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Posts Tagged ‘Nostalgia’

I remember little bits about my first day in Kindergarten. Back then, since hardly any kids went to preschool or dance class or played pee-wee ball, we usually didn’t know another soul in the classroom. You’d think that’d be traumatic for some kids – especially a little paranoid four-year-old like me – but I couldn’t wait to go to school. Luckily, my best-friend/next-door-neighbor, Randy, and I were the same age and we went to school together that first day. But when we got there, he cried like a little baby so his Mom took him home to wait for the next school year. Still, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get into that classroom and eat paste.

Kindergarten featured a lot of finger painting, coloring, singing songs and playing in the fake little kitchen, but my favorite part of the day was snack time. Every day we’d get graham crackers and milk. My second favorite part of the day was recess, for obvious reasons. My least favorite part of the day was nap time. I don’t know about you, but I could never fall asleep on a dirty plastic mat on the floor. I’d just lay there. Apparently I was resting on my left side on Picture Day.

Yes, my Dad cut my bangs (see: “Papa Don’s Discount Salon“) and my Mom put that crazy bow on my head, on top of what was at one time early in the morning my hair pulled back tightly and neatly into a ponytail. Anyway, nap time was magical if you were the kid who got to be the “Wake-Up Fairy.” Each week several kids were assigned different tasks to carry out for the week. I can only remember two tasks: one was the Wake-Up Fairy and the other was the “Kid who had to make sure all the jump-ropes, four-square balls and other playground equipment were accounted for after recess.” I remember that task vividly because the one time I had it, I was trying to fit all the playground stuff into the big storage closet and a big wooden post fell on my head. Anyway, I always wanted to be the Wake-Up Fairy. That lucky kid received the magical wand from the teacher and was able to get up a few minutes early from nap time to go around and touch each kid on the head with the wand to wake them up. It was the first taste of power for a little kid.

Once I hit first grade, it was serious business. We had to stay in school all … day … long. No naps, snacks or skipping home at noon. But I still loved it. We actually ate lunch in the cafeteria. Everyone popped open their Partridge Family, Campus Queen, Archies or Superman metal lunchboxes and dug into food that had been sitting unrefrigerated in the back of classrooms for four hours. And everybody had milk money (usually a dime) taped to the inside of their lunchbox. Some sandwich and snack trading would happen, but all liverwurst, deviled ham and olive loaf sandwiches ended up in the trash. The week after a Payday Friday, Mom often packed my favorite lunch: a PB&J, a little plastic baggie of BBQ chips, and a few apple slices or half an orange; sometimes even a few store-brand cookies thrown in to make it fancy.

There were several magical days every elementary school kid would wait for each year. First was Halloween, naturally, because we got to dress up in costumes and walk around the school in a little parade. And we got candy. After Halloween, we waited for Christmas to roll around. There would be Christmas crafts, songs and other activities for the week leading up to Christmas break, and then usually a fancy party the day before Christmas vacation. And we got candy.

Nothing was quite as exciting as the holidays as a kid, but there were a few recurring events at our elementary school I always looked forward to. Besides field trips, I loved Ice Cream Days; I’d get a dime each time to buy a Lemon Bar or Fudgsicle. But one of the most magical days was Scholastic Book Day. Every few months or so the teacher would hand out Scholastic Book Order Flyers.

Scholastic Book Club Flyers by Enokson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We’d pick out several books in our flyer, take the form home for our parents to approve and then bring it back to school with an envelope of dollar bills and coins for our purchase. Then we had to wait for the day the books arrived. When they did, it was like Christmas. Each kid who ordered books received their little bundle, packaged together with a big rubber band. I guess it was the early version of Amazon. It was so exciting getting your own brand-new books. And if you had brothers and sisters, your book supply at home was even sweeter. We had a cool, built-in cabinet in our house with lots of shelves and a fancy pull-down door accented with a metal treble clef and music staff. That’s where we kept all of our books and encyclopedias (Note to Millennials: Encyclopedias are primitive book versions of the internet). When my sister, Coleen, was a baby, she’d go to that cabinet and pull every book off the shelf. My Mom said it was a daily routine.

I guess getting new books back then is similar to the experience when kids today get a new tablet, or phone, or laptop or electronic game. Only when I was a kid, no matter how much we loved those shiny new books, we’d drop them in a heartbeat to go run around, ride bikes, climb trees or run through the sprinklers with other kids in the neighborhood. Actually, I have lots of unread books lying around today because I’m still always outside running through the sprinklers.

