Category Archives: memory lane

Memory Lane: ‘Davey and Goliath’

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Remember this? Davey and Goliath, which ran on TV from 1961-1965 and again from 1971-1973, a Christian children’s show produced by first the United Lutheran Church in America and later by the Lutheran Church in America, it featured a boy and his talking dog, Goliath, and was created by Art Clokey, famous as the creator of Gumby. I’d have watched it if I’d known it was sort of like Gumby–although it was on Sunday mornings and most of the time, I’d be at Sunday school or church, so I didn’t get a chance to see it.

But once upon a time, American TV, plain old network television, used to have any number of Christian shows. This one sought to teach kids how to live as good Christians. That was before The Smartest People In The World realized children had to be protected from Jesus Christ. It’s surprising they never got around to banning Gumby, too.

What was it like, to find wholesome Christian programming on regular TV? We’ve come so far from that, it’s hard to remember.

But we haven’t entirely forgotten, have we? And maybe, someday, we can find our way back to it.

Memory Lane: Electric Baseball

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My brother and I got this toy for Christmas once, sometime in the Fabulous Fifties: Tudor Electric Baseball.

The ball was a tiny white magnet which you “pitched” with a kind of catapult, aiming for a tin sheet representing the batter. Behind the sheet sat your opponent, who, when he heard the ball stick to the other side of the screen, smacked his side with a spring-operated plastic bat. If the ball landed on a circle marked “hit,” he flicked a switch and these little plastic guys with strips of celluloid on their bases ran around the basepaths, accompanied by a loud buzzing sound as the whole gameboard vibrated energetically. The basepaths were thick cardboard guides. Without them, the runners would have dashed all over the place in a kind of brownian movement.

If this sounds complicated, that’s only because it really was complicated.

Our friend “thewhiterabbit” had an Electric Football game. He soon gave up trying to make any sense of it.

Colorforms Baseball, which we also tried, had no electricity–only a dial on a spinner which, when spun, would stop either on an out or some kind of hit.

I have a feeling this toy cost my parents a fair amount of money. We dutifully played it until the day we somehow lost the ball. It was a very noisy game, and lots of times you’d smack the tin sheet and the ball would just fall off and you’d have to have a do-over. Or sometimes you’d smack it and the ball would just stick there.

But it’s the thought that counts!

Memory Lane: The Remco Bulldog Tank

This toy was a hot item in 1960, and my brother, then eight years old, got one for Christmas: Remco’s Bulldog Tank. Battery-powered, its mighty caterpillar treads would take the tank up and down steep hills of my mother’s books, all the while making a not entirely hopeful wheezing noise. Our family’s home movies show it doing that while my brother watches in angelic rapture.

Best of all, it shot! Boom! Well, not “boom,” really. It went “click.” It fired these plastic projectiles and ejected brass shell casings. Y’know something? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tank in a war movie eject a shell casing. But they must have, right? I mean, you can’t have the turret filling up with shell casings.

I wonder if they still make toys like this for kids–or do they try to make out like there’s no more war, we don’t need tanks to protect us from the bad guys anymore? Meanwhile, the same children deemed too emotionally fragile for a Bulldog Tank spend hours every day playing Zombie Massacre video games. Go figure.

Memory Lane: A Navy Lullaby

My mother used to sing this to each of her children, in turn, as a lullaby: Bell Bottom Trousers. Most of the versions on Youtube have naughty lyrics that we never got to hear. Most of the arrangements are for loud, brassy music; but my mother sang it softly, as a lullaby. With different lyrics!

“Bell bottom trousers, coat of Navy blue/ Your daddy was a sailor, you’ll be a sailor, too.”

Thing was, our daddy really was a sailor, during World War II. And the old storage space in our house–all that was left of the attic, after he’d converted it to bedrooms–was chock-full of stuff he brought back from the war. Dad’s ship was based in the Philippines, and he had a lot of little knick-knacks from there: plus the whole panoply of his sailor duds.

Oh, where is all that stuff now? Dad and Ma moved so many times, and we played carelessly with the souvenirs as kids: I don’t think there’s any of it left, other than a few Filipino coins from the war years.

But it was a nice lullaby: and I was very proud of my Daddy the sailor–never crossed my mind that he was little more than a kid himself, when he clapped eyes on the Pacific Ocean. How young he was…

‘My Iguana’ (2013)

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The iguana in this picture looks exactly like mine.

This pet of mine died in 1978, and I still miss him. Well, I had him 17 years: that’s a long time.

True, you couldn’t get him to play fetch or hide-and-seek; but in all other respects, he was all that could be desired in a pet. He and our cat Buster would have gotten along like a house on fire.

It’s amazing what love and kindness can do.

Bonus Video: Fli-Back!

Wow! Remember these? Wooden paddle (usually with a picture of a cowboy on a bucking bronco), rubber ball, and rubber band–the classic Fli-Back toy. How many times could you hit the ball up and down before you lost control?

