Category Archives: memory lane

A Pause That Refreshes


Enough bad nooze already. Here’s something totally harmless, benign, soothing, and sweet: Music Box Dancer by Frank Mills, complete with dancers.

Early childhood memory: my Aunt Millie had a music box with a little toy ballet dancer on the cover, who glided around in a circle when you played the music. I loved to watch it, fascinated. And what I wouldn’t give to see her, and it, again.

P.S.–Oops! I posted this video last month. Never mind, I think we need it again. It’s a small port in a big storm. And prayer will lead us to the best port of them all: the love of God, in Jesus Christ our Savior.

Memory Lane: ‘Million Dollar Movie’

“If you missed any part of Attack of the Crab Monsters, or wish to see it again, the next showing will be tomorrow at 7:30 p.m….”

Are you kidding? I’m 11 years old, yer durn tootin’ I wish to see more crab monsters!

That was Million Dollar Movie on Channel 9, WOR-TV, New York, from 1955 through 1966. This was how the local stations held their ground against the major networks. Channel 11 had the Yankees; Channel 5 had Sandy Becker; and Channel 9 had Million Dollar Movie. In fact, Million Dollar Movie worked so well, a lot of local networks around the country imitated it.

Twice a day, for a week, they’d show the same movie. That was the week’s feature film. Next week would be a different one. Since RKO owned both Channel 9 and most of the movies being shown, Million Dollar Movie cost peanuts to produce.

King Kong! Gunga Din! Forbidden Planet! Oh, there musta been hundreds of ’em! Of course I didn’t watch musicals or kissing movies, and most of the detective movies went over my head. But then The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms would come along, or Frankenstein 1970, and I’d be in my element, reveling in sheer cinematic artistry. And my friends and I would play “King Kong” all week, outdoors, with our toy dinosaurs.

We didn’t have cable TV, we didn’t have Youtube, or any of those online streaming video packages (I don’t even know if I’m saying that right); but somehow there seemed to be more movies that you wanted to see, and more theaters in which to see them, than there are now. And none of the films were based on comic books. Who needs comic books when you’ve got Queen of Outer Space with Eric Fleming and Zsa Zsa Gabor? (For some reason I’ll never understand, my mother really took to that one.)

Anyway, you’d turn on the TV, you’d hear that “Tara’s Theme” from Gone With the Wind, and you’d know it was time for Million Dollar Movie! It may seem a poor thing, by today’s standards; but it made us kids feel rich.

The Folding Fortune Teller

Don’t worry, I’m not going into the occult. But yesterday’s “Memory Lane” with the Magic 8-Ball reminded a couple of our readers of another popular fortune-telling device. I don’t remember what you call it, because I haven’t thought of it for ages, but I do remember it was a big fad in high school.

So here’s how it works.

And we need another video to show you how to get the thing folded in the first place.

The thing that made this fun was, you wrote the “fortunes” yourself. High school kids–of course we wrote them to be funny or (even better) embarrassing. “You are in love with (most despised teacher in the school).” “You steal your dog’s food and eat it yourself.” Stuff like that. Nothing to turn anybody into the next Aleister Crowley. If you made the fortunes too raunchy, no one would bother with you.

I was a lot better at this than I was at algrebra.

There are folks out there who’ll pay a self-advertised psychic an arm and a leg for advice they could just as easily get from the Magic 8-Ball or the origami fortune teller–and which would be just as helpful, but a lot cheaper.

Memory Lane: the Magic 8-Ball

See the source image

Ask it a question, it’ll tell you no lies! That’s because it can’t, but never mind: it’s the Magic 8-Ball, invented in 1950 and still going strong.

My cousins and I had enormously good times with their Magic 8-Ball, asking embarrassing questions about each other and getting embarrassing answers. “Is Joanne in love with that creepy guy down the street?” “It is certain.” You get the idea.

I’m more than a little surprised that no one has trotted out the Magic 8-Ball to prognosticate this year’s political contests. Think of the money they’d save, just asking the 8-Ball. “Is Joe Biden all there?” “Please concentrate and ask again.” “Do those people on CNN ever tell the truth?” “Certainly not!”

In fact, it’d be instructive to compare the Magic 8-Ball to the various TV nooze analysts, scoring them for accuracy. I dare you to do it, MSNBC. Triple-dog dare you!

The Ol’ Sports Desk

See the source image

I sometimes have distressing dreams about having to go back to working for a newspaper. Oddly enough, one of the very worst aspects of that job never features in any of these dreams. Maybe my subconscious is afraid I’ll panic and dive out the window.

As managing editor of a large-circulation local weekly, I was editor of everything. That included… ugh!… local sports. Specifically, local youth sports. The Humbug Township Youth Athletic League. Sasquatch County Youth Soccer. Etc.

Every week, starting on Monday, my desk would get snowed under with youth sports results, mostly written up by persons who were, shall we say, not highly skilled in expressing themselves. Stuff like “He done good, I seen it.” All of this, and I do mean all of it, had to be rewritten. By me. And plugged into the paper every week.

And heaven help me if I missed a spot! Oops, those two pages stuck together, that’s three soccer games (great gloms, I hate soccer) that didn’t make it into the paper. That will work out to at least three very angry phone calls from moms whose kiddy’s hat trick didn’t get a headline, and, if I were especially unfortunate, a personal appearance by a parent–usually the mother, but not always–leaning over my desk and yelling at me for depriving Buster or Petunia of his or her moment of precocious fame.

