Tag Archives: nostalgia

A Truly Unexpected Gift

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This Christmas, give the gift of plaster teeth!

I once did this. The dentist next door threw out a load of unusual-looking boxes, and it made me curious. The boxes contained plaster models of various patients’ teeth. I knew a lot of the people whose choppers were represented there.

This was too good to pass up. I scooped up a lot of them and gift-wrapped them as gifts for my family at the family Christmas Eve party at my aunts’ house. Everyone was going to be there! And everyone was going to get a nice little set of plaster teeth, probably reflecting the dental state of someone that they knew.

I relished the raised eyebrows as I handed out the gift boxes. Like they would ever guess what was inside! Like my sister would have any idea what to do with a model of Wayne So-and-so’s teeth, who once upon a time lived next door to us.

Oh, the puzzled looks! Puzzled? Try dumbfounded! Oh, the bewildered silence! And finally, the payoff–a whole room full of laughter and merriment. Years later, you could still get a chuckle out of anybody, just by mentioning the incident. Although I very much doubt that anyone who received a set of somebody else’s teeth kept it.

The gag didn’t cost anyone a red cent, but just try buying that much laughter.


By Request, ‘Silver Bells’

This isn’t really a Christmas hymn, but Erlene requested it, and besides, it brings back fond memories to me. We sang this in our seventh-grade Christmas concert. Mr. Held’s entire home room, including me, was drafted into the choir. I was in the back row with all the other kids who couldn’t sing–but never mind, it was fun: and there was no one there to complain about it.

Fun fact: Did you know one of Burl Ives’ middle names was Ivanhoe? Cool!


‘Late Night TV, Circa 1958’ (2013)

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I can pronounce it now, but I still don’t understand it.

Now they’ve got 150-some channels instead of just three or four, and yet it doesn’t seem there’s half as much on as there used to be.

Oh, those old TV listings! Endless fascination for a 10-year-old who was packed off to bed at 8 o’clock.

https://leeduigon.com/2013/08/25/late-night-tv-circa-1958/

Well, this is a blog for sharing memories, isn’t it? I’d love to hear some of yours.


‘Memory Lane: My Erector Set’

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There used to be a lot of toys like this–toys that got you to use your imagination: and your hands, too. Among the greatest of these was the erector set.

https://leeduigon.com/2016/12/18/memory-lane-my-erector-set/

With these toys, you start with just a bunch of parts that don’t look like anything, and with your hands and your brain, you turn them into something. What could be cooler than that?

All of the kids in my family got their start on my aunts’ erector set that they had when they were kids. I’m happy to say my brother still has ours.


Memory Lane: ‘Davey and Goliath’

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Remember this? Davey and Goliath, which ran on TV from 1961-1965 and again from 1971-1973, a Christian children’s show produced by first the United Lutheran Church in America and later by the Lutheran Church in America, it featured a boy and his talking dog, Goliath, and was created by Art Clokey, famous as the creator of Gumby. I’d have watched it if I’d known it was sort of like Gumby–although it was on Sunday mornings and most of the time, I’d be at Sunday school or church, so I didn’t get a chance to see it.

But once upon a time, American TV, plain old network television, used to have any number of Christian shows. This one sought to teach kids how to live as good Christians. That was before The Smartest People In The World realized children had to be protected from Jesus Christ. It’s surprising they never got around to banning Gumby, too.

What was it like, to find wholesome Christian programming on regular TV? We’ve come so far from that, it’s hard to remember.

But we haven’t entirely forgotten, have we? And maybe, someday, we can find our way back to it.


Memory Lane: Electric Baseball

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My brother and I got this toy for Christmas once, sometime in the Fabulous Fifties: Tudor Electric Baseball.

The ball was a tiny white magnet which you “pitched” with a kind of catapult, aiming for a tin sheet representing the batter. Behind the sheet sat your opponent, who, when he heard the ball stick to the other side of the screen, smacked his side with a spring-operated plastic bat. If the ball landed on a circle marked “hit,” he flicked a switch and these little plastic guys with strips of celluloid on their bases ran around the basepaths, accompanied by a loud buzzing sound as the whole gameboard vibrated energetically. The basepaths were thick cardboard guides. Without them, the runners would have dashed all over the place in a kind of brownian movement.

If this sounds complicated, that’s only because it really was complicated.

Our friend “thewhiterabbit” had an Electric Football game. He soon gave up trying to make any sense of it.

Colorforms Baseball, which we also tried, had no electricity–only a dial on a spinner which, when spun, would stop either on an out or some kind of hit.

I have a feeling this toy cost my parents a fair amount of money. We dutifully played it until the day we somehow lost the ball. It was a very noisy game, and lots of times you’d smack the tin sheet and the ball would just fall off and you’d have to have a do-over. Or sometimes you’d smack it and the ball would just stick there.

But it’s the thought that counts!


