Comic books in the 1950s advertised for all sorts of incredibly cool things you could send away for–X-ray glasses, Sea Monkeys, this little doohickey you could put in your mouth that would let you throw your voice like a professional ventriloquist… genuine authentic foot-locker full of these pitiful flat plastic soldiers…
And the Joy Buzzer.
This little treasure, you wound it up and hid it in the palm of your hands, and when your victim shook hands with you, he’d get a loud buzzing shock that’d make him jump a foot in the air. We thought it might’ve been electric, but when my brother and I got our Joy Buzzers, we quickly discovered there was no electricity involved. In fact there wasn’t much of anything involved. If you and the victim really tried on purpose, you could get it to buzz. But usually nothing happened.
At least these things weren’t expensive.
To this day I remain skeptical of the worth of goods and services advertised in comic books.
I was absent-mindedly whistling this song today, not knowing the title or any of the lyrics. My step-grandfather, John, who’d been a merchant seaman for much of his life, and was born and raised in Holland, used to play this on his harmonica. Once his brother Jacob came across the Atlantic and they played this as a duet at a family gathering. Something about the tune clung to my heart for all these years.
I never expected to hear it again, but as I whistled it, Patty exclaimed, “Oh! ‘A Wooden Heart.'” And she sang a few bars of it in German. It’s a German folk song, although John and Jacob probably knew it in Dutch.
John was a good man and he had some great stories of the sea… and I miss him. I miss them all.
But I’m sure they know this song in Heaven, and I hope to hear it there–on John’s harmonica.
I feel whimsical this morning. I’m convinced God gives us that so that we don’t burn out. A good laugh is part of God’s stuff, too.
I don’t know why this antique ridiculous commercial popped into my head today. Vintage 1979, it was for Revlon’s “Charlie” fragrance–I have no idea who gets to name perfumes, or how they go about it–complete with supermodel Shelly Hack and her 64 teeth and Mel Torme roped into singing the jingle.
Lyrics of enduring, persevering brainlessness: “Kinda young, kinda now… Kinda free, kinda wow…” It takes a special talent to write such drivel.
Mel Torme was one of the leading singers of his era and also a championship-caliber quick-draw expert. Interesting man! Great raconteur, too. They were going to do a feature on him for Sixty Minutes once, he says, but dropped it once they’d found out he had no history of scandal, adultery, alcoholism, or drug addiction. “I was too dull,” he admits.
I loved those play sets by the Marx Toy Co.! I didn’t have any of these carry-all cases, but I did have the Cape Kennedy play set when it was still called Cape Canaveral: and boy, those spring-powered rockets! You could actually put a dent in your ceiling. Like, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” But the threat was obvious even to us kids, and nobody shot his eye out with a Nike missile.
The commercial also shows Fort Apache, Noble Knights, and Boot Camp play sets. My favorite, not shown, was Dinosaurs and Cave Men.
These toys set my imagination on fire. For a while there I wanted to be a toy maker when I grew up, so I could design some really far-out play sets. But in the meantime I rejoiced in setting up the little plastic figurines and turning the set-up into a story.
Have they quite succeeded, yet, in putting the imagination into deep freeze? Would kids even know what to do with a play set anymore?
I remain hopeful: just give them time, and they’ll figure it out. Human nature as God created it, good and bad, will not be denied forever.
P.S.–Where did my video go? Can any of you see it?
The Katzenjammer Kids, at the hands of various artists and writers, were in newspapers and comic books for 109 years, starting in 1897, until 2006; and they’re still available in reprints.
They were in the Sunday color comics in my Grammy’s paper (but not ours), and I always looked forward to seeing what Hans and Fritz would get up to next. Looking back on it now, I wonder why they were so popular. Really, they weren’t nice at all–in fact, a couple of delinquents. Did they resonate with our sin nature, with some darkness in our souls? I can’t imagine trying to baby-sit for them: you might not live to tell about it.
Then again, perhaps they served a useful purpose, after all–an opportunity to let off steam without doing any harm. Hey, I watch the Three Stooges. That doesn’t mean I go around poking people in the eye and pulling chandeliers down from anybody’s ceiling. It means I laugh when they do it, because it’s so ridiculous. Maybe not as ridiculous as Okashii-yo-Cortez, but certainly more harmless.
I don’t know what I’d give to be at Grammy’s house again, reading the comics in her Sunday paper.
Ah, the days of innocence! Complete with Indian elephant wandering around Africa.
Remember Jungle Jim, starring Johnny Weissmuller? Tarzan with clothes on. Half an hour of pure TV pleasure, back in the 1950s. Man, I couldn’t get enough of those African adventure shows. Jungle Jim, Ramar of the Jungle, Sheena Queen of the Jungle (starring the irrepressible Irish McCalla: I think she went on to become an artist of some note)–I loved ’em all. And the kids in those shows never had to go to school! So much better than just answering nuisance robo-calls–which hadn’t been invented yet. But you can bet Jungle Jim never got one.
Where was I? Oh, yeah…
No African jungle adventure show would have been complete without the cry of the Australian kookaburra in the background.
Hear that? Sound familiar?
Welcome to the Fifties TV jungle!
If your brain hasn’t been quite deflated by the nooze yet, here’s something that might finish the job. Listen at your own risk.
I remember this goofy song from 1961. My friends across the street had the record. My parents thought they were a bad influence on me. If you listen carefully, you might suspect that the performer, Welsh comedian Tommy Cooper, was a few screws short of an erector set.
Don’t Jump Off of the Roof, Dad was his one and only hit record. ‘Nuff said.
This is Good Friday, and our blog will observe it by not covering any of the nooze today. Hence the video of the baby iguana eating watercress. Aren’t they pretty little things? God’s stuff is just so good.
I’d love to raise a baby iguana again. If you do it right–and it’s easy to do it right–you wind up with a wonderful pet. If you do it wrong, you wind up with this big mean lizard who wants to bite you. A friend of mine had an iguana who bit him on the tongue. Yes, he was showing off by sticking his tongue out. Teenage boys do things like that. And the iguana bit off the tip of it. Yowch! Served him right.
But my iguana was raised right, and he never bit anybody. And if he could have purred while he sat on your lap, he would have.
I wonder if there even are places like this anymore, that haven’t yet been torn down, paved over, and replaced by nail salons and trendy restaurants.
I say we need wild places, places of mystery–like Dead Man’s Cave. Places that kick the imagination into gear. But I haven’t been back to Dead Man’s Cave in a very long time; I think it might have vanished into the morning mist, like Brigadoon.
Maybe that’s the only way to keep it safe.
What am I doing, sitting here, going through nooze items, when I have a Newswithviews column to write? I’d better get to it.
Meanwhile, allow me to indulge you with one of my favorite judo throws, “Hiza Garuma.” The name means “knee wheel.”
The beauty of this throw is, I could teach any of you to do it in a matter of minutes. Just block your partner’s knee with the sole of your foot, make like you’re turning the wheel of your car, and down he goes. I learned it from a book when I was 13 or so, and taught it to all my friends that summer. There was a whole lot of hiza garuma goin’ on in my neighborhood.
While I’m working on my column, feel free to teach yourselves hiza garuma. Find a loved one or a business associate who doesn’t mind taking a fall. But don’t try it on strangers you pass on the sidewalk: that’s more trouble than it’s worth.