By Roger Farley
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Well, this is it! Goodbye old friends. It’s been a good run, but all good things have to come to an end eventually.
We’ve experienced the Pyramids, the birth of Christ, the Dark Ages, Diogenes looking for an honest man, men in space, trips to the moon and technology that will just not stop, but it’s all over now.
For the last couple of years, we’ve been told of the Mayan calendar calling for an end of time on Dec. 21, 2012. For them, it is the end of the “long count” of 26,000 years. You’ve noticed that they refer to the end of time, not the end of the world.
The Hopi Indians, as do many other Native Americans, believe there have been “many worlds” before this one. The Hopi prediction sounds promising. They say we have been through the cycle of the mineral — the rock, and the plant. We are now finishing up the cycle of the animal and are beginning the cycle of the human being.
The Jews are a little more confusing due to their different calendar, but at the end of Zechariah 3, there is a line that says, “I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.”
Arabs have a bit of a different take on things, mostly financial. Supposedly, on 12-21-12, the Arab States, led by Iran, will begin accepting other currencies for the purchase of oil. For a world used to basing everything on the dollar, this could very well look like the end of the world for our financial gurus.
Aztecs believe we are living in the “fifth age,” which is coming to an end. The moon god will devour the sun god and the sun will then not rise again.
Hindus believe in Kali Yuga, the age of darkness, and that we are at its peak on the fateful day of Dec.21, 2012. That Winter Solstice looms as the peak of a number of things.
One of these things is the current sun spot cycle. It tops out at that particular time and a big increase in sun spot activity could upset a whole pile of things, including the Internet, radio, television, all satellite communications and the many associated panics that would result. Let’s not forget the power grid, which could fail and leave us all without electricity, right at the beginning of winter.
So, shall we forget global warming and climate change, because civilization as we know it will come to an end in a few days?
Let’s hope not, although there is another scare rumor going around that there is a certain galactic alignment, including a black hole at the center of our galaxy, which will take place at 11:11 a.m. on the fateful day. Some scientists say the severe gravity effects on our planet could cause the poles to shift and dump us all topsy-turvy. This pole shift could very well trigger more massive earthquakes (remember Japan, Haiti & Chile) and volcanic eruptions. Hmm, there do seem to be a lot of volcanoes going off lately with earthquakes all over the place.
Other dire references to 12-21-12 have been attributed to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Tibetans, Einstein, Edgar Cayce, the I Ching and Nostradamus.
Most of these references are obscure enough so they can be laughed off a bit, which is what I’m getting to right here in this article.
For some reason, ever since I was a kid, (centuries ago) I’ve been fascinated by articles and stories about the Great God Quetzacoatl. Just the other day, while reading a segment of a book on my Kindle called, “The Geek’s Guide to World Domination,” I came across this reference, “Beware, Quetzacoatl, the Mesoamerican dragon, is due to make another appearance in 2012, when it will destroy and thus re-create the world.”
Wow, that was enough for me. I’m now a believer. I’m not too keen about the destroy part, although the re-create part sounds fine.
Do you suppose it will be the end of the world or the beginning?
And will we survive the transition?
By Roger Farley
“Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast.”
-— William Congreve
Last month, I was sitting in the balcony of an old-time movie theatre, (in the context of this column) munching candy and popcorn, in amongst puffs on a Fatima cigarette. Most movies back in the “olden days” were black and white, still awaiting the advent of MGM and the Technicolor musical. And, when they arrived, those were my happiest movie days, watching the dancing girls, the bright lights and colors and the vaudevillian style music and comedy—most of the time.
But the fabulous music was there, nonetheless. Some of my favorite old tunes came from that era. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched “Casablanca” and reminisced with Dooley Wilson tinkling on his piano “As Time Goes By” for Ingrid Bergmann, which aggravated Humphrey Bogart. The beautiful melody “Laura” came from a 1944 movie of the same name, starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews. (Remember those names?) “Laura” has become a jazz standard, recorded by over four hundred artists including the likes of Frank Sinatra. It also became the name of my oldest daughter.
I’m a classical movie buff. Most of my daytime hours spent at home, I have on our local classical FM station, WCVT on 101.7 FM. Occasionally a piece gets played called “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” just recently classed as classical although it was written as an ending ballet for a Thirties musical.”
A couple of Thirties black and white musicals called “On Your Toes” and “Babes in Arms” had attendees singing on the way out of the theater, with people such as myself still today humming and whistling some of the melodies. “Babes in Arms” brought us “My Funny Valentine,” “The lady is a Tramp,” “Where or When” and “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” to name just four. “On Your Toes” gave us “There’s a Small Hotel” (with a wishing well), “Glad to be Unhappy” and the aforementioned “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.”
MGM, in the Forties, brought us its excellent Technicolor musicals. Soon we had Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Fred Astaire singing and dancing on the silver screen. One of my all time favorites is “Singin’ In The Rain” with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor and featuring absolutely top notch music and acting. It was, and still is, a marvelous spoof of the early days of the movie “talkies.” By the way, MGM was also responsible for many excellent cartoon characters, which kept us amused between the double features that kept us occupied for long weekend afternoons.
I don’t think there is enough room in this short article for all the great musicals that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced. I’ll list a few for those of you who have watched them in the past or in the present on TV on such entertainment channels as TCM–Turner Classic Movies. I will list them with a single memorable tune, but you’ll have to use your own musical memory to recall the rest of the super songs written by, for instance, Lerner and Lowe.
I mentioned “Singin’ In the Rain” with its title tune and Gershwin’s “American in Paris” (“I Got Rhythm”), both flicks with Gene Kelly. Then there was “Showboat,” (“Old Man River”) “The Band Wagon” (“Dancing in the Dark”), “Brigadoon” (“Almost Like Being in Love,”) “Kismet,” (“Stranger in Paradise,”) “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (“Lonesome Polecat”), “Gigi,” (“Thank Heaven For Little Girls,”) and “Meet Me in St. Louis,” (“The Trolley Song”).
Playing “doll-house” a while back with three-year-old great-granddaughter Lily, I learned that her favorite movie was the epic MGM musical that pretty much started it all, the one that’s on the tube every other week or so and features ‘Somewhere, Over the Rainbow.’ Of course it is the great ‘Wizard of Oz!’
A lot of that ancient music is now considered in the public domain and is so old that some are considered classics. If you listen closely, you’ll hear many of them in the background of commercials. They have catchy tunes that make you remember the “pitch.”
Roger Farley lives in South Burlington.
By Roger Farley
“Candy, I call my sugar Candy, because I’m sweet on Candy and Candy’s sweet on me.”
— Song lyrics by Johnny Mercer
I hardly ever attend the dozens of those little movie theatres anymore. It seems to me that they offer only unfunny comedies or maudlin mush with gratuitous sexual situations, with the accompaniment of likewise gratuitous violence.
Movie houses aren’t the same anymore either. They were once lush palaces with plush seating. Some offered balcony seating with an excellent view of the large screen. The smell of the cigarette smoke wafting about those seats was more than offset by the lovely fragrance of freshly buttered, just-popped corn. Most of those of us who were not supposed to be smoking (most of us) could, after the show, freshen our nasty breath with a few squares of Sen Sen, purchased for a few pennies from the candy counter. Or we could chew some Clove, Teaberry, Beeman’s or Blackjack gum.
