Tag Archives: my childhood

Memory Lane: A Sunday at the Movies

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Here it is, Sunday, and raining cats and dogs. It reminds me of a certain Sunday way back when, when it was snowing like crazy instead of raining–and my father had promised to take us to the movies to see Journey to the Center of the Earth at the good old Forum Theater. After Sunday school and Sunday dinner, of course.

But when we got there, the line stretched literally around the block, no way we were getting in. My disappointment was inexpressible. But Daddy meant to keep his promise, so he took us back for the next showing and this time we got in.

Oh, boy–dinosaurs! Well, iguanas done up as Dimetrodons: but it was good enough for me. And Pat Boone merrily singing among the giant mushrooms…

As icing on the cake, it kept snowing and there was no school the next day. Somehow sledding down the hill at Tommy’s Pond had it all over sitting in class and trying to do math problems.


Memory Lane: Halloween Windows

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Back when New Brunswick, N.J., was a thriving, busy, blue-collar city with a downtown shopping district that attracted folks from miles around, the merchants used to celebrate Halloween by having their shop windows painted for the occasion. They don’t do it anymore. New Brunswick is still our county seat, but badly in need of re-upholstering.

But back then it was a shoppers’ mecca; and every Halloween, my father used to bundle us kids into the car and take us to New Brunswick to see the painted windows.

This was just great; I remember it well. The colors were so vivid, and some of the scenes were deliciously scary. I remember one painting of some trees coming to life and reaching out to seize a hapless human. I wonder now if the whole thing was a contest, with prizes and kudos for the winners.

Somewhere this delightful custom still exists, or I wouldn’t have been able to find a photo to illustrate it. We just don’t have it around here anymore, and that’s a loss for us. It died out before I was old enough to try my hand at window-painting. What fun it must have been! It was certainly fun, tooling around the city and enjoying the pictures.


Memory Lane: Howdy Doody

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Buffalo Bob, Howdy Doody, and Flub-a-Dub

You were sort of supposed to watch this show, back when I was a boy–Howdy Doody, one of the monuments of kid TV in America. So I watched it sometimes, but it never quite caught on with me.

To me, Clarabell the Clown looked big and threatening (“You better laugh, boy, or you and me gonna have a problem!”), Howdy himself was kind of goofy, and Flub-a-Dub–well, what was Flub-a-Dub supposed to be, anyhow?

One day in 1957 (I think), the family of one of the kids in my class became the first family in the neighborhood to have a color TV. They invited the whole class over to see Howdy Doody on color TV. I remember it well: everything was a sort of seasick green. Color TV didn’t work all that well, back then. The people on my grandma’s color TV were purple.

I don’t know why, but the green-tinted characters in a green-tinted atmosphere remain my most vivid memory of Howdy Doody. That, and trying to figure out what Flub-a-Dub was supposed to be.


When We Were All Little Sages

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Sometimes what you knew turned out to be not true.

All this bowing down to children and asking them to please tell us what our public policies should be, reminds me of how wise we all were when I was in fifth grade.

Out on the playground, which was our grove of Academe, we liked to discuss weighty topics with one another: the more philosophically abstruse, the better. We especially liked scientific subjects.

One of the topics we discussed at great length went like this: “Ya know, every time they talk about shooting a rocket to the moon, these two dubular clouds appear on Mars…”

Dubular? What does that mean? Well, nobody asked! Each of us took it for granted that everybody else knew exactly what it meant. I didn’t know, but that didn’t stop me from repeating that baloney. It got so I didn’t have to know what it meant! Just saying it made us sound so wise.

If only adults had listened to us, back then! Obviously they had no appreciation for our childly wisdom.

But that seems to be changing fast.

Keep your eyes peeled for dubular clouds on Mars.


Memory Lane: Bounty from Sears

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During my boyhood, at just about this time every year, we received our Sears-Roebuck Christmas catalogue. Oh, boy! My brother, my sister, and I spent hours and hours marveling at the treasures depicted therein.

My favorites were the various play sets, featuring a whole bunch of little plastic figurines with a nice big setting for them. My brother would have loved the one pictured above! You not only get lots of little cars, but also this wonderful service station plus parking deck.

We had play sets for the Age of Dinosaurs, a farm, Cape Canaveral–you could put your eye out with those spring-launched rockets–an army base, and a three-ring circus.

And look at the price–$4.98 for the whole shootin’ match, or you can get the super-colossal version for $7.98. These items now sell on eBay for hundreds of bucks apiece. I remember when I wanted the dinosaur set and my father said we couldn’t afford it, five dollars was just too much. I wound up getting it for Christmas, and I still have some of the dinosaurs today. (Wish I’d kept those rockets, though!)

Oh, so many play sets! King Arthur and his knights, Ben-Hur and his chariot race, Wagon Train, Fort Apache, the jungle trading post–I used to get off on just reveling in the pictures in the catalogue.

