Tag Archives: my childhood

Memory Lane: Colorforms

Image result for images of colorforms

Before I venture into the murky waters of the news today, let’s look back on something a bit more pleasant.

Colorforms got started in 1951 and has sold over a billion sets since then.

Do you remember the original Colorforms from the 1950s? I woke in the middle of the night last night, from a dream of falling down the stairs, and for some reason “Colorforms” popped into my head.

What you got was a lot of pieces of thin, soft plastic in assorted shapes, sizes, and bright colors, and a black background that they’d stick to: and you’d arrange them to create pictures. I don’t know if you can still get this old basic Colorforms set, that relies so much on the user’s imagination. Colorforms stays in business by dint of tie-ins with hit TV shows, movies, and other aspects of the wider culture: so you can buy vintage Colorforms sets tied in with old TV shows like Welcome Back, Kotter or The Dukes of Hazzard. I think I prefer the little squares and circles.

Colorforms also tried to get into the paper dolls business, but the problem there was you had to take the designs they gave you. It seems there’s a good reason for paper dolls to be made of paper.

As I rode my bike today, I passed two people, standing five feet apart, texting each other.

Yeah, it’s little squares and circles for me.

A Fond Memory of My Diamondback

No, not a diamondback rattlesnake! A diamondback terrapin–one of the best little turtles in the world. Tame, friendly, lots of personality: well, sure, all turtles are wonderful. But these are kind of hard to get, and that makes them special.

In my turtle tank, as a boy, I had my diamondback (very similar to the one in the video), a painted turtle, a small snapping turtle, and a tiny musk turtle the size of a nickel. I always fed them all by hand, and they liked that.

One night I left their tank outside and it overflowed during an unexpected rainstorm–and all my turtles were gone.

Would you believe it? Every single one of them made its way back. Snappers are pretty good on land, and it took mine two weeks to come home: he must have wandered very far afield. But they all came home. Who would’ve thought it?

Memory Lane: Great Garloo

Stop! I can’t stand any more news. The Smartest People in the World want to bring back communism, thus proving that they’re really The Dumbest People in the World. And I just can’t stomach any more today.

So let’s flee back to 1961, when Great Garloo by Marx was one of the top toys. You could sort of have your own monster movie right there in your bedroom, if you felt like setting up toy buildings and railroads for Garloo to destroy. Or he could carry your kid sister’s doll. Whatever.

Garloo’s remote control wasn’t wireless, as you can see. And he cost $17.98, which was rather a prodigious price for a toy in 1961. You’d have to put a gun to my mother’s head to get her to spend that kind of loot.

But the ad is endearing, isn’t it? In less than a minute, Great Garloo transforms from a rampaging monster to a meek domestic servant. If only you could’ve gotten him to do your homework for you…

Memory Lane: ‘The Battle of New Orleans’

Well, I got Newswithviews done, my head is hot, and this is my second attempt to publish this post. *Sigh*

Johnny Horton’s Battle of New Orleans was the No. 1 hit song in 1959. Remember? I heard a snatch of a rap “song” today, “Silent, Violent, livin’ it up in the city,” and the cultural contrast was downright painful. Imagine a song about our country’s history being No. 1 today. If it ever got published at all, Democrats would be apologizing for winning the battle.

Meanwhile, in 5th grade, my friend Craig (who, years later, had a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds) and I  used this song as the basis of a classroom puppet show: we had all been assigned to make papier-mache hand puppets and put on little shows with them. My puppet was named Cheeko, on account of a certain asymmetry in his features. Our two puppets sang this song. It was already so popular, a couple of misshapen puppets couldn’t do much damage to it.

It was a wonderful year in which to be 10 years old.

(Gee, I hope this post works, this time!)

Does She Know She’s a Dog?

Playing with the kittens, playing with the adult cats, helping the mommy cat care for her newborns–does this German shepherd know she’s not a cat, but a dog? (Please ignore the cameo appearance by the raccoon. I think Violet Crepuscular wrote him in.) That such a big dog can be so gentle…

As a boy I was scared of German shepherds. My Uncle Ferdie had one, and I was convinced the dog wanted to eat me. Uncle Ferdie also had a houseful of little girls, none of whom got eaten. Eventually I learned the dog was excited because company came, and just wanted to play. So we made friends.

