Memory Lane: ‘Zorro’ (1957)

Was this a hit when I was eight years old, or what? Walt Disney’s Zorro–and you can bet there was a whole lot of swordfightin’ goin’ on in our neighborhood!

Now hardly anybody had color TV back then, but we knew from Zorro bubblegum cards that the show was filmed in color. And of course Zorro had a lot of adventures at night, wearing a black mask and cape and riding a black horse–so how much color did you need?

This show generated pulse-pounding excitement among us kids. I don’t think TV shows can generate that kind of excitement anymore. Maybe because there are so many of them. Maybe because Walt Disney’s dead and the company he founded has gone over to the dark side.

Anyhow, Zorro was way cool–and so was his alter ego, Don Diego–and we all wanted to grow up to be like him. And how was that bad?

Memory Lane: The Sandbox

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Summer has just ended (*sigh*). Something about the quality of the sunshine on this beautiful September Sunday brought me back to playing in the sandbox. We lived next door to the playground, and it was a big sandbox.

Sure, I played in the sandbox when I was a toddler, but I really got into it when I was older. If the sand was a little bit wet from recent rain, you could really go to town with it. Bring along a bag of toy animals, dinosaurs, cowboys, cavemen, army men (of course!), and build the terrain of their adventures. Forts that had to be taken. Pits to be avoided. Mazes that had to be escaped before the Tyrannosaurus ate you. King Arthur’s castle.

Wow, that was fun! So what if we weren’t toddlers anymore? My friends and I had endless fun, putting our soldiers and knights and horses and elephants through one tight spot after another. True, this kind of play required an imagination; but we all had one, back then. Probably because we weren’t constantly spoon-fed “entertainment” that misguided adults thought we should have.

Occasionally we would lose a caveman in the sandbox. Maybe he got lost in a labyrinthine cavern that we never knew was there. I wonder how those lost cavemen made out…

‘You Are My Sunshine’ (Joshua & Jeremy)

Let’s see if I can sing this without starting to cry. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey…” Nope. No can do.

When I was a very little boy with fantods in the night, my father would get up and pick me up, and sing this song to me. How well I remember that. “You’ll never know dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.” And he meant every word of it. That’s why it moves me so.

Anyway, here are our own Swanson brothers, Joshua and Jeremy, with their rendition of the songs. Nice work, guys! Got me all sappy. But that’s OK.

‘Memory Lane: One Summer Night’ (2016)

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Grandma Moses, we need you!

Sometimes I look back on how different things used to be, and can hardly believe I’m still on the same planet.

Memory Lane: One Summer Night

Yes, they had block dances on the school blacktop in the evening. Nothing could be more harmless. The three of us kids watching from the upstairs window. Ray Bradbury got a lot of mileage out of scenes like this. So did Grandma Moses. How wise they were!

Can you imagine such a scene today? It would turn into a riot.

Culture rot has advanced very far indeed.

Memory Lane: ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’

I was surprised yesterday when one of my friends said she’d never heard this song, nor heard of it. Written back in 1928, Big Rock Candy Mountain was a hit song when I was a little boy. The great Burl Ives made it a hit. It was on one of those childrens’ record albums that my mother had for us, and I’ve seen it published in any number of folk songbooks.

True, some of it sounds a lot like Democrat campaign promises. Try to ignore that. And enjoy how beautifully Burl Ives hits the high note.

Memory Lane: Summer Sundays

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Today is exactly the kind of summer Sunday that my family would have enjoyed by getting together for a backyard barbecue. Hamburgers, hot dogs, beer for the gents, and lots and lots of good talk–what else is a screened-in back porch for?

And if we went to Uncle Ferdie’s house, or to Aunt Florence’s, each place came equipped with cousins to play with and a backyard badminton set. Suddenly I really miss that! I love that “ponk” sound the racket makes when you bop the birdie.

