Lee the Local Sports Editor

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As managing editor of the old Bayshore Independent, my multitude of duties included setting up our local sports section every week. The towns we covered all had children’s sports leagues and parents demanded detailed coverage. They rang my phone off the hook to make sure I gave due prominence to their offspring’s athletic feats.They also sent written reports of the week’s games… which I had to rewrite.

Most of these reports were written by parents who wanted their kids to be recognized as sports stars. So-and-so scored another hat trick! Little Bobby “the Italian Stallion” Beamish–the nickname was repeated numerous times–had an assist! Andy Kabonga led the Hooterville Hotspurs to another triumph!

Some of these kids were playing in several leagues at once–like it was a job or something–and any mention of them that I failed to make instantly provoked an angry phone call. I began to form an impression that none of these children ever just played a game for fun. I wondered if mere fun was ever part of it. Heaven help me if I left out a game. Parents must have scanned our sports pages with a fierce intensity.

I don’t miss this job. Mary Gesundheit smashed a double in tee-ball! She is surely destined for stardom!

My wife, who was the bookkeeper there, used to call me up pretending to be an angry parent whose child’s hat trick had not been given all the praise it should have had. She liked the way I mindlessly went into my spiel about how sorry I am but we can’t always find space for every single nuance of every single game, etc. Then I’d realize she was pranking me, oh, fap.

Memory Lane: ‘Let’s Go for a Ride!’

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We used to have a lot of places that looked like this–right around here, where I’ve always lived. All paved over now.

When I was a boy, sometimes on a Sunday, my mother and father would decide “Let’s go for a ride!” We went nowhere in particular. We had these areas that people called “the country” (not there anymore, all paved over). It was very relaxing to be there. Or we could go to Perth Amboy and see the ships docked in the harbor.

My wife and I decided to go up to High Point, one day some years ago, because we’d never been there. Once we got there, it was positively gorgeous. You could see for miles and miles. But getting there–!

It’s hard to decide which is worse: a traffic jam that hardly moves at all, and drives you crazy, or drivers who are already crazy and are determined to show it.

Well, at least I know what nice places are supposed to look like; and no one can pave over my memories. Honest, it was beautiful around here. Once upon a time.

Memory Lane: ‘The Girls’

Mike Lynch Cartoons: THE GIRLS by Franklin Folger

This was another gentle and benign cartoon series, this one from the 1960s–The Girls, by Franklin Folger.

“The girls” were middle-aged women going about the blameless business of their everyday lives, making mild blunders guaranteed to raise a smile. Most of us probably had an aunt who would’ve fit right in. We might smile at some of the things she says and does, but we love and treasure her.

I can’t imagine how hard it would be–well, hard for me, at least–to draw The Girls every day (and when it comes to drawing, I’m not that awful). And come up with really funny one-liners to go with it. Mr. Folger must’ve been a genius.

I don’t know how many newspapers, nationwide, carried The Girls. Several paperback collections have been published. If you never saw these cartoons while they were in the paper every day, you can find and enjoy them online.

Memory Lane: ‘Brother Juniper’

Brother Juniper

I know a lot of you aren’t old enough to have enjoyed this one-panel comic strip that featured in many newspapers, way back in the 1960s. But if you are old enough, do you remember “Brother Juniper”?

These cartoons went for smiles, not belly-laughs. They were gentle, quiet, benign. They must’ve been popular: a lot of newspapers carried them, and once in a while they were published in paperback.

I wonder if Brother Juniper could prosper in this superheated political atmosphere (I don’t recall the cartoon ever getting into politics). Would the little monk suddenly find himself accused of intersectional cis-ableism?

Yeah, probably.

Memory Lane: ‘The Addams Family’

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This show was a big hit when I was a kid in middle school: The Addams Family, based on Charles Addams’ weird cartoons.

The gags come hot and heavy, but always from the same root: what’s normal for the Addams family is bizarre to us; and what’s normal to us seems bizarre to them. The writers and the cast made it work.

