Tag Archives: my childhood

Sanity Break: Sweet Little Owls

To see how these little owls get along with people, and even with a dog, is to get a glimpse of God’s love. Love is the quintessential God’s stuff, and it works. And not just for humans, either.

One day when I was five years old, my friend and I ventured into the woods; and we hadn’t gone far when we got the scare of our lives. The noise we made disturbed an owl and flushed him out of his perch in a small tree beside the path, just four or five feet from us. Yikes! To this day I remember that owl as being a lot bigger than either of us.

But I know now that there was nothing to be afraid of.


Memory Lane: Toothpick Sam

Image result for images of 1959 topps sam jones

Something about the light outside today whisked me back to an early Sunday afternoon in 1959, in my Grandpa’s gardens. They’re all gone now, along with the house, the chicken coop: dogwoods, roses, black and red raspberries, grapes, butterfly  bushes. All torn down as a sacrifice to Progress.

So I was standing there in the sunshine, ten years old, opening a pack of baseball cards which Grandma had just given me. And as the wrapper came off, the top card was, as pictured above, Sam Jones: aka “Toothpick Sam,” because he often chewed on a toothpick.

What a treat! This was one of my favorite players ever. I don’t know why. Something about his face, I think: it made me feel like it would be just so wonderful if this man someday took me fishing. It wasn’t exactly hero-worship at first sight: no. Just something in this man’s face that made me really, really like him. Until I had his baseball card, I’d never seen him before.

And oh, bliss! A few days later he was traded to the Giants–my family was a Giants family–and went on to win 21 games for them that year.

Maybe it was the way the light came down on the gardens, behind a houseful of my family. They’re all gone now, too. And as far as it goes for me, baseball’s gone, too–changed so much, I just don’t care about it anymore.

But the memory remains; it’s a very vivid memory. And I’m thankful that I have it.

 


Memory Lane: Mandrake the Magician

Image result for images of mandrake the magician

[Editor’s Note: I’m kind of steering clear of miserable news this weekend, although it seems to be costing me some readership. Oh, well…]

When I was a boy I looked forward to the color comics in the Sunday paper. Flash Gordon, Little Lulu, Archie, Mark Trail–and Mandrake the Magician. Lee Falk, who went on to create The Phantom, came up with Mandrake in 1934. The comic strip outlived its creator and only stopped running in 2013. I had no idea.

Mandrake the Magician always went around in his magician’s duds, along with his best bud, Lothar. Lothar wore a fez and a leopard skin, finally getting real clothes in 1965–after, I suspect, many a chilly winter. Lothar was an African chief with super-powers of his own. And there was Princess Narda to complete the team. She and Mandrake were engaged to be married, which they finally did in 1997. It was a very long engagement.

My favorite line in this comic strip–Patty and I still use it–was, of course, “Mandrake gestures hypnotically.” The subject, usually a bad guy, was instantaneously hypnotized to see and feel whatever Mandrake planted in his head. We may be thankful that Mandrake never entered politics.

To borrow a motto from World War II paratroopers, “It’s foolish but it’s fun!” I mean, really–always to be wearing a great big cape and high silk hat? Or leopard skin and fez? Don’t magicians ever change their clothes? Or do they just have whole closets full of capes and shiny dinner jackets?

Mandrake, I might add, was a personal friend of the Emperor of the Galaxy. It ensured him always to be able to find a parking space. If magic can’t do that for you, political pull surely will.


Memory Lane: Not Quite Built for Two

One of the fun things we could do in the summer was modify our bicycles. My friends across the street, Bobby and Ellen, modified two bikes, combining them into a tandem bicycle built for two.

The folks who appear in this video seem to have followed exactly the same easy method of turning two bikes into one. Simply remove the front wheel from Bike A and place its fork over the back wheel of Bike B. You’ll have to tighten the nuts good and tight or the blamed thing will fall apart. Bobby and Ellen’s home-made tandem bike never fell apart, and I think it turned better than this one in the video.

Anyhow, that old double bike looked way cool and we all took turns riding it. But eventually Ellen wanted her front wheel back, so that was the end of that.


Memory Lane: An Innocent Little Song

This is one of those innocent little songs that children used to sing–and maybe still do, somewhere–although I never knew anybody who could sing it as fast as Burl Ives does. Frog Went A-Courtin’ is a folk song with more variations, optional verses, than you can shake a stick at. I kept waiting for my favorite, about “the little moth who wiped her mouth on the table-cloth,” but Mr. Ives didn’t include it.

Yeah: this one, the one about the old woman who swallowed a fly (and then a spider to catch the fly, etc.), Jimmy Crack’d Corn, and the slightly less than dignified Jars and Jars of Green and Gushy Gopher-Guts–brightened up many an hour of childhood, way back when. I’m sure I don’t want to know what they’re singing now.

