Tag Archives: nostalgia

Memory Lane: Castro Convertibles

When I was a little boy, there was this little tiny girl on TV who busily converted a sofa into a bed: the famous Castro Convertible commercials.

The woman in this video was that little girl, Bernadette Castro, whose father invented that famous piece of furniture. I wish the video had the old Castro jingle: “Who was the first to conquer space? Castro Convertibles!” The best I could do was this much newer ad which shows the antique commercial in the inset.

We had a convertible sofa in our house, but never converted it into a bed. I was always tempted to try–I mean, if a little girl could do it, I could do it, too. But I never dared to do it, for fear I wouldn’t be able to put it back together again.

Let me see if I can find that jingle for you.

Ah, here it is–complete with Dan Ingram’s radio sales pitch.


Memory Lane: The Lennon Sisters Sing ‘Paper of Pins’

This video, vintage 1956, has the Lennon Sisters, on The Lawrence Welk Show, singing a dear old folk song, A Paper of Pins–one of the first songs I ever heard on a record: one of those little red records they used to have for kids.

Grandma never missed Lawrence Welk, and the Lennon Sisters were her favorite. This video brings back fond memories of staying overnight with Grandma and Grandpa and my aunts, and wondering why they chose to watch this stuff.

Now that I’m as old as my grandparents were then (if not older–but to a little boy, everybody over 40 is downright ancient), and part of my job is to keep track of things like claiming that drinking milk makes you a Nazi, jawohl, I don’t wonder about it anymore. Jump on my bike and pedal down Memory Lane for all I’m worth. Stop in and see the Lennon Sisters. And maybe even sack out on a Castro Convertible–remember those?


Bonus Video: Clint Eastwood Sings

Before he was a movie star, Clint Eastwood co-starred in Rawhide, a classic TV Western, vintage 1960 and thereabouts. The song he sings here, Beyond the Sun Over the Mountain, was auxiliary theme music for the show–and I always thought it was a mighty fine song. I only just found out it was composed by Russell Garcia, whose music soundtrack for The Time Machine (1960) is some of the most haunting movie music ever written.

You might want to try this one as a lullaby. I’ll bet it’ll work.

P.S.–The two guys assisting Eastwood in the scene were among the best character actors ever–Buddy Ebsen (Beverly Hillbillies) and Paul Brinegar. Now that was television!


Sequel: Nabisco’s Prehistoric Beasts

Image result for nabisco prehistoric mammals

After the Age of Dinosaurs, so we’ve all been told, came the Age of Mammals. And after Nabisco finished packing tiny little plastic dinosaurs as free prizes inside boxes of Wheat and Rice Honeys, they moved on to prehistoric mammals.

I loved these just as much as I loved the dinosaurs, and I’ve been able to save a few of them. I’m a fiend for prehistoric mammals, and have recruited a lot of them for appearances in my Bell Mountain novels. King Ryons rides–or rather, clings precariously to the top of–a Baluchitherium at the Siege of Obann, and a Saber Tooth Tiger features in the climax of The Last Banquet. I’ve shed all that Darwinian baggage, but I hope I’ll never cease to admire and enjoy these spectacular examples of God’s handiwork. With the whole universe and all of time and space at His disposal, I’m sure God has hung onto His Baluchitherium, somewhere… as I’ve hung onto mine.

(P.S.–Ignore that “Giant Sloth” label on one of the toys. That’s a Barylambda, or I’m Spartacus. And Nabisco deserved great credit for popularizing this very little-known creature as a toy.)


Memory Lane: Nabisco Dinosaurs

Ah, there they are! The whole gang. Free Inside! For a little golden while in the 1950s, these gloriously crude little dinosaurs came free inside boxes of Nabisco cereal–Wheat Honeys and Rice Honeys, to wit. You can only imagine with what eagerness I opened each fresh box of cereal and rooted around until I found my prize.

Actually these figures were a little smaller than pictured above, which made it terribly easy to lose them in the sandbox. I still have a few of them, and I wouldn’t part with them for all the tea in China.

Looking back, I’m amazed at what little it took to make kids happy, back then. Well, these toys made me happy, at any rate. So did a 5-cent pack of baseball cards, which costs $5 now and probably makes no one happy.

All right, maybe you’re not into dinosaurs. But there were all kinds of nifty prizes in cereal, those days. Little plastic figures of characters in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (remember that?); bronze or silver-colored plastic doodads representing famous breeds of dogs; little spacemen, The Spoonmen, that you could attach to your cereal spoon… little cars, little speedboats. All of them simple, tiny, cheap–and lovable.

I don’t even what to know what they’re offering 9-year-olds today. I’m sure it would depress me.