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When I was four and Tracy was five, my parents took us to amusement park central, Southern California. We obviously went to Disneyland, though the only things I can remember about that visit are the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Adventure Thru Inner Space. I don’t even remember Cinderella’s Castle. If you look closely below, you’ll see me and Tracy standing in front of it, with Papa Don nearby on the right, making sure we don’t get kidnapped.

??????????????

I have a vague memory of The Enchanted Tiki Room and all the crazy animatronic birds in that tropical setting, though my Mom said I fell asleep about five minutes into the show. But I was wide awake during the Adventure Thru Inner Space. They actually shrunk the riders on the trams as they went through the ride. It would turn us into the size of atoms. At least that’s what I thought. There was a big microscope thing with a glass tube and we could see teeny tiny riders moving through it inside. I was mesmerized by it. The Adventure Thru Inner Space was eventually replaced with Star Tours, and well, I guess we all know where that idea is headed now.

During that trip, we also visited Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm. Imagine planning that vacation now. Of course admission tickets weren’t $3,000 dollars back then. Park refreshments probably weren’t that expensive then either. In fact, here Tracy and I are enjoying tasty, ice-cold sodas with Woody the Woodpecker:

woody

You think we’d stop slurping those sodas long enough to smile for a photo. But hey, there was likely a month of Powdered Milk that preceded those treats, so the brain freeze was probably well worth it.

Since I was only four, I just have a few specific memories about the Happiest Place on Earth, but I remember a “feeling,” like a happy, sunshine-y feeling. I really have no recollection of Universal Studios either, except for watching a cowboy get shot off a building. And I don’t remember a thing about Knott’s Berry Farm, except for visiting the replica of Independence Hall, with its replica of the Liberty Bell inside. Here’s a tiny, blurry glimpse of me and Tracy standing in front of it:

??????????????

Even though we’re micro-sized in the photo, you can tell we’re wearing matching clothes again. We were basically Irish Twins, and Mary Ann always dressed us alike. She either made our clothes or ordered them from the Sears catalog. Here’s another example:

twins

Just kidding, that’s not us. We didn’t get the part.

Here’s Independence Hall at Knott’s Berry Farm again:

hall

See that narrow path next to the flag pole? I believe that is the actual spot of my first clear memory as a human. It’s where I fell down, and immediately started crying. Not because I was in pain, but just for the drama. See, I think I fell down on purpose so I could yell and cry so my parents would turn around to see how far behind them their precious child was, and in danger of being lost or kidnapped. I think I was about five feet behind them, but when you’re four, it seems like miles. So I wailed, and my Dad came back, surveyed my traumatic injuries, and held my hand for the rest of the day.

A few years later, my grandparents started giving us Knott’s Berry Farm jelly samplers for Christmas. I couldn’t wait for that thing. There was Cherry Jelly with real chunks of cherries in it. But even better, there was Mint Jelly. Obviously Mary Ann wouldn’t serve that with lamb, so I ate it on toast. No one else wanted any, so more for me. I practically licked that jar inside out when it was empty. I’ve still never had lamb with mint jelly. Pretty sure I never will.

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I’m trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight but the fridge and cupboards are pretty bare. It’s looking like breakfast for dinner. At the same time, the blog is pretty neglected, so I thought I might find some inspiration in the kitchen to write about. Nope. Sometimes when I can’t think of anything to write about, I look through the wonderful “ABC of Casseroles” cook book to see which recipe I can make fun of.  I found this:

recipe

But to be fair, a lot of people would probably like that rice and beef concoction. Not me, but a lot of people. I can definitely make fun of the casserole’s name though: “Quickie Jumble” Casserole. So … many … jokes. I could mock that ridiculous poem, too, that points out how probably every person waiting to eat one of the dishes inspired by this cookbook will definitely be starving because they’re not gonna eat it.

So I started going through some old papers and found a handwritten recipe of my Mom’s. I thought, Hmm? Seven Seas Casserole? That sounds fun, and a little exotic. Maybe this was some fancy South Pacific-inspired shrimp or lobster bake thing I never knew about that Mary Ann had up her sleeve.