Now, I do realize that such things have nothing whatever to do with Christmas, the real Christmas, but are really just add-ons to express the joy we experience at the birth of Jesus Christ Our Lord. Without Him it’s only a festival of Mammon. We do have to take care, especially with our children, that this is clearly understood. We mustn’t celebrate the gifts; the gifts are a celebration of Christ.

But I will stack up the 1959 Sears Christmas catalogue against any cultural artifact of this present time, and come out way ahead.


Memory Lane: Odd Ogg

“Odd Ogg, Odd Ogg, half-turtle and half-frog…”

Sorry, but that’s all I can remember of the 1962 Ideal Toy commercial jingle that introduced this unusual toy, Odd Ogg. I was 13 then; if I’d been eight, nothing would’ve stopped me from getting this toy for Christmas.

Battery-powered, Ogg would sort of play catch with you. If you rolled a plastic ball right down the middle to him, he would come toward you. If you missed, he would back up and razz you.

Totally harmless! Hours of innocent fun! What could be more out of place in this evil age that we’re marooned in?

I’d love to try it–and I wonder what my cats would think of it.

But Odd Ogg sells on eBay now for $100 to $500… The cats will have to be content with cardboard boxes.


Memory Lane: ‘Mary Worth’

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I used to read the comics section in several newspapers, when I was a boy; but I could never quite g0t into Mary Worth, which wasn’t funny, contained no exotic locations or adventures, and didn’t seem–to me, at 12 years old–to be about anything.

I was surprised to discover the Mary Worth comic strip is still going strong. It made its debut in 1938 and it’s still here.

But wait a minute–has Mary gotten younger since the 1960s? Where have all her wrinkles gone (you could turn that into a song, I think)? I’d hardly recognize her. I thought only Merlin got younger as the years went by. Well, Obst, too–but he’s in denial about it.

Mary was always a yenta. Now she speaks as a pop psychiatrist. Did she take a correspondence course? Good grief: “needing a lifestyle change…” Comic strip characters shouldn’t talk like that. It’s not decent. Please don’t tell me Prince Valiant talks like that.

Well, there’s not much point being nostalgic about anything that insists on changing with the times, even if it becomes unrecognizable. Mary Worth has changed more than I have.

I’m sure I don’t want to know any more about it.


Memory Lane: ‘Little Orby’

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How about something totally harmless? “Little Orby,” vintage 1961.

I wish I could show some video of this toy, but I couldn’t find any. Too bad–because Little Orby was way cool. See that little ring? You pull that, and Orby walks straight up the wall–maybe even on the ceiling.

That’s because there’s a spring inside, and suction cups, and the spring makes the suction cups rotate, propelling Orby forward. Show it to a college student today, and he or she will think it’s magic.

“Harmless” is a quality that’s harder and harder to come by, these days. If you can find it, treasure it.


Memory Lane: ‘Gadabout Gaddis’

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Remember this guy–Gadabout Gaddis, “the Flying Fisherman”? Well, I guess you’d have to be pretty old to remember him: late-night television, in the 1960s.

This was back when my brother and I got a black-and-white TV set for our room. Kowabunga! Wow! We could lie in bed and watch TV! A major step toward adulthood!

The wonderful thing about Gadabout Gaddis was that he was better than a bedtime story. It’s not that his show was boring. “Calming” would be a better word for it. Heck, we loved to go fishing. So here was a show all about fishing. What’s not to like? And if you were still awake after Gadabout’s half an hour of baiting hooks and reeling in trout, you might be lucky enough to catch I Search for Adventure with Col. John D. Craig, which was every bit as soothing. Somehow the “adventures” he showed–I think they might’ve been various tourists’ amateur films–were not exactly hair-raising. None of that stuff about being chased up the side of the Great Pyramid by murderous tomb-robbers. By then I was lucky if I was was still awake enough to turn the TV off. My brother, Mark, three years younger, had already gadded off to Dreamland.

There’s something to be said for TV that sands away the troubles of the day and packs you off to peaceful sleep.

P.S.–A friend of hours insisted Gadabout had divers underwater to put the fish on the hook for him; he never wound up with an empty creel. But then a fishing show hosted by a guy who didn’t catch anything–I don’t know if that would work. It might, though. Certainly a lot of people could identify with that.

 


‘I’m Not Writing Anything Today’ (2013)

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Just like the one Grandma had

This piece properly belongs with the Thanksgiving season; but I had a desire to pay a little tribute to my grandma, my mother’s mother.

https://leeduigon.com/2013/11/28/im-not-writing-anything-today/

I was only eleven when she died. Hers was the first funeral I ever went to. She went to bed one night and quietly passed away: no doctors, no hospital, no fuss. She’d raised six daughters in her time, plucked innumerable chickens (they had a chicken coop in the back yard: no one in this town has chickens today), and canned everything that Grandpa grew.

One of my earliest memories is sitting on her lap, fascinated, while she showed me how her sewing machine worked.

Yes, I still miss her.


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