Monday, August 24, 2009

The Things I Loved And Miss





This is something I wrote while under the influence of drugs.

One night, following one of my not-infrequent dental procedures, I was gulping down Percocets while drinking several mugs of coffee. The combination of opiate and caffeine lent itself to a hazy sort of insomnia, somewhat pleasant and especially productive in bringing to the forefront of my mind a raft of nostalgic memories. What follows is my scribbling from that evening.

(It actually WAS scribbling. I usually type anything of considerable length, sitting at our ancient computer sans internet hookup, but I filled four pages of a loose-leaf notebook with this stuff, tightly spaced, while sitting up in bed drinking more coffee, popping more pills, and chain smoking. Considering the circumstances, it was reasonably legible.)

I truly doubt that any one of you will share all of these memories with me. And, no denigration of your mental faculties intended, but I rather doubt you’ll even be able to understand all of them, so don’t sweat it if one line or another is as incomprehensible to you as Sanskrit. Just go on to the next one and the one after that. I’d have the same trouble comprehending your four pages of scribbles. I’m fairly certain, however, that you’ll find at least a few things with which you’ll be able to identify. If I jog a few memories of your own, I’d love it if you’d share them in the comments section.

One final note: These are, as the title says, things. They have little to do with people, at least directly. They are the objects, and the experiences with those objects, which I miss. Had I been in the state of mind mentioned, sitting up and thinking about the people whom I miss, I’d still be scribbling. Memories of things, while inductive to a sort of benign melancholia, reach a point where one has to say ‘enough is enough’ and then you let it go. Memories of actual persons who loved you, but are no longer around, don’t allow such facile closure at 3am.

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The big old Admiral TV.

(Jackie Gleason on Saturday night, Ed Sullivan on Sunday night, The Three Stooges many mornings, and getting channel 10 or 12 from Providence when there was a good show on one of those and not being carried on one of the Boston stations. When we got a converter box, and hooked it up to get UHF for the first time, it was damn near magical.)

World Series games played during the day.

The fan-forced heat coming on, while I lay on the rug reading by the vent.

The knick-knack shelves and their odd contents.

The Welbilt stove & refrigerator.

(The spelling was weird, but damned if they weren't well built. From my childhood, until I left that house at age 37, they worked beautifully and had never had a single repair.)


(I got the photo from here.)

Milkmen, Cushman’s bakery delivery, "Any old rags?", Doctors who came to you, and Pete the ice cream man.

Simple comic books.




















Sunday funnies that were actually funny, and not misplaced editorial cartoons.

Sports that knew their season.

Advertisements that weren’t embarrassing.

The pure joy of the last day of school.

The Sports Huddle. God bless you Eddie, Mark, and Jim!

The little trolley, especially on a hot summer Sunday when no other traffic was making noise and you could hear it coming from two stops away. And the days when the trolley had real leather seats, lusciously padded, and you could open the windows for the breeze.


Sundays that were Sundays.

Here’s one for us bald guys: Going to the barber and getting a real full haircut, not a 5-minute trim.

Catholic mass when my faith was that of a child.

Doubleheaders.

The elevated from Forest Hills to Dover, and then again from North Station to Everett.


The smell of Starlite Cleaners on River Street.

(I still get a vision of childhood anytime I pass by a dry cleaner and get a whiff.)



Ice-cold Coca-Cola in a green bottle.








So many candlepin bowling alleys where I sweated and had fun - Lucky Strike in Dorchester, Sammy White’s in Brighton, Kenmore Bowladrome, Wollaston Bowladrome, The Superbowl in Quincy, The Symphony Hall 55, others in Weymouth, Milton, Braintree, whose names escape me now.

Saturday morning television when it was nothing but cartoons.

For that matter, I miss test patterns, sign-ons, sign-offs, morning and evening prayers, the national anthem, and even farm & market reports.

Huge bowls of Quake.