Ah, those memorable candies which could be gobbled in amongst the puffs on the smokes and the mouthfuls of popcorn. Spike Jones recorded a tune called, “Rattle, rattle, popcorn sack,” and it was an amusing musical complaint toward those paper sacks that popcorn came in, but as long as you had a pocket full of nickels, you could eat much more quietly from cardboard boxes of Good and Plenty. A small box of those chewy pink and white licorice-filled morsels could last through the first feature, the cartoon, the news and a Pete Smith Specialty or two. The second feature might necessitate a trip back to the candy counter for a box of Milk Duds, Dots or Black Crows. Of course you could always carry a Pez dispenser.
A friend of mine — we’ll call him Bob (since that’s his name) — and I were chatting while on the treadmill at the local cardiac rehab gym where we were attempting to work off the lard accumulated over the years by the ingestion of those goodies. We allowed as how the world of candy has changed over the years, but on closer inspection and a dig into the depths of Google, I found that some of the long-ago treats are still around and actually still in movie theatres. Since I don’t attend those houses anymore, I don’t know if they’re still priced at a nickel. I’ll go on record as doubting it and I’ll bet you don’t get much popcorn for a dime anymore either.
The expression, “like a kid in a candy store” was always quite apropos when we were “knee high to a grasshopper.” I don’t get to see my great-grandchildren often enough to see if they get as excited as I used to, but while I seem to find the same sweet offerings as I remember, I think tastes or customs have changed in recent years, with the stress these days on keeping kids from chubbiness by withholding snacks, treats and cheeseburgers.
I’m typing this on the ubiquitous computer keyboard, which is becoming rather damp from drool as I think of my bouts with weight-gaining as I downed Bits of Honey, an occasional Chunky, (remember Arnold Stang saying, “what a chunk of chocolate?”) or a Peter Paul Mounds or Almond Joy. It was probably tough keeping me away from a Necco Sky Bar, an Oh Henry, a Sugar Daddy or a handful of those nice red Boston Baked Beans also as admonitions from a worried Mom were that the sugar would eat my teeth away. I’m sure she was thinking of the charges from the dentist in the big city as well.
As I mentioned earlier, a surprising number of those delectables are still available, even if only in those nostalgic country stores that abound in most communities. As far as the movie houses go, I’ll have to rely on others for the availability. If there were still some decent Technicolor musicals showing, I might drop in to see for myself.
But, I’ll bet I’d have trouble querying the candy clerk as to the prices with the din of machine guns splattering simulated blood over the former silver screen.
Roger Farley is a columnist living in So. Burlington.
The Retirement Conundrum
“The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.”
— Abe Lemons
It seems to me that in order to retire you must be aware of at least two things. First, you must define retirement. Then, you must decide what you’re retiring from and where you’re retiring to.
I have retired a number of times. As a little kid, my chief job was reading comic books, listening to the radio, going to school and doing homework. Yeah, sure.
I retired from that by graduating, and then went to work traveling around the country advertising the latest product of a popular soap company. After bailing out of a three story window during a fire, I retired from that and got into automobiles. I played with race (stock) cars, but retired from that when my knuckles became bloody and infected from the dirt and grease involved. I then turned to electronic repair after mucho studying (sort of back to school.)
After getting zapped a few times with my fingers in a high voltage cage, resulting in more bloody knuckles from the rapid withdraw of said fingers, I decided on and took a job with a world-wide automation and control company. I hung with that one for 33 years and after being offered an attractive buyout, I retired again—but to what? I thought I’d catch up on my reading. I soon tired of that relative inactivity and started part-time with a major retail company. I stayed with that one for six or seven years.
Then, after a lifetime of enjoying the putting down of words on paper, I took on some of the responsibilities of a local weekly newspaper. I’m still hacking away at that.
During my sojourn with the automation company, I got introduced to computers. I obtained a personal computer when they became available during the early 80s, I believe, and discovered word processing software and some rudimentary, although efficient, printing capabilities — releasing me from the hassle of banging away at a typewriter keyboard. My “touch” became much lighter on a computer keyboard and the software allowed me to make necessary corrections to “typos” and the vagaries of the English language, sometimes murdered by those light-touching fingers.
So, those have been my “retirements,” sometimes real ones and sometimes vague ones. But, almost always I had studied or read heavily on a particular subject that I wanted to retire to. Those of you who are contemplating retirement soon might want to do something of the same. Otherwise, you’ll be relegated to what’s left of your lifetime watching daytime TV Arrrggh!
Whatever your age and experience, pick something you’ve always loved to do and start doing it, even if only in an amateur capacity. Speaking of amateur operation, I’m now in the fifty-second year of a life-long love — amateur or “ham” radio. I’ve met many new friends worldwide, some virtually, numbering doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs, although I’m not sure about the last category.
Back during the period when I was leaving my major job of 33 years with the automation outfit and heading for a “real” retirement, I picked up a number of books on the retirement subject. Two of these, which are still available in used bookstores and online sites such as Amazon, are “How to Have a Great Retirement on a Limited Budget,” by Diane Warner and “A Field Guide to Retirement,” by Alice and Fred Lee. I found both to be very informative with lots of good info and hints. I found the latter to be most helpful with chapters such as “Free Time is Opportunity Time,” “Stay Put or Move” and “Snowbirds.”
These tomes are all about planning for retirement, so if you’re contemplating such, you have some time to peruse them. If you’re already retired, it’s not too late, but you probably now have more time to read equivalent writings and probably have established some sort of a routine.
If you haven’t done any of the above, get going. All is not lost, but time is of the essence.
Otherwise, you’re on your own.
Roger Farley is a columnist living in South Burlington.
Hawaii Five Oh, Oh!
By Roger Farley
“Have you heard, it’s in the stars, next July we collide with Mars!”
— Sinatra & Crosby, from the movie “High Society”
This April fool is at it again. This issue of Vermont Maturity has, as a theme, “Home & Garden and Spring Arts.” This column is entitled “Backward Glance,” but since spring is generally reputed to be the beginning of things, it is sort of tough to look backwards.
“But wait,” as some of the interminable TV commercials say! I’ve just returned from a trip to the Hawaiian Islands. Much of it was composed of guided land tours, combined with sojourns on an enormous cruise ship — The Pride of America. Four of the islands were covered by almost daily on-land excursions where we were invariably subjected to a dissertation on the history of the islands by the tour or bus driver. I’m not making fun of them since they more or less were always educational and entertaining.
So, interspersed among the sights of hibiscus, orchids and Birds of Paradise, were the bus driver’s interpretation of the history of the particular island we happened to be on. For instance, Oahu featured a tour of the battleship Arizona memorial, bus trips throughout Honolulu among others, plus a trip through the Polynesian Center, where I learned to ingest native food at a luau and dip pineapple chunks in poi.
There, we were soaked by a warm Hawaiian flash rainstorm and were treated to a history of the various Asian races that make up today’s inhabitants.
On Maui, it was more of the same on a lengthy tour called The Road to Hana. On the big island of Hawaii, we climbed to an enormous height to view an active volcano, but wound up instead inside a heavy cloud, but then got to stumble through a lava tube. Then, we were off to Kauai to frolic on the beaches in front of a magnificent resort in the Marriott hotel chain.
