No, I am not going to write up any nooze today. We are taking a day off from that, following the example of Judah the Maccabee.
This video reminds me of a weekend I enjoyed when I was four or five years old. My parents went to a farm –I don’t know what they did there, because I was busy with some cows all day. I sat on the stone wall by the pasture and played with my toys, and a couple of cows always ambled up to watch. I spent a lot of time petting them and talking to them. They seemed to like it.
When I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, I didn’t know a family that didn’t have at least one Mitch Miller record album. And he had a TV show, too, that ran from 1961 to 1964.
He had a beard. Holy cow. Really, you had to be there to appreciate how unusual that was, back then. Almost like having a third eye.
Miller put together a “gang” of male singers and performed old-fashioned songs that everybody knew. I don’t know that we have that kind of cultural cohesion anymore. Who couldn’t sing There Is a Tavern in the Town? The main selling point of Mitch’s albums was that you could surely sing along. We all knew the words.
Today, in the midst of our now fractured society, there’s something fantastically appealing about the very idea of “sing-along.” But now what would we sing? What could we all agree on?
Maybe we ought to be working on getting back good things we’ve lost.
Hey, boys ‘n’ girls! How would you like to build your own V-8 engine that really runs?
This was a hot toy in 1960–the Visible V-8. A lot of the parts were transparent so you could see how the engine worked. My father got my brother one for Christmas that year. Mark was pretty handy, but this model was too advanced for him; and I don’t get machines, so I was no help. Dad wound up having to assemble it.
I had to admit this was pretty cool. Push rods and pistons and rocker arms, and the fan propeller! Just hook it up to a couple of flashlight batteries, and you were off to the races. Lots of transparent parts so you could see what was going on inside. Even I learned a thing or two about engines from this. (“If them parts don’t move like so, it’s to the garage you go…”)
We had a lot of those “visible” models–the Visible Man (skeleton with guts–horrific), Visible Frog, Visible Cricket (yes, really)… and the coup fourre: the Visible Head. Crickey, you could open up a doctor’s office with this stuff. Just add a fake diploma.
Since 1960 there’ve been any number of “visible” engine model kits; I’m afraid to ask what they cost.
One of my very earliest memories is “helping” my father and Grandpa clear away the ruins of an old outhouse in the back yard blown over by a hurricane. Because I was so small, when I was four years old, it looked positively huge to me. And I had no idea what it was used for–they had indoor plumbing by then.
I remember them going at it with saws and claw hammers, and carting the wood out to the curb for trash pickup. It was just the kind of bright and sunny day you get after a major storm. Grandpa had a double lot, half of it for the house, the rest planted all over with flowers, berry patches, and vegetables. And yes, Grandma knew how to can the produce–pots full of black and red raspberries, Concord grapes, and whatnot. People in those days knew how to do a lot of things that have since been forgotten.
The old house is gone now, everything’s gone, even the beautiful dogwood trees. I’m so glad I can still remember it.
I think one of the wisest things my parents ever did was not to let me join the Little League. They said I’d hate it: the coach’s favorites play while everybody else just sits on the bench.
So much nicer to play with patchwork rules (hit the ball past the swing set, it’s a home run) and only four or five kids on a team. You get up to bat 50 or 100 times instead of not at all, you play as many innings as you please, and you don’t have to waste time undermining your teammates.
But then who sees free-range kids playing outside anymore?
I have a lot of harsh things to say about the public schools, things that need saying. But I also want to say that at least the teachers, once upon a time, were not a bunch of Far Left crazies. Some of them, if fact, were pretty cool.
Lately I’ve been remembering one of my high school English teachers, Miss H. She taught my mother’s generation and then mine. English Lit. When I think of all those years of herding balky teenagers through the desert of boredom that was Silas Marner, and across the ocean of tedium that was The Forsyte Saga–how ever did she stand it, year after year?
After all her decades in the harness, Miss H. was still an enthusiast! Really–she loved her work. Thousands of book reports she read, over the years. Thousands! And did she take the time to write comments in the margins? Of course she did–which was proof that she’d really read the freakin’ things.
I don’t know if there are any more like her today. But yes, Miss H., wherever you are–I can still recite those lines from Chaucer’s Prologue that you made us memorize. “Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote/ the drought of March hath perced to the roote…”
When Patty and I were teenagers, there were still science fiction magazines full of cool stories to delight us.
So back in high school, a few of us got together to create and publish our own science fiction magazine, The Diomegan. All original material. The first issue was mimeographed (remember that–purple ink that smelled funny?). For the second, we did some collating work for a printer in return for him printing The Diomegan.
What a staff we had! I was art editor. We had William A. as editor in chief–a genius: you should’ve seen him wipe out the competition on TV, on College Bowl–and Jeffrey T. as science editor: later he became president of the historic Marshall Chess Club in New York City. He also built his own computer while still a high school student. In 1966!
We had Marian P., a true eccentric, and a sophomore named Joe M., who wrote weird science fiction/spy stories. And a couple of “regular” kids who helped us out a lot. We went to science fiction conventions in New York, where we met Arthur C. Clark.
We sold our magazines in a local book and stationery store and earned just a few dollars each; but we weren’t in it for the money.
Gee, I’d love to see “Smitty” and Marian again! I wonder how they made out. Last I heard, William A. had grown as rich as Croesus; and that was no surprise.
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.