Insight, The Living Word, Lamp Unto My Feet, Davey & Goliath, and similar Sunday morning television offerings.

Saturday matinees at The Oriental (and a "businessman’s special" at The Cathay Village afterward.)

The towers at Baker’s Chocolate.


Being absolutely mesmerized and delighted in the toy aisles of department stores.

The library in Lower Mills – odd little rooms, great children’s section, friendly and helpful librarians.

When the Neponset River Bridge was made of wood, leaning against the railing and just watching the river go by.

Snow at night and going to bed hoping for no school in the morning.

Listening to the "no school" announcements on the radio and hearing "Boston – no school, all schools."

Sitting in the subway at Park Street Under, smoking, people watching, and letting the trains go by.


Friday afternoon educational movies in the third-floor auditorium of the Gilbert Stuart.

(Getting to the third floor was a bit scary for me, being afraid of heights as I was. There was a huge window to pass by on the landing between the second and third floors. If I was unlucky enough to be on that side of the stairs in our double-file march up, I would shut my eyes and hold my breath as we passed it. Looking back, this probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do to increase my chances of not falling through it. But, once we reached the auditorium, it was all good. The films themselves were usually interesting, and, if was something boring, then Stephen Murphy and I would exchange jokes and giggle in the dark.)

Getting a slice of the hideous pizza sold at Park Street station.

(This was on the way home from Boston Latin. Since I hated going to that school, the pizza was the highlight of my school day. How times have changed over such a short span! Pizza was not ubiquitously available then as it is now, so having a chance to get a slice of horrible pizza – and this was easily the worst pizza in the entire city – was still a rush and well worth the quarter spent. Oh, was that pizza bad! You’d sometimes take the first bite and burn the roof of your mouth, concurrently burning your chin when the entire slab of cheese would slide off the hard dough and slap onto your chin. Then, to save your face and palate, you had to spit out the cheese onto the passenger platform. This left you with a piece of doughy cardboard slathered with cheap tomato sauce. Since it cost you a quarter, you still ate it. Hell, if nobody else had been around I would have retrieved the cheese from the floor of the subway. A quarter was a big deal to me then.)

In Concert, Friday nights at 11:30 on ABC.


(The best televised rock music show of my youth. Others preferred The Midnight Special, on NBC – which actually aired at 1am on the east coast –, but In Concert had more metal acts. Also, In Concert was filmed at varying locales, giving it the feel of a true concert experience, whereas Midnight Special had the groups come in and play on a soundstage, introduced by the barely-tolerable Wolfman Jack. There was the syndicated Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, but the performances on that show were often lip-synched, something I despised.)

Powerline

(This was a religious radio program, airing at 11pm on Sunday as I recall. They played some excellent current metal songs interspersed with a bit of evangelism. Odd, but somehow comforting, listening.)

Exploring my parent’s bedroom closet, as well as the downstairs coat closet.

(There was something entirely comforting about those two spaces in our house. They were enclosed, warm, dark, and full of interesting things. I used to like to sit in them sometimes and just forget about the outside world. One of the major problems with growing up is that you can’t fit inside closets and under tables. Or, even if you can, people look at you oddly when they see you coming out from one of them.)

**************************************************************

I suppose that’s enough pointless nostalgia for one sitting. I’ve got another three pages worth of this stuff in my notebook, but it will wait.

Soon, with more better stuff.


38 comments:

Peter N said...

Those comic books brought back so many memories! I had a huge box of Superman and Action comic books in the attic many, many years ago, vintage ones from the late 50s. Alas, they dissapeared when my parents packed up the house before they sold it. I know they'd be worth big bucks by now. But you know what? I'd just love to reread 'em!

I hope this comment finds you well, Sul. Pete.

Michelle H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle H. said...

*Yes, that's my deleted comment above. Yuck to spelling.*

"Listening to the no school announcements on the radio."