I wish our cyber-family could get together for a day like that. Horseshoes, too. That’s another summer sound I miss, the clang of horseshoes hitting the stake. Or maybe we could all go over to Grandpa’s house and set up our lawn chairs under the catalpa tree.

Betcha anything they’ve got horseshoes and badminton in Heaven.

Memory Lane: Jon Gnagy

Fast, Fun & Effective Ways, To Paint & Draw! - Art-NY Gallery

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Jon Gnagy’s Learn to Draw was among the most popular educational TV shows. I watched it regularly, and sent away for one of his instructional kits. And you know what? It really helped me learn to draw!

His lessons usually started by showing you the basic geometric shapes–cones, cubes, spheres, etc.–underlying the objects that you wished to draw; and then he’d show you how to build on those. For instance, you’d start with a cone and build it, step by step, into a sheaf of wheat, a teepee, or a church steeple. The kit had a variety of pencils, charcoal sticks, and this really cool “kneaded eraser” that was like a ball of Silly Putty. And it had a book of scenes that you could learn to draw–again, step by step.

Over the years, I got rather good at drawing all kinds of things. It was fun! We still have Patty’s Learn to Draw kit stowed upstairs. Still lifes, landscapes, people and animals–it’s all in there.

I Think I’ve Been There

Entelodon | Cool Dino Facts Wiki | Fandom

This is Charles R. Knight’s 1894 painting of Elotherium, an extinct animal that resembled a wild boar. That’s cool–but what I’m really interested in is the backdrop.

This reproduction, the only one I could find, doesn’t quite capture the dried-out yellowish tones of the banks of this gully. You’ll have to imagine that. The gully is full of water and the animals are crossing it. Farther up toward the horizon, the gully feeds into a more permanent stream. And then a river? Then the sea?

The thing is–I think I’ve been there! Years and years and years ago. You got there if you went all the way down Orchard Street, back when there was still an orchard there, well past all the houses, and then just park your bike where this little bridge went across the gully. You could easily climb down and wade in the water–which of course you wouldn’t do if  there were Elotheriums present. They look irritable.

It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Knight used real places as the backdrops for his paintings of prehistoric life. I wonder: did he wander into my childhood, or did I wander into one of his paintings?

Memory Lane: ‘Circus Boy’

Wow! Does this brief intro take me back!

This was among our Saturday morning TV treats from 1958 to 1960–Circus Boy, starring Mickey Dolenz (they called him Braddock then), who years later was famous again as one of the Monkees.

A traveling circus in the Old West–what could be cooler than that? Oh! I forgot! We aren’t allowed to like the circus anymore, and there never was such a place as the Old West.

Anyway, given the format, this show could and did go anywhere. Just about anything could happen. And there’s something about it, something subtle, that brings to mind some of Ray Bradbury’s stories.

Huh? Ray who? What’re you talking about?

I thank God every day for my 1950s childhood. But alas, we who had it didn’t know what we had, and we let it slip through our fingers. God help us, stranded in this lamentable 21st century.

May God equip us to conquer it for Jesus Christ our King.

Memory Lane: ‘You Are There’

I can’t imagine what this show would look like if it were done today–You Are There: re-enactments of historical events done up as news stories and hosted by Walter Kronkite. It ran on radio, 1947-1950, and then morphed into a TV show that ran through 1957. My mother never missed it, and I watched it with her. It must’ve been a pretty good show, because my memories of it are quite vivid. We also saw some episodes in school, on film, complete with reel-to-reel projector that didn’t always work.

If they did it today it’d be wall-to-wall America-bashing carried out by the nudnicks who call themselves “news reporters.” I’m not saying nooze media bias didn’t exist in the 1950s; but it was a lot harder to spot and no one was looking for it.

Anyhow, here’s Walter Kronkite–once upon a time called “the most trusted man in America,” that’s how innocent we were–introducing the Gunfight at the OK Corral as a news event.

Cool!