I should’ve known better:

seven-seas-1

seven-seas-2

This could be the Tuna Casserole that Julie always made on “Welcome Back Kotter.” Apparently it’s some fancy recipe from Minute Rice.

I actually remember eating Mom’s Tuna Casserole once. I just never knew there was a fancy name for it; probably to make people wanna try it. My sister, Tracy, always remembered Mom’s Tuna Casserole, and always suggests I write about it, but I never knew a recipe existed. She probably would love it if I actually made this thing, just for old time’s sake. I actually have all of these ingredients on hand. Yeah … I’m still making breakfast for dinner.

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When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the day my parents would let me use the phone to call someone. It was such a magical idea, thinking I could talk to someone who wasn’t in the same room with me. When I was nine, I finally got the chance. Of course the only person I could think of to call was my next-door-neighbor, Randy; even though I could simply yell to him out our back door if I wanted to. But I didn’t care, I was gonna get to stick my finger in that fancy rotary dialer and whirl it around seven times to reach Randy. And hopefully no one else would already be on the phone when I lifted the receiver off the hook – we actually had a party line shared with another household back in the day.

Like probably every other family in the early ’70s, our phone was mounted on the kitchen wall. And under the phone was a metal cart with this setting on top:

avocado

I think you know where this is going. Naturally I got that long, curly phone cord wrapped around the toothpicks, and that jar with the avocado tree that was never going to grow crashed onto the floor. That was the end of my phone privileges for a while.

Eventually I was able to talk on the phone again. And I didn’t stop until I was 18. It seems like I lived to talk on the phone, like most kids. Now I hardly ever talk on the phone. There are so many other things to do on it. We may not be the “Jetsons,” or the society envisioned in “Back to the Future II,” but we’re pretty close. Just think of the hundreds of items a single smartphone replaces today. Here’s a sampling:

  • Actual House Phone
  • Camera
  • Video Camera
  • Stereo
  • TV
  • Video Games
  • Wristwatch
  • Computer
  • GPS
  • Tape Recorder
  • Alarm Clock
  • Calculator
  • Flashlight
  • Pedometer
  • Your favorite book(s)
  • Encyclopedias
  • Remote Control
  • Photo Albums
  • Yellow Pages
  • Datebook
  • Calendar
  • Timer
  • Stopwatch
  • Notepad

Not only can you save thousands not buying all that stuff above, but you don’t even have to go to the post office to send a letter, go to the library to do research, call information for a phone number, or even drive to the bank to make a deposit. And not only do our phones carry out a thousand different tasks for us, but they’re also so easy to use a toddler can operate one.

phone

So it’s no wonder we freak out if we lose our phone, or drop it in the toilet (I don’t recommend carrying your phone in your back pocket). Of course, phones still can’t make sandwiches. When I grabbed my phone and asked Google to make me a sandwich … well, try it for yourself.

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Okay, that title is just to get your attention. My Grandpa didn’t really make something called Pickle Soup. But I really did eat soup at my grandparent’s house once, and there were pickles in it.

My sisters and I loved visiting my Grandma and Grandpa when I was kid. B.K., as we affectionately called Grandpa, would always want to show us something like the latest project he was working on in his wood shop, and we’d follow along patiently, knowing he’d eventually lead us to his office to give us each a piece of candy. Our cousins lived right down the street, and all of my sisters and cousins would take turns rolling down the small hill in Grandma and Grandpa’s front yard until we’d run in the house itching like crazy from the grass. Grandma would give us each half an aspirin she crushed into a spoon of sugar water while saying “I told you so,” and then we’d sprawl out right in front of B.K.’s living room chair to watch TV. He had a bunch of little human remotes to change the channel, so he didn’t mind. He’d usually watch something like pro wrestling until we begged him to watch something else. Unless Moondog Mayne was wrestling that day – we loved to watch that crazy bastard eat broken glass and goldfish and what-not.

Whenever we’d spend the night, B.K. would tolerate our sleeping bag fort blocking his view to the TV set in the morning. He’d take us out to the orange tree in the backyard so we could pick fresh oranges to make juice for breakfast, which he’d squeeze himself. Grandma would make fried eggs, potatoes and bacon, or, sometimes … mush.

