Category Archives: memory lane

Memory Lane: 500 Days Till Doomsday

Image result for images of john kerry in sperm suit

Almost our president…

Remember this? May, 2014–three years ago–the foreign minister of France got together with abortion-happy loon John Kerry and proclaimed the world has only “500 days to avoid climate chaos!” (

Have you noticed liberals and other Global Warming pinheads never, ever, have to be right in their predictions?

Thank the Force or whatever, the foreign minister exulted, that America has leadership, in Kerry the dope and President *Batteries Not Included, who are down for the struggle against Man-Made Climbit change! Surely they will harness the power of the government to make it be nice weather all the time!

Anyone out there who still believes these people really ought to be ashamed of himself. Uh, how many posh beachfront homes have the Rising Sea Levels Marching & Chowder Society bought for themselves lately?

Summertime Fads

Image result for images of kids using pea shooters

We must not let the summer pass without some mention of summertime fads.

There used to be this place called “outside,” and that’s where we were, all summer long. I think it might still be there, somewhere, although children don’t appear to be visiting it much, these days.

One summer, we all had pea shooters–just these little plastic straws… through which we shot dried peas at each other. Now it’s all I can do to find a picture of a pea shooter. Mostly I just found stills and videos of this character called “Pea Shooter” from some electronic game which keeps kids indoors instead of moving them “outside.” I should add that nobody, for all the pea-shooting we did, ever shot their eye out.

Then there was the hula hoop, a nationwide craze that’s still with us. Everybody had one of those, too. Tommy Mascola, next door, used to be able to walk up and down stairs while keeping the hoop rotating around his hips. This made him a neighborhood celebrity. Too bad “America’s Got Talent” hadn’t been invented yet.

Another local fad was these little rubber rockets: you inserted a cap (from a cap gun) into the nose cone, and when you tossed it into the air and it came down on the sidewalk, it would go “bang!” Richly entertaining.

And there were impromptu bike races, home-made parachutes, and these weird candies that would go all fizzy when you put them into your mouth. I wonder what ever happened to them.

On the whole, I’m sure we had more fun than we would have ever had “inside” all day, fatzing around with video games and cell phones.



Memory Lane: Bill Ding Blocks

Image result for 1950s building blocks shaped like men

Remember these? “Bill Ding Blocks,” they were called, made of wood and brightly colored. They were also called “balancing clowns.” Those strangely leering little figures were supposed to be clowns. And if you were patient, with a light touch, you could set them up into all sorts of improbable arrangements. I used to play with these with my friend, David, next door. We were little more than toddlers at the time, and improbable arrangements were beyond our powers.

Bill Ding Blocks first came out in 1911. In the early 1960’s the company that made them was bought and the product discontinued, but the owner believed in his product and eventually bought back the rights to it. Today they’re manufactured in China. It does seem a shame not to make these in America.

David and I enjoyed these unusual blocks; but I think if we’d looked more closely at the faces, we might’ve had second thoughts. Happy memories, though. Happy low-tech memories.

Memory Lane: Bert Kaempfert’s ‘Afrikaan Beat’

I first heard this as theme music for The Sandy Becker Show, but it was smoking hot in 1962 and soon wound up on all the juke boxes. Do they still have juke boxes?

Kaempfert had hits galore, and not one of them about drugs, fornication, shooting people, or anything else they sing about today. He wasn’t South African, as I thought at the time, but German. Internationally popular, though, and heavily influenced, at one phase of his career, by South African music. Who can blame him? That’s pretty cool music.

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy something harmless and wholesome for a change–like Afrikaan Beat.

Memory Lane: ‘The Bible Tells Me So’

Phoebe mentioned this 1955 popular song in a comment, and although I’m sure I hadn’t thought of it since then, I instantly remembered it. Do you?

I didn’t know, at the time, that the song was written by Dale Evans. I must’ve thought she and Roy Rogers only sang Happy Trails to You at the end of their TV show.

So here it is, Roy and Dale and The Bible Tells Me So. Go ahead, tell me that the time we live in now is better than the time we lived in then. Play me some gangsta rap.

Then duck.

Memory Lane: Your Cavemen Gotta Have Caves

Image result for images of marx toy caveman

It’s 1958 and you’ve just acquired a Marx Dinosaur set, complete with an assortment of cavemen. The little fellow pictured above is one of them. There are also cavemen throwing rocks, walking around with clubs and grinning placidly, making stone tools, and cavewomen preparing supper. It was 1958 and we were not required to show transgender cave-bipeds. etc.

Anyway, you’ve got cavemen and they ought to have a cave. Otherwise the dinosaurs will get them. No cave came with the set, so you had to provide your own.

My cavemen lived in caves made of my mother’s books, Grandpa’s beautiful stone building blocks, upside-down shoeboxes… and sand. The sandbox was the best place for caves, mountains, volcanoes, and forts. You did run the risk of losing a caveman or two, because these figurines were really quite small: that determined-looking spearman up there is only about an inch tall, albeit he’d be taller if he’d only stand up straight. I know exactly how tall everybody is because I still have my cavemen, except for those few who, for all I know, are still somewhere at the bottom of the sandbox in the playground next door. Uh, no, wait–they’ve expanded the school to swallow up the playground, and there is no more sandbox. Kids don’t play there anymore.

