Tag Archives: nostalgia

‘A Wee Memory Break’ (2015)

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I think just maybe you can  get into Heaven with a note like the one Rudi wrote to get us onto Island Beach (https://leeduigon.com/2015/12/15/a-wee-memory-break/).

I close my eyes–heck, I don’t even have to close ’em–and I can hear my father whistling Cindy, O Cindy as he repainted my bedroom. I can hear John playing a harmonica duet with his brother, Jakob, when Jakob came over from Holland on a visit. And I can see the sun glinting off the waves as I tried to learn to surf-fish.

Good, good things to remember! I wouldn’t sell ’em for a million dollars.

And every good thing is the gift of God.

Memory Lane: the Boomerang

It took me most of my life to learn how to throw a boomerang so it’d come back to me; and I had no sooner mastered the art than my boomerang disappeared. But then the local playgrounds in our town have all disappeared, too.

I don’t know if the boomerang ever matched the national impact of other summer fads, like the hula hoop, yo-yos, cracker balls–and we had local fads for pea shooters, pop rocks, and punks. Mr. Bruno across the street had a heavy wooden boomerang. He’d take it out to the schoolyard now and then and play with it, and all of us kids stood in awe of his expertise: the thing always came back to him. When I finally got a chance to try it–Mr. Bruno wasn’t home, his kids found the boomerang and sneaked it out of the house–it never even thought of coming back to me when I threw it. Heavens, no. The blasted thing sought out the nearest school bus window and crashed right through it. So much for that.

What touches off a fad? It can be something as utterly senseless as pet rocks, or something that takes a fair amount of skill and practice, like learning yo-yo tricks. (I still have my yo-yo. The cats like me to use it.) And then the fad disappears as suddenly and as mysteriously as it first rose up.

Hula hoops are back, though; and a few days ago, the kid across the way was banging cracker balls off the sidewalk.

Memory Lane: Old Brownie

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Our family lived on a dead end street, and with the fathers off to work all day, there was hardly any traffic. Mostly it was kids riding bikes, roller-skating, playing kickball.

But sometimes you didn’t feel like playing, because something had made you sad, or thoughtful, and all you wanted to do was sit on the front steps.

And Old Brownie would be sure to find you, and sit down next to you, and by and by, you felt much better.

Brownie belonged to the widow next door, Mrs. Thomas, and she let him wander because he was wise enough not to leave our street, he never made any kind of trouble, and everybody loved him. I was kind of scared of dogs, but never of Brownie, even though he was as big as me. Any kid who was feeling blue could count on Old Brownie for sympathetic company.

I’d trade all the lawn mowers, weed whackers, and leaf-blowers in the world for ten more minutes with Old Brownie.

Baseball Without the Little League

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I am so glad I had my childhood in the 1950s, when you were allowed to play without some adult ordering your every move.

In the summer we liked to play baseball. We did not have 18 kids for two teams, a scoreboard, umpires, adult coaches, uniforms, sponsors, bleachers full of parents, and all the rest. We didn’t have bases. See, in the picture–somebody’s mitt is serving as home plate. And they’re playing on the sidewalk.

But what we did have was games that could last all day if we wanted, in which it was possible to come to bat 100 times and get 50 hits.

So how do you play baseball with only six or seven kids and no sponsors?

Simple–you just use however many of these special rules you need.

*Pitcher’s hand–If any fielder can get the ball back to the pitcher before the batter reaches first base, the batter is out. This makes up for a shortage of infielders.

*Invisible men on base–When the team at bat has only three or four players, one or more can be replaced on the bases by imaginary baserunners. If you hit a double with an invisible man on second, the invisible man scores. If you hit a single, he stops at third.

*Call your field–If you don’t have three outfielders, the batter must declare which field he intents to hit to. If he calls left field and hits to right field, he’s out. This makes up for a shortage of outfielders.

*Special ground rules as needed–What to do if the ball caroms off a tree or any piece of playground equipment, rolls into a mud puddle, etc.

Way back when, we invented new rules as needed, and refined our game so that baseball could be played one-on-one–just a pitcher, just a batter–as long as both players agreed to the imaginary parameters.

Later in life, in the men’s softball league, I found players who came up through Little League to be whiners, complainers, prima donnas, always trying to build themselves up by undermining their teammates–and none of them could hit worth a damn. But when you have 24 kids on a team with room in the lineup for only nine at a time, and some adult deciding whom those nine shall be… it’s a great inducement to concentrate more on politicking than on hitting.

Memory Lane: ‘Soldiers of Fortune’

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I know I’m gonna get you with this one: Soldiers of Fortune, from back in 1955.

My father watched this show; that’s how I remember it. I remembered the title and the name of one of the characters: “Toubo Smith.” I mean, you can’t forget a name like Toubo.

In each half-hour episode, globe-trotting adventurers Tim Kelly (John Russell, later to star in Lawman) and Toubo Smith (Chick Chandler) take on the crazy jobs that no one else will touch with a ten-foot pole, have wild adventures in every exotic location you can think of, and use up more stunt men per 30-minute series than any other in the 1950s.