I don't think there is one of us who doesn't have the most fondest memories of excitment when listening for our school name to pop up.

Great list!

Desmond Jones said...

Good stuff, Sully. . .

One of my enduring childhood memories is of 8th-grade shop class, which was my last class of the day, listening to the '68 Series games on the radio while we worked on our projects, then running to the bus, hoping to catch the last few innings on TV at home (and walking in the front door just in time to see Jim Northrup's triple sail over Curt Flood's head in the 7th inning of Game 7). . .

Those green Coke bottles were so iconic, that the first time I saw Niagara Falls, I could only describe the water as 'coke-bottle green'. . .

My brother and I were more into Quisp than Quake, but you know, it was all just Sugar-Bombs anyway. . .

And I can still call up from the depths of my brain, the slow voice of Goliath, saying, "Geeee, Day-veee, I don't think we oughta. . ."

And my WordVer is 'swell', which just seems to fit. . .

Bruce Coltin said...

For what it's worth, I sampled that very same hideous pizza.

Suldog said...

Peter - Me, too. Huge boxes of them, but they all were either thrown out or otherwise destroyed.

Michelle - Nothing so sweet for a kid!

Desmond - I sat in 6th grade, at the Gilbert Stuart school, in 1967, watching the Sox play the Cardinals. Our teacher 0 who was also the principal, so he could do what he wanted - was a huge baseball fan, so he wheeled a TV right into the classroom and we all watched until the bell rang. Then we hustled home, much as you did.

I have yet to find another person who shared my fondness for Quake. Everyone always says they liked Quisp more. I guess that's why Quake went off the market years before Quisp did!

Bruce - And we both lived! Imagine that!

Buck said...

The big old Admiral TV.

Ours was a Philco, IIRC. And I... that would be me, first person singular... was the remote. As in "Bucky, channel 7!" That from my Ol' Man. Why it was always me and never my sister I've never been able to figger out.

re: Coke bottles. Did yours have the city where it was bottled molded into the glass on the bottom of the bottle? That used to be a Big Thing... collecting all the various cities. But that might also be before your time. I could google it, but I'm lazy.

Lots of Boston-specific stuff here, but still an awful lot I can relate to. Thanks!

Angie Ledbetter said...

What a wonderful trip down your memory lane, Sul. I worry about kids today not having those simple dependable pleasures to grow up with.

Brian Miller said...

a cool train of thought...i miss the comic books as well...now they seem to run on with stories for a month trying to out do themselves in the peril they create...

Sundays that were sundays....amen.

still love a coke int eh bottle when i can find them...

hope you have a great day suldog!

Tara said...

I love this, I can't wait for part 2.....I would add Creature Double Feature

The Omnipotent Q said...

Great post Suldog. A lot it was beyond me since I grew up in New York, but a lot of what you wrote I could relate to: The joy of the last day of school, doubleheaders, etc...

Suldog said...

Buck - I was the remote, too. Being an only child, there were no other options :-) I don't recall there being a big deal about the city on the coke bottle. I think we were too absorbed in the drinking of it to pay much attention to anything else.

Angie - Me, too, but I suppose our folks felt the same way. We are becoming the old futzes we once denigrated...

Brian - As a Libertarian, I find myself torn. I realize that businesses have a right to be open whenever they want, but there was something wonderful about a day when almost everything was closed and the streets were almost devoid of traffic. If I could re-institute the "blue laws" (as those laws forbidding Sunday openings were known in MA) I think I would, and civil liberties be damned :-)

Tara - Oh, darlin', if I did a blog just about the TV shows I missed, it would be 3,000 words, easy :-)

Q - Is there any baseball fan who DOESN'T miss doubleheaders? I doubt it.

Expat From Hell said...

So much comes rushing out of my subconscious when I read this, Suldog. So much of this was the same on the West Coast, with a few minor adjustments. Kirk Gibson's home run was a signature moment against Eckersley. And, instead of snow alerts, we laid in our beds while the occasional earthquake would rumble up and think, "that one should topple the school for sure!"

