Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Warning Will Robinson, Warning ! Nostalgic Old Fart On The Loose...

During our Christmas vacation year before last, I signed up on a genealogy website and after a lengthy hiatus, I have gone back to searching out records of my family ancestors.

Recently, I have found newspaper articles about aunts and an uncle (with photos) and birth records for cousins. It makes me feel so nostalgic and I start reminiscing about what it was like growing up in Fresno, California.

We lived in an apartment until I finished 2nd grade with my favorite teacher of all time, Mrs. Maglio. After that, we moved from the apartment to a house on North Del Mar. We thought it was a huge house, but when I look back now I realize it was quite small, but with a huge back yard where my father maintained a large garden every spring and summer. Sitting near the garden was our beloved Doughboy above ground swimming pool. My parents kept the swimming pool water clear and clean with a half gallon of household bleach added to the water every so often.

The house had three bedrooms and one bathroom. Can you imagine a house with only one bathroom?? There were seven of us ~ my parents and five of us girls. How did we ever survive with one toilet, one sink and one bathtub?

Boy, I can sure tell that I am getting old. Every time I watch a movie or television program, something invariably reminds me of "the way things used to be" when I was growing up, and maybe even when my kids were growing up.

Life is so different now. It was long before the Internet or the MAC; before semi-automatic weapons; before Pong, SEGA, Super Nintendo, Playstation, X-Box or Wii... Waayyyy back....I remember....

Hide and seek at dusk. The ice cream man.
Red light, green light. Marco, Polo.
Hopscotch, butterscotch, double Dutch, jacks, kickball, dodge ball. Mother May I?
Red Rover, red rover, let Terri come over...
Hula Hoops...I think my Uncle Vern may still have an 8-millimeter film of me walking and hula-hooping at the same time!
Wax lips and mustaches.

I remember...

Dinky Creek and the icy cold water. My Uncle Vern's friend jumped in the cold water without testing the water first and lost his breath. I thought he might drown. Camping at Bass Lake. That's where I learned to swim..

Saturday Morning cartoons consisted of Road Runner, Bugs Bunny, Felix the Cat and Popeye and very, very short commercials.

In the summer, walking barefoot...all the time, everywhere. Getting a million mosquito bites. When I didn't notice, let alone care, if my fingernails were dirty.
I remember playing Cops and Robbers or Cowboys and Indians or Teacher and Class (before I was even in school).

I remember...

walking to school, no matter what the weather. Running till I was out of breath. Laughing so hard that my stomach hurt. Jumping on the bed. Pillow fights. And getting in trouble for it.

Spinning around, getting dizzy and falling down ~ on purpose ~ and laughing about it.
Being tired from playing.... Remember that?

I remember...

When the absolute worst embarrassment was being picked last for a team.
War was a card game. Water balloons were the ultimate weapon. A single card from the deck fastened in the spokes transformed any bike into a motorcycle.

I remember eating Kool-aid powder from the envelope, my tongue and dipping finger stained bright red.

Keds. And the only time anyone wore sneakers was for gym.

If I got an allowance, a quarter was a decent amount. Even better when the tooth fairy traded my lost tooth for a dime. Whoo Hoo! 35¢. And, I'd reach into a mud puddle for a penny. Christmas shopping at Ben Franklin 5 & Dime. Buying Evening in Paris "perfume" in the blue bottle for my mother.

I remember...

Service stations...Yes, they sold gasoline, but you got your windshield cleaned, oil checked, and gas pumped, without asking, for free, every time. People were actually hired to do all that FOR you! That's why they were called SERVICE stations.

I remember when laundry detergent had prizes hidden just beneath the surface of the detergent. Our family accumulated a full set of free glasses and dishes from the prizes hidden inside the box.

I remember when everyone else's mom was at home when the kids got there.

All my female teachers wore dresses everyday and all of my male teachers wore neckties, even the coaches. Only the "hoods" wore jeans.

The only drug in our house was orange-flavored "baby" aspirin.

I remember clotheslines and clothesline poles. Back in the day, before clothes dryers, we hung things on a clothesline. Every home in our neighborhood had one. Hanging clothes outside on the line meant that someone was going to have to iron them ~ you know, with an iron and ironing board...remember those? I remember retrieving the dry clothes off the clothesline for my mom, burying my face in the stiff towels and sheets and taking a deep breath. That's what sunshine smells like. I don't think we bought a dryer until we moved to northern California, probably somewhere around 1960. Our clothes never smelled the same.

I remember home-made ice cream. Before Ben & Jerry's. Even before our local Baskin-Robbins franchise. You know, the real kind with real cream, sugar and fresh fruit, put into the can that was surrounded by salt and ice fit into a large tub. My dad would sit and turn the crank by hand until it was frozen and silky smooth. My favorite was fresh peach ice cream, using the peaches from our own trees in the back yard. Boy oh boy, that was good.

I remember our first TV set... I can still remember the day we got it. My dad had help hoisting the huge antenna up on the roof. When we finally turned it on, it took five minutes for the TV to warm up, then all we could get was a test pattern until about five o'clock. We'd have programming until about 10 or 11:00 pm, then a test pattern again.

Before TV, there was radio. I remember sitting on the floor, playing with my toys listening to the Lone Ranger, Our Miss Brooks, Amos n Andy, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly and The Great Gildersleeve (Leeeeeroyyyy!).

Window air conditioners... I know, they still sell them, but back in the day they were a modern luxury! We cooled our house with this box hooked up to a water hose that dripped water through it. Probably about as effective as blowing a fan across a block of ice. But, ahhhhh, it felt so good. Our house on North Del Mar had a swamp cooler on top of the roof. We thought it was the bomb!

I remember when all cars had stick shifts. That's how I learned to drive a car. I can't count how many times I stalled the car not giving it enough gas! But when I learned how to down shift while coming up to a stop sign...well, then I was cool.

Before pants with words written on the butt and "whale tales", there were petticoats and poodle skirts made of felt...You needed those petticoats for the poodle skirts to "swish" just right.

I remember roller skating in an indoor roller rink...We didn't think twice about putting on a pair of skanky looking rented skates that had been used by who knows how many sweaty pre-teens and teens. I remember when they used to call, "All Skate," "Backwards Only," and when they announced the dreaded "Couples Skate" because no one ever picked me.

The Kennedy Assassination (1963)...I was a senior in high school. It was just after lunch and the bell had rung for class. The bell stopped ringing and the principal announced it to all the classes and in the halls through the loudspeaker. In all of my remaining classes, we listened to the radio. No one talked. No one joked. It was quiet all afternoon. Even as we filed out of the classrooms when school was dismissed, the halls were eerily quiet.

I remember the first time I saw Elvis Presley...On The Ed Sullivan Shoe...sorry Show ~ that a joke back then, too. My parents' thought Elvis was disgusting and weren't going to let us watch it. It was a huge deal when the cameras didn't pan down below Elvis' chest. I didn't really understand what the big deal was.

Then Fats Domino came out with Blueberry Hill...People went nuts, including my parents, because they thought it was a dirty song.

I remember when milkmen delivered real glass bottles, put in a crate on the front porch. Our milk came with a layer of cream on top and we'd shake the bottle to mix it up.

When I was growing up, we didn't dare talk back to an adult. When someone "cussed," it was a big deal.
No one got grounded, but nearly everyone got a "spanking" at one time or another.

Our greatest fear was getting in trouble at school, going to the principal's office and the principal calling our parents. We didn't worry about kidnappers, serial killers, pedophiles, gangs and guns.

We didn't have all the conveniences and gadgets. We had our imaginations. We had a lot more freedom. We had piece of mind.

No comments: