no harm, she said.

I like to think that Christ’s kingdom will have more farms than nail salons.

 


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