Great to read this.

EFH

Hilary said...

The Admiral... I can still hear the clunk of the channel dial and how the little door on the adjustments box sounded when it sprung shut.

I miss penny candy.. dots on paper, blackballs, Lik-a-Made, bubble gum cigars.

And I miss the arts and crafts kits that were available as a child - particularly a kind of mosaic. They were colourful plastic tiles of various shapes which would adhere to a self-adhesive board.. kind of like a paint by number style. When the design was complete, there was a packet of powdered cement which you mixed with water and spread over the surface so that it would fill in the spaces between the tiles. Later it would dry and the surface would wipe clean. It was my favourite thing to do on a rainy day. The only person I know of who also remembers these kits is my sister.

Looking forward to more of your list. :)

Desmond Jones said...

I forgot to mention doubleheaders. . . Went to a Memorial Day doubleheader at old Tiger Stadium against the Orioles, in '81, just a couple weeks before the players' strike that year. We were in the upper deck for game 1, then moved down to some open seats we spied near the visitors' dugout for the second game.

Ken Singleton of the O's had an incredible day, went something like 4-for-5 with lots of extra bases in the opener, then had the most incredible 0-for-4 game I think I've ever seen in the nightcap. Went warning-track twice (it was 440 to dead center in old Tiger Stadium), then got robbed twice on absolute bullets caught by Trammell. . .

And sitting that close to the field was just amazing. We were jawing with the Orioles hitters in the on-deck circle. . .

-----

And I'll still get caught from time to time on the one remaining 'blue law' that I'm aware of in Michigan - alcoholic beverages can't be sold before noon on Sunday. I'll go out to pick up some eggs for Molly to make Sunday brunch, and I'll remember that we're running low on wine, so I'll pick up a bottle, not realizing that it's before noon, and it won't scan, and then I remember, Oh, yeah. . .

It's actually the tiniest bit comforting, y'know?

Chris@Maugeritaville said...

Oh man, Sully, great post. And of course, it jogged a few memories loose. Our ice cream truck in Jersey actually provided soft-serve ice cream, not just the brand name popsicles, fudge bars, and such. It was awesome. Double-headers (not the day-night ones where it's two different crowds, either). And like someone else commented, I was more of a Quisp guy (and the short-lived Quangaroos - orange cereal, remember that?). A fun, fun read, Jim. Thanks!

And, um, how 'bout those Yankees? I don't know how much pleasure I can glean from a series where our pitching gave up almost 10 runs per game, but I'll take it.

Suldog said...

Expat - Damn! It is so much cooler to lay in bed and imagine your school actually disintegrating!

Hilary - This might ruin my image as a macho man, but I had a latch hook pot holder making kit. You stretched the material from side to side and tied it off and you made a potholder. I loved that thing and it would often be my choice of entertainment on a rainy day. I still have one or two of the potholders I made, somewhere.

Desmond - Yeah, I think the same applies here for alcohol. Can't order a drink in a bar before noon, anyway, as I've found out when going for a breakfast at a local watering hole. And, yes, it IS just a bit comforting.

Chris - Quangaroos? Are you cereal?

(Hah!)

Seriously, I don't remember them. I would have been all over them, I'm sure. And, congrats on your Yanks taking the big lead. I'm just hoping the Sox can hang on by their fingernails for the wildcard...

Daryl said...

You had me at the test screen image ... I always thought that was WNEW Channel 5 in NewYawk's special sign off sign ...

Didya ever watch WWOR-TV's Million Dollar Movie? They ran the same movie upteen times during the week and in a continuous loop on Sat/Sun .. my sister watched Yankee Doodle Dandy 500 times .. honest

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Great post. Do you know what they get for Coke in those perfect little bottles nowadays? It's obscene!

Thumbelina said...

*smile*

Jeni said...