On all these tours and on all these islands, a common theme seemed to be a history of the Asian races that make up the inhabitants of the various islands (composed of eight main islands and about 130 all together.)
We also learned the history of Captain Cook who, ostensibly, “discovered” this beautiful island chain. This commentary was always related with a bit of a snicker in the voice of the tour driver as each noted that there were many thousands of natives already living on that particular island when Captain Cook “discovered” it. However, Cook was generally recognized as the premier explorer, navigator and cartographer of his time.
Generally, the story was the same — the inhabitants were essentially savages, living off the land, with superstitions, religions and rites that I’m sure most of us have heard of or read about.
Captain Cook was a fair-skinned man from Britain. And when he sloshed ashore on an island filled with dark-skinned natives he, with his huge ships and crews and marvelous instruments and gadgets, was treated as a god. It seems as though he readily adapted to this subterfuge and happily lived the life of a deity.
Cook and his crew eventually made three trips to these islands.
It seems that some of the native pine trees grew enormously high and straight — just the right height and length for the masts of a sailing ship of the Captain Cook class. On his final voyage to Hawaii, Cook left one island during a local uprising, but ran into a storm off shore that broke one of the masts of his ship. He returned to shore to outfit his ship with one of those pines, (today known as Cook Pines). Amid the ongoing scuffles he somehow got bopped with a club or two, which resulted in his head being bloodied.
The natives, theorizing that gods do not bleed and therefore the good captain then was not a supernatural being, promptly executed him for his ongoing deception. His crew was chased from the island and only later did portions of Captain Cook get returned to his family and crew.
He sort of had to “bite the bullet,” so to speak.
I’d guess, in Cook’s case at least, the old “three times and out” saying held true.
Columnist Roger Farley lives in So. Burlington
By Roger Farley
“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”
— Mark Twain
Yours truly decided to do grocery shopping at one of those “healthy” food stores. My avoirdupois was getting a little to avoirdupoitic, and my exercise routine didn’t seem to be helping me to shed the proper number of pounds.
Meandering up and down the aisles of six dollar boxes of super vitamin-filled cereal and extraordinarily-enhanced, non-gluten carbohydrates, fat-free beef and freeze-dried pork chops, I chugged around a corner and banged into my old friend, Sluggo’s cart. He had been sent out by his wife Nancy to do the same as me — namely some healthy food shopping. He and Nancy had been getting a little plump also, evidently due to over-eating of junk foods. After all, even though 99 cent cheeseburgers had risen to four dollars or so, without pickle, it was much more economical to “eat out.”
Sluggo didn’t recognize me at first, we had both aged, so I hailed him with, “Hey, Sluggo, what are you looking for? You seem to be puzzled.”
My old and sometimes bewildered friend replied, “Oh, hi Buddy, haven’t seen ya for a long time. And, I’m looking fer some 50 percent milk.”
“You mean 5 percent, don’t you? I don’t think they make that blend.”
“Nope, Nance don’t like da 2 percent and whole milk is too fat, or sumpin’. So she figured since whole means 100 percent, that 50 percent would be halfway between 2 & 100 percent.”
“I think the percentage figures refer to butter fat content, Sluggo.”
“Yeah, will dat’s da problem. We’re eatin’ too much butter and milk and gettin’ fat.”
The previous statements caused quite a few minutes of discussion, but eventually we got off the milk subject. I asked Sluggo why he was frequenting this particular store.
“Well, Nancy was listenin’ to an old radio musical program and she heard a song called enjoy yerself, it’s later than you t’ink. Some of da woids say, ‘while yer still in the pink.’ I guess she wants me to find some good stuff to turn our skins pink again, like when we was little kids, hah! Wonder what in da pink means?”
“Strangely enough, my addled adversary, I looked that up once in a dictionary of word and phrase origins. It refers to exactly what you said, the pink cheeks of a newborn baby. The phrase was actually mentioned by Shakespeare in “Romeo and Juliet.”
“Wow, didn’t read dat. I t’ot maybe pink meant a rash caused by some kind of allergy. Which makes me wonder. When I was a kid, we all grew up on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Now, it seems a mess of kids are allergic to peanuts and can’t eat those. I wonder who’s allergic to jelly? Hah!”
“You know, Sluggo, it might be because of the chemicals we’re ingesting. We’re told that butter now is bad for us, so we eat a spread made of chemicals. We cover everything in plastic wrap to keep germs out, but are told not to heat that plastic up on the food, since some poisons from the plastic might leach into the food. We spend extra using chemicals to take caffeine out of our coffee and tea and then the next week are told caffeine isn’t so bad for us after all. We take dozens of pills now to accomplish what plain old aspirin used to do.”
“Yeah, I t’ink we try to protect ourselves too doggone much.”
“Right friend, we’re vaccinated against some ills by injecting a small dose of the ailment itself, so our bodies will develop an immunity. Maybe the peanuts in peanut butter did the same thing for us.”
“Yup, and da hay fever sneezin’ can be fixed wid anti-histamines. What the heck is a histamine anyway?”
“I think we’re better off leaving that explanation alone. Let’s just say most of the time they work.”
“So, whatchur sayin’ is ya win some and ya lose some.”
“You’ve nailed it, my perceptive pal. Nice seeing you again, Sluggo, but have to keep shopping. I’ve been sent out for some black strap molasses, Hadacol and wheat-germ bread.
I think they’re all the rage this week, from yet another song, for being veritable life-savers.”
The Curse of Ben Franklin
By Roger Farley
“The Yankee is a dab at electricity and crime, He tells you how he hustles and it takes him quite a time.”
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton
We seniors are encouraged to “go green.” We must recycle, at our own expense, even our vehicles. It is recommended we donate our old car to someone in need, but then cash a couple of pension checks to gingerly lay out forty thousand bucks for a new electric car. We’re assured the savings, over the long run, will be significant. We oldsters don’t usually think in “long runs” very often except to estimate our age when our great grandchildren will be graduating from college.
This gives a whole new meaning to the term “grandfathering.” And as long as we’re bringing up that term, I wonder how many of us Vermonters know that the grandfather of today’s electric cars lived right here in Vermont.
In environmentalist’s eyes, the electric car is an innovation. Not so! Electric cars have been around for close to two centuries. In 1828, a Hungarian named Ányos Jedlik invented a small-scale model car powered by an electric motor that he designed. Between 1832 and 1839 (exact year uncertain), Robert Anderson of Scotland invented a crude electric-powered carriage. In 1835, another small-scale electric car was designed by Professor Stratingh of Groningen, Holland, and built by his assistant Christopher Becker.
Then, get this. In 1835, Thomas Davenport, a blacksmith from Brandon, Vermont, built a small-scale electric car. Davenport also invented the first American-built DC electric motor. The electric car was born!
Of course, the chief problem 175 years ago was the battery, just as today. Then, they were extremely rudimentary. More practical and more successful electric road vehicles were invented by both Davenport and Scotsman Robert Davidson around 1842. These inventors were the first to use the newly invented but non-rechargeable electric cells or batteries. A Frenchman, Gaston Plante, invented a better storage battery in 1865, while we were winding up our Civil War, and his fellow countryman Camille Faure further improved the storage battery in 1881.