My Grandma bought me many a Fli-Back when I was a boy, but I never got the hang of it until much later in life. Maybe the lady in this video can say the same. I still have a Fli-Back in one of the kitchen drawers somewhere, although I think the cats batted the ball out to that place from which no little rubber ball returns.

Memory Lane: The ‘I Dare You’ House

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Patty and I were watching Salem’s Lot yesterday, and as soon as they showed the haunted house, Patty said, “That’s what we used to call an ‘I dare you!’ house.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Every town used to have at least one “I dare you” house–an uninhabited house said (by kids, mostly) to be haunted. As in, “I dare you to go into that house,” or “I dare you to go upstairs/down the cellar,” etc.

Once upon a time the finest haunted house in our town was called “the 1868 house.” Wow–1868! Ancient! Probably Egyptian hieroglyphics on the walls. Trilobite fossils on the floor. It never occurred to us that there were people still around who were alive in 1868. And it looked like an 1868 house should look. It had turrets. And a stone wall around the grounds, and the grounds all overgrown with saplings and bushes, with piles of grey lumber marking all that was left of assorted sheds and outhouses.

One day my friend Ellen and I dared each other to enter the 1868 house without Bobby, her big brother, who usually led these expeditions. To do this without Bobby was an act of incredible audacity. But who could afford to chicken out, and lose face forever? It was a grim duo that mounted their bikes that afternoon…

Well, we did go inside. To say our nerves were tightly strung would be an understatement.

As quietly as we could, we crept into a room that looked like it might have once been a kitchen. At the other end of it, a door was open to a passage filled with darkness. It must have led down to the cellar. Dark as night down there.

“I dare you to go down those stairs!” Ellen whispered to me.

“I dare you to do it!” I whispered back. Hey, we were 11 years old: we knew what would happen. That’s where the freakin’ ghost comes swooping up the stairs as swift as the wind–and gets you.

I forget which of us took the first tentative step in that direction, and I can’t honestly say what I thought I saw coming up those stairs. All I can say is that we both shrieked simultaneously and broke several Olympic speed records charging out of the house, leaping onto our bikes, and pedaling back home faster than a pair of speeding bullets. It must have been a serious scare, because I never once muttered to Ellen, “Chicken!”, nor did she ever accuse me of desertion in the face of heaven knew what. I don’t think we ever told Bobby about this adventure.

But of course the 1868 house is long gone, replaced by half a dozen modern homes; and whatever walked there then, walks elsewhere now.  (Hat-tip to Shirley Jackson: “And whatever walked there [in Hill House], walked alone.”)

Memory Lane: ‘Mother, Please–!’

If you’re old enough, you’re sure to remember this classic Anacin commercial, circa 1960. The housewife’s trying to cook, the mother ventures to ask, “Don’t you think it needs a little salt?”, and she gets her head bitten off: “Mother, please! I’d rather do it myself!”

The opportunities for parody are legion. Think Mama Bates from Psycho.

There was a whole series of these Family-Member-Goes-Postal commercials: it seems Anacin was better than any platoon of family counselors.

I don’t even like to think about how the same commercials would be made today.

Memory Lane: ‘Whiplash’

In 1960 something new appeared on America TV: Whiplash, a western, if that’s the right word, set in Australia.

It should’ve been a hit. The star, Peter Graves, had been a success with Fury, a great kids’ show about a boy and his black stallion. Graves would go on to have a huge hit with Mission: Impossible, but at the time, Whiplash didn’t seem to do much for his career. Maybe because the British and Australian co-producers spent a fortune to film the series in Australia, but Graves insisted on filming much of it in a studio once they got there.

Much of the show was written by Gene Roddenberry, who went on to become famous for Star Trek.

You’d think the exotic locale, stories of adventure in the Outback during the Great Australian Gold Rush of the 1850s, and episodes featuring many of Australia’s most successful actors of the era, would have propelled the show to the TV hall of fame. But it only ran for two seasons, 1960-61. Critics are kinder to it now than they were then.

It even had a cool theme song. What’s not to like?

Well, I liked it! I was eleven years old, I’d been a Fury fan for years, and this show made me want to go to Australia and see the kangaroos close up.

I have yet to meet anyone else who remembers it, though.

Cuddly Cows

It’s beginning to look like I missed a lot by living in the suburbs all my life. But I should have remembered about cows! Once, when I was only five years old or so, my parents went on some sort of getaway in upstate New York. We stayed at a farm, and each day, I would go out to the stone wall in the back yard and hang out with the cows on the next-door farmer’s field. I remember showing those cows my toys, petting them, talking to them, getting licked by them (“cow kisses”), and just plain loving it. There weren’t any other kids around to play with, but who needs other kids when you’ve got cows?

We really ought to love them.

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