‘Your Old Toys Are Worth Big Bucks’ (2015)

It’s seven years since I first posted this. Yes, I still have all those dinosaurs! Only now I don’t care how much money I could get for them. They ain’t goin’ nowhere!

Your Old Toys Are Worth Big Bucks

Most of my family has passed on; very few of us left. Little gifts that grandparents, aunts and uncles, and my mother and father gave me… well, sorry, but you just can’t put a price on that.

Handling my now-expensive Sphenacodon, I can almost reach back and touch the summer of 1960.

Memory Lane: I Talk to the Cows

Trio of three black and white cows looking over a stone wall on Terceira  Island, Azores Stock Photo - Alamy

Something stirred one of my very earliest memories.

My parents went away for a weekend and took me with them. I was either four or five years old. My brother was still a baby, so let’s say four.

We went to what I guess now was a rented house somewhere in North Jersey or upstate New York, in farming country. I don’t know what my parents did all day; but there was a stone wall in the back yard and I sat on it, playing with my toy horsies and making up adventures for them…

And explaining it all to the cows!

See, I wasn’t lonely because on the other side of the wall was a pasture and I had company the whole time I was there–three cows who hung out with me. I petted them. I told them all about my toys. I told them little stories I made up (my father, my grammie, and my aunts told me stories all the time, and I imitated them). They were the nicest cows you could imagine–although I don’t know, maybe most cows are like that. Suburban kids don’t get a lot of experience with cows.

But that little bit of experience I had, I treasure.

I hope I meet those cows again someday. We have a lot of catching up to do.

Memory Lane: ‘Ivanhoe’ (Again)

I was only nine years old when I watched this Ivanhoe TV show in 1958. Loved it, of course. But the abridged version they had us read in high school was wretched enough to sour me on it for several decades.

Well, I’m reading it again now, in all its original glory, and loving it again. Like all great novels, it has something new to offer every time you read it.

What impresses me this time out is Sir Walter Scott’s depiction of an England that’s still in the process of being born, it’s not quite England yet. A hundred years or so after 1066, the country has a Saxon populace and a Norman French ruling class. It’s still a conquered country, still without real law (despite the honest efforts of Henry II), and being a conquered country really sucks. It also has a population of Jews ground down by persecution. All of this was missing from that warped edition they imposed on us in high school.

We Americans founded our country and gave it a legal framework, the Constitution. But countries in Europe weren’t so blessed. Ivanhoe shows us some of England’s birth pangs. These countries had a long way to go before they became the countries that we see today: they could have easily turned out to be very different from the European countries that we know.

History lives. It’s always being made. It always needs God’s blessing. The Lord has abundantly blessed our country, sparing us much of the pains suffered by the European countries in their formative centuries.

History should teach us to be grateful for that. And to avoid mistakes!

The Disappearing Toad

I’ve always liked toads; they have a lot of personality and make pretty good pets. Here’s a toad demonstrating one of the secret techniques of Toad-Jitsu–burying himself in sand to elude a predator.

The biggest, fattest toad I ever saw was camped out under the electric bug zapper by night at the Sea Spray Motel, Beach Haven–snapping up every bug that fell onto the shuffleboard court. Did he have it made, or what?

The second-biggest were the ones in Aunt Louise’s garden: “hoptoads,” she called them. Something about her garden really drew the toads. Well, she was an awfully nice lady. Toads pick up on that.

Memory Lane: ‘Primitive Pete’

Technology and Building Sites

Once upon a time, all over the country, kids in shop class were shown cartoons featuring “Primitive Pete”–a Disney product, believe it or not. A Disney product that didn’t deliver a sexual message to children. But I digress.

Pete got off to a good start by inventing the hammer, but it wasn’t long before he was misusing every tool on the workbench. The cartoons were do’s and don’ts–as in “Don’t do what Primitive Pete just did!” Like using a screwdriver to check for amperage. Using a wrench for a hammer. Pete never ran out of bad ideas.

When I was a boy, everybody’s father had a workbench and a toolbox, either in the cellar or the garage, and we grew up knowing how to use most tools because we’d seen them being used. Girls, too. My grandpa had six daughters, and they all learned to do basic household repairs and other jobs. My sister can do those things, too.