Europeans seemed to be in the forefront with electric car development. But, while still in the nineteenth century, the late 1800s found electric taxis running around New York City. The turn of the century brought us the Chicago-based Woods Motor Vehicle Company. It was a high point for electric cars in America, as they outsold all other types of cars. One example was the 1902 Phaeton.
Later in 1916, Woods invented a hybrid car that had both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. Sound familiar?
Then, Henry Ford came along. More efficient internal combustion engines, Ford’s assembly lines, the electric starter that eliminated the hand-cranking of vehicles and vast, cheap reserves of Texas crude oil, all but eliminated the electric car. Most of those were over-ornate and touted toward the upper class and cost way too much, compared to Ford’s “Tin Lizzies.” An electric roadster cost close to $2K, while a “T” was around $650.
Electric vehicles languished till the early sixties when the need to reduce dependency on imported foreign crude oil cropped up. Then, in the seventies, long lines began to appear at gas pumps. Sometimes, waiting in lines was futile since there was no gasoline to be had. Soon, we were being issued gas on the basis of our license plate numbers. And, environmentalists had convinced the country that the exhaust emissions were killing people and destroying the planet.
In 1975, the U. S. Postal Service bought a fleet of 350 “electric jeeps” or “Electrucks” from the then American Motors, run by George Romney, father of a kid named Mitt. It was just a test project, but was described as “a laudable experiment in the field of energy conservation and pollution control.” Most were decommissioned by 1983.
More experimental electric vehicles followed. From a couple of thou to the aforementioned $40K, most of these new ones still are not fully electric, having a fuel based backup alternate.
But, just think, the big advances in efficiency, (and price) pretty much became an environmental wave with Tom Davenport’s 1835 electric car produced in Brandon.
By Roger Farley
“Do the best you can, and don’t take life too serious.”
— Will Rogers
In last month’s column about movies, I was somewhat appalled at the usage of “blue” language in today’s version of, “movies are better than ever.”
Most of you and I grew up with lovely shades of black, white and grey on the silver screen, excellent acting and super writing in the dialogue department.
When not at the movies, we had black and white TV, or were still listening to the radio. Remember radio before rock and roll and talk shows? There were marvelous adventure programs that made you use your imagination. You knew Superman could never transfer to TV. While your imagination allowed him to fly, there was no way they could show him flying on the television box—right?
Music, in general, was soft and relaxing. The big bands were in vogue and there were talent and quiz shows such as the Horace Heidt show and Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge. The bulk of early evening radio, though, featured one hour or half-hour shows, mostly variety and hosted in many cases by a comedian. I still always associate the great Fred Allen with his cast of goofy characters such as Mrs. Nussbaum, Senator Claghorn and Titus Moody. I thoroughly enjoyed the super funny and sometimes archaic bits that always had me laughing out loud, without benefit of any off-color language.
Oh, there was innuendo, of course, especially when Bob Hope was holding forth with his own cast of characters and guests. I recall that variety program being followed by his band leader, Phil Harris and wife Alice Faye. Any of those names jog an iota of memory?
Situation comedies were bright and lively. Amos and Andy brought their gags and sense of humor that might be considered racial today. The Kingfish would always get in trouble. Around the same time, I could hardly wait for Fibber Magee to open his closet and be berated by wife Molly. A spinoff from that show was Hal Peary as the Great Gildersleeve. His nephew, Leroy, always managed to drive his uncle Throckmorton crazy.
Edgar Bergen was a radio ventriloquist—think about it! To be fair, the throwing of his voice to Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd was usually done in front of a studio audience. I remember guest stars, who “argued” with Charlie, such as occasionally off-color Mae West and W. C. Fields. But, George Burns and Gracie Allen kept me in stitches without using any four letter words.
Betcha not too many of you remember the same variety radio shows that I do, but then I’m rapidly approaching senility. Even then, I think I’d revel in repeats of the real old radio shows featuring burlesque era singers like Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor. Yup, they had their own shows, also.
And, how could you keep from laughing at the sometimes infantile humor of Red Skelton, with his mean widdle kid and Clem Kadiddlehopper characters. Red had one of those talents that translated easily to television, where he was just as hilarious, if not more so, mainly because of his expressive voices and facial contortions.
I still laugh at Bob Newhart and Bill Cosby’s earliest routines. Those riots are available on CDs and easily found. Comedians like Buddy Hackett also made albums, usually featuring his Chinese waiter routine.
I could illustrate plenty more, but the point I was trying to make is that they were successful without benefit of profanity. Imagine an old vaudevillian comedian proffering, “Why does the [@#!!*%#] chicken cross the [bleeping] road? Why to get to the other [deleted] side, of course!
I’ve left out many grand comics. One is the magnificent Johnny Carson. Johnny, like the legendary Jack Benny, could break you up with a bland or quizzical facial expression and a “pregnant pause.”
But now, at the end of this year of 2011, if you tune to the comedy channel on the tube, you’re more likely to hear about a degenerate Santa in drag, who has had an affair with one of his elves.
Or, maybe a descriptive reason why Rudolph’s face might be as red as his nose, because of some reindeer infidelity.
Roger Farley resides in So. Burlington
By Roger Farley
“If my films make one more person miserable, I’ll feel I’ve done my job.”
— Woody Allen
I’m really not much of a movie fan. I don’t patronize the “megaplexes” where special effects abound and acting suffers. Multi-explosions with vehicles and people flying through the ai, spurting gallons of blood, don’t impress me at all. After all, movies are just make-believe, where impossible and improbable things routinely take place.
Which is almost the exact opposite of a good real-time sporting event, or let’s say, the History channel on TV where events and speculations are either factual or based on scientific possibilities. My satellite service gives me many more “pictures” than I can handle what with AMC, FMC, FLIX, Showtime, Cinemax, HBO and the like. I easily ignore most of them.
Not so TMC, The Movie Channel, where the old-time Technicolor musicals and thirties and forties B&W classics are routinely shown. I can’t say how many times I’ve watched “Casablanca” or “Singin’ in the Rain” or “Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” (easily one of the funniest movies ever made.) And, I just recently, finally, watched “Citizen Kane,” by Orson Welles, which is touted as one of the greatest flicks ever produced.
Seems as though all the great films were produced in the mid decades of the twentieth century. Those were the movies we’d watch on a Saturday or Sunday by motoring to the big city. Many theatres resided there with balconies where one could smoke or “neck” with the girlfriend in peace. But, only those movies where they would let us in! Back then, any movie with an off-color line or slightly suggestive scene would bring the Legion of Decency down on the hapless ticket sellers who had to make an on the spot determination of whether or not the youngster proffering his or her seventy-five cents was of the proper age, height or inclination.
One of our group, little Bobby, was the same age as all of us, but was considerably shorter. While the rest of us didn’t have much trouble lying our way into an older age, (I was a tall kid), Bobby didn’t have a prayer to get in to see a show like “The Outlaw,” starring a busty Jane Russell. We had problems then, because we tried to be older to see the movies we weren’t supposed to see while trying to be younger to avail ourselves of the junior prices.
