This was one of those things that just pop into my head for no reason: the old Ballantine Beer jingle, vintage 1960–from an ad on the Jean Shepherd show, no less.
I was too young to stay up and listen to Jean Shepherd. For us kids, “Hey, getcha cold beer!” meant New York Yankees baseball broadcasts. The Giants and Dodgers had deserted us, and there were no Mets yet, so it was Yankees all summer long. Brought to you by Gillette Razor Blades (“You’ll look sharp, and you’ll feel sharp, too!”) and Ballantine, brewed right here in New Jersey. Mel Allen in the broadcast booth, saying “How about that!” And it was mostly day games, back them.
And also in the daytime, the crack of the bat from the athletic field next door, where some of the guys on the high school baseball team would get together for a pick-up game. On rare occasions, they would allow some of us 11-year-olds to play with them. Oh, paradise! I hit a home run once, in one of those games: I’ll never forget it.
I wasn’t old enough to drink beer, but for some reason I really dug those Ballantine commercials. No school, play all day long, clip baseball cards to our bikes so they’d rub against the spokes and sound like a motor–yeah: it was good.
This old Irish folk song, Green Grow the Lilacs, here in its Civil War version sung by Ed McCurdy, was in my head this evening. I looked for it on youtube and there it was. I thought some of you might enjoy it, so here it is.
On many a Sunday in the summer, my father liked to hold a family cookout in the back yard. So early in the morning, I’d run over to the playground and fetch some fine sand for the coals to rest on.
If Uncle Ferdie came, as he usually did, we’d break out the horseshoes and have a few games, him, my father, my brother, and me. There’s nothing like the clang of horseshoes on a summer day. If Uncle Bernie came, he’d do some simple magic tricks that always wowed me. I never could figure out how he pulled off one of his fingers and stuck it back on, good as new. When he finally taught me how to do it, I had a lot of fun blowing the minds of the younger kids in the neighborhood.
When my aunts came, they usually brought slides of their latest visit to some exotic clime–places like Yucatan, Uganda, Iceland, or Australia. My Dutch step-grandfather, John, played old Dutch tunes on his harmonica. Grandpa reminisced about the misdeeds of Woodrow Wilson.
And then came the hot dogs and the hamburgers, which always tasted so much better, off the grill. I enjoyed watching the charcoal briquets catch fire briefly, then settle down to glowing redly and sputtering when fat dripped on them. A simple feast, but highly satisfying.
If only we could do it all again…
This is the theme song for Mitch Miller’s hit TV show, Sing Along With Mitch, vintage 1961.
I think everybody I knew had a Mitch Miller record album or two. Back then, he was just about the only guy who had a beard but wasn’t a beatnik. Good grief, remember them? Some of us heard a rumor that a certain person in the neighborhood had actually become a beatnik, and grown a beard, and a bunch of us kids stood outside his house one night for I don’t know how long, hoping to get a glimpse of such a curiosity.
Anyhow, Mitch provided millions of people with songs they could sing in front of their kiddies without embarrassment, and entertainment galore.
If he tried his act today, he’d either make a fortune like he never dreamed of, or be arrested for hate speech and uninclusiveness.
Warning: This video might send you screaming to the sidewalk. The management takes no responsibility.
I love Tolkien and I love Leonard Nimoy; but put them together, and the result is jaw-droppingly awful. I mean, people have been put to death for lesser crimes.
Who among you is tough enough to watch all two-and-a-half minutes of this horrific video?
Hoo, boy, do I need a sanity break! The delivery man ignored the sign we taped to the door, “Place All Deliveries in the Foyer,” and left the box on the front step: I almost broke my neck on it when I stepped outside. “Foyer? What’s a foyer?” And then the bank threw up all sorts of bureaucratic obstacles to my opening a Qualifying Income Trust account for Aunt Joan so she can get on Medicaid…Eeyah!!! You should see the paperwork!
Right. Okay. Chinese food tonight. I am afraid my wife will plotz if she has to make supper, after all this.
But this song brought a smile to my face.
Perry Como, 1959–What Did Delaware? “She wore a brand New Jersey,” of course. Hey, I remember this song! And I like it even better now. It’s funny, witty, clever, and also pretty good at teaching a ten-year-old some United States geography.
Lean back and enjoy it!
Suddenly I’m so tired, I could just plotz. Writing my Newswithviews column sometimes does that to me.
So I found myself whistling this ancient tune, Glow Worm. It was on one of those red plastic records kids’ parents used to buy for them in the early 1950s. It must’ve made an impression on me, for me to be whistling it all these decades later.
Listen to the lyrics. Feel the innocence. Nice, isn’t it?
I couldn’t find quite the rendition that was on my record, but here are the Mills Brothers performing it on The Nat King Cole Show, 1957. I remember it as being sung by Rosemary Clooney, but couldn’t find it on youtube.
Sometimes on a dreary, rainy day, my father let us take the slats out from under our mattresses, set them up across the beds, drape the throw rug over them, and pretend that we were camping.
Having done so, my brother and I would break out the toy animals and dinosaurs and set them on adventures. We never got into army men, but we did have a couple of toy knights, which my mother identified for us as Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad. Under the shelter of our make-believe tent, Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad enjoyed some exciting times exploring lost worlds full of dragons, jungles, the North Pole, and the planet Venus.
Assisted by assorted lions, rhinos, elephants, stegosaurs, and giraffes, our knights overcame aggressive tyrannosaurs, hostile natives, and alien beings. Sometimes we resorted to Grandpa’s old stone building blocks and endowed the knights with castles and forts that had to be defended. A gigantically overgrown Dimetrodon was their biggest challenge, but they were up to it. Occasionally they would recruit bands of cowboys on horseback to help out.
It was amazing how time flew by, when we were doing this. Did I mention that we had lots of little toy cavemen, too? They usually found their way into the story, sometimes as the good guys, sometimes as the bad.
Video games? Fah! Who needs video games?
Some say I live in the past. Guilty, your honor, but with an excuse: it’s nicer there.
In fact, I have an even better reason.
The past is full of proof, undeniable proof, that we can do all sorts of different things better than we’re doing them now. It’s true that I don’t write about what was bad in those days. I focus on what was good, and what was better than it is now.
Because, dagnab it, if we did it well once, we can do it well again!
The good parts of the past are signposts to a better future. We do not have to live with the trash that’s poured on us every day and night, these days.
Winston Churchill was described, in his lifetime, as a man from the past, a Victorian relic, no place for him in the exciting world of 1940. But this was the man who came galloping out of the past to save his country, chosen by God for that purpose, when no one else could do it. Without this man from the past, his country might not have had a future.
And we remember sweet things because their sweetness is good in and of itself, and our loved ones because we love them still.
And we do not have to accept “the way things are.”
This 1958 (or ’59) pogo stick is the same kind I had at the time, with the red sponge rubber ball on top for a handle. And if my mother had ever seen the tricks I was doing with my pogo stick, she would’ve had a kazoo.
The kid in this video is good–but I was bouncing up and down our cellar stairs and even up and down the high school football bleachers. You do things when you’re ten years old that you wouldn’t dream of attempting after you’ve grown up.
My friends across the street had a pair of stilts just like those in the video, but none of us ever mastered that art.
One day, alas, a kid in the neighborhood who was much too big for my pogo stick tried it out and bent it beyond repair. And so my pogo days were over.
But if I can ever get my hands on another one…
P.S.–Dig the cool cars in the background!