Tag Archives: nostalgia

Memory Lane: ‘Branded’

Remember this? Vintage 1960s TV, it aired on Sunday night: Branded starred TV workhorse and former National League baseball player Chuck Connors as a soldier falsely charged with cowardice in the face of the enemy, and the evil reputation that followed him wherever he went. A classic TV Western.

We kids had a favorite variation on the theme song:

Stranded! Stuck on the toilet bowl!/ What do you do when you’re stranded, and you don’t have a roll? Nevertheless, a really cool show.

Memory Lane: Slot Racing

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Hey, remember these–slot racing cars?

It’s my brother Mark’s birthday today, the weather is atrocious, and he and I were on the phone reminiscing about our old slot racing cars. He still has our set, vintage 1964; and after a fashion, it still works.

The cars had little pins underneath that kept them fitted to the slots on the track, and metal brushes to pick up the electricity from those white lines you see in the photo; they’re wires. You couldn’t steer the cars, of course, but you could control how fast they went. And you could lay out the track with enough curves to make speed control a kind of art. Do you slow down for the curve, and maybe let the other guy’s car pull ahead? Or do you go for the gusto, and hope the rubber guard rail keeps your car from winding up on the other side of the room?

The cars were only two inches long, tops, and you could customize them by fitting them with tiny racing slicks or fiddling around with the actuator on the inside: that was the thing that went up and down, moving the gear that spun the wheels. We had the first-generation slot racers, the design of which was so simple, even I could understand it.

It was a very simple pleasure, to be sure, compared to the fancy-schmancy electronic toys kids have today. But sometimes it’s the simple pleasures that you remember.

‘How I Got Lost in the Woods’ (2015)

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this when I was writing it, but this story is a metaphor (even though it’s true). We all get lost, at some point in our lives. We all need someone wiser, infinitely wiser, to guide us back to where we belong.

And I think we all know whom that is, don’t we?


‘Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella’

This is an old French hymn, and I haven’t heard it since I was a kid and we sang it in school: Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella, performed by the Robert Shaw Chorale. I was thinking of this carol a few days ago, wondering if I’d be able to find it, wondering if I’d remembered it right; and there it was today, on the youtube home page.

Yes! We sang Christmas songs at Christmas-time in school, because it was a better, cleaner, saner time, and Christmas was allowed.

Bonus Hymn, ‘To God Be the Glory’

I had a desire for this hymn, this evening: To God Be the Glory. I don’t know who’s performing it here, but it sounds like an old-fashioned church congregation singing to the accompaniment of a piano… played by a lady in a hat.

Memory Lane: Gracie’s New Year’s Eve

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We had a local character on our block, Gracie, who was, shall we say, flamboyant. She drove a pink Cadillac. She decorated her house to look like something in a fairy tale. And her outdoor Christmas decorations were indescribable.

She also used to go to Times Square in New York City every New Year’s Eve, and to the Roosevelt Hotel where Guy Lombardo played. She always hunted for the cameras, and several times succeeded in getting on TV. Most of the people in our town saw her on TV on New Year’s Eve.

After several decades of this, one of the local newspapers got interested and did a feature story on her. In it, Gracie’s age was given as 60-something.

When my Aunt Gertie read that, she almost fell out of her chair. “Why, that old so-and-so!” she cried (and a lot more than once). “Sixty? Sixty? Why, she was in my class in high school!” Aunt Gertie was in her mid-80s at the time, and somehow Gracie’s reported youth really rankled with her.

Ah, well. So what are some of you guys doing for New Year’s Eve tonight? We’re staying here, way too bloody cold outside for anything else. We have lots of fun movies to watch, our Christmas tree is here, and I have very nice Christmas cookies. Plus we have the “Feed me, feed me!” Twins, aka our cats, to keep us hopping.

We’ll understand if your plans are so wild, you don’t dare tell us about them.

The Answer to the Trivia Question

So who was the only player to lead the American League in RBIs three times during the 1950s?

Not Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Ted Williams, or Rocky Colavito…

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Jackie Jensen did it in 1955, ’58, and ’59–a fantastic achievement, considering the quality of the competition–especially in 1959: Mantle, Berra, Killebrew, Colavito, Williams: sheesh!

Jackie hung ’em up early because the American League expanded and he didn’t want to spend yet more time away from his family–for which he deserves more than one hat-tip.

Memory Lane: At Home with Mommy and the Ironing

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One of my earliest memories came back to me this morning.

I’m not old enough yet to go to school. I’m sitting on the floor of our little sitting room, playing with blocks while my mother does her ironing. Because she’s a Giants fan, she has the ballgame on: we have one of those primitive TV sets with all the knobs, you’ve really got to fiddle with it, to get a good picture. The Giants are playing the Brooklyn Dodgers, and my mother carefully lists for me the many moral defects of the Dodgers–except for Roy Campanella: not a word against him!–and explains how no right-thinking person would ever root for them. And I don’t know why, but I love the smell of ironing, and the texture of the rug, and the grainy black-and-white picture on the screen… and my mother’s company.

The very best day I ever had at school was not as good as this. Nowhere near as good as this.

Memory Lane: Sir Lancelot

My mother was a voracious reader with a love of history and legend, and she passed it on to me. I grew up on stories of King Arthur and his knights, especially her two favorites, Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad. My brother and I had toy knights by those names: they wound up having a lot of adventures with animals, dinosaurs, cowboys, and cars.

In 1956-57 there was a TV show, Adventures of Sir Lancelot, which I made sure to watch. I remember particularly well an episode in which Sir Lancelot discovered an out-of-the-way Roman fort manned by legionaries who didn’t know the Roman Empire ended some hundred years ago. Very cool!

All these years later, thanks to my mother’s stories, I’m still a King Arthur buff, still reading and writing about him and his times. Someday I’ll have to tell you how I figured out how the story of the Sword in the Stone was very likely true, albeit somewhat garbled by the passage of centuries.

Oh, to put on my armor, sling that shield across my shoulder, hop up onto my mighty steed, snatch up my lance, and ride out on adventures! My mother lived long enough to see my Bell Mountain books in print: I hope she knows that she was the one who got me started.

‘Attack of the Crab Monsters’

I cannot understand my wife’s total lack of interest in such cinematic treasures as Attack of the Crab Monsters. She must be a racist. This 1957 gem of a movie accurately portrays what must be done in the event that giant crabs try to take over the world. We have been warned!

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