The Legion of Decency ran from 1933 to roughly the mid-sixties and was eventually replaced by today’s Motion Picture Association of America ratings — from G to NC-17. NC-17 stands for no one under seventeen admitted. Seems as though the “cut-off” age was around 12, 60 or so years ago.
Today, most 17-year-olds graduating from high school move into the cold, cruel world able to identify with the violence, sexual aberrations and animated fantasy that passes for today’s science fiction. That genre has exploded since the introduction of Star Wars a quarter of a century ago. Kids today are healthier, taller and more mentally acute than eons ago and more teens and sub teens are able to gain access to the NC-17 films, which are obviously marketed toward them. However, they’d still like to take advantage of young kids’ prices. Tough luck!
One disturbing trend, at least to this “reviewer” is the proliferation of cartoon-like animated films and programs featured on TV. I’m sure most of them are ignored by the average parent, but are eagerly gobbled up by youngsters. I think it started with the little round people of South Park talking trash. Today’s fare includes Family Guy, with language that would send some Good Sisters screaming from the room.
TV ratings are similar to movie ratings, with age modifications and type of programming. TV movies still must follow the MPAA’s dictates, however. TV programs, especially the animated and fantasy types, must tread a fine line to be acceptable for a general audience rating.
Still, compared to years ago, a contemporary Donald Duck’s “blue” dialogue would make some of us old-timers cringe when anyone younger joins us in front of the flickering monster.
I Remember Colors
It seems as though as we age, our observations all tend to run together in somewhat of a blurry haze. As we slouch in our easy chair, watching favorite movies from the forties, such as Casablanca, it seems like everything in our minds-eye parades in front of us in shades of black and white.
But I remember, as a kid, observing a riot of colors in our normal activities—except for school, of course. It tended to be rather bland with the exception of colorful girl’s dresses and the bright Hawaiian style shirts I liked to wear.
But, school usually began with a profusion of fall foliage colors as fragrant winds blew red, yellow and brown leaves past the still open classroom windows.
Unfortunately, this denuding of tree branches brought on the dreads of winter. Still, I can recall the super bright white snow banks that were always higher than my head. (Could it be I was only four feet tall?) An intense winter’s sun illuminated those drifts which were speckled sometimes with bits of mud where a vehicle without wearing its proper chains had gotten stuck in a drift and spun up a bit of brown from the under-layment of goo, recently covered by a fast moving snowstorm. An occasional flash of a broken red tail-light made observations a little more interesting. Vivid yellow school buses helped break up the blandness, also.
Winter seemed to take forever then, but spring was never far behind, uncovering more of that brown mud, but rapidly being speckled with green shoots of almost anything. Grass grew madly and yellow dandelions dotted that beautiful green expanse—that needed to be mowed. Then came golden croci and vari-colored tulips.
Warmer days arrived, of course, and brought red, white and blue baseball uniforms, unless you lived way out in the sticks and had to play an abbreviated pick up game in the local sand and gravel bank. Still, the large expanse of sparkling sand was surrounded by green corn fields under a cobalt blue sky, dotted with fluffy white clouds. Those clouds sometimes turned dark gray and foreboding, bringing wind driven, light blue, soaking rain drops that put an end to the game in the 23rd inning.
Summer, after school, droned on that way for weeks, but was still very colorful. The neighbor’s red Irish terrier or a stray calico cat occasionally crossed our path, as did a moss covered snapping turtle. A local swampy wetland showed us the life-cycle of the frog from grayish tailed tadpoles to the bright green backs of the “finished” frog. Multi-colored wildflowers grew everywhere. Later in the summer, a weed I knew as an Indian paintbrush showed a dark, almost blood red hue.
When rain did not come, the fields turned a crunchy tan that crackled under one’s sneakers as one walked to the now very shallow swimming hole. Cool winds began drifting through and the fat, mailed,“Monkey Wards” and Sears catalogs featured back-to-school clothes.
Corn fields turned to brown tassels and then disappeared to harvest. An occasional cold rain dampened our summer spirits as the shorter days inevitably led to the grey specter of school and those bright buses that hauled us off to red brick schoolhouses with dull black roofs. We carried tin lunch boxes filled with white egg salad sandwiches and yellow pencils. The metal boxes were usually of a red plaid color…I think the plastic Howdy Doody covers came later.
School books were usually blue in color, matching our moods as we wrestled with fractions and the parsing of the English language, turning the brilliantly colored days of summer to a non-descript routine tinge.
To tell the truth though, it was sometimes fun getting smart, despite an embarrassing, cheek-flushing lack of homework papers.
Of course, that was because the dog had eaten the colorfully illuminated pages instead of his dull brown food. Dogs do do that, you know!
My Vermont Experience
“Experience is the child of Thought, and Thought is the child of Action.”
I’m not a native Vermonter. But, I began covering the Vermont territory back in the middle sixties, so I’ve been a “Vermonter” now for over 45 years. As the natives might say, though, “Vermont ain’t what it used to be.”
However, my first experience with the Green Mountain State was a visit to the Rock of Ages quarry, which I don’t believe has changed that much.
I became an official resident when I bought a 200-year-old house late in 1969 on what was to become Little Chicago Road in Ferrisburg. A goodly portion of my work was up in Burlington, especially at the University of Vermont. To get to UVM from Ferrisburg, I had to experience travel on a two lane Route 7. Many decorative and pleasing trees on the east side of the road were cut to widen the highway to accommodate the increased truck traffic.
UVM was a much different campus to experience back then, known mainly for its cow barns and ice-cream dispensing dairy bar. Ancient Dewey Hall was one of the few buildings on campus, but a heavy-duty expansion and building program was soon to follow. Newer buildings were just a set of blueprints, which then were actual blue blueprints. My job in the seventies was to automate the campus for energy management, fire detection and security. I’m retired now, but it is still an ongoing project, I’m sure.
A pleasant experience awaited me as I filed my first Vermont tax report. New York State had a very complicated set of forms, but after I finished my Federal reports, my Vermont tax was just 25 percent of the Fed’s cut. To be sure, there was a slight surcharge, but it was minimal. Remember that single piece of paper?
Politics was a much different story, also. Vermont was a Republican stronghold, with Governor Davis running the state, encouraging growth within reason, although a big, new seven-building campus was being built for the Burlington school system up on North Avenue.
The Stowe area was expanding, also. Huge lodges were going up on the Mountain Road. All the lounges in those resorts and others in the cities just had to be decorated with old barn boards. Of course, they had to be authentic old barn boards. I think some of the rural character of the state was lost when most of the ancient old barns were torn down to form decorations for those pubs.
IBM had just begun its complex in Essex Junction; Lake Champlain pretty much took care of itself. Cows, which had replaced sheep, were then replaced by industry as many farm lands were sold and “parsed” into factory and housing projects to provide suburban living for the huge influx of out-of-staters like myself. That brought “modernization” of at least the Shelburne, Burlington, South Burlington area. A small airport, even then designated as the Burlington International Airport, (a Piper Cub took off daily to fly to Montreal) grew like the proverbial Topsy, gobbling up adjacent land and housing.
But, it was a nice experience here. The big old house in Ferrisburg maintained itself with 17 cents-a-gallon oil. Groceries were available either up in the big city of Burlington or Vergennes, then “The Smallest City in the World.” Both areas featured schools and smoky, warm and cozy gin mills, where pleasant company abounded.