Encore: Cat Watching ‘Psycho’

Sorry, couldn’t resist! This gives me a laugh every time I see it. The cat is watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho on TV, and you’d better believe he’s following the action closely.

My folks wanted to see Psycho when it first came out, but they couldn’t find a babysitter. So they went to see it at a drive-in, with me in the back seat in pajamas. I was supposed to fall asleep. Wrong! Kind of surprising that I ever slept again…

Memory Lane: The Colonel’s Den

Image result for images of japanese military relics collection

Imagine that you’re twelve years old, visiting, with some of your friends, their cousin’s house. And you all go downstairs to what in most homes would be a cellar: but in this house, it’s a military treasure trove.

It all belongs to the cousin’s grandfather, The Colonel, relics of a long military career in the Far East. Suddenly you’re in a very different world, a world that might have been  created by Rudyard Kipling or Joseph Conrad. The lighting is subdued, and the walls hung with swords, spears, samurai gear, Japanese battle flags, and exotic weapons whose use you can’t even imagine. There are cigarette lighters made of hand grenades, artillery shells standing on the floor, and a brightly-lit aquarium, built into the wall, inhabited by fish you’ve never seen before. All very shadowy and quiet.

The Colonel himself is a tall, straight figure of a man with an iron-grey crewcut; and although I visited his house many times, I’m sure I never heard him speak. I doubt he ever knew my name.

The collection dazzles me. It would take all day to see it all. One of the Japanese battle flags has a tear in it, and a dark stain that must be old, dried blood. One is not inclined to be frivolous, down here, and loud talk is garishly out of place. I feel as if I will never be able to describe it adequately, however hard I try. But it’s also unforgettable. Almost sixty years later, I can close my eyes and see it.

What it tells me is that the world is very wide, full of peoples and places that I couldn’t hope to list, who fought battles and waged wars that I won’t be able to track down in a hundred books of history. So much vastness, in such a small space!

But The Colonel saw it all. He was there. He doesn’t need to speak: his collection says more than he can ever say.

An Enormous Green Spider

Image result for images of green lynx spider

Linda was wondering about a spider she once encountered. Well, things do look bigger when we’re children, and maybe we don’t remember them with photographic accuracy. But Mr. Nature gave it a try, and he thinks he’s able to identify this big green hairy spider that surprised Linda when she was 12 years old.

Behold the Green Lynx Spider, the biggest green spider found in North America, inhabiting the southern U.S. It’s hairy, it roves around hunting its prey, and has a body a little over half an inch long–which is big for any spider that’s not a tarantula.

And you know how the mind works: if the average Green Lynx Spider’s body is .6 inches long, then there are probably bigger ones than that.

This reminds me of an even bigger bug–the Cecropia Moth. Now, sadly, growing rare.

Image result for images of cecropia moth

A moth in the hand is worth two in the bush

One pleasant summer day, my father left me in the car while he nipped into the store. As I sat there, suddenly something big came fluttering along to alight for a moment on the hood: a Cecropia Moth that looked to me, a 10-year-old, as big as a crow! It was the only one I’ve ever seen, but I’ll never forget it. It wasn’t really as big as a crow–it goes to show the limitations of eyewitness testimony.

Memory Lane: Dr. Seuss Zoo

Image result for dr. seuss zoo toys

When I was 11 years old, I was crazy about these toys–the Dr. Seuss Zoo from the model company, Revell. This ad is from Life Magazine in 1959.

The great thing about these was, once you owned several different models, you could mix up the parts any way you pleased and create all sorts of new critters. The parts were interchangeable from kit to kit–a great way to sell lots of kits. The downside was that the little knobs that snapped into holes had a regrettable tendency to snap off.

These toys exercised your imagination–and your hands. Nowadays they’d probably be too advanced even for college students, but kids in 1959 had a lot of fun with them. Oh–you did need the ability to sit quietly in one place for a few minutes while you made what you imagined take shape.

Much better for kids than zombie video games.

‘Memory Lane: Hangman’s Tree’ (2015)

Image result for images of gnarly old trees

Yeah, this is another little piece of life around here that got erased by the orcs. Gone as if it had never been. As if I’d only dreamed it.

Let it be so. At least in my dreams it’s safe from the Developers.


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