Boy -even though many of your memories there involve Boston things and places, there were a lot that rang true for me too. Jackie Gleason and Ed Sullivan -and Uncle Miltie too! Red Skelton closing every show with the wish of "God Bless" -which today would probably be banned, I suppose. Saturday cartoons -now those were real cartoons -not the junky stuff the kids get to watch today! The Roadrunner was definitely my Fave!
Loved your rememberings, Jim! P.S. I may be using your name without linking in a post but the reason I won't be linking is because it will be one of those (whisper this -paid posts) and if I link something other than their phrase, it will bomb on me, so I'm giving you credit in a way in advance and here. Okay?

Gennasus said...

Most of your memories were, unfortunately, a bit too foreign for me but not the coke bottle and the wishing for snow, you struck a cord there.

It's great to look back but you know what they say.....nostalgia's not what it used to be.

Theresa said...

In Socal we had the Helm's Bakery Man. He would come around in a panel van with sliding drawers on the side. He sold donuts and cream puffs, yum!

I also remember almost losing my hand every time I reached into the old soda machines.

Ah, the good ol' days and the huge black and white console t.v. Thanks for the memories.

CK Lunchbox said...

oh man, as I read down through ping-pong smattering of memories, I now feel old as sh*t. But I love nostalgia, so it's not all bad. Good stuff.

Ananda girl said...

We had a Phillips portable TV that required a piano dolly to move from it's spot. The first day out of school for the summer my mom let us stay up to watch the Fresno Bee say "Good NIght!" in his shaky bee voice right before the national anthem with it's silly photo of a flag waving. My brother always stood up for that part. haha
I also miss the rotten orange fights we had with the neighbor kids and huge kick the can games that went on until 11:00PM when moms began to make serious threats.

I still get snow days off... and they are still a big thrill. One of the perks of working in a school... not to mention I get summers off too. :)

Thanks for the happy memories! I love this post.

Ericka said...

great post!

i miss how safe i felt after dad tucked me in.

i miss coloring shrinky dinks at my grandmother's dining room table.

and cartoons on saturdays. and being all snuggled in the covers and dreading getting up and then having mom come tell me it was a snow day and i could burrow back to bed.

and hearing the police whistle that mom used to call us home.

*sigh* i don't think i'd go back, but some days, it sure would be tempting.

Shrinky said...

Oh, great post, Jim! I loved the double-bill Saturday matinees, too. My big sis' and brother took me along, and I still keenly remember bawling my eyes out when one usher deemed me too young to get in one week, it broke my five year old heart to be marched back home! (I still got in the week after.)

You've lit so many memories I could list, but as it would take the best part of a day to get them down, I'll just say thanks for making me smile.

Suldog said...

Daryl - I always thought each test pattern was that station's own private design, too, until I grew much older. You reminded me of a Boston show, I think it was called "Dialing For Dollars", wherein they played crummy old movies and during the commercial breaks the host would make phone calls to random phone book numbers and award the person something like $20 if they could tell him what movie was on. Bizarre.

Elizabeth - The whole idea of collectible food is bizarre. For that matter, most collectibles, period. Hey, I've got a picture of an overpaid athlete printed on a piece of cardboard. Will you give me $250 for it? Yeah, suuuuuuuure.

Thumbelina - Right back at ya.

Jeni - I expect that the check will be in the mail any moment, right?

(Actually, I told Jeni she could use my name any way she wanted. And then I'd sue her ass.)

(Well, not literally her ass, although if she does have a valuable donkey, I suppose something could be worked out.)

Gennasus - Well, feel free to write about your fond memories having to do with haggis, bagpipes, kilts, and whatever comic books they had in Scotland (The Adventures O' Robbie Burns, wae his sidekick, Wee Mousie?) and I'll come over and try to comprehend them.

Theresa - You had a bakery man who sold treats to kids? That's hilarious!