Those groceries featured a dozen eggs at about 60 cents. A gallon of milk in this dairy state, though, was up to a buck fifteen a gallon. A stamp cost you six cents. If you had to drive “Thirty Miles For Ice Cream,” (novel by local Murray Hoyt) so what! Gas in 1970 was still only 36 cents a gallon.
But, that was 1970. In 1973-1974, the Arab Oil Embargo occurred. There was gas rationing, inflated prices and an accompanying stock market crash. When you could even find gas to go get the now more expensive groceries, that price had risen to well over a half a dollar.
This was an unpleasant experience, but not restricted to Vermont alone.
Columnist Roger Farley lives in South Burlington
On-the-road Health Tips for Us Old-timers
“It winds from Chicago to LA, more than 2000 miles all the way.”
— Bobby Troupe
It was only two years ago that wife Linda and I decided to “motor west” on “the highway that is best.”
We wandered down various back roads, past the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania, picking up Interstate route 81 and keeping on a southern track until we bumped into I-40, somewhere in Tennessee. We then headed due west on said I-40, (following the old route 66,) until we reached Amarillo, Texas, where we headed southwest to a stop in Roswell, New Mexico to check out the little green men, known to abound in that area.
Back up to Albuquerque and then west to visit the Grand Canyon and environs. Nice trip, interesting driving, but I was getting a little tired pointing the Buick east, through the plains of Kansas, on the way back home.
On another trip, taken just recently, I decided to head due south to Daytona Beach to visit sister Eileen, then back up to Jacksonville to head west on I-10, over the Florida Panhandle and through Alabama and Mississippi to Louisiana to spend a couple of nights and sunny days in New Orleans. Ominous clouds covered the Panhandle, but they didn’t produce multiple tornadoes until we were well past.
We followed I-10 through the lower portions of those southern states, then headed into lower Texas and drove a day or two or three through some ninety-plus, hot dry outside conditions. In the vehicle, with the air conditioning working, it was cool and dry. We brought a small cooler with us and happily slurped up hot coffee and cold Coke, both loaded with diuretic caffeine. The ancient Buick was performing well, even at its 85,000 mile mark, so we kept moving west through lower New Mexico, making a small detour to Carlsbad, NM, where we visited the spectacular caverns and then lower Arizona, eventually reaching California.
We then motored north in CA, to Needles to visit with Snoopy’s cousin Spike and where we picked up I-40 once again, to go through Flagstaff, AZ, the big meteor crater and other local sights. It was just about there we saw snow on top of the distant mountains, but until then, we were still enjoying the hot, dry climate and the coffee and Coke.
This brings us to the health aspect of this article. I found myself yawning in mid to late afternoon, despite getting a good night’s sleep in some comfortable hotels and motels along the way. All of those home-away-from-homes fed us an adequate, although sometimes meager breakfast of the Continental type. Occasionally, we’d feast on some fat food—sausage gravy on biscuits or syrupy pancakes and waffles, followed by a dessert of a cheese Danish. Loading up on coffee, I was wide awake in the morning, but yawning in the afternoon. I was confused.
Then, I realized that the yawning came after too many of those cups of coffee and too many doses of Coca-Cola and ice. I was becoming dehydrated! I started sipping on nice, ice cold water instead of the Coke in the afternoons after enough cups of caffeine-laden coffee in the morning to wake me up. It really seemed to reverse the condition.
So, for those of you who are contemplating a southern trip through hot, dry climates, make sure you drink a lot of good cold, potable water. (If you do get drowsy in the afternoon, especially driving the Interstate in Texas where the speed limit is eighty mph, it is wise to look right away for the nearest picnic, parking or rest area to take a break. It helps.)
Don’t forget the vehicle’s health, either. Even sturdy old Buicks need watering at times. The engine was good on both oil and gas, but supplements were necessary occasionally, even though gasoline prices hovered dangerously close to four bucks a gallon throughout the 7,500 mile trip. We gave the car a nice rest in Hershey, PA, while heading toward the barn.
Hmmm! Does chocolate have enough caffeine to make it a diuretic also?
Columnist Roger Farley lives in South Burlington
Retire – Who, Me?By Roger Farley
Few men of action have been
able to make a graceful exit at the appropriate time.
— Malcolm Muggeridge
Let’s analyze retirement for a while.
Nope, Sluggo, retire doesn’t mean putting four new shoes on the pickup.
First off, we need to decide what to retire from. Have you worked for a large company for a long time and have a pension coming? No? Have you “bounced around” and have not accumulated any old age benefit time? Have you contributed to “sociable security” or put something away in a personal slush fund, stock portfolio or some type of an Individual Retirement Account? Maybe you haven’t worked at all and have been enjoying a soft life from being independently wealthy. Tough to retire from that.
Even presidents of the United States have to retire. After FDR’s death in his fourth term as Head Chief, a law was passed to prohibit a presidential term after the second. It did not apply to the present president at that time — Harry Truman — but he, wisely, decided to adhere to that “suggestion” and bowed to Adlai Stevenson, running with John Sparkman against the five star General Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. We all know how that came out. With the “Cold War” rapidly escalating, Americans felt more comfortable having a military man at the helm.
Let’s say you’re a semi-retired doctor or lawyer. You’ll stay busy giving friends, neighbors and relatives occasional, out-of-date medical advice. You’ll answer multiple phone calls from those same people worried about being sued or wanting free advice on how to sue someone.
Of course, the next step is where, when and what to retire to. Will it be the armchair and the TV? “Experts” say, “no,” bad for the body and bad for the heart. You must exercise! But even though you live in Vermont, do not shovel snow! Bad for the body and the heart. So, it’s back to the armchair and the cold can of beer to wash down the pizza and potato chips. And, that armchair routine will satisfy our seemingly all-consuming need to be entertained. But, oh, oh, that pizza and those chips are bad for the body and heart. Eat vegetables — good for you.
Now, to get some affordable vegetables, good ones for you and not the ones from some far off country like Nicaragua, (you know, the ones with a DDT residue,) you should grow your own. Here in Vermont, that necessitates squeezing the growth and harvest of tomatoes, peppers and the like into an approximately three month growing season. That’s after preparing the soil with rake, shovel and/or tiller. Toiling in that dirt in the hot sun is definitely not good for the body and the heart. Take it easy, (which is not good for the body and the heart,) hire a next-door neighbor kid to do it for you. Hah! That kind of work is demeaning for today’s youth, who all want to be managers immediately upon graduation from Kindergarten, grade or high school or sometimes a small college.
You could hire an illegal alien to do the work, but Canadians turn up their nose at such labors and they have their own problem with the short growing season. Mexican immigrants seldom find their way this far north, so shoulder that pick-axe and drag your body and hoe down to the eventual garden. After all, somebody has to feed the rabbits.
Okay, so you can’t raise vegetables, but don’t become one. Don’t become addicted to the mind-boggling and body-wasting daytime TV. Turn off the tube and listen to a radio that you can carry with you. Or, get a device that’ll play music or books and teach you something like a new language—while you’re working or exercising.
Just don’t become the proverbial couch lizard. Start a hobby, there are thousands of them. And any decent hobby will soon gobble up all that spare money you’ve been trying to figure out what to do with.
