Monday, September 5, 2011

What Adventures They Did Have

The first reading book I ever tackled back in the first grade of Gallant Elementary.
My teacher was one Mrs. Iva Moore.
She had a strange way of pronouncing my name....
It came out "My-kill"
Funny...I didn't know I was Klingon.

I don't remember how the ability to read first reared its head in my brain.
I don't remember the process of learning to read.
I know it was back in the pre-phonics day when we did every thing the hard way.

Our first reading book was about good ol' Dick and Jane (brother and sister) and their tag along younger sister, Sally.
Pretty tame stuff and hard to relate to if you lived in the country.
Dick and Jane were always putting on rain coats and galoshes to go outside and play in the rain.
Every one knows that you take your shoes off and half the fun is getting soaking wet.
I loved to ride my bike in the rain as having no fenders on said bike, the tires would sling water (and mud) all over your back.
Coming through the door at home, Mom would reply, "You've been riding that bike in the rain again, haven't you?
My Mom.
Always the detective. Couldn't get anything past her.

These kids we read about, Dick and Jane had no imagination what so ever.
The dog's name was SPOT.
The cat's name was PUFF.
C'mon! Why not Ol' Brummy for the dog, and Fang for the cat.
Spot? Puff? Give me a break.

But we learned to read.
Books were important to me back then.
I read anything I could get my hands on.
The library was the place to go and load up on stories of adventure and far away places.
Robinson Crusoe...
Robin Hood....
Treasure Island....
Autobiographies of Babe Ruth, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett. Not to mention Andrew Jackson and George Washington.

Those were the days....
and to think I have Dick and Jane to thank for my love of reading.....


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Notebooks For The Rich And Famous

O.K. I'm going out on a limb here. Remember back in the day when you were buying up your school supplies? Do you remember when the Nifty Paper Company came out with a whole line of "Magnetic" binders? No more 3-ring- or 2-ring binders to pinch and claw you to death. The Nifty Binder used magnets instead.  The downside to magnets as opposed to Rings, was that if you dropped the Nifty Notebook, chances are the magnets turned loose and all your papers went flying in several different directions.

I was caught up in the classroom image thing to a certain degree. I wanted to have whatever was the latest and newest "do-hickey" for educational purposes. This didn't always translate with my Mom, but she was pretty understanding in these matters. My Dad? Well, that was a whole nother ball game. If it was up to my Dad, I'd been writing on pieces of wood with bits of charcoal and coal. "If Abraham Lincoln did that way.....Well, look how he turned out!" Right Dad. Never mind that the country split and we had the dangdest Civil war ever. What's important was Ol' Abe writing and doing his Ciphers (or Cyphers) on bits of wood with pieces of coal. To which my Dad would reply, "Well, Mr. Smarty Pants, Abe was president....what have you done?" Dad, I'm only in the 2nd grade.

Mom gave in and bought me the side loading Nifty Magnetic binder, along with all the other paraphernalia needed to be a successful student. Pencil sharpeners. Enough #2 pencils to last for the year. While we're on the subject..........what ever happen to the Number # 1 pencils? Were they a total failure. Did they suddenly explode in the hands of young students across the country? Why were they satisfied to stop with Number # 2? Why not bring new and better improvements and create a Number #3 pencil? All questions that I guess I'll go to my grave never knowing. Life is full of these mysteries.

Getting the right supplies for school was important to the well-being of the young student. Right....3 months after starting school, I'd have to approach my Mom to ask her to buy me another notebook.
"What!" She looked on in amazement. "Why would I have to buy another notebook when we just bought one not three months ago." "Well, Mom, you was like this. I took the notebook apart to get the magnets out because we were using them to play football with during lunchtime. " You guessed it.
My Mom bought me the new notebook.
A 3-ring Binder.
My social status had been crushed.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It Was A Good'un!

Funny thing about growing up in the 1950's, you didn't have a lot of different brands like you do now.
Toothpaste usually was either Colgate or Gleam. In a pinch, you'd use baking soda for toothpaste. Heaven help people now if they had to use baking soda. Depending on the age of the baking soda, it could feel like sand when you brushed with it.  Pour a little in the palm of your hand and add a little water. Make a paste out of it and put it on your tooth brush, then your ready to bring forth them pearlie whites.

When it came to soft drinks, we had Coca-Cola and R.C Cola ( Or Royal Crown). We didn't call them "Pop" (as in, "Hey! Would anyone care for a pop?") We didn't call them sodas. We called them "dranks". "You wanna a drank?"  We also used the term "Coke" to refer to any brand of soft drink. "You wanna Coke? What kind?"