So we didn’t really need Primitive Pete, but it was always fun to watch him butcher simple tasks.


Our Anniversary Today

Vintage 1955 Photograph Couple in a Fishing Rowboat on the Lake | eBay

Forty-five years ago it was, 1977. We were both working for The Bayshore Independent at the time, Patty as bookkeeper, me as managing editor. We were going to go down to Elkton, MD, and get married. So I asked our employer for two days off.

“Can’t you do that on your vacation?” he replied querulously (always wanted to use that word!).

“It’s not like I get married often,” I said. So we got the two days.

Fancy circus wedding? No, not for us. We got married in a little chapel and then went fishing. Steamed crabs for supper that evening at the old Howard Hotel. With the kung-fu class going on upstairs. Heee-yah! Thump!

Yes, it’s Anniversary No. 45 today. Thank you, Lord: for all the goodness in our lives.

I Have Cheated Myself

The Adventures of Tartu FilmPoster.jpeg

When I was a boy, I loved to read the TV listings in the newspaper. I especially enjoyed the late-night offerings, which I wasn’t allowed to see. Example: 1 a.m., Channel 5, Scudda-Hee, Scudda Hay! It was something to do with mules.

But even more tantalizing, and listed at least once a month, always for very late at night, was a film called The Adventures of Tartu. Wow! Who was Tartu? Or what was Tartu? I loved speculating about it. The setting seemed to be Rumania–what kind of movie is set in Rumania? How close is that to Transylvania? Was Tartu a vampire-slayer?

Enter the Internet, years and decades later. Now I know!


This was so much more fun as a complete unknown! Looking it up and finding out the whole plot–well, that just ruined everything, didn’t it? The movie couldn’t possibly have lived up to my imaginings.

It’s a lesson in life that one learns again and again: sometimes anticipation is best just left alone. Fulfilling it only depletes it.

Memory Lane: ‘Phantom Agents’

Phantom Agents used guns as last resort | cars4starters

The nooze has worn me down this week, I can’t help it. I need something to laugh at.

Ah! Phantom Agents! I can certainly laugh at that. It may well have been the silliest TV show ever produced.

The agents were ninjas (!) employed by the Japanese government to put down secret societies of bad guys. They tried never to shoot anyone–because, after all, “We’re phantom agents!”–and always used traditional ninja weapons.

They also had the ability to jump backwards 20 feet into the air and land on tree branches, which never broke or bounced them back, and could even leap backwards out of deep water to land on the deck of a ship. They could camouflage themselves by standing in front of a brick wall and holding up a kind of blanket with bricks printed on it. This always fooled their incredibly gullible enemies.

This monstrosity was on TV for two years, 1964-66. I watched it because it was hilarious. There are still a few clips available on YouTube, mostly in Japanese.

Unreliable sources report that Joe Biden watches it “religiously” and must be restrained from trying to leap backwards into trees.

Oh, What a Memory!

My wife said she didn’t want to step outside “because the morning sun–”

“Is shinin’ like a red rubber ball!” I finished for her; and we both laughed.

That allusion to a 1966-67 pop song suddenly raised up for me an almost inexpressibly sweet memory of five of us high school kids gathered in William A’s bedroom with pretzels and soda to brainstorm the next issue of our own science fiction magazine, The Diomegan. With Simon & Garfunkel singing this song somewhere in the background.

Oh, what a time that was! How gung-ho we were, to publish our magazine. And we did it, too, got it done–two issues.

I wonder how many of us remember that song? “Now I know you ain’t the only starfish in the sea…”

‘Baseball Without the Little League’ (2018)

Image result for images of pickup baseball game

I grew up in a time when most kids played what they wanted to play and didn’t require full-time adult supervision–to say nothing of scoreboards, uniforms, sponsors, etc., etc.

Baseball Without the Little League

I think one of the wisest things my parents ever did was not to let me join the Little League. They said I’d hate it: the coach’s favorites play while everybody else just sits on the bench.

So much nicer to play with patchwork rules (hit the ball past the swing set, it’s a home run) and only four or five kids on a team. You get up to bat 50 or 100 times instead of not at all, you play as many innings as you please, and you don’t have to waste time undermining your teammates.

But then who sees free-range kids playing outside anymore?