Wednesday, March 29, 2006
We didn’t know it when we went to live in France, but the community in which we moved (La Celle St. Cloud) was in an economic crunch. The American agency, the name of which I forget, SHAAF or SHAPE – one of those “Supreme Headquarters...”sort of outfits, had recently moved out. The economic consequences had been unpleasant for the natives and they blamed the Americans (probably with good reason). Anyway, there were enough Americans in the neighborhood for a social life. The kids went to the American School of Paris so they got to know other kids.. Our French neighbors could act snobbish and stand-off-ish and we concluded that was just “them”. Until the day our youngest daughter was running home from the school bus stop Her glasses flew off and hid themselves in the underbrush. Now, she was really cute at that age (still is) and her tears soon drew a small group of the French, suddenly helpful, searching for her glasses. Turned out that her Mother was the one to find the glasses, but we learned something that day about the basics of humans, no matter the nationality.
Monday, March 27, 2006
I wonder if boys and young men have as much fun as we did. There was a Minsky Burlesque Theatre about 15 miles away from our town. It was something of a tradition that senior boys at the high school would sneak off in small groups to “go to the opera”. No one was fooled. Teachers, parents, everyone knew what was going on. The irony was that the chorus line was funnier than the comedians and the strippers -- didn’t. The fun was the intrigue and the rush to catch the bus home in time for supper. And, of course, the suppressed guilty feeling. Today, I'm sure, one click on the computer can provide a more risqué show. But I’ll bet that our way was a lot more fun.
My clearest memory of those shows (I didn’t say I only went once) was the kid at intermission walking up and down the aisles calling out, “Sordid Chocolates! Get your sordid chocolates."
It was an example of the power of environment. We finally figured out he was really saying “Assorted Chocolates” with a deep Jersey accent.
I wonder if college kids still mail their dirty laundry home in a “laundry case” with the thin strap around it., then get it back all clean and folded neatly courtesy of Mom. Any extra space in the case on the trip back filled with fresh baked cookies. I tried to continue this after I was married, but it didn’t work. Had even less luck with the mother-in-law.
I wonder if schools today are creating future generations of swayback adults. I go out in the morning or afternoon and I see little kids hefting backpacks that would flatten a donkey -- all because they don’t give kids lockers any more. Are they doing this up north also?. Where do the students store their galoshes and heavy coats? Gee, we used to keep all sorts of things in our lockers. We even had dry socks so we could change if our feet got wet walking to school. I know, no lockers is so children can’t store guns and drugs in them. Seems to me there ought to be a better solution. This strikes me as chopping down the tree so you don’t have to rake leaves.
I wonder if any of today’s football stars would be stars if the game were still played by the rules I grew up with. Then, if a player came out of the game, he couldn’t come back in within the same quarter. Thus, there were no such things as “kicking teams” “offense” and “defense” and all the specialty teams. You wanted to play football, you did everything. The game was a closer reflection of life -- you didn’t succeed being half good.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
That was a time of freezing hell. The room was cold. We sat for hours on end on cold, hard wooden benches wishing severe retribution for the perpetrators. We rooted for the prosecutor and prayed for the jury to see the horrendousness of the crime. We briefly wondered whether we were motivated by a desire for justice or vengeance, then settled in our minds for a large dose of both. We tolerated a judge that needed neither a cigarette (we knew he was a smoker), nor a bathroom nor a food break. If our side won it would cause widespread sadness, but we consoled ourselves with the children’s cry of, “That’s what you get for...” Concentration was needed and it was exhausting. Witnesses sped by, first building an indisputable case, then trying to dispute it. When the jury left after days of silence to decide on their joint voice, we fretted. Would they be smart enough and brave enough to reach the right verdict? Though we were aware that the jury’s decision would make little or no difference to the victim, we wanted it to punish the villains who caused so much pain.
