Category Archives: memory lane

Memory Lane: A Hot Summer Day

Image result for images of children playing in pond

When you’re ten years old and school is out on summer vacation, it doesn’t matter how hot the day is–you’re going for the gusto. At least, that’s how it used to be.

If it’s really, really hot, you play in the water. In our neighborhood, on the edge of the woods, was a little seasonal pond with a clean shale bottom. We sat in the water, or waded in it, splashing around with our toys. If you were a little older, the high school football field next door usually had its sprinkler system going, and we played around in that.

A hundred degrees? What did we care! We could squirt each other with garden hoses, or sit in rubber wading pools. And when I was twelve, I made sure I got the afternoon newspaper first so I could look at all the baseball box scores and see how Willie Mays did in the night game. I remember sitting on the lawn with the paper open to the sports page and my little iguana, very far from being a big iguana yet, perched on my shoulder.

So we rode our bikes and pitched horseshoes until we got hot, and then soaked down in the pond, the sprinklers, a pool, or in the front yard with the hose.

You never see that anymore. And that’s a pity, because it was good. I’m sorry kids miss out, these days, on times like that.


Memory Lane: A Bad Date Gone Good

Image result for images of car stalled in water

Patty and I met in Keyport, at The Bayshore Independent, in 1976. She was the bookkeeper; I was managing editor. She was captivated by my column on the inanities of Affirmative Action. For my part, she once happened to mention Ecbatana, the ancient capitol of the Medes, and I knew this was the woman for me.

One evening, early in our relationship, a bodacious storm came over Raritan Bay. She had a suggestion: “Let’s go down American Legion Drive to see the high tide.” American Legion Drive is right on top of the water. And of course, I was all for it.

Well, the tide was high, all right, and American Legion Drive was underwater. So was my car, which very quickly shorted out and wouldn’t go any farther. We had to get out and slog through the water to the police station, so I could report that my car was stuck there and please don’t give me a ticket.

My future wife was very upset, blaming herself for the whole debacle. To this day, neither of us can remember what we did after checking in with the police. “I was afraid you wouldn’t like me anymore!” she said. But you don’t give up on a woman who knows Ecbatana–and whom, by the way, your iguana likes almost as much as you do–just because your car got stuck in a flood. Anyhow, the tide receded, there was no permanent harm done to my wonderful 1970 Pontiac, and after it dried out a bit, we simply drove away.

As Agatha Christie’s Superintendent Battle often said, these things are sent to try us. And I think we passed the test.


Memory Lane: ‘The Vikings’

This movie was a huge hit when it came out in 1958. All over my neighborhood there were skinny little kids running around with sticks and yelling “Odin!”

We all would have loved to try this Viking oar-walking stunt, but we didn’t have enough oars for it. That’s Kirk Douglas himself doing it in the movie, so how hard could it be?

(Editor’s note: I’m posting the happy stuff now, before we get the report on Robbie’s blood work from yesterday. She ate normally last night and this morning, but you never know what dreadful thing diagnostics might uncover.)


Memory Lane: ‘Flash Gordon’

Remember this? The 1954-55 Flash Gordon TV series. I don’t remember it well: mostly I have this image of Flash being menaced by something that looked like a heap of bathroom rugs (and might have been, at that). I used to read the Flash Gordon adventures in the Sunday newspaper, in the color comics section. The TV show couldn’t quite live up to that.

Nevertheless, it had its moments–as in this little clip above, in which the narrator makes reference to “the rings of Jupiter.” Huh? I thought it was Saturn with the rings–didn’t you?

There’s only so much you can learn from pop culture!


Memory Lane: A Misbegotten Contest

Image result for images of maniac on telephone

Many years ago at The Bayshore Independent, where I was managing editor, we wished to convince our advertisers that people who read our weekly newspaper were reading the ads, too. So the sales department came up with a cunning plan.

They invented this tiny cartoon character called Andy Indy, and every week, Andy Indy’s image would be concealed in an ad. We had a bigger image on the front page every week, showing readers what Andy looks like and explaining the incredibly simple rules of the contest.

Each week, we would select a reader at random, call her on the phone, and ask if she could tell us where Andy Indy was. If she could, she won a nice free dinner at one of our participating restaurants. We call you, we ask you, and if you know the answer, you win.

And every business day, without fail, at least 20 people would call our office to proclaim, breathlessly, “I found Andy Indy!” After a few days of this, you could go mad. They’d even call us on production nights.