Lesson: You don’t have to be playing a sport for sports to bring out the worst aspects of your personality. Ask any player who’s ever had a battery thrown at him from the stands.

A lot of these parents signed their kids up for various “Programs” year-round, sometimes more than one at a time. So there you are, ten or eleven years old, in some kind of organized sport every afternoon, every evening, twelve months a year. I thought it cruel and inhumane. But this way you could get your kid’s name into the paper maybe 50 times a year. What a scrapbook that’ll make! And a great resource for the child’s biographer.

Most of these leagues and programs didn’t let anyone in after a certain age: eventually you were too old to participate. Suddenly you were out of organized sports–out as in “cold turkey.”

Had I been older and wiser at the time, I would have sought out some of these kids who suddenly had to do without what was a major slice of their lives throughout their childhoods. I should have interviewed them. It would have made for a fascinating series of articles.

But it might’ve gotten me lynched, too.

Memory Lane: ‘McHale’s Navy’

When I was a boy, there were a lot of military service comedies on TV, along with World War II dramas. Most of us had fathers and/or uncles who’d been in World War II.

The Phil Silvers Show, starring Phil Silvers as the immortal slick-talking chiseler, Sgt. Bilko, was a huge hit in the 1950s. Then the 60s came along, and some of the same producers who made Sgt. Bilko came up with McHale’s Navy, starring front-rank movie actor Ernest Borgnine in the title role. The show ran from 1962-66.

Now that I come to think of it, The War was a gigantic presence in our lives, even though it ended four years before I was born. The history, images, stories, and legends of World War II shaped our lives. I wonder if that’s what made my generation such easy prey for Sixties radicals.

But I was too young to think of that in 1962. I watched McHale’s Navy every week and thought it was funny. Hogan’s Heroes came along when I was in high school, and for some reason I didn’t find that very funny at all.

The movies, the TV shows, the toys! Plus we had a peacetime draft: the government owned two years of your life and that was that. Unless you had a college student deferment, of course: kept a lot of us out of Viet Nam. We were up to our eyeballs in war, even though, between Korea and Viet Nam, we were at peace. If you want to call it peace when you’ve got the Cuban Missile Crisis and Khrushchev banging his shoe at the UN and saying, “We will bury you!”

He also said, “Your grandchildren will live under communism.”

Bernie Sanders surging in the polls…


Memory Lane: A Boy’s Fedora

See the source image

When I was ten or 11 years old, somewhere around there, my mother bought my brother and me these little fedoras to wear to Sunday school.

How I loathed that hat! Most men wore them, back then. Our family doctor had one, which I tossed into the toilet when he wasn’t looking. And now I had one. A fleeting glance at the mirror convinced me that I looked like a total yink.

How many times did I leave it in the cloakroom and emerge from Sunday school without it, claiming it had mysteriously disappeared? My father always made me go back in and get it. I left it in the kids’ cloakroom, in the adults’ cloakroom. Even left it in the church’s kitchen once.

After several dozen attempts to ditch the hat, it finally dawned on my parents that I just simply couldn’t stand it. I don’t remember exactly what they did with it; it only mattered that the stupid thing was out of my life. I mean, really! Mark and I were the only kids in the whole church who had those hats, and all the other kids snickered at us when they saw us.

And no, I wouldn’t wear one today, either. And at my age, you don’t have to.

Memory Lane: Milk Machines

See the source image

It used to be a common sight in our town–the milk machine. Stores weren’t open at night, or on Sundays; but if you ran out of milk, there was always a milk machine a few blocks away.

Now there aren’t any.

A milk machine featured in one of the best days of my boyhood. The machine was a block from our middle school, and it rested on a wooden platform.

One day, passing by, we discovered that much of the platform had rotted through and broken off. Light bulb flashes over three kids’ heads! Digging into the soft earth that used to be covered by the platform, we unearthed a treasure trove of quarters. Wow! Instant wealth! I can’t remember how much money we dug up; but after who knows how many years of people dropping quarters and seeing them vanish into the cracks between the planks, I think it was the most money I had ever had in my life, so far. Kids didn’t go walking around with $20 bills, back then. If I had 20 cents in my pocket, I was doing okay.

I don’t remember how long it took me to spend those quarters; but I’m sure I had a good time doing it.

‘Memory Lane: Dad’s Paycheck’ (2017)

Image result for images of family, house, car 1959

Looking back, it seems incredible: our whole family, house and car and all, supported just on my father’s paycheck. But that was the case for every family on our street. All one-paycheck households.

It wasn’t poverty. It was middle-class. I wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China.

Ah, those summer nights! Packed off to bed but not yet sleeping, listening to the grownups’ conversation, and soft laughter, wafting up from the screened-in porch.

Not for all the money in the world…


A Special Treat for You

Music Box Dancer, by Canadian composer Frank Mills, came out in 1974, worked its way around the world, and was a major U.S. hit single in 1979.

What could be more harmless, more benign, than this simple piece of music?

To me it brings back a time when everybody in my family was still here, still healthy. Around 50 you start to lose ’em, so a word to the wise: love ’em while you’ve got ’em.

It also brings back a vignette from the warehouse where my wife worked at the time: this was the tune that was playing loudly on the intercom while a couple of the lads fought each other, rolling around on the floor–with the British foreman dancing around ineffectually, pleading with them, “Steady on, lads! Steady on!”

Wonderful days.

%d bloggers like this: