Tag Archives: my childhood

‘There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy’

I was thinking of this hymn, these past few days. Back in Sunday school, when we were introduced to the adult hymnal used in the regular church services, this was the first hymn that they had us sing. We had kind of an odd hymnal, though, with melodies you never heard in other churches: so I couldn’t find There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy with the melody that I remembered.

Sung here by the Sanctuary Choir.

Memory Lane (More Old Fogey Stuff): Rubber Band-Powered Boats

1961, the Civil War Centennial: and I wanted to go out to some of those lovely huge mud puddles on the playground and re-fight the Monitor vs. the Merrimac.

First I had to make the ships; and the operating principal was the same as displayed in this video, only instead of styrofoam I used left-over wood paneling, and instead of a sharp knife, a jigsaw. Add the rubber band-powered paddles, tack on a rotating turret for the Monitor, and you’re in business. In fact, these little ships were so successful, that I made a whole fleet of them.

I had to provide sound effects with cap guns, and line the shores of the puddle with little plastic soldiers, blue and grey, and the result was hours of fun. My father bought the jigsaw in the first place so we could make our own jigsaw puzzles, but the rubber band boats were even better.

And all it cost was the few hours it took to make the ships.

Another Extreme Sport (Oops!)

I never did get around to trying sky-diving, but I was a wiz on my pogo stick. Used to be able to pogo up and down the football bleachers, and the stairway down to our cellar–which, if my mother had ever seen me doing that, she would have boiled me in oil.

But, as we shall see from this video, every sport carries with it an element of risk. And some more than others.

The Blue Mass

Image result for images of blue mass for police

When I was a kid, when I thought of police, I thought of Detective Canary, in a straw hat, on the pitcher’s mound on July 4, trying to strike out firemen in our town’s annual police vs. firemen baseball game.

But this is 2017.

Across the street at St. Francis’ Church, they’re having the annual Blue Mass for police officers from all over the state. This year’s Blue Mass is different.

How different? There are snipers up on the roof of St. Francis’ School; and when I looked out the door, two cops in riot helmets walked past, carrying submachine guns.

Usually I complain about the militarization of police forces. But again, this is 2017. Antifa vermin are running around loose instead of sitting in jail where they belong. Psychotic liberals and Black Lives Matter thugs chant, “Wadda we want? Dead cops! When do we want ’em? Now!” There is violence loose in the land–violence set loose by Far Left mutants who wish our country ill.

O Lord, O Jesus Christ Our King, defend us! And bless and defend our police officers–who now, it seems, really do need all that military equipment they’ve been buying. Grant, O Father in Heaven, that someday we can be back with straw hats and a baseball game.

The Awfulness of ‘Queen for a Day’

My Grandma had what I could only think of as a very strange taste in television. I ought to know: I spent many an afternoon at her house, just the two of us.

She loved those old soap operas with the creepy organ music, most of whose plots seemed to consist of old ladies getting a raw deal; but the show that really gave me the willies was Queen for a Day. As I remember the format, the poor old trout with the most baroque sob story got to be Queen for a Day and received a lot of rather cheap prizes. This pioneering effort in reality TV ran on NBC from 1956-1960, and on ABC till 1964. It has since been equaled many times for sheer horribleness, but never surpassed.

For entertainment and edification value, it ranked somewhere between a deep paper cut and stepping in what your neighbor’s Great Dane left on your lawn when he got loose.

Oops! Wrong video! Somehow I got the 28-minute sample instead of the 2-minute one. Please don’t feel obliged to sit through the whole thing. Two or three minutes is more than enough.

Memory Lane: ‘Oleanna’

This came out in 1959, and soon us kids were singing it at YMCA summer camp. The mess hall rang with it: Oleanna, a Norwegian-American folk song. This version’s by the great Theodore Bikel, plus Israeli folksinger Geula Gill.

Yes, this song was sung by those eccentric people who came here legally, embraced their new country, took pride in becoming Americans, and never demanded to be rewarded for breaking immigration laws. They learned to sing our songs, we learned to sing theirs, and the songs wound up belonging to all of us.

(Inane Y camp memory: Kid to counselor: “Bruce put a boogie in the Kool-Ade, I seen him!” Counselor bops his against the table. Some people will do anything to pay their way through college–but maybe that’s ancient history, too.)

Memory Lane: ‘My Weekly Reader’ & Project Mohole

Image result for images of my weekly reader

Hopefully I can get through this Memory Lane piece without stirring up any controversy.

Once a week, back in the 1950s, school kids received a copy of My Weekly Reader, a news magazine for children. We liked it because it broke up the monotony of school and classroom. Launched in 1928, and discontinued just a few years ago in 2012, My Weekly Reader brought us kids up to date on the news of the world. It was how we kept up with the dawning Space Age: terribly exciting stuff.

But even more exciting was Project Mohole, a mind-blowing scientific experiment to drill all the way through the earth’s crust. I mean, who knew what would happen? In 1961 they started drilling through the sea bed in over 11,000 feet of water, and they drilled down another 600 feet before Congress killed the project in 1966 because of rising costs. But it was fascinating while it lasted!

It was an exciting time: Antarctic exploration, satellites, space travel–by mice, dogs, monkeys, and chimpanzees first, and then by humans–and Project Mohole. I could hardly wait for each week’s installment of My Weekly Reader. What was going to be coming out of that hole, once they broke through the crust? Monsters? A lost civilization underground? Alas, we never found out.

I shudder to think of what children in public schools are handed out, these days, by way of “news.”

But then we adults don’t have it so much better.

Memory Lane: A Double-Decker Bike

I suppose this idea would naturally occur to a certain kind of mechanically-inclined person: mount one bicycle on top of another, and have a double-decker bike. A wealth of videos shows it has occurred to more than a few.

Back in my neighborhood, circa 1962, one of our weirder characters attained celebrity–a front page spread, with photo, in our local weekly newspaper–by creating one of these tall bikes. It surprised us all. We knew him best for being the kind of person our parents ordered us to stay away from, or else. The police were very well acquainted with him. But once he started riding his double-decker bike around town, no one could keep us kids away from him.

He finally came up short when a few of us dared him to ride his bike across the ice on Tommy’s Pond. As might have been expected, halfway across, the ice gave way and down he went into some exceedingly cold water. He struggled out, somehow–the pond is only two feet deep, at the most–but that was curtains for his bike. He never resurrected it. Then he went back to stealing sheets and other items from his neighbors’ clotheslines, attaining another but less desirable kind of fame; and our parents went back to warning us off his company.

Our town was smaller then, much smaller; and its more eccentric citizens more visible.


Summertime Fads

Image result for images of kids using pea shooters

We must not let the summer pass without some mention of summertime fads.

There used to be this place called “outside,” and that’s where we were, all summer long. I think it might still be there, somewhere, although children don’t appear to be visiting it much, these days.

One summer, we all had pea shooters–just these little plastic straws… through which we shot dried peas at each other. Now it’s all I can do to find a picture of a pea shooter. Mostly I just found stills and videos of this character called “Pea Shooter” from some electronic game which keeps kids indoors instead of moving them “outside.” I should add that nobody, for all the pea-shooting we did, ever shot their eye out.

Then there was the hula hoop, a nationwide craze that’s still with us. Everybody had one of those, too. Tommy Mascola, next door, used to be able to walk up and down stairs while keeping the hoop rotating around his hips. This made him a neighborhood celebrity. Too bad “America’s Got Talent” hadn’t been invented yet.

Another local fad was these little rubber rockets: you inserted a cap (from a cap gun) into the nose cone, and when you tossed it into the air and it came down on the sidewalk, it would go “bang!” Richly entertaining.

And there were impromptu bike races, home-made parachutes, and these weird candies that would go all fizzy when you put them into your mouth. I wonder what ever happened to them.

On the whole, I’m sure we had more fun than we would have ever had “inside” all day, fatzing around with video games and cell phones.



Memory Lane: Bill Ding Blocks

Image result for 1950s building blocks shaped like men

Remember these? “Bill Ding Blocks,” they were called, made of wood and brightly colored. They were also called “balancing clowns.” Those strangely leering little figures were supposed to be clowns. And if you were patient, with a light touch, you could set them up into all sorts of improbable arrangements. I used to play with these with my friend, David, next door. We were little more than toddlers at the time, and improbable arrangements were beyond our powers.

Bill Ding Blocks first came out in 1911. In the early 1960’s the company that made them was bought and the product discontinued, but the owner believed in his product and eventually bought back the rights to it. Today they’re manufactured in China. It does seem a shame not to make these in America.

David and I enjoyed these unusual blocks; but I think if we’d looked more closely at the faces, we might’ve had second thoughts. Happy memories, though. Happy low-tech memories.

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