I was amazed to discover some of those episodes floating around Youtube. In fact, you can get the whole two seasons, 1955-56, on disc. I watched one last night and enjoyed it a lot–skullduggery and derring-do in the mountains of Tibet. You have to admire the way they packed so much into so little time, and without giving the impression of hurrying through it.

Dad, I can’t remember this show without remembering you.

Nothin’ beats a good story, does it?

‘Memory Lane: Golden Stamp Books’

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This, of course, was one of my favorites

How I loved these Golden Stamp Books! Especially on a rainy summer day: sitting on the grass rug on our back porch, coloring the pictures and pasting in the stamps.


Of course, you have to have an attention span, to enjoy these. You had to be able to sit and do something quietly, maybe humming or whistling to yourself, content to sojourn in the world of the imagination. No cell phones, smartphones, iphones, etc.

It was bliss.

Memory Lane: ‘Elfego Baca’

I was delighted to find some of these episodes available on Youtube: The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca. I’ll try to get Patty to watch these with me, this weekend.

This series, starring Robert Loggia, came out in 1958 on “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.” Remember that? It must have been good, because I’ve remembered the theme song for 60 years. This is the kind of great stuff Disney productions turned out while Walt was still running the place. He wouldn’t be happy with what they’re doing now: heads would roll.

In real life, Baca, then a deputy sheriff in New Mexico, won his reputation for “nine lives” when he was surrounded by a gang of bad guys after taking shelter in a rather small adobe building reminiscent of the old Stelton Hotel here in the heart of Jersey. They couldn’t persuade him to come out and get shot, and whenever they tried to rush the building, he made them pay for it. So they hunkered down and fired 4,000 rounds (!) at the place (yes, somebody actually counted the bullet holes), and not one of them hit Elfego Baca. That’s why someone counted the holes–the man’s survival seemed a miracle.

And I like miracles!

Anyway, here’s the theme song–and I don’t know who these performers were, but they were pretty good.

Memory Lane: Major Hoople

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You may have heard me say “Fap!” now and then, and probably asked yourselves, “Did he say ‘fap’? What’s fap?”

I grew up with Sunday color comics in the newspaper, and one of my favorites was “Our Boarding House,” featuring Major Amos B. Hoople, a lovable pompous windbag whose wife, Martha, controlled him by making him go outside to beat the rugs. I wonder if anybody still beats rugs.

Anyhow, when the major’s at a loss for words, he often resorts to his customary exclamations, “Fap!” Usually followed by “Hak-kaff” or “Harrumph!” This sort of eloquence is seldom met with nowadays.

I am unable to confirm a report that Major Hoople left home to become a Diversity Reponse Team People’s Investigator at Fimbo University.

Memory Lane: ‘Melvin the Moon Man’

Image result for melvin the moon man game

Before the advent of video games featuring blood and guts flying all over the screen, children had to be content with benign, peaceful, harmless games–like this one.

Remco put out “Melvin the Moon Man” in 1959, and it was a hit. My parents got it for us for Christmas, and it was simple enough for all three of us to play: my sister, age 4, my brother, 7, and me, 10. If we had had a cat, he probably could’ve played, too.

You spin the handle of the unique Tumblebum dice glass (that, and the colorful graphics, were the game’s big selling points), and your plastic Spaceman traveled around the United Craters of the Moon collecting Moonbucks. The one with the most Moonbucks wins. No tactics or strategy involved. Just follow the map according to the roll of the dice.

I don’t know what Melvin cost in 1959, but it’s selling on eBay today for up to $150. In 1959 anything over $5 was a major expenditure for my father which my mother would have to weigh carefully. They really must have loved us to buy us silly stuff like this.

And that’s what makes this memory so sweet.

How to Keep a Toddler from Going Up the Stairs

See the source image

My grandma had an original turn of mind.

I stayed at her house a lot–she was always available to baby-sit–and one thing she didn’t want me to do, when I was very little, was to climb the stairs. In case I fell. So she kept me from doing that by telling me that the Mick-Mock lived up there, but was never there if a grownup went upstairs. Not ever.

Here’s the cool part: she never told me what the Mick-Mock was. She left it all to my imagination, which was fully up to the challenge of terrifying me. I imagined the Mick-Mock as a ferocious collie, probably because one of the neighbors had a collie dog that used to go into a berserk rage if you walked past on the sidewalk. I was very afraid of that dog; but I knew the Mick-Mock would be worse. Much worse.

But because I was told the Mick-Mock was scared of adults, I was just fine with the upstairs if one of my aunts took me there. That’s where their own rooms were, and I could even sleep peacefully up there at night because they were there, too, and so the Mick-Mock wouldn’t dare show itself.

Later on, Grandma worked the same–I don’t want to call it a scam: let me call it “psychology”–on my brother. He, three years younger than me, imagined the Mick-Mock as a malevolent stick figure. I’ve got to hand it to him: that was cooler than my imaginary killer collie.

We grew out of our fear of the Mick-Mock. Grandma set it up in a way that allowed you to grow out of it. I guess raising six daughters taught her a few tricks over the years.

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