Category Archives: memory lane

Memory Lane: ‘Soldiers of Fortune’

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I know I’m gonna get you with this one: Soldiers of Fortune, from back in 1955.

My father watched this show; that’s how I remember it. I remembered the title and the name of one of the characters: “Toubo Smith.” I mean, you can’t forget a name like Toubo.

In each half-hour episode, globe-trotting adventurers Tim Kelly (John Russell, later to star in Lawman) and Toubo Smith (Chick Chandler) take on the crazy jobs that no one else will touch with a ten-foot pole, have wild adventures in every exotic location you can think of, and use up more stunt men per 30-minute series than any other in the 1950s.

I was amazed to discover some of those episodes floating around Youtube. In fact, you can get the whole two seasons, 1955-56, on disc. I watched one last night and enjoyed it a lot–skullduggery and derring-do in the mountains of Tibet. You have to admire the way they packed so much into so little time, and without giving the impression of hurrying through it.

Dad, I can’t remember this show without remembering you.

Nothin’ beats a good story, does it?

Memory Lane: The Back Porch

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I do miss our old back porch. It wasn’t as fancy as the one in this picture. It was raised on cinderblocks with a crawlspace full of spiders underneath, and it had a nice glider on it, ideal for playing chess.

We played a lot of Monopoly on that porch, seated on the woven grass mat on the floor: perfect for a rainy summer day. In the summer I could leave my lizards out there. Or just lie down on the mat and read Rick Brant. And no trouble with mosquitoes, thanks to the screen.

Ah, paradise! I’m old enough to realize that paradise usually consists of simple things that don’t cost a lot. And if we had a porch now, a porch like our old porch, I could sit outside and write even if it was raining.

I remember my parents, aunts, and uncles all sitting on that porch, talking, laughing, smoking, just enjoying each other’s company.

I hope we have a porch in Heaven.

You’re all invited, if we do. Monopoly, anyone?

‘Memory Lane: The Shark Arm Murder’ (2015)

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There’s a good chance this photo isn’t genuine, but I couldn’t resist it.

If summer turns your thoughts toward the seashore, it may also turn them toward… well, sharks. I don’t know about you, but I find sharks fascinating.

And here’s one of the most fascinating shark stories of all:

This was in 1935, and a lot of our modern crime-solving technology had yet to be imagined. I wonder how well investigators would do with this case today.

But let’s hope there’s no need to find out.

‘Memory Lane: Golden Stamp Books’

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This, of course, was one of my favorites

How I loved these Golden Stamp Books! Especially on a rainy summer day: sitting on the grass rug on our back porch, coloring the pictures and pasting in the stamps.

Of course, you have to have an attention span, to enjoy these. You had to be able to sit and do something quietly, maybe humming or whistling to yourself, content to sojourn in the world of the imagination. No cell phones, smartphones, iphones, etc.

It was bliss.

Memory Lane: Your Roy Rogers Lunchbox

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Did you have one of these? Wow, Roy and Dale and Trigger and Bullet–

Roy Rogers was a movie star, but when I was a boy he had a hit TV show, too: and most TV shows that made a hit with the kiddies wound up getting merchandised as lunchboxes. That was back before School Officials (aka education fat-heads) took it upon themselves to tell parents what they could or couldn’t put in their children’s lunchboxes. To paraphrase King Solomon, better a little snack-pack of Oreos served with love, than a Real Nutritious Tofu Vegan Feast doled out by a school bureaucracy.

So Roy and Dale were joined in the lunchbox parade by Zorro, Gene Autry, Wild Bill Hickcock, Rin-Tin-Tin, Davy Crockett, and a host of others. Not one of whom ever dropped the f-bomb on national TV, or bragged about being an atheist, or was a stooge for left-wing politics.

Gee, I can still hear Roy and Dale singing “Happy Trails” at the end of each episode of their TV show. Let me see if I can find that for you…

Memory Lane: ‘Regimentation’

Image result for images of kids lined up for gym class 1950s

Although it was at least a thousand times better than the mess we have today, the era of the 1950s was not without its tiresome aspects. Among the most tiresome was educators’ penchant for militarizing children.

At Edgar School, for gym, we had these white X’s painted on the blacktop and you were supposed to stand on one, and then Mr. Weiss would put us through a drill, “Ten-hut! Eyes right, dress right, dress!” If you went to the Y after school, you got more of it. “Count off by fours–count off!”

Looking back on it… what were they trying to do?

