A childhood memory: It’s snowing, I’m nine or ten years old, curled up on the old green couch in the sitting room, ogling the toys in the Sears Christmas Catalogue; and we have a Mitch Miller album playing There Is a Tavern in the Town.
Mitch was big back then, leading his chorus in an inexhaustible round of good old songs that everybody knew: it was always easy to “sing along with Mitch.” These songs were already old when he recorded them. They were, if I might use a word that doesn’t get much use anymore, Americana. Part of our daily lives. Everyone I knew had at least a few Mitch Miller albums. He was on TV, too.
This was popular music with a capital P. Songs your grandma and grandpa knew as well as you did. We could all sing them together.
Can that be said of our music anymore?
I’m amazed I found this! It’s one of Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies, vintage 1939: Fresh Fish, it’s called.
This was the kind of harmless stuff that passed for kids’ TV in the 1950s. Although I must admit that for as far back as I can remember, I’ve had a fear of sharks. Could early exposure to this cartoon have caused that?
The diving bell was cutting-edge oceanographic technology back then. Today I doubt there’s anybody under 60 who would know what a diving bell was.
Whim-wham Whistling Shark–don’t laugh! Nobody knew what was down there, in 1939. Coulda been anything! Remember the bathysphere? The bathyscaphe? I think the world half-expected them to find Atlantis.
Keep looking. It’s gotta be somewhere.
Patty and I have been feeling rather stressed lately, so we took a break from work and went off to spend some down-time at Tommy’s Pond.
It was a big piece of my childhood–fishing, sledding and ice skating in the winter, Summer Fun Club with the YMCA, just around the block. There were Fun Club kids there today: scheduled for a water balloon fight, but somehow that didn’t come off. We settled down on a park bench and chatted with the kids. I had a lot of pleasant memories to share with them: once upon a time, I was a Fun Club counselor. Then they went back to the Y and we had the place to ourselves.
It was lovely, and we’re much the better for it. There’s a lot to be said for places like Tommy’s Pond, when you’ve known them all your life. Happily, it hasn’t changed. My cousin Jeffrey lived right across the street from the pond: what good times we had together! I wonder where he fetched up; his family moved when we were kids.
I think I’ll save any more nooze reporting for tomorrow.
“And the heat would make yer bloomin’ eyebrows crawl…” –Kipling, Gunga Din
There’s a lot of talk about heat these days–in the summer! who would’ve thought it?–but some of us are old enough to remember real heat.
When I was a boy in, say, 1958, no one I knew had home air conditioning. We didn’t even have an upstairs fan till later. So when bedtime came around, up we trudged to the bedroom: you could cut the air with a machete.
Way too hot to fall asleep, I used my flashlight to read comic books. Eventually the batteries would start to fail, but fair enough–by then I was too tired to stay awake.Turn off the light, turn over the pillow to the side that wasn’t saturated with sweat, close your eyes, and–
Our house was fully screened, but somehow mosquitoes always got in. Oh, that hateful humming sound! You couldn’t go under the covers, it’d cook you. Children must have been incredibly tough and resilient, to make it through the night back then. Up and at ’em in the morning, all ready to play horseshoes!
People are carrying on now like summer heat is a new invention, and government can stop it if only we give it more power over our lives and a lot more of our money.
You wait! Someday they’ll declare mosquitoes an endangered species and make it against the law to swat them.
*Sigh* My mother used to sing us this song, way back when.
How far back? I’d heard of rain barrels, but I never knew anybody who had one. What was it for–a mosquito hatchery?
Here it is, as sung by The Fontane Sisters in 1955. I like it much better, the way my mother sang it.
This ad used to freak me out.
Whatever happened to Noilly Prat? I haven’t seen it in donkey’s years. Which is just as well–it used to scare me.
A Cryptic Message from Beyond
Happily, I can now look upon it with unspoiled equanimity. Maybe Heidi was right: maybe the guy in the cloak is a French cop. (Doesn’t he look like Frankenstein? Square head, etc.)
All the same, better cross the street if you see him coming.
The planet Mars–without the scary clouds
Do people have an inborn compulsion to believe things that make no sense at all?
I remember a day at school, in the playground, with a rumor that had the whole fourth grade buzzing. It came in two parts.
*One: The government had a secret plan (which somehow all these kids found out about) to blow up several atomic bombs on the moon… just to see what would happen.
*Two: Every time they talked about this plan, “two dubular clouds appeared on Mars.” Because of this the plan was canceled.
Not one of us had even the foggiest idea what a “dubular cloud” was, but we all believed the rumor and found it rather disconcerting. I was sure I’d Heard It On The News! and it was therefor true. The Martians were out to get us, just like in the movies. Who knew what they were up to, out there on the dark side of the moon?
The scare died away when nothing happened. I don’t remember what new foolishness replaced it. Nor can I remember how I first heard of dubular clouds. But I never heard of them again.
I’m not prepared to say the news has become any more reliable since then. That goes for its viewers, too.
When I was a boy, everybody seemed to have a workbench, either downstairs in the cellar or else the garage. I’ll bet my grandpa had a thousand tools. And my Uncle Ferdie was an inventor.
Memory Lane: The Workbench
Were people handier back then? My father made all sorts of things we used around the house. Grandpa made toys (we still have some of them).
But the years flow by, and decades of apartment living have eroded any handiness I ever had. *Sigh*
It was always around this time of year that we had our annual Sunday school picnic. It had to be outdoors–who ever heard of an indoor picnic? One of our favorite venues was Hacklebarney State Park. Is that a cool name, or what?
Ah, badminton! And frisbee. Aluminum tub filled with crushed ice and cans of soda. Grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, when a fireplace was handy. Our teachers were all parents and grandparents–no need think of them as unpredictable spirits that must be appeased. Just pile into the available cars, and off we go to Hacklebarney. Roosevelt Park and Johnson Park were a lot closer, but we could go there any time during the week. Hacklebarney was exotic.
Horseshoes! What’s a picnic without horseshoes?
I would give a lot to revisit one of those picnics. Church was fun, back then: always meant to be taken seriously, but not without picnics and winter retreats. Fellowship was a big deal in our church. I appreciate that now.
Y’know what’s funny? Technically speaking, this animal isn’t even a dinosaur. It’s a plesiosaur, a contemporary of the dinosaurs. But this painting of a plesiosaur–now reposing, I’m told, in the Milwaukee Museum–totally haunted my early childhood and gave me an unquenchable, lifelong desire to explore the prehistoric world.
(I just noticed I’m sitting here in a Jurassic Park T-shirt.)
This illustration can be found in The Golden Treasury of Natural History by Bertha Morris Parker, who will always be one of my heroes. Another one of my heroes, my Uncle Bernie, sat me on his lap and read to me out of that wonderful book. That he butchered the dinosaurs’ names, I didn’t care in the least.
Here’s another funny thing: for some time after first seeing it in the book (a full-page illustration), I was convinced this animal still lived. Somewhere out there in the ocean, it was still swimming.
Here’s another one of those illustrations, this one depicting Dimetrodon–again, not a dinosaur; but always lumped in with them.
Now I know the pictures are only pictures imagined by an artist, not real–but oh yes they are! I’ve seen these creatures in my dreams.
I wonder where the LORD is keeping them.