Category Archives: memory lane

I Think I’ve Been There

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This is Charles R. Knight’s 1894 painting of Elotherium, an extinct animal that resembled a wild boar. That’s cool–but what I’m really interested in is the backdrop.

This reproduction, the only one I could find, doesn’t quite capture the dried-out yellowish tones of the banks of this gully. You’ll have to imagine that. The gully is full of water and the animals are crossing it. Farther up toward the horizon, the gully feeds into a more permanent stream. And then a river? Then the sea?

The thing is–I think I’ve been there! Years and years and years ago. You got there if you went all the way down Orchard Street, back when there was still an orchard there, well past all the houses, and then just park your bike where this little bridge went across the gully. You could easily climb down and wade in the water–which of course you wouldn’t do if  there were Elotheriums present. They look irritable.

It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Knight used real places as the backdrops for his paintings of prehistoric life. I wonder: did he wander into my childhood, or did I wander into one of his paintings?

We Need Our National Mythology

You know what? We need our national mythology! In fact, with all these varmints on the left trying to tear it down, we need it more than ever.

Paladin, played by Richard Boone in Have Gun Will Travel, was “a knight without armor in a savage land.” So we had a whole passel of westerns on TV–all about moral and physical courage, standing up for what is right, thinking independently, and doing what needed to be done to tame the savage land. Maybe they were no more strictly historical than the King Arthur legends; but they pointed us in a good direction.

And I remember one time, going into the bookstore in the mall, hearing this theme song sung with incredible sweetness by a guy stacking the bottom shelves. I thank you for that memory, whoever you are.

We need our heroes back. It was an act of cultural suicide to get rid of them.

Memory Lane: ‘Wyatt Earp’

This is another one of those fondly-remembered TV westerns from my childhood: The Life and Legend (mostly legend) of Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O’Brien.

These shows promoted “values”–moral and physical courage, uprightness, truth-telling–that aren’t cool anymore. Never mind that they sanitized the Old West and took liberties with history. People who didn’t understand that had a special name: children.

These shows were our national mythology. They presented an idealized picture of America–not as it really was, but as it ought to strive to be. So Hugh O’Brien played Wyatt Earp as a kind of plaster saint, which he most certainly was not.

Historians are divided on the merits of doing this. Livy would say “Oh, yeah, go for it!” But Snorri Sturlusson would say that such depictions of historical figures are “not praise, but mockery.”

But at least us kids in the 1950s knew there was such a person as Wyatt Earp, and that he lived in a time which was quite different from ours. Do schools teach that today? Not if they can help it!

If you want strict unvarnished truth in history, you have to turn to the Bible. You won’t find any plaster saints in there. Just ordinary people, some of them quite talented, others not so much, doing the best they could: and sometimes, by the grace of God, accomplishing something extraordinary.

As for me, having lived in both a time during which we had our national mythology, and in a time during which we don’t, I feel bound to say: having it was better.

Kittens Cork Off

These kittens are trying their best to stay awake, but some of them just can’t do it. This reminds me of my brother when he was little. He used to plead with my mother to let him say up to watch Route 66 on Friday night (he was crazy about the car, that old Corvette)–and three minutes after it started, he’d be sound asleep on the couch. Never failed.

High School Wisdumb

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We lived across the playground from the high school football field, so football season was very much a part of life. Alas, our town’s high school football team, year after year, was hopeless. If we managed to get the square root of the other team’s score–losing, say, 49-7, it was a moral victory of sorts.

But every now and then our team soared to the heights of not-that-awful, even, rarely, approaching mediocrity. When that happened, it was a very big deal; and the kids on that team remained celebrities for as long as they remained in town.

And so it was that I found myself, one day, sitting among my friends in our high school auditorium being lectured to by the captain of one of those not-quite-so-abysmal football teams from 15 or 20 years ago. Everybody knew him. He had a license to be a pompous windbag, and no public function could be held without a few thousand words from Mr. Football.

Today’s topic was How To Be A Big Success. On and on he droned, listing the ingredients for A Successful Life and writing them down on a blackboard. Pride… Determination… Guts… Ability… Ambition…

He pointed to the great big letters he’d written on the board. PDGAA. “And if you do all that,” he said, “you will turn out Pretty Darn Good After All!”

Break for applause. Silence.

“Wait a minute,” I muttered. “That spells… P’d’gaaaah!”