Sure, I played soldiers with all the other kids, and there was always a war movie playing on TV, and everybody had toy army men. Most of us had fathers who had served in World War II (my daddy was a sailor). Left to our own devices, we enjoyed a healthy patriotism and would have been happy to slam the Bad Guys–by then, the communists: Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini were dead–anytime, anywhere.

They called it “regimentation” and it was too much of a thing that wasn’t that good to begin with. I’m convinced that their overdoing it contributed much to the cultural meltdown of the later 1960s. Halfway through ROTC I found myself thinking “Enough, already!”

News flash: They’re still putting kids through drills to teach them unquestioning obedience to The Authorities: but now they call it “school” and “university,” and instead of counting off by fours, you recite the titles of all the latest made-up “genders.”

Memory Lane: ‘Elfego Baca’

I was delighted to find some of these episodes available on Youtube: The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca. I’ll try to get Patty to watch these with me, this weekend.

This series, starring Robert Loggia, came out in 1958 on “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.” Remember that? It must have been good, because I’ve remembered the theme song for 60 years. This is the kind of great stuff Disney productions turned out while Walt was still running the place. He wouldn’t be happy with what they’re doing now: heads would roll.

In real life, Baca, then a deputy sheriff in New Mexico, won his reputation for “nine lives” when he was surrounded by a gang of bad guys after taking shelter in a rather small adobe building reminiscent of the old Stelton Hotel here in the heart of Jersey. They couldn’t persuade him to come out and get shot, and whenever they tried to rush the building, he made them pay for it. So they hunkered down and fired 4,000 rounds (!) at the place (yes, somebody actually counted the bullet holes), and not one of them hit Elfego Baca. That’s why someone counted the holes–the man’s survival seemed a miracle.

And I like miracles!

Anyway, here’s the theme song–and I don’t know who these performers were, but they were pretty good.

Memory Lane: Boogiemen

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A Boogieman in Babes in Toyland (1934)

No matter how you spell it–boogieman, bogeyman, boogeyman–these guys are bad news.

My mother always used to watch Laurel and Hardy in Babes in Toyland when it was on TV at Christmastime. When I was a little boy, the scenes with the boogiemen upset me–although I didn’t say so, or then I wouldn’t have been allowed to see the movie. I also had a lurking suspicion that some of those boogiemen were living in Edgar Woods, practically next door to us.

Why have I thought of boogiemen today? I dunno–maybe listening to the news and hearing political idiots warning us that President Trump is gonna tear children from our arms, next. (That was Michael Steele, spouting that.) Maybe it’s from driving to and from the vet’s, through what used to be “the country” but isn’t anymore–just a wilderness of McMansions, strips malls, and a lot of Agenda 21 crap. Nothing beautiful is allowed to survive.

Maybe the boogieman isn’t imaginary, after all.

Memory Lane: The Slide Rule

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My wife and I last night were reminiscing about slide rules. I wonder how many of you are old enough to have learned how to use a slide rule. I wonder how many of you have ever seen one.

The slide rule was invented in the 17th century, modified and improved throughout its history, and taught in schools during the 1950s and early 60s. I had one, although I don’t know what happened to it. Wernher von Braun had two slide rules which he acquired in the 1930s and continued to use for the rest of his life, including for his work leading the U.S. space program in the 1960s. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this bit of 17th-century technology helped put a man on the moon in 1969.

Slide rules came as straight rulers with sliding sticks and a cursor, with later models done up as disks or cylinders. Electronic computers made them obsolete by 1974. You can still get them, you can still learn how to use them, and they will still give you the right answers to multiplication, division, square roots, and trigonometry problems. But they are obsolete.

Slide rules have two advantages over computers. Electrical power failures, hiccups, and glitches don’t affect them, and they never need those blasted updates. The down side is that they’re harder to learn than computers: a chowderhead will not be able to use one.

Let’s hope there will always be a few people around who own slide rules and know how to use them. They may be needed again, someday.

Memory Lane: Major Hoople

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You may have heard me say “Fap!” now and then, and probably asked yourselves, “Did he say ‘fap’? What’s fap?”

I grew up with Sunday color comics in the newspaper, and one of my favorites was “Our Boarding House,” featuring Major Amos B. Hoople, a lovable pompous windbag whose wife, Martha, controlled him by making him go outside to beat the rugs. I wonder if anybody still beats rugs.

Anyhow, when the major’s at a loss for words, he often resorts to his customary exclamations, “Fap!” Usually followed by “Hak-kaff” or “Harrumph!” This sort of eloquence is seldom met with nowadays.

I am unable to confirm a report that Major Hoople left home to become a Diversity Reponse Team People’s Investigator at Fimbo University.

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