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…

Defending My Thesis

Vikings' Sequel Series Set at Netflix From Michael Hirst, Jeb ...

I may be the only person in America who can say this–but defending my thesis was fun!

Say what? Well, back in college, I was chosen for the Henry Rutgers honors program, which gave me lot of credits but for which I had to produce a thesis–just as if I were going for a master’s degree, or a Ph. D. Spend a whole year researching it, then write it up, present it to the Political Science Dept., and defend it before a panel of professors. And by the way, it was in the age of carbon paper, a technology which many of you have never seen or heard of. But I am not going to get nostalgic for carbon paper.

Now, I had a big advantage over the panel of professors: none of them had any knowledge of the subject! Anytime you can swing that, go for it. My title was “A Systems Analysis of the Viking Age,” featuring the likes of Harald Bluetooth, Eric Bloodaxe, Ragnar Hairy-Pants (I try not to think of Spongebob), and a cast of colorful supporting characters. The professors sat there marveling. Well, we were in New Jersey. People in New Jersey have a certain fascination for men with funny nicknames whose enemies wind up face-down in a landfill.

Once I freely admitted that of course you could study the Viking Age just using plain old history, but that the “systems” part would work very well with history, they’d complement each other–having done that, I was home free. Most of it was me telling Viking stories to the profs. All we needed was beer and pretzels. Everybody had a very pleasant time.

College used to offer experiences like this. It was called scholarship. You didn’t have to worry about pronouns. You didn’t have to be woke.

There is something to be said for scholarship as an end in itself. It can preserve the collectively accumulated knowledge of mankind. Deciding that everybody has to go to college has just about destroyed scholarship, even as it has virtually destroyed the university itself.

Someday we’ll realize what we’ve lost. But I don’t know that we can ever get it back.

‘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: ‘Cindy, Oh, Cindy’

I remember my father playing this song on the radio as he painted our upstairs bedrooms, which used to be the attic until he converted it–with his own hands.

Cindy, Oh Cindy–I was seven years old when this was popular and I was watching Daddy paint the walls. This version is by Vince Martin and the Tarriers. There are others.

I can’t hear it without thinking of my father–and missing him. He went to sea when he was little more than a boy, joined the Navy to fight in World War II. I’m sure this song made him recall those days.

If I could impart just one lesson to the relatively young, it would be this: There will come a time in your life when you’re losing more people than you gain; so with your family, with your friends, love ’em while you’ve got ’em. You come into the world as the youngest member of your family; and some of us live to see themselves the oldest member of their family.

Love with all your heart. It’s not like money, you don’t run out of it by spending it. God doesn’t let that happen. Love without stinting. You’ll never be sorry you did.

‘Memory Lane: Golden Stamp Books’ (2016)

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These were some of my all-time favorite toys–the Golden stamp books.

Memory Lane: Golden Stamp Books

Of course, you had to have an attention span, and an imagination, to enjoy these. On each page was a short article to read, a line drawing to color with your crayons, and a full-color stamp to paste in.

I don’t know how old I was when my Grammie got me In Days of Old: The Story of the Middle Ages–ten, tops, no older than that–but I remember it as if I’d read it yesterday. The pictures and the text ignited my imagination, and to this day I’m still interested in the Middle Ages. Still learning.

I am so glad I didn’t have to settle for “Zombie Apocalypse” on some kind of electronic gizmo.

The Folding Fortune Teller

Don’t worry, I’m not going into the occult. But yesterday’s “Memory Lane” with the Magic 8-Ball reminded a couple of our readers of another popular fortune-telling device. I don’t remember what you call it, because I haven’t thought of it for ages, but I do remember it was a big fad in high school.

So here’s how it works.

And we need another video to show you how to get the thing folded in the first place.

The thing that made this fun was, you wrote the “fortunes” yourself. High school kids–of course we wrote them to be funny or (even better) embarrassing. “You are in love with (most despised teacher in the school).” “You steal your dog’s food and eat it yourself.” Stuff like that. Nothing to turn anybody into the next Aleister Crowley. If you made the fortunes too raunchy, no one would bother with you.

I was a lot better at this than I was at algrebra.

There are folks out there who’ll pay a self-advertised psychic an arm and a leg for advice they could just as easily get from the Magic 8-Ball or the origami fortune teller–and which would be just as helpful, but a lot cheaper.

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!