Here in the South, R.C. Cola was a cosmic twin and always associated with MOON PIES. Just as Coke and Tom's Peanuts seem to go together, so was the relation of R.C. and Moon Pies.  I clearly remember the day when Pawdy Moore got in a "new" type of R.C. Cola. Up until this particular day, soft drinks came in 6 oz. bottles. But all of a sudden, without warning to the general population......the R.C. Bottling company brought forth a 16 oz. drink. SIXTEEN OUNCES! Sweet Patootie's Bloomers! IT was huge. Every mother in our community raised a collective voice and proclaimed that "No child had need of that much carbonated beverage at one time!" In other words, what the R.C. Bottling Company had done was tantamount to declaring war on us kids.

As a kid, I thought it was incredible. In fact we called them "Belly-washers". Twice the size and then some of those little ol' bitty Coca-cola's. R.C. 16 0z. only cost a dime. Cokes were 6 cents. My parents were always trying to teach me the value of money and I felt like the choice of RC was a good, sensible thing to spend my money on. Mom was convinced that it would rot my teeth, curve my spine, kill the dog and lose the war. That didn't stop me. I scoured the ditches and back roads to collect enough empty drink bottles to get the deposit back so I could purchase one of those monster R.C's. I remember taking it up to this old barn we played in. Climbed up in the loft and there amidst the smell of hay and summer breezes, popped off the cap (Had to use a church key....some of you will be lost with that term. It was a bottle opener in the pre-pull tab era) and swigged it down. It burned my eyes and gave me one of the most incredible burps a kid has ever let loose. It went on forever. I promise that I could have said the entire alphabet in that one burp. Looking that the bottle, I thought to myself, "We have got us some kind of weapon here that could be used in all sort of tactical manner should a kid need help."

Compared to today, the 16 oz. RC seems rather tame. Stand it along side of the 64oz. Big Gulp and it pales like some outdated dwarf. But you know what? No kid needs 64 ounces of carbonated beverage. Oh my goodness! I sound like my mother......


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The "Yeller" Transport

The school bus.
Mass transportation for the children of my day.
I rode the school bus for twelve years. I was able to buy my first car in late April 1969, which gave me about 3 weeks to drive myself before I graduated.
Back in the I'm beginning to sound like my father.
But truly, back in the day, it was a given. You rode the bus. Everyone rode the bus since we lived out in the country. Bus came by the house every morning at 6:45 a.m. You better be out there waiting on it because if you weren't...............the bus driver kept driving.

Mr. Blakely was our bus driver and I need to find him when I get to heaven to apologize for the misery we gave that man. He was a kind man and a gentle man, but I'm sure after dealing with us hellions, he teetered somewhere on the edge of insanity. He was constantly yelling at us to keep the noise down. Of course, we saw no harm in creating a noise of voices that approached the decibel level of a squadron of fighter jets taking off. He yelled at us! We yelled back. That was the rule of law.

The thing that puzzled me the most was the seating order on that big yellow monstrosity. An unspoken arrangement that was never really clear, at least to an underclassman. The very back of the bus was reserved for the senior guys. That was their domain from which they launched all manner of misery to us, the dweebs and losers of lesser grades. The senior guys had a particular penchant for our heads. They loved to take their class rings and turn the stone facing down into their palm. When we weren't paying attention, they would swat or smack and sometimes kerplunk your head with that class ring. Many a young kid has entered adulthood with the class year imprinted permanently in the side of the head. Of course for us dweebs, we would storm the back seats daily looking to make a place for ourselves only to be repelled time and time again. Who ever said, "There is strength in numbers," never went up against the Senior guys on our buss.

A favorite winter past time was to wait till everyone was seated on the bus and it was moving. Since the bus had no heat, it was cold. Exposed body parts grew cold. Things like "ears" became point of excruciating pain when thumped by a Seniors hand. I could only pray that you never have to experience such trauma at the hands of seniors. You'd think that this would foster a sense of "I'm not going to do this when I am a Senior." But it didn't. In fact what it did foster was the incredible belief that "Hey..I'm going to get to do this when I am Senior." Law of the jungle or survival of the fit I guess.

One of the most favorite things about riding the bus was when our driver had to be out and we got a replacement. Usually they sent us a guy named "Rabbit" Blakely. He drove that bus like it was a hot rod with the cops on his tail in hot pursuit. We bounced and swerved around road and trail. We crossed railroad crossings on the fly and I'm firmly convinced that at times the bus wheels actually left the ground. We made the run in record time and as we filed off the bus for school, Rabbit would be sitting up there with this big ol' grin on his face like, "Tell me I can't drive. I'm good." Rabbit was our hero.
Late he got married and had kids, got a job and settled down. I guess all of that took the starch out of his jeans. He turned into a careful driver. After that, we didn't really care whether he drove our bus or not.

How many games of paper football did we play on the bus. Turned side ways out into the isle. Notebook balanced on our knees, thumping that paper football back and forth. There were also "Rock/Paper/Scissors" and Tic-tac-toe. We found ways to occupy ourselves on the ride to and from school. We swapped homework and copied it down so we wouldn't get a bad grade. There on that bus was a complete eco-system all learning how to live together on that daily commute to school.

I had my biggest fight on a bus. Got my fanny whupped by an entire family. The two little brothers were sitting in front of me and for no reason at all, one of them spit on me. I smacked him good and before I knew it there were two older brothers, two older sisters and the two little pugs who spit on me, all piled on top of me just failing away. Every time I tried to swing there were fists coming in from every angle. Our bus driver came to the rescue and freed me from the attack of the killer kids. He then pronounced that we all had to go to the principals office the next day. "What? Me too?" I asked. "Especially you," Mr. Bus driver replied. Oh no, all my years of antagonizing the driver was coming back to haunt me. Not much happened in the principals office and the remainder of my "Bus" time was free from fights and what not. Especially the "what not" part.
Such was life on good ol' bus 63 Gallant, Alabama.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Renegade Nun's On Wheels!

This picture is as close to my first Bike as I could find.
It is called a Schwinn Panther from 1960.
My Bike looked exactly like this one, except it didn't have the hand breaks on the handle bar.
Christmas Morning 1960, there in our living room sat this magnificent beast.
Built for speed.
Built for covering long distances in the shortest amount of time.
My Bicycle.
Didn't have to share it with anyone.

Not much you can do in a living room if you get a bike on Christmas morning.
Since my Dad had the insane habit of getting us up at like 4 a.m. on Christmas morning,
it would be a couple of hours before I could take it out and terrorize the community.
(While I'm on the subject, during my growing up years, it was an unwritten code of law that no kid visited another kid to see what they had gotten for Christmas until the afternoon of said Christmas morning. This Parent's law use to drive me crazy. I wanted to see what loot my friends had hauled in). Sorry to disappoint you but we were all little capitalist at heart.
So I turned on the guessed it.....nothing but a test pattern.
Country Boy Eddie would not be on for another whole hour.
So I sat on my new Bicycle and imagined the roads I would travel.
Nothing like a good ol' 1960 - 9 year old imagination to occupy a boy.
I could go off on kids today and their lack of imagination, but that argument would not hold up.
My grand children have more than the daily amount of government mandated imagination. As witnessed by my grand daughters question of "IF I had your brain and you had mine, would I talk and sound like you and would you talk and sound like me?" This question caught her Aunt Peggy completely by surprise. Me? Popa in his infinite wisdom would have replied, "Sure...wanna swap?"
I digress.

Finally 6:30 a.m. and my Dad says, "Take her out boy, you're driving us crazy."
Isn't that the job of 9 year old boys? To drive their parents crazy?
I think so.
Rolling her (the bike, not my mother) through the front door and down the steps, I set out.
Where I grew up, I was lucky because we had all these really neat back roads we were allowed to ride.
So here I went, wind in my hair (Yes Virginia...Michael had hair in the 60's).
Feet pumping.....pedals was fabulous.
I was free.
No longer reduced to travel aboard the "ankle" express, as my Dad called it.
His humorous way of saying that I had to walk if I wanted to go somewhere.
What's up with that? 1960's was a different time and place. Kids were not the center of attention. The family did not revolve around little "Elmer" and his whuped up, out of joint, little "I'm the center of the universe" ego. If you needed to go somewhere, you better start walking or riding your bike.
We walked or rode out bikes everywhere. A Bike was the symbol of freedom to a kid back them.. None of this "take me!"
Indeed times were different.
I digress once more.

I'm on the back roads flying like the wind, when out of nowhere, one of Smitty Reed's pigs steps into the roadway.
Hit the brakes!
Too late!
"Look Out!"
 (Still don't know why I hollered at the pig. I guess it's kind of like when you "moo" at a bunch of cows standing in the pasture as you drive by.)
Bike hits pig.
Pig goes down.
Bike goes down.
Michael goes down.
Oh no! My new bike.
I guess every kid has to have their bike introduced to the real world.
But a pig! C'mon.
Anyway, I made my way back home to relay the story of my collision with Hogzilla.

Then I got the speech.
You know the one.
It involves "being careful" and "paying attention"......responsible. You have to understand, my parents fully expected me, their son, to bring down the free world and destroy all that was right and holy, unless through a miracle of medicine I might have a brain transplant. I just seemed to attract trouble and because my older brother was such a wonderful and perfect son, they were fully convinced they were being punished by having me as son # 2.
So I received a number of these speeches which were designed to enhance my 9 year old character. I didn't know I had one that needed enhancing. How much living could a nine year old have done?
Dad's speech was quickly followed by my Mother and her famous matronly mantra of "You could have been killed." The same woman who bought me a chemistry set and a wood burning kit. Just the thing for 9 year old boys. A sharp metal object that is electrical and, when plugged in, heats up to 5000 degrees.
Now that my well being is out of the way, we move to the financial part . Round two of setting Michael back on the straight and narrow of responsibility.