Somebody laughed hysterically, and it didn’t take long for others to join in. The laughter turned into applause. Mr. Football basked in it.

Well, it’s one way of remembering a high school lecture, isn’t it?

Memory Lane: ‘Circus Boy’

Wow! Does this brief intro take me back!

This was among our Saturday morning TV treats from 1958 to 1960–Circus Boy, starring Mickey Dolenz (they called him Braddock then), who years later was famous again as one of the Monkees.

A traveling circus in the Old West–what could be cooler than that? Oh! I forgot! We aren’t allowed to like the circus anymore, and there never was such a place as the Old West.

Anyway, given the format, this show could and did go anywhere. Just about anything could happen. And there’s something about it, something subtle, that brings to mind some of Ray Bradbury’s stories.

Huh? Ray who? What’re you talking about?

I thank God every day for my 1950s childhood. But alas, we who had it didn’t know what we had, and we let it slip through our fingers. God help us, stranded in this lamentable 21st century.

May God equip us to conquer it for Jesus Christ our King.

Memory Lane: ‘You Are There’

I can’t imagine what this show would look like if it were done today–You Are There: re-enactments of historical events done up as news stories and hosted by Walter Kronkite. It ran on radio, 1947-1950, and then morphed into a TV show that ran through 1957. My mother never missed it, and I watched it with her. It must’ve been a pretty good show, because my memories of it are quite vivid. We also saw some episodes in school, on film, complete with reel-to-reel projector that didn’t always work.

If they did it today it’d be wall-to-wall America-bashing carried out by the nudnicks who call themselves “news reporters.” I’m not saying nooze media bias didn’t exist in the 1950s; but it was a lot harder to spot and no one was looking for it.

Anyhow, here’s Walter Kronkite–once upon a time called “the most trusted man in America,” that’s how innocent we were–introducing the Gunfight at the OK Corral as a news event.


Nostalgic for… the Old Cold War?

This was one of the more indelible images from my childhood: Nikita Khrushchev, head honcho of the Soviet Union, banging his shoe on his desk at a United Nations meeting and saying things like “We will bury you” and “Your grandchildren will live under communism!” At that time we all understood that “communism” meant labor camps, the secret police breaking down your door in the middle of the night, “teachers” encouraging your kids to snitch on you–

Hey, wait a minute! Maybe old Nikita could foretell the future, after all.

But at least you knew exactly where he was coming from, and he wasn’t going to scare President Eisenhower–and besides, we all knew that Mrs. Khrushchev, Nina, would never let Nikita start World War III. However rambunctious her husband might get, Nina simply wasn’t going to let really bad things happen.

Nina Khrushchev – Yousuf Karsh

As I recall it, Nina Khrushchev was very popular with the American people. Surely Nikita got an earful for starting the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Oh, holy cow–am I waxing nostalgic for Nikita Khrushchev? I guess that’s a measure of how bad things are today.

The kingdoms of this world are the alternative to the Kingdom of Heaven: one damned crisis after another. See Matthew 24.

‘Memory Lane: At Home with Mommy and the Ironing’ (2017)

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This little post engendered a wonderful chat. I think most of us must have fond memories like this.

Memory Lane: At Home with Mommy and the Ironing

I would like to mention the sitting-room closet, which held a certain fascination for me. Here the explorer would find my mother’s bowling shoes–truly mystifying!–and her tennis racket, although I don’t remember her ever playing tennis until much, much later in life. The carpet-sweeper was also in there. Do we still have carpet-sweepers?

Ah, the smell of ironing! And the black-and-white TV. And kneeling on the couch by the window, watching the snow come down…

‘Memory Lane: Shoe Stores’ (2017)

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Back when you could make sure they fit before you bought ’em…

A few of you live in states where they still have shoe stores. Count your blessings! My little home town used to have two shoe stores right here on Main Street. Now we have none.

Memory Lane: Shoe Stores

Somehow all the “progress” we’ve made in our town consists of losing things we’d rather not lose–bookstore, shoe stores, pet shop, stationery stores, and (heaven help us!) both our hardware stores–and replacing them with trendy little boutiques and dance studios that go belly-up in just a few weeks.

You’d think that people living in such a prosperous country as ours could at least buy shoes that fit.

But then it remains to be seen whether our prosperity can come back from the Chinese Wuhan Death Virus. Maybe the Democrats and socialists have finally got their wish, and America’s great days are over.

Gone the way of the shoe store.


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