Have a nice retirement!
Columnist Roger Farley lives in South Burlington.
Bowser the BrowserBy Roger Farley
“If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them.”
— Phil Pastoret
I got a phone call from my old friend Sluggo the other day. He’s tough to understand, even under good circumstances, but it was extremely hard under the conditions of this call — with a mess of dog-barking in the background.
“Hey, Buddy, how ‘ya doin’?” shouted my friend, “will ya speak up a little bit, I can’t hardly hear ya.”
I tried explaining that the problem was on his end and not mine, but as I said, Sluggo is sometimes tough to understand, even under good circumstances.
“Can you quiet the dogs down, Sluggo?” I shouted.
“I can’t hear ya, da dogs are makin’ too much noise,” was his rejoinder.
I gave up, as usual, and decided to go ahead with the complicated conversation.
“What are you up to these days, my friend?” I queried.
“Hey, I got some interestin’ info fer ya” returned Sluggo. The conversation went on, but I won’t subject you to the confusion from the kennel commotion on the other end.
He related a tale that I followed fairly easily, since I had heard some of it before from him. It concerned an old departed canine friend of his, also called Buddy, named after me, according to the big Slug.
Many, many moons ago, when we were much younger and involved in nightly ham radio conversations, Sluggo had insisted he had a dog that watched TV with him. It seems the dog was fascinated by the flickering of the black and white images on Sluggo’s tiny apartment’s TV screen.
This dog — this Buddy — not only watched TV along with him, but seemed to realize what was going on and barked excitedly when there was excitement to be barked at.
Buddy, (the dog) passed on eventually, but not before he sired a number of puppies, one of which became an avid TV watcher with Sluggo, even when color came along on the larger screens.
The dog, named Sport, while grooming his paws, developed a propensity for leaving one claw longer than the other, which he used to change channels on the TV, whether by dial or remote control.
His pup, Rex, also had the same longer nail on his right paw — being right-pawed — so when smaller buttons on smaller remotes came along, he was still able to control the content of the television to his liking. He seemed to particularly like dog food commercials.
Now, both of us (Sluggo & I) have been on the Internet, even before the World Wide Web. Then, pup Champ and now a succeeding pup named Bowser, actually learned to operate the keyboards of Sluggo’s various computers, ordering gourmet dog foods and thick steaks, somehow being able to key in one of Sluggo’s credit card numbers, expiration date and verification code, evidently using his genetically-inherited, extended claw.
All this came to light, according to Sluggo, when he contacted the credit card company to complain about hackers using his account, (although UPS was delivering the merchandise to his house.)
He eventually learned it was Bowser, suspecting an inside job when the moistest dog food and the filet mignons tended to disappear of an evening, leaving some of the packaging — the less tasty parts.
I was still trying to absorb all this, with Sluggo still yammering through the cell phone’s earphone, when a spate of loud barking also came through, almost covering up what Sluggo was saying. Finally he explained.
“Hey, Buddy, Bowser here was really barking at me and drivin’ me nuts, until I figgered out what he was trying to tell me. He just wanted me to tell ya dat he was da one who poked in yer phone number. I guess he thinks he’s pretty smart, findin’ out where my phone book was and den lookin’ up yer number. Hah!”
My brain was beginning to reel, when Sluggo finally asked me if I knew what month it was. I replied — of course — that it was April.
“Dis one’s on you, Buddy. You’re da fool dis time,” guffawed my erstwhile friend.
Swifties – Tom Swift’s Puns IntendedBy Roger Farley
“Too Swift arrives as tardy as too slow”
—Shakespeare (“Romeo & Juliet” Act II-scene VI)
I’m getting up in years, but am hoping there are readers who are older than I, since they would probably be the only ones who would remember the Tom Swift series.
Along with comic books featuring Mickey, Donald and Goofy and Huey, Dewey and Louie, various old sci-fi mags and Grimm’s fairy tales, I devoured the complete collection that my Dad had stashed, probably from when he was a kid — and that goes back pretty near to the turn of last century.
As I grew into my teens, I gobbled up science fiction authors’ tales of Heinlein, Bradbury and Asimov, but in my formative years, the Tom Swift stories were the speculative fiction of its day. “Tom Swift and His Motocycle” (pictured) is a volume I own, copyrighted in 1910, the second in a series of some forty volumes. These tales were penned by “Victor Appleton” purported to be a “nom de plume.” I’m not sure who the actual author was.
The Tom Swift series speculated on the science of the day and what might become of it — if pursued. For instance, there wasn’t much TV watching going on when 1933’s “Tom Swift and his Television Detector” came out. A 1928 volume entitled “Tom Swift and his Talking Pictures” somewhat echoed the Al Jolson revolutionary release of “The Jazz Singer” in 1927. That movie was the first true “talkie.”
The cast of characters in most of the novels were diverse and fairly liberal for their day. Stereotyping was normal for that era, with featured characters such as Eradicate Sampson, a colored man, and a caretaker of Boomerang, a cantankerous, aged and ailing mule. There was Koku, a nine foot giant, brought back by Tom on one of his “expeditions,” who barely spoke English, but was a servant devoted to Tom and his family.
Mary Nestor was Tom’s sweetheart and was lovely, of course, always deferential and soft spoken. Ned Newton was Tom’s buddy, employed ostensibly at a local bank, but always seems to be available to accompany Tom on his many adventures. Tom himself was described as an “intrepid inventor & mechanic, plucky, lively, resourceful, brave and clever.” He and his Dad, Barton Swift, athlete, big game hunter and independently rich, and the rest of the group all lived in the small New York town of Shopton and had to travel to Albany occasionally to search for records and patents, since both Tom and his Dad were inventors.
Andy Foger, a red-haired, squinty-eyed bully, was the thorn in Tom’s side, while Mr. Damon, a nervous older gentleman who seemed to bless everything in sight, (for instance, “Bless my pocket watch”) helped or hindered Tom every chance he could. This blessing of everything was something I remember as one of the Swifties these volumes have generated for history.
A typical Swiftie might read: “Pass me the shellfish,” said Tom crabbily or “I might as well be dead,” Tom croaked or “We just struck oil!” Tom gushed. And you might read “Adverbal puns are fun,” said Tom swiftly or “Baa,” said Tom sheepishly or “Don’t you fire that gun at me,” Tom shot back. Or maybe,“Hurry up and get to the back of the ship,” Tom said sternly and “I know who turned out the lights,” Tom hinted darkly. They were spoken punly. Then there was “I dropped my toothpaste,” said Tom, crestfallen and “Only one of my speakers works!” said Tom monotonously.
From 1954 to 197,1 a series featuring “Tom Swift Jr.” by “Victor Appleton II,” covered thirty-three volumes. Some of the titles were “Tom Swift and his Flying Lab” from 1954 and “Tom Swift and the Galaxy Ghosts” in 1971.
Many texts from early volumes are online at Gutenberg.org. Read ‘em, but don’t weep — laugh and thrill with me and Tom.
Roger Farley is a columnist living in So. Burlington
A Century EncapsulatedBy Roger Farley
“The century on which we are entering can be and must be the century of the common man.”
— Henry Wallace – 1942
So here we are, once again, with a brand new year to play with. At times such as these, I like to hearken back to the “good old days,” sometimes to a ridiculous degree.