GUILTY! While our joy was somewhat undercut by the fact it would have been better had none of this ever happened, we hugged the prosecutor and hurried to hug the victim. Now, let us get on with life.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Friends, Romans, and Casual Visitors,
Personal business will take us out of town for the next couple weeks. We will take the laptop, but do not know whether we will find a coffee shop with wireless facilities to communicate with the outside world. So check back here near the end of March for more of the fast waning memories of the grouchy old man. Thanks, Floridora.
ps. See Archana, You aren't the only one to take a break.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
What did you do before television? Old goats like me get that question a lot from the younger generation. First, today’s children can’t really believe that there ever was a time without television, cell phones, microwaves, computers, etc. Yes, Virginia, there was joy in the non-tech world. In the evenings when our generation was still in school we did home work. We played quiet games like Monopoly. It is still around, but not the rage it once was.. We read books, newspapers and magazines. There was radio in my youth. Tom Mix, Bobby Benson, Buck Rogers, Little Orphan Annie, Flash Gordon – were all fifteen minute adventure serials that many of us listened to. They were on in the early evening before our parents switched to Lowell Thomas who read fifteen minutes of news. In the New York area there was a great music program on every afternoon called the “Make Believe Ballroom” on WNEW. The host, Martin Block, was the first of the great disc jockeys. That was all AM radio with static a frequent interruption to listening pleasure.
Ipods were unheard of in those days, but we did have our big clunky phonographs. We collected 76 rpm records which were about 10 inches in diameter and had about 3 minutes of music (one song) on each side. We played them until they wore out or got so covered with scratches that they sounded horrible.
Without television, movies were a more popular source of entertainment, particular after sound and then Technicolor came along. They were a lot cheaper then also. We, the kids, used to go to the Saturday afternoon double feature complete with two serials for twenty cents. Adults wouldn’t be caught dead at that show. Too much hooting and hollering. We used to take a candy box (empty) and blow in one end making a very rude sound. Great fun
Building models from kits was a big time kids’ hobby in those days. Balsa wood, glue and paper properly cut and assembled could create neat model airplanes, ships and automobiles. Kits came in various degrees of complexity and detail to match abilities. There was a company named Heath that put out Heathkits (imaginative name?). These were based on the growing field of electronics. They provided the parts and instructions for anything from simple radios and accessories to complete weather stations. My first wind meter was home made.I made a fine short wave radio with which I spent hours listening to stations around the world.
Oh yes, another lost art that kept us busy – writing letters. There were no e-mails or text messages or IM with their cryptic shortcuts. We spent evenings writing legible letters to friends and relatives. Stamps were two cents and then went to three cents later.
Technology didn't first enter my Mom's kitchen with the microwave oven. I think it was just before WWII(long before the microwave) that the pressure cooker became the thing the Jones had to have. It was a pot made out of heavy steel that cooked things very much faster than the usual pot or pan. Veggies in two or three minutes, for instance. It was sealed so that very little water was turned to steam under pressure. They had safety valves that released steam at critical pressure so the whole business didn’t blow sky high. Our kitchen ceiling was repainted several times to remove evidence of untended beans or peas. The microwave came along and only a few diehards still use pressure cookers
Net, net, what we did without TV and pop technology was enjoy ourselves just like you do with it.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Back when and where I was growing up there was no such thing as "pre-school". We were at home until we were about five when we went off to Kindergarten. During the summers we were home all day long. Oh, some rich kids went off to camp, but most of us were home full time. Of course, our Moms were home full time also. Working Moms were a rarity. We kids all liked the arrangement, but then, we knew nothing else. We found lots to do and managed to get in trouble with some regularity. My folks had no car until I was well up in my teens. This meant that all sorts of delivery men came door to door. We would tag along with the breadman, the laundryman, the eggman, even the scissor-grinder. The paper boy ran all the way so he was no fun. In the summer, the iceman was a favorite of ours. His horse knew where to stop like the other delivery horses did. When he stopped down at the bottom of our hill, Mr Hirsh, the iceman, would chip off pieces of ice for the kids to suck on. Nice man, but probably very dirty ice. We lived. The milk man came on the days when he was collecting his bill. The same day he would take orders for the next week and sell butter and such off his wagon.He would also supply pieces of ice to the kids when he was there in the daytime, but he made his deliveries before dawn.
One day the vegetable man's horse lost control of the wagon. It rolled down the hill after the horse fell. At the bottom it crashed and turned over . Obviously, Mr. Lewis, the vegetable man was more concerned for his horse than for the veggies. The neighbor ladies came out and each scooped up all the vegetables they could possibly use from the ground, then paid Mr. Lewis a little more than they were worth. Nice people in those days. The horse was OK, but Mr. Lewis rested him a few days while the wagon was repaired. Mr. Lewis was one of the first to convert to a little truck. Wish I had a picture.
I have a hunch little children knew more random adults then than the children of today do.