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.
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.
Ah, 1950s kids’ TV! I just couldn’t get enough of that stock footage of African wildlife, no matter how many TV shows it got recycled through–principally Ramar of the Jungle, with Jon Hall, and Jungle Jim, with Johnny Weismuller.
But let us not forget Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, which ran 1955-56, starring the statuesque Irish McCalla. I was too young to develop crushes on TV or movie stars, but I knew way cool when I saw it, and Sheena was way cool. What I wouldn’t have given to trade places with her! But then she’d be stuck behind a desk in my rotten second-grade class at Edgar School, while I’d be off in Kenya, easy prey for the first hungry animal to come along. She had a cool horn, too. I wished I had one like that.
This was one of those things that just pop into my head for no reason: the old Ballantine Beer jingle, vintage 1960–from an ad on the Jean Shepherd show, no less.
I was too young to stay up and listen to Jean Shepherd. For us kids, “Hey, getcha cold beer!” meant New York Yankees baseball broadcasts. The Giants and Dodgers had deserted us, and there were no Mets yet, so it was Yankees all summer long. Brought to you by Gillette Razor Blades (“You’ll look sharp, and you’ll feel sharp, too!”) and Ballantine, brewed right here in New Jersey. Mel Allen in the broadcast booth, saying “How about that!” And it was mostly day games, back them.
And also in the daytime, the crack of the bat from the athletic field next door, where some of the guys on the high school baseball team would get together for a pick-up game. On rare occasions, they would allow some of us 11-year-olds to play with them. Oh, paradise! I hit a home run once, in one of those games: I’ll never forget it.
I wasn’t old enough to drink beer, but for some reason I really dug those Ballantine commercials. No school, play all day long, clip baseball cards to our bikes so they’d rub against the spokes and sound like a motor–yeah: it was good.
This is the theme song for Mitch Miller’s hit TV show, Sing Along With Mitch, vintage 1961.
I think everybody I knew had a Mitch Miller record album or two. Back then, he was just about the only guy who had a beard but wasn’t a beatnik. Good grief, remember them? Some of us heard a rumor that a certain person in the neighborhood had actually become a beatnik, and grown a beard, and a bunch of us kids stood outside his house one night for I don’t know how long, hoping to get a glimpse of such a curiosity.
Anyhow, Mitch provided millions of people with songs they could sing in front of their kiddies without embarrassment, and entertainment galore.
If he tried his act today, he’d either make a fortune like he never dreamed of, or be arrested for hate speech and uninclusiveness.
Sometimes on a dreary, rainy day, my father let us take the slats out from under our mattresses, set them up across the beds, drape the throw rug over them, and pretend that we were camping.
Having done so, my brother and I would break out the toy animals and dinosaurs and set them on adventures. We never got into army men, but we did have a couple of toy knights, which my mother identified for us as Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad. Under the shelter of our make-believe tent, Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad enjoyed some exciting times exploring lost worlds full of dragons, jungles, the North Pole, and the planet Venus.
Assisted by assorted lions, rhinos, elephants, stegosaurs, and giraffes, our knights overcame aggressive tyrannosaurs, hostile natives, and alien beings. Sometimes we resorted to Grandpa’s old stone building blocks and endowed the knights with castles and forts that had to be defended. A gigantically overgrown Dimetrodon was their biggest challenge, but they were up to it. Occasionally they would recruit bands of cowboys on horseback to help out.
It was amazing how time flew by, when we were doing this. Did I mention that we had lots of little toy cavemen, too? They usually found their way into the story, sometimes as the good guys, sometimes as the bad.
Video games? Fah! Who needs video games?
Some say I live in the past. Guilty, your honor, but with an excuse: it’s nicer there.
In fact, I have an even better reason.
The past is full of proof, undeniable proof, that we can do all sorts of different things better than we’re doing them now. It’s true that I don’t write about what was bad in those days. I focus on what was good, and what was better than it is now.
Because, dagnab it, if we did it well once, we can do it well again!
The good parts of the past are signposts to a better future. We do not have to live with the trash that’s poured on us every day and night, these days.
Winston Churchill was described, in his lifetime, as a man from the past, a Victorian relic, no place for him in the exciting world of 1940. But this was the man who came galloping out of the past to save his country, chosen by God for that purpose, when no one else could do it. Without this man from the past, his country might not have had a future.
And we remember sweet things because their sweetness is good in and of itself, and our loved ones because we love them still.
And we do not have to accept “the way things are.”
This 1958 (or ’59) pogo stick is the same kind I had at the time, with the red sponge rubber ball on top for a handle. And if my mother had ever seen the tricks I was doing with my pogo stick, she would’ve had a kazoo.
The kid in this video is good–but I was bouncing up and down our cellar stairs and even up and down the high school football bleachers. You do things when you’re ten years old that you wouldn’t dream of attempting after you’ve grown up.
My friends across the street had a pair of stilts just like those in the video, but none of us ever mastered that art.
One day, alas, a kid in the neighborhood who was much too big for my pogo stick tried it out and bent it beyond repair. And so my pogo days were over.
But if I can ever get my hands on another one…
P.S.–Dig the cool cars in the background!
Remember Koko the Clown? A real blast from the past! These cartoons were from the 1920s and 30s, but were still being shown on TV in the Fifties. This one features the voice of Cab Calloway singing the lugubrious St. James Infirmary Blues.
Max Fleischer, better known for Betty Boop and Popeye, created these cartoons. Amazing animation was produced by drawing the figures over film clips of real people moving around. It must’ve cost a fortune, for its time. I haven’t watched any cartoons lately, but the ones I saw ten years ago or so couldn’t compare with these for quality.
Yes, in my early life there was a weekday afternoon cartoon show hosted by Uncle Fred Sales (who also hosted pro wrestling, providing off-camera sound effects by cracking his knuckles), featuring mostly Farmer Grey cartoons and Terrytoons, but with a sprinkling of Koko specimens.
Was I a better person for having seen all these. Not likely. But they kept me too busy to play with matches.
This show came out in 1964, when I was in eighth grade, and it was a huge hit. I remember when our U.S. History teacher, rhapsodizing over John Adams and his descendants, sighed, “Ah, yes, the distinguished Adams family!” And the whole class laughed uproariously, prompting Mr. U____ to remark, “Your minds are in the gutter!”
But it wasn’t such a bad gutter. In addition to having a terribly funny format, hilarious scripts, a terrific cast, and great guest stars like Richard Deacon and Don Rickles, The Addams Family had something good going for it. All the weirdness aside, the members of this family really loved each other! I think they were the happiest and most harmonious family on TV. And that’s worth watching. Oh, very much so!
Uncle Fester, played by Jackie Coogan–watch him steal this scene from co-stars John Astin and Carolyn Jones: still crazy, and still funny, after all these years.
It reminds me of my own family, back when I was five or six years old. Only without the eccentricities.