But I’ll tell you what really made it work; and it’s not what you might think.

They loved each other.

Every member of the family, even the servants, received affection and respect from all the others. Leave It to Beaver gets mocked for idealizing family life. The Addams family had the Cleaver family beat by miles, but never got mocked because they were all so out to lunch. The critics didn’t understand what made the show tick.

The other night I watched an Addams Family episode on YouTube. I enjoyed it every bit as much as I did in seventh grade. Sure, the jokes are easily predictable. That’s what made them so funny! But even more than that, the family feeling shines over the whole thing like the sun.

TV and movies seldom achieve so much.

The Ol’ DDT Truck

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Eldermike made a comment that awakened in me a long-repressed childhood memory.

We lived on a dead-end street that was once a dirt road, then a gravel road, with a school and playground right next door. And a nice big woods, too.

And every now and then the truck would come by to spray the whole neighborhood with DDT. It was supposed to kill off the mosquitoes. And a lot of us kids ran behind the truck, basking in the cloud of pesticide.

Today this seems an exceedingly bizarre scenario. But back then, who knew? DDT was a good thing. Even if it didn’t work. We had the DDT, we had screens on all the doors and windows–and the mosquitoes still got into your bedroom every night.

In all likelihood this DDT exposure was bad for us. But I’m not aware of any ill effects on my health. If so… well, sometimes God protects us from the fruits of our follies.

Memory Lane: Jesus’ Back Yard

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I grew up in a neighborhood where children freely wandered into neighbors’ yards, and even played games there. Nobody seemed to mind–except for my friend’s mother, next door. She took about 25 years to warm up to me.

One day, no one else around to play with, I went into my friend’s back yard to play in their sandbox. His mother came out and told me to get lost. “Don’t you understand that this is my yard, not yours?”

I think I was only four years old at the time. And my answer was, “It’s Jesus’ yard!”

What made me say that? I don’t know. All I do know is that Jesus Christ was as real to me as this neighbor. His picture hung in my house, as it did in the homes of all my family members. We sang “Jesus Loves Me” in Sunday nursery school. We said our prayers at night. And special prayers for special needs, like when you were scared of something.

I wasn’t propounding a theological argument. Of course it was Jesus’ yard. They were all Jesus’ yards. I was merely stating a fact. I wish I could remember how Mrs. G reacted to it. I don’t think she yelled at me.

Sometimes children are wiser than they ever know.

Memory Lane: The Workbench

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When I was a boy, my father, my grandpa, my uncles, and our neighbors all had workbenches, with lots and lots of tools. Most of them were in the basement, but some of them were in the garage. Ours was always down below.

I’m sure some of you have workbenches–but at one time, virtually every household with a father in it had one. My father tinkered with radios and built shelves and cabinets as needed. Uncle Ferdie invented things–had dozens of patents. Grandpa made toys for us kids. I haven’t collected evidence for it, but I think people used to be a lot handier than they are now. Heck, I used to be a lot handier than I am now.

We don’t have a workbench. Living in an apartment, where would we put it? But there was something magical, on a rainy Saturday, in watching my father shave lumber with his jack-plane, drill holes, tap nails into place, and wind up making something we could use.

Ah! You should’ve seen him and Ferdie tackle a failed TV set. But that’s another story.

‘God of Our Fathers’

I don’t know who’s singing it, or where they are–but this is God of Our Fathers, and it has power. Would you believe we used to sing this at assembly in high school? My Aunt Millie, the school secretary, used to read us a Bible passage over the intercom at the start of every day. And then they took it all away because they said it was harmful to us and against the Constitution–a document which they never lose an opportunity to insult.

Memory Lane: ‘You Are My Sunshine’

This song is one of my earliest childhood memories. Sometimes I’d get nightmares and fantods in bed, and I would cry. My father would come and pick me up, rock me in his arms, and sing this song to me. You bet I remember the words:

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Performed here by James Swanson (I think he’s a cousin to our friends, Joshua and Jeremy Swanson). Very nice job, Jimmy.