Anyone for Pop Goes the Weasel?


Memory Lane: A Hot Summer Day

Image result for images of children playing in pond

When you’re ten years old and school is out on summer vacation, it doesn’t matter how hot the day is–you’re going for the gusto. At least, that’s how it used to be.

If it’s really, really hot, you play in the water. In our neighborhood, on the edge of the woods, was a little seasonal pond with a clean shale bottom. We sat in the water, or waded in it, splashing around with our toys. If you were a little older, the high school football field next door usually had its sprinkler system going, and we played around in that.

A hundred degrees? What did we care! We could squirt each other with garden hoses, or sit in rubber wading pools. And when I was twelve, I made sure I got the afternoon newspaper first so I could look at all the baseball box scores and see how Willie Mays did in the night game. I remember sitting on the lawn with the paper open to the sports page and my little iguana, very far from being a big iguana yet, perched on my shoulder.

So we rode our bikes and pitched horseshoes until we got hot, and then soaked down in the pond, the sprinklers, a pool, or in the front yard with the hose.

You never see that anymore. And that’s a pity, because it was good. I’m sorry kids miss out, these days, on times like that.


Memory Lane: ‘The Vikings’

This movie was a huge hit when it came out in 1958. All over my neighborhood there were skinny little kids running around with sticks and yelling “Odin!”

We all would have loved to try this Viking oar-walking stunt, but we didn’t have enough oars for it. That’s Kirk Douglas himself doing it in the movie, so how hard could it be?

(Editor’s note: I’m posting the happy stuff now, before we get the report on Robbie’s blood work from yesterday. She ate normally last night and this morning, but you never know what dreadful thing diagnostics might uncover.)


Memory Lane: The Home-Made Spook House

Image result for images of kid playing ghost

In our neighborhood, a popular way of making a little extra money on a summer day was to set up a spook house in your cellar, or garage, and get the other kids to pay admission.

Our resources being what they were, customers always had to go through the spook house blindfolded. Otherwise they would see how goofy it was. I mean, how scared were you going to get in broad daylight? But once you had a blindfold on, maybe you might get your money’s worth of being scared. “Money” usually meant a nickel.

Dangling strips of toilet paper made for cobwebs across the entrance “to the secret tomb of Dracula, heh-heh-heh!” (These lines are very hard for a 10-year-old to deliver convincingly, but we tried.) And then you’d be invited to feel the  various exhibits. “Feel Dracula’s fangs, how sharp they are!” (A couple of ten-penny nails.) “The cut-off head of the Wolfman!” (A ratty old bathroom rug draped over a basketball.) And my favorite, whoever thought it up was a genius: “Now feel solidified fire!” That really did spook me while I was blindfolded, making me think I was gonna get burned somehow. But solidified fire was just ice cubes.

And sometimes we’d put a blindfolded kid into a wagon for “the Monster Ride through Transylvania–oooooh!” Which was a lot of sharp turns, etc. But it felt kind of cool if you couldn’t see where you were going. There was always that little frisson at the thought that some wiseguys might push you into a mud puddle and tip the wagon over…

The money we took in never amounted to much; but the fun we had, did.

 

 

 

 


Sanity Break: Daddy’s Baby

One of my very earliest memories is of my father carrying me in his arms and singing to me–probably because I woke of squawking in the middle of the night. Usually he sang “You Are My Sunshine,” and sometimes “Sweet Violets.” Oh, how dearly I remember that! And this video reminded me of it.

Our Heavenly Father loves us just as much, and He will re-unite us with those who loved us here on earth. I look forward to hearing Daddy’s song again. And I pray he knows that I remember it.


Memory Lane: ‘Risk’

Image result for images of risk game

Here was another rainy day favorite of my childhood–the game of Risk. Can you raise mighty armies, and conquer the world? This was your chance to try.

What strategy will you use? Will you try to nail down Australia, and spread out from there? It’ll be hard for the other players to attack you there, but you might get bottled up. Or will you set up in some central location, like Mongolia (my favorite!), and attack the weakest targets until all Asia grovels at your feet, and supplies you with the numbers needed to go after Europe?

It was also a fun way to learn geography. Where is the Risk player who doesn’t know where Kamchatka is? Which is not the same as knowing how to pronounce it! And gee, look at that: the Middle East gives you entry into Africa, Europe, or Asia, or even all three at once.

I know Risk is still around, but I don’t know who’s playing it. Patty and I have a game in our toy chest. Of course, to play it, you have to be able to concentrate for two hours at a stretch, and you have to be imaginative, with the ability to adapt your strategy to changing circumstances. I’m afraid that might be asking a bit too much of the Zombie Bloodbath video game crowd.


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