A Song from My Childhood

Sorry! I didn’t mean to imply that this song was contemporaneous with my childhood (and I’d like to see Joe Collidge try to spell that!)–The Glendy Burk by Stephen Foster, vintage 1851. I wasn’t around for The Ballad of Ramses II, either.

No–this was just an old steamboat song that we were taught in first grade, back when it was still unobjectionable to call boys and girls boys and girls. We didn’t go in for steamboats much, here in New Jersey, but we still knew they were part of our heritage. Kind of a romantic part, at that.

Will anybody look back on this present age as a romantic part of any heritage?

Heaven forbid.


Memory Lane: Howard Johnson’s

Image result for images of howard johnson's restaurant

Something good was lost when the Howard Johnson’s restaurants faded from the landscape.

When my father took us to see Grammy, he often stopped at HoJo’s on the way home and bought us kids ice cream cones. Howard Johnson’s raspberry sherbet–wow! The only thing that could compare with it was Howard Johnson’s black raspberry sherbet.

And HoJo’s fried clams–aah, delightful! At the HoJo’s in East Lansing, Michigan, they used to have “All You Can Eat Night” every Tuesday–and I’d go there and chow down on fried clams.

Everywhere was the trademark orange-and-aqua color scheme. And it didn’t matter where you were: HoJo’s was always HoJo’s, coast to coast. They made their own ice cream, by the way, and were justly proud of it. What I wouldn’t give for a pint of Howard Johnson’s black raspberry in my freezer.

But the whole enterprise has just sort of dwindled away, leaving naught but happy memories.


The Orchestra Song

Remember this weird little exercise from music class, circa second grade? Everybody sang something different, and yet when it was all put together, you had a harmony. In theory. When our class sang it, it sounded like a barnyard invaded by a wolf.

“The clarinet, the clarinet goes doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle-det…” We never got it right. But this video is what it was supposed to sound like.


Memory Lane: Travels With My Aunts

Image result for images of world map 1960

My mother’s unmarried sisters, Gertie, Millie, and Joan, lived in the same house all their lives, with their mother and father, and worked at the same jobs all their lives. You might think that was boring, but you’d be wrong: it freed them up to do what they really, really wanted to do.

What they did was travel. Not like travel is now, with everybody doing it, jet planes, computers, etc. We’re talking the 1950s and 60s, with propeller-driven airliners and luxury ocean liners. It was glamorous, back then. And very few people did it. But my aunts did it practically every year, usually in the summer, and there wasn’t much of the globe they didn’t cover.

They started out seeing America, places like Yellowstone Park and the Grand Canyon, then Canada and Alaska, back when Alaska was an exotic destination. Before it was a state. By the time they were done, they’d been to Central America, Egypt (where Millie had a bout of claustrophobia inside the Great Pyramid–imagine that!), Norway, Iceland, England, Spain, Italy, East Africa (lunch at The Black Cat Cafe in Uganda: not for the faint-hearted), South America, and Australia (where Gertie declined to hold the koala). They always brought back slides, boxes and boxes full of slides, and souvenirs. And they were much in demand as speakers at their churches. I think the only places that they didn’t go to were places that you weren’t allowed to go to, back then, like Russia or China.

I can’t stress this enough: back then, nobody was traveling like that–nobody but professional travel writers. And these three little maiden ladies from a small town in New Jersey. They could’ve easily hosted a TV show. But they liked their lives the way they were–stable, peaceful, and Christian… and seasoned with a hearty tablespoon of worldwide travel. A lot of us would have called that “adventure.” But for my aunts, it was just the way they liked to live.


Memory Lane: Zebras

Image result for images of stuffed toy zebra

Very young children have some fanciful ideas, and who knows where they come from?

When I was a very young child, a pre-schooler, I wanted to be a zebra when I grew up. How that ever came into my head, I don’t know. I think I was already in kindergarten when I finally realized this was impossible. But I never did outgrow my fondness for zebras. A lot of children are crazy about horses, and a striped horse living wild in Africa–well, how could you beat that?

Many years later, when I was married, and working as a newspaper editor, my Grammy phoned and asked me to come and see her, she had something for me. She wouldn’t tell me what it was, so I had to hustle over there to find out.

It was, of all things, a stuffed zebra. And I am looking at it right now, almost forty years later, as it sits proudly on my coffee table–looking at it and remembering her, and how very much she loved me, and I her. I was her first grandchild, the first of many; and she never forgot how fond I was of zebras.

Love your family while you’ve got ’em, folks! Of all the wonderful and precious gifts God gives you, your grandmas and grandpas are very high on the list.


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