"Ma, throw me down a quarter! The cream puff guy is coming!"

CK Lunchbox - Hell, your name alone conjures up all sorts of useless memories. I had an assortment of interesting lunchboxes when I was going to school. I think one was a "Laugh In" lunchbox, with phrases like "Sock It To Me!" and "Very Interesting!" plastered all over it. I may have had a Gilligans' Island lunchbox at one time, too. Or maybe I had a "My Little Pony" lunchbox and I'm just trying to block out the memories of all the horrendous teasing I took for it.

Ananda - After the Admiral, we got what was laughingly called a "portable" TV, too. It was portable only if your Dad (or your Mom) was built like Lou Ferrigno.

Ericka - Cool memories. I especially like the "feeling safe" part. There was something incredibly comforting about most of the things I mentioned, and I suppose "safe" is as good a way as any to describe the feeling I got from most of them.

Shrinky - I would love to hear what you and Gennasus (despite my earlier ribbing) and Hilary and others not from the USA would have for a list of fond memories. I'm sure it would be quite interesting and perhaps even culturally enriching.

Gennasus said...

I'll have to think about that challenge and get my ageing brain into gear.

Mind you, I think I may be regressing into a second childhood. Stick around a while and my dim and distant past will most likely be all I can remember!

sandyshares said...

Tell me did you pick Veronica for Archie ??

twistedangel said...

A most enjoyable and hilarious trip down memory lane. Those were the times, weren't they? I particularly enjoyed the Saturday cartoonfest that lasted nearly the entire day. My brother and I woke up at the usual time we did during schooldays just so that we could feast our eyes on those cartoon shows until they got teary and threatened to pop out. The simple comic books also had me feeling mushy and funny all over. We had en closet full of them, and whenever we got hold of a new one, my brother and I nearly tore the house down with our heated wrestling matches as to who would read first. Well-written piece too. I don't think I could have enjoyed it as much if it were written differently

Suldog said...

Me? Did I pick Veronica for Archie? Hell, no! Veronica was a bitch. I was a Betty man, all the way.

Jenn said...

Oh man you just remionded me about going bowling with my dad at Lanes 'n Games almost every Sunday throughout my childhood. I never got good at it, neither did my sister and he always won but it was always more about the fun of laughing through the day that made it so enjoyable. Thanks for the moment of nostalgia & for sharing your own, great stuff here (especially trolly cars with windows that opened!)

Thimbelle said...

So much of what you wrote I can remember... and more...

The big 'ol clik-clak couch in grandma's living room. Grandpa would click it flat, and a half a dozen of us little cousins would tumble onto it, giggling and whispering in the dark until we fell asleep, while the grown-ups played cards in the kitchen.

Sitting on the porch on a hot August evening with an icy cold Grape NeHi in a glass bottle.

Riding backwards in Daddy's land-yacht that was our Ford station wagon. And waving at everyone who we passed, or who passed us.

Riding our bikes down Cemetary Hill, trying to hold our breath while we passed the cemetary and laughing like crazy when we crossed that bridge at the bottom.

All that, and more...

Moannie said...

Great memories and the nostalgia for those times reverberated, darlin', though as you might expect there was much that passed me by. We got the Archie comics here during and after the war thanks to generous GI's, and I have to say that gum has never tasted as good as then. The excitement of waking to the silence of snow, but it was never thick enough to stop schools from opening. Thank you for jogging my memory.

lime said...

some entries on my list...

the little corner post office
the box for the milkman
the ice cream truck
the mail slot in the door
my old stick shift nova
the sewing machine with an external belt
playing under my mom's quilting frame
my grandparents saving the sunday comics from 3 newspapers for me

Anonymous said...

The Libarian at Lower Mills was Miss Rice.
Always pleasant and helpful

Anonymous said...

I remember the smell of chocolate from Walter Baker Company.depending on the wind direction you could smell the aroma in parts of Dorchester Mattapan and Roxbury