Tag Archives: my childhood

A Pause That Refreshes


Enough bad nooze already. Here’s something totally harmless, benign, soothing, and sweet: Music Box Dancer by Frank Mills, complete with dancers.

Early childhood memory: my Aunt Millie had a music box with a little toy ballet dancer on the cover, who glided around in a circle when you played the music. I loved to watch it, fascinated. And what I wouldn’t give to see her, and it, again.

P.S.–Oops! I posted this video last month. Never mind, I think we need it again. It’s a small port in a big storm. And prayer will lead us to the best port of them all: the love of God, in Jesus Christ our Savior.

Am I Back?

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Patty has installed the new Firefox. The first thing it did was through a bunch of boxes at me, asking me if I want to do this or that or the other, none of which made any sense to me at all. Happily, I was able to get rid of them.

Well, as the feller said, a moment after he jumped out of a 20th-story window, “So far, so good!” Many years ago I knew a kid who climbed very far up a very tall tree and then fell down. When he finally emerged from the hospital, he said, “It was kind of fun, coming down, but the landing was bad.”

But it looks like I’m back, and I think Byron has an update for us on Quokka University…

Memory Lane: ‘Million Dollar Movie’

“If you missed any part of Attack of the Crab Monsters, or wish to see it again, the next showing will be tomorrow at 7:30 p.m….”

Are you kidding? I’m 11 years old, yer durn tootin’ I wish to see more crab monsters!

That was Million Dollar Movie on Channel 9, WOR-TV, New York, from 1955 through 1966. This was how the local stations held their ground against the major networks. Channel 11 had the Yankees; Channel 5 had Sandy Becker; and Channel 9 had Million Dollar Movie. In fact, Million Dollar Movie worked so well, a lot of local networks around the country imitated it.

Twice a day, for a week, they’d show the same movie. That was the week’s feature film. Next week would be a different one. Since RKO owned both Channel 9 and most of the movies being shown, Million Dollar Movie cost peanuts to produce.

King Kong! Gunga Din! Forbidden Planet! Oh, there musta been hundreds of ’em! Of course I didn’t watch musicals or kissing movies, and most of the detective movies went over my head. But then The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms would come along, or Frankenstein 1970, and I’d be in my element, reveling in sheer cinematic artistry. And my friends and I would play “King Kong” all week, outdoors, with our toy dinosaurs.

We didn’t have cable TV, we didn’t have Youtube, or any of those online streaming video packages (I don’t even know if I’m saying that right); but somehow there seemed to be more movies that you wanted to see, and more theaters in which to see them, than there are now. And none of the films were based on comic books. Who needs comic books when you’ve got Queen of Outer Space with Eric Fleming and Zsa Zsa Gabor? (For some reason I’ll never understand, my mother really took to that one.)

Anyway, you’d turn on the TV, you’d hear that “Tara’s Theme” from Gone With the Wind, and you’d know it was time for Million Dollar Movie! It may seem a poor thing, by today’s standards; but it made us kids feel rich.

Memory Lane: the Magic 8-Ball

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Ask it a question, it’ll tell you no lies! That’s because it can’t, but never mind: it’s the Magic 8-Ball, invented in 1950 and still going strong.

My cousins and I had enormously good times with their Magic 8-Ball, asking embarrassing questions about each other and getting embarrassing answers. “Is Joanne in love with that creepy guy down the street?” “It is certain.” You get the idea.

I’m more than a little surprised that no one has trotted out the Magic 8-Ball to prognosticate this year’s political contests. Think of the money they’d save, just asking the 8-Ball. “Is Joe Biden all there?” “Please concentrate and ask again.” “Do those people on CNN ever tell the truth?” “Certainly not!”

In fact, it’d be instructive to compare the Magic 8-Ball to the various TV nooze analysts, scoring them for accuracy. I dare you to do it, MSNBC. Triple-dog dare you!

Memory Lane: A Boy’s Fedora

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When I was ten or 11 years old, somewhere around there, my mother bought my brother and me these little fedoras to wear to Sunday school.

How I loathed that hat! Most men wore them, back then. Our family doctor had one, which I tossed into the toilet when he wasn’t looking. And now I had one. A fleeting glance at the mirror convinced me that I looked like a total yink.

How many times did I leave it in the cloakroom and emerge from Sunday school without it, claiming it had mysteriously disappeared? My father always made me go back in and get it. I left it in the kids’ cloakroom, in the adults’ cloakroom. Even left it in the church’s kitchen once.