Memory Lane: The Remco Bulldog Tank

This toy was a hot item in 1960, and my brother, then eight years old, got one for Christmas: Remco’s Bulldog Tank. Battery-powered, its mighty caterpillar treads would take the tank up and down steep hills of my mother’s books, all the while making a not entirely hopeful wheezing noise. Our family’s home movies show it doing that while my brother watches in angelic rapture.

Best of all, it shot! Boom! Well, not “boom,” really. It went “click.” It fired these plastic projectiles and ejected brass shell casings. Y’know something? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tank in a war movie eject a shell casing. But they must have, right? I mean, you can’t have the turret filling up with shell casings.

I wonder if they still make toys like this for kids–or do they try to make out like there’s no more war, we don’t need tanks to protect us from the bad guys anymore? Meanwhile, the same children deemed too emotionally fragile for a Bulldog Tank spend hours every day playing Zombie Massacre video games. Go figure.


Bonus Video: Fli-Back!

Wow! Remember these? Wooden paddle (usually with a picture of a cowboy on a bucking bronco), rubber ball, and rubber band–the classic Fli-Back toy. How many times could you hit the ball up and down before you lost control?

My Grandma bought me many a Fli-Back when I was a boy, but I never got the hang of it until much later in life. Maybe the lady in this video can say the same. I still have a Fli-Back in one of the kitchen drawers somewhere, although I think the cats batted the ball out to that place from which no little rubber ball returns.


Memory Lane: The ‘I Dare You’ House

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Patty and I were watching Salem’s Lot yesterday, and as soon as they showed the haunted house, Patty said, “That’s what we used to call an ‘I dare you!’ house.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Every town used to have at least one “I dare you” house–an uninhabited house said (by kids, mostly) to be haunted. As in, “I dare you to go into that house,” or “I dare you to go upstairs/down the cellar,” etc.

Once upon a time the finest haunted house in our town was called “the 1868 house.” Wow–1868! Ancient! Probably Egyptian hieroglyphics on the walls. Trilobite fossils on the floor. It never occurred to us that there were people still around who were alive in 1868. And it looked like an 1868 house should look. It had turrets. And a stone wall around the grounds, and the grounds all overgrown with saplings and bushes, with piles of grey lumber marking all that was left of assorted sheds and outhouses.

One day my friend Ellen and I dared each other to enter the 1868 house without Bobby, her big brother, who usually led these expeditions. To do this without Bobby was an act of incredible audacity. But who could afford to chicken out, and lose face forever? It was a grim duo that mounted their bikes that afternoon…

Well, we did go inside. To say our nerves were tightly strung would be an understatement.

As quietly as we could, we crept into a room that looked like it might have once been a kitchen. At the other end of it, a door was open to a passage filled with darkness. It must have led down to the cellar. Dark as night down there.

“I dare you to go down those stairs!” Ellen whispered to me.

“I dare you to do it!” I whispered back. Hey, we were 11 years old: we knew what would happen. That’s where the freakin’ ghost comes swooping up the stairs as swift as the wind–and gets you.

I forget which of us took the first tentative step in that direction, and I can’t honestly say what I thought I saw coming up those stairs. All I can say is that we both shrieked simultaneously and broke several Olympic speed records charging out of the house, leaping onto our bikes, and pedaling back home faster than a pair of speeding bullets. It must have been a serious scare, because I never once muttered to Ellen, “Chicken!”, nor did she ever accuse me of desertion in the face of heaven knew what. I don’t think we ever told Bobby about this adventure.

But of course the 1868 house is long gone, replaced by half a dozen modern homes; and whatever walked there then, walks elsewhere now.  (Hat-tip to Shirley Jackson: “And whatever walked there [in Hill House], walked alone.”)


Memory Lane: ‘Whiplash’

In 1960 something new appeared on America TV: Whiplash, a western, if that’s the right word, set in Australia.

It should’ve been a hit. The star, Peter Graves, had been a success with Fury, a great kids’ show about a boy and his black stallion. Graves would go on to have a huge hit with Mission: Impossible, but at the time, Whiplash didn’t seem to do much for his career. Maybe because the British and Australian co-producers spent a fortune to film the series in Australia, but Graves insisted on filming much of it in a studio once they got there.

Much of the show was written by Gene Roddenberry, who went on to become famous for Star Trek.

You’d think the exotic locale, stories of adventure in the Outback during the Great Australian Gold Rush of the 1850s, and episodes featuring many of Australia’s most successful actors of the era, would have propelled the show to the TV hall of fame. But it only ran for two seasons, 1960-61. Critics are kinder to it now than they were then.

It even had a cool theme song. What’s not to like?

Well, I liked it! I was eleven years old, I’d been a Fury fan for years, and this show made me want to go to Australia and see the kangaroos close up.

I have yet to meet anyone else who remembers it, though.


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