 

 

Grandma did all the cooking at the Coen homestead. For dinner, this usually consisted of elbow macaroni and red sauce, or cube steak, or … well, I actually can’t remember anything else. But whatever she made was awesome, because we were at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and all the cousins were there and everything was right with the world. Plus, that meant I didn’t have to eat Friday Night Casserole at my house.

Grandma also made the best iced tea on the planet. I’ve never been able to recreate it, or find any place that serves iced tea that comes close to hers. She brewed it on the stove, added plenty of sugar, and then served it in a fancy porcelain pitcher. My cousin Lori said she thinks the tea tasted so good because she would drink it while sitting happily on Grandpa’s lap. I can’t imagine it tasting better than it did, because it was already perfection. But, drinking it while sitting on B.K.’s lap would’ve been heaven. I’m fairly certain I never sat still long enough for that, cuz I’d usually consume about four glasses of tea and then run around the yard in a caffeine-fueled frenzy.

Though Grandma was the cook, I remember B.K. making soup once. His version of soup was very similar to Mary Ann’s idea for Friday Night Casserole. Just grab a pot, add water and toss in all kinds of stuff from the fridge. Actually, B.K.’s soup was actually pretty decent; the time I watched him make it, he used vegetables and hamburger. And he really did throw in a few dill pickles.

B.K. loved to save money in every way possible. He’d drive 10 miles out of his way to save a penny per gallon on gasoline. He rolled his own smokes. He told us stories of how he made his own beer in the bathtub – even after Prohibition ended. My Dad said B.K. glued tire tread on the bottom of Dad’s shoes when the soles were thin, instead of buying new shoes. I can remember B.K. telling us kids stories of how much things cost when he was younger. He said you could get a big bag full of groceries for $4.00. He also told us the story several times about the most economical meal at his favorite diner. B.K. would count off on his fingers everything that came on that plate … “a burger, with cheese, all the fixings, plus chips, and a pickle – all for two bits.” Two bits is old-timer fancy talk for a quarter. B.K. was resourceful and loved saving money. I guess living through the Depression will do that to you. My Dad used to always tell him, “You better spend all that money, or we’ll have to spend it when you’re gone.” I say the same thing to my Dad now. He doesn’t listen; which, I guess is fair, since I never did.

Hey, I just searched “Pickle Soup” on google and it actually exists:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/dill-pickle-soup-recipe.html

Holy crap, I hope Jay doesn’t read this post tonight.

 

 

 

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blue mooncourtesy of kevin phillips – pixabay

 

Tonight is a blue moon. It only happens once in a blue moon. (Thank you, I’ll be here all week.) Apparently, a blue moon isn’t a moon that looks blue in the sky, it’s when two full moons occur within the same calendar month – and the second one is called the blue moon.

So what’s the big deal? Well, spiritually you can take advantage of this time to purge, to bring things to a close, to start fresh. If you’re pregnant, you might want to try to take a nap and make sure your hospital bag is ready to go. If you’re a werewolf … sorry, you have two transformations this month. For me, I like to think the energy of this blue moon will bring me extra luck. Or it will simply create low and high tides. Whatever.

When I was a little kid, I remember going outside and just staring at the moon. I remember hearing there was a man in the moon, and that the moon was made of cheese … but mostly I just remember looking for astronauts. I was five when man first landed on the moon. That was a big deal back then. It was all everybody talked about. I was so amazed just thinking that a rocket ship could blast astronauts into space and land them on the moon. I’d squint really hard trying to see those astronauts walking around up there. It’s weird to think back and realize we were experiencing a major part of history. Wow, I must be old.

I’ve always thought the moon was cool. When I was a kid, it was my major source of entertainment when riding in the car at night. I didn’t have a tablet, or Nintendo DS, or a Kindle, or whatever hand-held device is cool these days, so instead of fighting with my sisters in the back seat of the car, I’d just look out the window at the sky. I loved looking at the stars and the moon. That moon would always follow us. Every time we drove home from my grandparent’s house – which was almost every weekend – that moon was there. Even if we exited off the highway, made a turn, whatever … there it was. Magical. It was like my special friend, always making sure I got home safe and lighting up my room so monsters wouldn’t come out of the closet. I still watch the moon when I’m driving at night. Well, I mean I don’t actually stare at the moon when I’m driving, that’s ridiculous, but Jay is always driving so I stare at the moon. There’s just something about it. I’m excited to check out the blue moon tonight. And if it disappoints, I can always have this:

blue moon bottle

Oh yes. I know you guys (my three loyal readers) think I’m a snooty-snob who only loves fancy amber microbrews with Red in the name (like Red Hook ESB), but l found a new brewskie to love. And her name is Blue Moon. We were visiting Jay’s brother and went out that night and there was no Red Hook on the menu. Oh, the humanity. So I opted for a Blue Moon. I’d had it before, as my bro-in-law Brian likes it, but I always thought it was just your average beer. But this time, they threw a few fancy orange wedges in there. Hmm. Interesting. Quite the taste sensation. So I bought some Blue Moon at Costco cuz you can get 3,000 bottles for like $15 dollars. Blue Moon says they brew their beer with coriander and orange peel. More interesting. That’s like two of my favorite flavors; didn’t recognize them in there before. And I’ve amped it up lately. I pour fresh-squeezed orange juice in Blue Moon. (When in Fresno …) Who would’ve thought I’d like something sweet with beer. Now I add like a half-cup of orange juice or more to a beer. De-li-ci-ous. I think I’m on to something here. Well, at least I’m getting some extra vitamin C.

I just went outside and looked at the moon. It looks full already. Kinda creamy-colored, a hint of orange peel. I’m pretty sure I saw an astronaut.

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Wow, remember recess in the ’70s? That was crazy. As a kid who hadn’t reached double digits yet, I was dying to get out of my classroom and run around. Thinking back, there sure were lots of hazards out on that playground – a blank canvas of concrete for us to skin our knees and elbows on. In fact, I remember one specific recess in the spring of 1971 when I skinned my elbow righteously (not sure how) and some random school employee led me back to my classroom door where I had to wait, literally dripping blood, until the teacher came back from break. Nobody rushed me to the school nurse, or a hospital, and I certainly don’t remember any ambulances showing up. She just slapped some mercurochrome and a bandage on it and made me go in and finish my spelling lesson.

Sure, nowadays I imagine there are all kinds of safety measures set in place to protect little children from the horrors of the elementary school experience. But when I was a kid? Not so much. Oh, I’m not saying we didn’t look forward to those precious 15 minutes of respite from learning our ABC’s and smelling chalk dust. But there were certainly a million ways for us to maim ourselves out there.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: Dodge Ball. As a bona fide shrimp of a kid, this was not my favorite recess activity. Not only was I always picked last, but I was also knocked out first … usually catching at least five feet of air in the process.

Next, the monkey bars. It wasn’t so much the monkey bars that were the problem; it was the HARD concrete below them that didn’t necessarily cushion your fall when you missed a rung. Last time I saw monkey bars at a school, I think they had those fancy cushion-y black puzzle-like pads under them. Today, I think they have feather-bed mattresses below them … or spotters from the US Olympic Team.

Let’s move on to that crazy spherical metal-climbing thing. You know the one. Kids would climb all over that thing, and at least one would fall through it, tumble over it, or get strangled in it … usually resulting in a lost front tooth. Or how about the merry-go-round? That was only fun until some kid puked on it … which was always within the first five minutes.

The slides always promised a little excitement, only our slides in the ’70s were glistening steel; on a hot, sunny day, you could get third-degree burns on those things – that was if you actually sled down the thing instead of running down it full speed.

Tetherball was fun. I played that all the time. Well, I stood there all the time while my taller opponent wrapped that ball around the pole again and again, often bopping the side of my head while they did.

If you didn’t care for the fancy playground equipment, you could always get a jump-rope, lasso some kid smaller than you, and make them be your “horse” so you could gallop around like an idiot.

Whatever Hunger Games-type of adventure we decided upon during recess, it was usually fun until the bell rang … signaling you only had about two minutes to get your ass back in your chair in your classroom. So you either had to choose to pee (and if you were a girl, get freaked out by crazy fourth-grade girls staring in the mirror and reciting that “Mary Worth, Mary Worth, I Believe in Mary Worth” creepy game) OR try to get some hydration at the water fountain. Usually I tried to get a drink of water. However, our elementary school drinking fountain had a protocol: it had four spickets, and they were unofficially designated as: Coffee, Tea, Soda Pop and Pee. Oh man, by the time recess was coming to a close, those lines were deep: Coffee had at least three kids – Tea had about four. And the Soda Pop line was a mile long … so, sometimes you went without water.

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