Tag Archives: nostalgia

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.

Memory Lane: ‘Supercar’

Back in 1962, all the 8-year-olds in my neighborhood ran around singing the theme song from Supercar, a kids’ TV show starring wooden puppets. Anybody out there remember it? C’mon! Mike Mercury behind the wheel of Supercar! You don’t remember that?

Watch carefully, then see if you can answer the question, “What’s wrong with this picture?” I mean, talk about cutting corners on a special effect–!

My brother had a model of a car that, like Supercar, was supposed to ride on downward-thrusting jets of air rather than wheels. You made it do that by blowing through a rubber tube. Alas, no one in my family had enough wind to lift the car. There it sat, immoveable. *sigh*

Memory Lane: Now They Tell Me!

See the source image

In 1953 somebody invented a toy submarine that would dive and surface if you filled it with baking powder. In 1954 it became available as a “free inside” prize in Kellogg’s cereals.

Oh, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one of these! Only now I find out that you had to put baking powder in it–not baking soda! Baking soda won’t work. The sub will just sit there in the water, usually floating on its side. You know a submarine’s in trouble when it’s floating on its side.

Confound it! I know now what I did wrong. My father did it wrong, too. He filled the kitchen sink, put the dratted baking soda in the sub, and presto–nothing. We tried again and again, and the blamed thing never worked. Well, waddaya want for “free inside”? At least the cereal worked.

The confusion between baking powder and baking soda was so widespread, the WikiPedia article on this toy takes some pains to explain it. But there was no WikiPedia in 1955.

I’ve mistrusted submarine travel ever since. Thank goodness the Navy knows the difference between baking powder and baking soda!

‘Your Old Toys Are Worth Big Bucks’ (2014)

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The Marx dinosaur play set. Mine was an earlier, simpler version. But look at all the dinosaurs and cavemen!

I have to think about this. The dinosaur play set my father said we couldn’t afford, back circa 1960, cost $5. It contained many toy dinosaurs. Now, just one of the smallest of those little plastic dinosaurs sells for $5. All the dinosaurs and cave men in the set, sold individually, would fetch several hundred dollars–several times what my father was earning per week at the Ford plant. And that was a good job!


I keep these toys because they remind me of the people who gave them to me: my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and my mother and father are all gone, but I can still feel their love. When I handle one of these, it calls up sunny days in the sandbox.

Besides which, I still think these were really cool toys.

The Doll That Scared a Boy Silly

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It is not the usual thing for boys to be afraid of dolls. Nevertheless, I knew a boy, who grew up to be a star athlete and a model citizen, who had a dreadful experience with a certain doll. I must not reveal his name, lest he be embarrassed by this anecdote. For the sake of convenience, I’ll call him Ariobarzanes.

As he was a new boy in the neighborhood, my friends and I decided to introduce him to our local wilderness, preparing him with lurid tales of Hangman’s Tree, which stood at the very heart of it. To this day, we whispered to him, as we followed the trail beside the creek, some evil force continued to string up people from that tree. But it ought to be safe to go there in the daytime. Probably.

Meanwhile, my friend Ellen, a very good tree climber, went on ahead to set the stage.

We had poor Ario pretty well pumped up by the time we entered the clearing where the tree glowered down on all of Middlesex County. And there Bobby and I stopped short, pointing and crying out, “Oh, no, not again! Oh, no!”

A hapless little doll hung from the lowest branch, swaying dismally in the wind.

With a great cry, Ariobarzanes turned and ran all the way back home without stopping even once, showing great promise of the track star he would one day be. He didn’t even need to use the path: he made one of his own.

I admit that this was a naughty prank, but Ario soon laughed it off and he and I became great friends. Best freakin’ shortstop we ever had, too.

But now you see, I’m sure, that under the right circumstances, a boy can be scared by a doll.

Memory Lane: Football for Kids–Without Adults

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Riding my bike this morning, after a solid week of rain, I saw kids playing football–flag football, organized by adults and under adult supervision.

Ain’t the way we played football.

Yes, we followed the sports seasons; so about now, at this point in the year, the kids in my old neighborhood would be changing over from baseball to football.

Without uniforms, without a scoreboard, without coaches, helmets, parents in the stands, or sponsors. Without having to try to get our names in the sports section of our local paper. Just kids playing football, with only three, four, or five kids to a team. And five was a lot. Three was more likely, and sometimes we played with just two.

We played for as long as we pleased. The best yard for it was Mrs. Thomas’ yard, which had no trees, and she didn’t mind us playing there. The only hazard was her oil tank, up against the back of the house. I remember one time when my friend Ellen caught a pass for a touchdown, but couldn’t stop. Boom! Right into the tank. But kids were tough in those days, and after a few brief moments, she was able to continue.

Sometimes we played tackle, sometimes two-hand touch. We had no goalposts, so field goals were out. We had special rules. “No dumping the hiker,” otherwise hiking the ball to the quarterback would be a thankless job that no one wanted. If we were playing touch, we made a rule that you could lateral to yourself and the touch wouldn’t count if the ball was in the air. We would have loved to try a flying wedge, but there were never enough kids for that. Usually we ruled that the defenders, or defender, would have to count to three or four before charging across the line of scrimmage to grab the quarterback. And we had to be careful of the rose hedge that separated my yard from Mrs. Thomas’.

There was no adult to lay down rules, so we made up our own, kept the ones that worked, and forgot about the ones that didn’t. The games went on for hours and hours, and I don’t remember anyone ever getting hurt, beyond a scrape or a bruise or two.

Playing on our own taught us innovation, cooperation, negotiation and compromise–none of which are to be found in organized sports. I’m afraid it didn’t teach us to be docile citizens awaiting the decisions of authority. My parents only laughed when I mentioned joining the Pop Warner league. “You’d hate it!” said my mother. And I see now she was right.

We played as our parents played when they were kids, and it was golden.

I’ll bet they let you play like that in Heaven.

Memory Lane: My Uncle’s Dog

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Our family was a close one, and on weekends there was always plenty of visiting back and forth.

Often we went to see my Uncle Ferdie, my father’s kid brother, who was approximately twice the size of my father, who was no stripling. Ferdie enlisted in the Marines in World War II, but because he looked like a recruiting poster come to life, they packed him off to Puerto Rico to be an admiral’s chauffeur. Later in life he became an inventor with RCA, with a ton of patents to his name. But I digress.

Uncle Ferdie had a German shepherd named Shep, who always barked like crazy when we visited. I was kind of afraid of dogs and I was very afraid of Shep, who was bigger than me. I should have reasoned that with a house already full of little girls, Ferdie was unlikely to keep a dangerous beast that would eat children. But at seven or eight years old, my reasoning powers were limited.

I don’t know what finally persuaded me to approach Shep: temporary insanity, maybe. Imagine my astonishment when Shep proved that he only barked so much because he loved children and wanted to make friends. This gigantic ferocious dog just loved me! So from then on I joined my cousins in playing with Shep. I guess I knew, instinctively, that my uncle wouldn’t have anything in his house that would hurt me. Well, he did have a .22 rifle, but we never saw it until we were old enough to shoot safely, under his supervision. That was just way cool.

The lesson I learned from Shep was that appearances can be deceiving–in this case, very deceiving.

Memory Lane: ‘Sergeant Bilko’

As a kid in the 50s and early 60s, I just loved this show! It was “The Phil Silvers Show,” but who didn’t just call it “Sergeant Bilko”?

Phil Silvers played the oily, slick, fast-talking Sergeant Bilko to Paul Ford’s longsuffering, endlessly put-upon Colonel Hall. Bilko came up with one scheme after another, always several jumps ahead of everybody else.

We had a peacetime draft in those days, so an awful lot of people could relate to an Army comedy. If we’d had a few more real-life Sergeant Bilkos in our military, we could have won wars without fighting. Just turn Bilko loose on the enemy: he’d cheat the enemy’s pants off, and the enemy would thank him for it.

Ah, Phil Silvers! A very funny man. He had a long career in movies and TV, but “Sergeant Bilko” was his signature achievement.

But it’s probably a good thing more kids didn’t grow up to be like Sergeant Bilko.

Those who did, probably wound up in Congress or on Wall Street.

Memory Lane: Trolls and Wishniks

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Remember these, from the early 1960s? First they were called trolls, then “Wishniks.” Originally invented by a Danish toymaker, they took off like a rocket and soon everybody was selling knockoffs. As I recall it, every girl in  our junior high school had one of these attached to her purse. These toys sold out easily, and some parents had to go to a lot of trouble to provide them for their kids. Sort of like what happened with Cabbage Patch Kids, much later. But we are talking Bronze Age stuff today.

Wishniks never entirely went away. You can still get them, and they come in many different sizes. When I was a liquidator I tried to corral a batch of keychain-sized Wishniks, but a competitor beat me to it.

Before you write them off as just another toy fad, I have heard that Wishniks now constitute a strong majority in the Oregon State Legislature.

‘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.

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