Is it already too late to teach children to use their imaginations?

I think God will help us if we try.

Memory Lane: Sgt. Pepper’s White House Guards

Image result for nixon white house guard uniforms

All right, some of you don’t remember the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album, with the off-the-wall uniforms. And probably even fewer of you remember these White House guard uniforms from 1970.

Can you dig those black hats? They were made of plastic. Cool.

It was Richard Nixon’s fault. He was inspired by assorted palace guard uniforms he’d seen on a recent trip to Europe, and he thought his White House guards looked pretty hum-drum by comparison. So he had ’em wear these instead–and didn’t the whole country (except for a few members of my family) get a big fat belly-laugh over that! The uniforms were an irresistible target for satire, and were soon phased out. In 1980 the last of them were donated to a marching band in Utah. Alice Cooper wanted some for his band, but he was too late.

It was a different America in 1970. We didn’t grovel to government, like Europeans. Oh, sure, today it’s hip, it’s almost mandatory, to execrate President Trump and all us deplorables who voted for him. But where was the satire when his predecessor, ol’ *Batteries Not Included, was in office? If he’d come up with these ridiculous uniforms, you’d better salute ’em if you know what’s good for you.

Anyhow, in 1970 we had the self-respect to laugh at such pretensions by what were then our elected public servants, not our masters.

May God grant we find out way back.

Sanity Break: Sweet Little Owls

To see how these little owls get along with people, and even with a dog, is to get a glimpse of God’s love. Love is the quintessential God’s stuff, and it works. And not just for humans, either.

One day when I was five years old, my friend and I ventured into the woods; and we hadn’t gone far when we got the scare of our lives. The noise we made disturbed an owl and flushed him out of his perch in a small tree beside the path, just four or five feet from us. Yikes! To this day I remember that owl as being a lot bigger than either of us.

But I know now that there was nothing to be afraid of.

Memory Lane: Toothpick Sam

Image result for images of 1959 topps sam jones

Something about the light outside today whisked me back to an early Sunday afternoon in 1959, in my Grandpa’s gardens. They’re all gone now, along with the house, the chicken coop: dogwoods, roses, black and red raspberries, grapes, butterfly  bushes. All torn down as a sacrifice to Progress.

So I was standing there in the sunshine, ten years old, opening a pack of baseball cards which Grandma had just given me. And as the wrapper came off, the top card was, as pictured above, Sam Jones: aka “Toothpick Sam,” because he often chewed on a toothpick.

What a treat! This was one of my favorite players ever. I don’t know why. Something about his face, I think: it made me feel like it would be just so wonderful if this man someday took me fishing. It wasn’t exactly hero-worship at first sight: no. Just something in this man’s face that made me really, really like him. Until I had his baseball card, I’d never seen him before.

And oh, bliss! A few days later he was traded to the Giants–my family was a Giants family–and went on to win 21 games for them that year.

Maybe it was the way the light came down on the gardens, behind a houseful of my family. They’re all gone now, too. And as far as it goes for me, baseball’s gone, too–changed so much, I just don’t care about it anymore.

But the memory remains; it’s a very vivid memory. And I’m thankful that I have it.


Memory Lane: Mandrake the Magician

Image result for images of mandrake the magician

[Editor’s Note: I’m kind of steering clear of miserable news this weekend, although it seems to be costing me some readership. Oh, well…]

When I was a boy I looked forward to the color comics in the Sunday paper. Flash Gordon, Little Lulu, Archie, Mark Trail–and Mandrake the Magician. Lee Falk, who went on to create The Phantom, came up with Mandrake in 1934. The comic strip outlived its creator and only stopped running in 2013. I had no idea.

Mandrake the Magician always went around in his magician’s duds, along with his best bud, Lothar. Lothar wore a fez and a leopard skin, finally getting real clothes in 1965–after, I suspect, many a chilly winter. Lothar was an African chief with super-powers of his own. And there was Princess Narda to complete the team. She and Mandrake were engaged to be married, which they finally did in 1997. It was a very long engagement.

My favorite line in this comic strip–Patty and I still use it–was, of course, “Mandrake gestures hypnotically.” The subject, usually a bad guy, was instantaneously hypnotized to see and feel whatever Mandrake planted in his head. We may be thankful that Mandrake never entered politics.

To borrow a motto from World War II paratroopers, “It’s foolish but it’s fun!” I mean, really–always to be wearing a great big cape and high silk hat? Or leopard skin and fez? Don’t magicians ever change their clothes? Or do they just have whole closets full of capes and shiny dinner jackets?

Mandrake, I might add, was a personal friend of the Emperor of the Galaxy. It ensured him always to be able to find a parking space. If magic can’t do that for you, political pull surely will.

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