After several dozen attempts to ditch the hat, it finally dawned on my parents that I just simply couldn’t stand it. I don’t remember exactly what they did with it; it only mattered that the stupid thing was out of my life. I mean, really! Mark and I were the only kids in the whole church who had those hats, and all the other kids snickered at us when they saw us.

And no, I wouldn’t wear one today, either. And at my age, you don’t have to.

Memory Lane: Milk Machines

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It used to be a common sight in our town–the milk machine. Stores weren’t open at night, or on Sundays; but if you ran out of milk, there was always a milk machine a few blocks away.

Now there aren’t any.

A milk machine featured in one of the best days of my boyhood. The machine was a block from our middle school, and it rested on a wooden platform.

One day, passing by, we discovered that much of the platform had rotted through and broken off. Light bulb flashes over three kids’ heads! Digging into the soft earth that used to be covered by the platform, we unearthed a treasure trove of quarters. Wow! Instant wealth! I can’t remember how much money we dug up; but after who knows how many years of people dropping quarters and seeing them vanish into the cracks between the planks, I think it was the most money I had ever had in my life, so far. Kids didn’t go walking around with $20 bills, back then. If I had 20 cents in my pocket, I was doing okay.

I don’t remember how long it took me to spend those quarters; but I’m sure I had a good time doing it.

‘Memory Lane: Dad’s Paycheck’ (2017)

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Looking back, it seems incredible: our whole family, house and car and all, supported just on my father’s paycheck. But that was the case for every family on our street. All one-paycheck households.


It wasn’t poverty. It was middle-class. I wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China.

Ah, those summer nights! Packed off to bed but not yet sleeping, listening to the grownups’ conversation, and soft laughter, wafting up from the screened-in porch.

Not for all the money in the world…


Mr. Nature: Hatching Praying Mantises

Jambo! Mr. Nature here, with more of God’s stuff–and a safari that you can stage at home, indoors.

When I was a little boy, I found what I thought was a butterfly cocoon. I brought it indoors and put it in my lizards’ aquarium, to keep it warm and so I could see the butterfly hatch out. Imagine my surprise when, instead of a nice big butterfly, a million of these little critters came marching out of the egg case–baby praying mantises. The lizards didn’t eat them; they seemed alarmed. I had to move them to another tank. The next day I took the tankful of mantises to school for show-and-tell, and then let them go in my mother’s garden.

You wouldn’t believe how many tiny mantises come out of just one egg case! My wife had this same experience when she was a little girl, and it freaked her out–her mother, too.

But don’t be scared. Each and every one of those little bugs is a potential warrior for your garden, and will grow up to be an insatiable predator of harmful insects that want to eat your plants.

On its own small scale, a praying mantis hatch is awesome to behold. But don’t keep them so warm that they hatch out while it’s still winter. And have a care for your lizards’ peace of mind.


Memory Lane: Sick in Bed

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I just got to thinking, it used to be a lot more fun, being sick, than it is now. I don’t mean really sick. I mean just a bit of a cold, just enough to convince my mother that I needed to stay home from school. She kind of liked her children to be with her, so she didn’t need a lot of convincing.

And so, instead of going to school, I got to stay in bed and read my King Arthur book, or play with my toy animals–or, if my brother was sick, too, we broke out the erector set.

My mother used to bring me a little glass of ginger ale, and usually made a soft-boiled egg for my lunch. It was so quiet and peaceful. None of this taking out the garbage, changing the litter boxes, or grocery-shopping even when you feel like all you want to do is stay in bed. I loved the way my mother would take care of me. It’s a very fond memory. Trust me–your kids remember these things.

Occasionally she would have to call Dr. Cannemela, who would make a house call. I am told that I once got very jealous because he was paying attention to my brother instead of me, and I tossed his hat into the toilet. I wonder if that’s why they don’t make house calls anymore.

And I didn’t have a teddy bear, but I did have a nice yellow bunny to be the companion of my revels.

A Cryptic Message from Beyond

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Among the more mystifying messages broadcast on black-and-white TV during my childhood was this: “Don’t stir without Noilly Prat.”

What in the world could it mean? There was this guy all dressed in black, with a cape, advancing on this lady. What was he going to do to her? What was he? I was too young to have any knowledge of vampires, but I think I would’ve agreed that this was one.

What kind of a name was “Noilly Prat”? Was it a person or a place? Probably it was the name of the man in black. And then there was something about “Vermouth.” We had Vermont Maid Maple Syrup with our pancakes. Could there be a similarity?

I used to shudder when I saw this ad. To this day, I get the willies whenever any man, dressed all in black, with a cape, and you never see his face, suddenly rises up before me and silently drifts toward me. It quite puts me off.

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