Round two follows as such:
Dad:  "You know, boy...bikes don't grow on trees!"
At this point I wanted so bad to put on this really dumb look on my face and say..."Reallllly?"
But I knew my interjection of humor into our parental/child conversation would only bring down the wrath of parentdom upon my little head. So I sat silently while the speech went on.
I was schooled and lectured in the finer points of taking care of my "things."
Seems as though I was destined to break, destroy or give away anything of value that had been handed to me.
You know during those times, I felt like a lost cause.
But don't despair.
My folks loved me and I knew this. They felt as though they had completed their part of the parent-hood agreement they had made with God to raise me right. Now that I look back, I don't know that I really participated in a righteous way. I just wanted the speech's to be over so I could leave. But like a proper son should do, I sat and listened and even tried to look sincere when scolded for my lack of responsibility.
Talks over, I soon made my way back out to saddle up again to hit the back roads...only this time I was ever watchful of "Hog Kong!"


Just for your knowledge, I changed the name of the man who owned the pig.
He might still have kin who are looking for me.
The title for this posting (Renegade Nun's On Wheels) comes from a Steve Martin comedy bit he did on an album (remember those?) years ago. He was talking about current books he was reading and this was one of them. The other was "Howdy Doody: Man or myth".

Monday, August 15, 2011

Run Higher And Jump Faster?

We had two choices of Tennis shoes....a.k.a. sneakers growing up in the 50's & 60's.
P.F. Flyers.....
I usually got stuck with the later. My Mom had no insight of the strategic advantage a good set of Tennis shoes could bring to a kid. I was handicapped right off the bat being this dumpy, frumpy kid who, when running the 40 yard dash, was clocked with a calendar. In other words, I was deceptively slow.

P.F. Flyers were the Cadillac of kids sneakers. Just the name....P.F. conjured up images of me with those white winged sneakers strapped to my feet, running past Don Standfield, Noel whisenant, Michael Plemons and all the other Gallant boys that use to gather to play football or baseball (whatever the season demanded). I knew that if my Mom would spring for a pair, the rest would be history. But, alas...I was stuck with the yearly pair of Keds, doomed forever to be 2nd or didn't matter. I never would be first.

later on I was introduced to Chuck Taylor All-Stars....this was the pinnacle of shoe-dom.
My Boston Celtics wore C.T. All-Stars. I had to have a pair. I knew that if I wanted them, I'd have to come up with the dough. So I set about doing everything in my power to raise the money. Picking up empty Coke bottles to get the deposit back on them........cutting grass....running errands for folks....I even sold some of my Comic's to a friend for an undisclosed amount of money. Let's just say that I didn't do the Christian thing in that exchange. Looking back I feel bad for what I did....but in the day...I had to have those shoes.

Finally the big day came. I had enough money to purchase my first pair.
White or Black....?
Which color did I want?
High tops or low cuts?
It was more than a boy could stand.
I went with the Black high tops.
Slipping them on, I just felt faster. Now I'd show them. I found myself in a pick up game of basketball and was about to unveil the new and improved, faster Michael Bynum, when suddenly a flash went by me. It was Don Standfield .....what was that on his feet......C.T. All-Stars?  I learned the sad facts of life that day.
Dumpy was dumpy no matter what was strapped to your tootsies!
Those were really good times though. Weren't they?


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Every Boy Wants A Remco Toy.....And Girl's Too!

Here are some "Dick Tracy" Toys from the 1950's.
Up top we have the Dick Tracy Crime Stoppers Textbook Game in which you get to investigate different crimes and arrest the culprits. Pretty heady stuff for it's time. I wonder how many current Chiefs of Police actually got their start by reading Dick Tracy? We may never know.

                                               Next comes the DICK TRACY COPMOBILE. How cool is this thing? It was the forerunner to remote control. The red antenna located on the hood was the directional receiver. The Copmobile came with a wand that you touched to the antenna which caused the car to change directions. Too bad it didn't come with a Ford Coupe full of bad guys that you could chase with the Copmobile. Gotta love Dick Tracy. A few years ago, Todd and LeNola Bagley gave me a boxed set of Dick Tracy movies. During the 40's Ralph Byrd played Dick Tracy in a number of films. Fast paced, shoot-em ups with lots of police it doesn't get any better than this. I am a fan of anything 40's and 50's when it comes to film versions of Comic book heroes.