What about “We call you” couldn’t these people understand? It got to be so that everybody there, reporters, editors, office staff, art department, sales, and even the kid who swept the floors, got more than his fill of “I found Andy Indy!” I wrote up an obituary for Andy Indy which the typesetter blew up and hung on the wall.

(Yeah, Lee, but don’t you get it? It was free stuff! People will try just about anything to get free stuff. Even if it’s stuff they don’t really want. So ignore the contest rules, grab that phone, and be ready to shout for all you’re worth–“I FOUND ANDY INDY!!!”)

I wonder how many of our staff still wake up screaming, 40 years later.


Memory Lane: The Home-Made Spook House

Image result for images of kid playing ghost

In our neighborhood, a popular way of making a little extra money on a summer day was to set up a spook house in your cellar, or garage, and get the other kids to pay admission.

Our resources being what they were, customers always had to go through the spook house blindfolded. Otherwise they would see how goofy it was. I mean, how scared were you going to get in broad daylight? But once you had a blindfold on, maybe you might get your money’s worth of being scared. “Money” usually meant a nickel.

Dangling strips of toilet paper made for cobwebs across the entrance “to the secret tomb of Dracula, heh-heh-heh!” (These lines are very hard for a 10-year-old to deliver convincingly, but we tried.) And then you’d be invited to feel the  various exhibits. “Feel Dracula’s fangs, how sharp they are!” (A couple of ten-penny nails.) “The cut-off head of the Wolfman!” (A ratty old bathroom rug draped over a basketball.) And my favorite, whoever thought it up was a genius: “Now feel solidified fire!” That really did spook me while I was blindfolded, making me think I was gonna get burned somehow. But solidified fire was just ice cubes.

And sometimes we’d put a blindfolded kid into a wagon for “the Monster Ride through Transylvania–oooooh!” Which was a lot of sharp turns, etc. But it felt kind of cool if you couldn’t see where you were going. There was always that little frisson at the thought that some wiseguys might push you into a mud puddle and tip the wagon over…

The money we took in never amounted to much; but the fun we had, did.

 

 

 

 


Memory Lane: ‘Phantom Agents’

Remember Phantom Agents? A Japanese-made piece of vintage 1960s awfulness, actually kind of fun to watch because it was just so unexpectedly bad.

The thing that got me every time was the agents’ phenomenal ability to jump backwards and land safely on the branch of a tree 20 feet off the ground. How did they do that? But they also knew how to jump backwards out of the water and land on the deck of a ship 20 feet out of the water. Now ain’t that somethin’!

I wonder how many numbskulls watched this show and went into martial arts studios to ask how to jump backwards into trees.


Sanity Break: Daddy’s Baby

One of my very earliest memories is of my father carrying me in his arms and singing to me–probably because I woke of squawking in the middle of the night. Usually he sang “You Are My Sunshine,” and sometimes “Sweet Violets.” Oh, how dearly I remember that! And this video reminded me of it.

Our Heavenly Father loves us just as much, and He will re-unite us with those who loved us here on earth. I look forward to hearing Daddy’s song again. And I pray he knows that I remember it.


Loony Tunes: ‘Babbit and Catstello’

You might want to watch this before youtube pulls it off this blog.

Loony Tunes, 1942: Babbit and Catstello takes off on Abbot and Costello, who were smokin’ hot at the time. They were only two of the many movie stars who wound up with avatars in cartoons, including Bing Crosby, Humphrey Bogart, and Peter Lorre, just to name three. Some of these renditions were uncanny!


Memory Lane: ‘Risk’

Image result for images of risk game

Here was another rainy day favorite of my childhood–the game of Risk. Can you raise mighty armies, and conquer the world? This was your chance to try.

What strategy will you use? Will you try to nail down Australia, and spread out from there? It’ll be hard for the other players to attack you there, but you might get bottled up. Or will you set up in some central location, like Mongolia (my favorite!), and attack the weakest targets until all Asia grovels at your feet, and supplies you with the numbers needed to go after Europe?

It was also a fun way to learn geography. Where is the Risk player who doesn’t know where Kamchatka is? Which is not the same as knowing how to pronounce it! And gee, look at that: the Middle East gives you entry into Africa, Europe, or Asia, or even all three at once.

I know Risk is still around, but I don’t know who’s playing it. Patty and I have a game in our toy chest. Of course, to play it, you have to be able to concentrate for two hours at a stretch, and you have to be imaginative, with the ability to adapt your strategy to changing circumstances. I’m afraid that might be asking a bit too much of the Zombie Bloodbath video game crowd.


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