Let’s regress a hundred years. Formerly, that meant returning to the 19th century. In this century, it now means just sliding back to the twentieth.
So, 1911 introduced us to a few interesting things, including the presence of a German warship in a Moroccan port, increasing pre-war tensions that eventually led to WWI, the “war to end all wars.” But also in that year, the New York Public Library was quietly dedicated. Earlier, Eugene B. Ely lands an aircraft on the deck of the USS Pennsylvania in the San Francisco harbor, marking the first time that event had taken place. Also, the famous Glenn Curtiss demonstrates the first successful seaplane. Yup, before then, they just sank when they tried to land on water!
IBM was incorporated in New York as the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation. Pancho Villa was attacking governments. He was quite active in that pursuit.
Let’s bump up twenty-five years to 1936. Wow! Did Jesse Owens ever clean up at the Olympics? Despite excluding Jews from the games, Hitler allowed the “colored” Owens to participate. When Jesse beat favored Nazi athletes, Hitler discounted it because of Owen’s heritage and thought athletes of his race should not be allowed in future sporting events. Owens was heard to have said, however, that Hitler didn’t snub him, FDR did—segregation being the norm in the U.S.
Once again, aggravations by the Third Reich were escalating the world in general toward WWII, (the second war to end all wars and the one which brought America to the forefront as a super power.) 1936 was a leap year.
Twenty-five more years brings us to 1961. Outgoing President Eisenhower warns of a “military industrial complex” developing in America. Incoming President Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps, winning him acclaim, but loses points as the “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba fails. (Now we’re getting to the era that most of us can remember.)
Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space, but Alan Shepard follows quickly to become the second spaceman and then a few months later, John Glenn orbits Earth. The laser is invented, along with many other technical achievements, which changes the way Americans and the rest of the world lives. West Side Story, with Natalie Wood, seems to be the movie of the year.
Hippies begin to take control of the country. Paying more attention to the minority takes over from governing for and by the majority. That condition still hasn’t changed. Marijuana becomes the illegal tender. We hadn’t gotten to Woodstock yet, which radically changed our culture. It would take almost another decade. Disputes still rage whether it was for the good or the bad.
Now, plus another twenty-five—or is it just 25 years ago? Either way, that brings us to 1987. Just a few years back, eh?
Big train wreck in Maryland, on my birthday, kills 16 people. But then comes October’s Black Monday in the stock market, which kills my portfolio.
The very next day, President Reagan undergoes prostate surgery. I remember a lot of flak about whether or not he was physically fit to continue as the Chief.
Later in the year though, in Berlin, Reagan challenged Russia’s Gorbachev to, “tear down this wall.”
And, did you miss this one? Right in the middle of the year, in July, Vladimir Nikolayev of the Soviet Union, was sentenced to death for cannibalism! Iraq hits the USS stark with two missiles, killing 37 sailors.
Fox broadcasting introduces the Simpsons, quickly a popular cartoon. Microsoft introduces Windows 2.
There! A whole century in just a few minutes. Don’t you feel super-educated now that these momentous occurrences have been brought to the forefront?
Requiem For A Lightweight
“Show me a good loser in professional sports, and I’ll show you an idiot.”
I’m writing in the first week of November, right after the end of the baseball season. The lightweight referred to in the headline of this story is a team named the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers World Series team batting average finished at .190, beaten only by the ’95 Indians (.179) and 2001 Yankees (.183). Coupled with some great pitching, the Giants wiped them out in a short five games. I got a feeling of déjà vu after observing this was the Giants first World Series victory since 1954. I can remember that one very well since then it was their first since 1933.
I grew up with Ted Williams as my hitting hero, becoming a Red Sox fan in the process. But, I also thought the greatest pitcher was Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians and that year of 1954, the Indians set a then record of 111 wins during the 154-game season. The Tribe rolled into the Series on the backs of an impressive pitching staff consisting of the likes of Early Wynn (no kidding), Bob Lemon, Bob Feller and Mike Garcia. Stroking the ball were greats such as Al Rosen, Bobby Avila, Vic Wertz and Larry Doby.
Meeting them for the best of a seven game World Series were the lowly New York Giants, featuring hitters Al Dark, Monte Irvin and a 23-year-old kid named Willie Mays. They had pitchers the likes of Hoyt Wilhelm, Johnny Antonelli and Sal Maglie. A manager named Leo (the lip) Durocher helped fire up the team.
I was “over the hill” in that year, an ancient twenty-year-old, relegated to playing softball for an old man’s team, recruited from a local gin mill. Softball season had ended, but discussions of baseball proliferated. A friend of mine was an avid Giant lover, while I maintained the Indians pitching staff could not be beaten. Series gambling was rife with pools and individual bets flying back and forth.
A friend — call him Tim — bet a bundle on the Giants in the first game, getting good odds. He cleaned up after a well-pitched game between Sal Maglie and Bob Lemon was settled in the bottom of the tenth by a three-run homer by Dusty Rhodes (really!). You might remember that game as the one when Willie Mays made the fantastical catch off Vic Wertz’s long 400+ foot drive into center field at the Polo Grounds. He (Tim) doubled up on the second game and cleaned up again, courtesy of Johnny Antonelli’s one run pitching and another homer by Dusty. A young warbler named Perry Como sang the National Anthem.
Tim’s chest was then expanding by degrees. He went heavy for the third game and once again scooped up big money with Puerto Rico’s Reuben Gomez and Hoyt Wilhelm, teaming up for a four hitter.
Not to be deterred, he continued big betting on the fourth game and again made a bundle when the Giants became World Series Champs. Don Liddle, Wilhelm and Antonelli punished the Indians with a six hitter for that final.
Fortunately, not being a gambler, I wasn’t the one on the short end of the gambling. Tim never let me forget that sweep though. Wonder if he’s still around and still a Giants fan, even though they left New York soon after that and moved to San Fran?
Hey, I was a Giants fan in those days also, but the G’ints of a football ilk. They were expected to dominate their league that year, but wound up in third place with a seven and five record. Who topped the league that year? Cleveland — the Browns!
That ’54 Giant team featured Charlie Conerly at QB with Frank Gifford and Kyle Rote at the halves, but the Browns had Otto Graham! For an historic perspective, this was the Giants team about seven to ten years before Y. A. Tittle and the super Giants of the mid sixties.
At this writing, the 2010 New Yorkers aren’t doing badly at all, but it’s only half season. Time will tell.
Roger Farley resides in So. Burlington
Summer DazeBy Roger Farley
“Thy lord the summer is good to follow”
— Algernon Charles Swinburne
Forty, fifty, maybe sixty years ago, summer brought two solid months of fun. We free souls, recently released from the bounds of public education, screamed and streamed happily toward our favorite recreational area. Where was that? Let’s test our memory this November day.
For me, who lived in one of those small towns where everyone knew everyone else, it was “what do we do now?” We didn’t have to guess at our neighbor’s business, we already knew it from listening in on the local party line. After all, when one picked up the phone to an interesting conversation, who could hang up? Despite the threats of the eavesdroppees, we just covered the mouthpiece with a handy piece of cardboard and played dumb.
Staring out the window, trying to figure out how to recreate, we occasionally had to read a book, due to inclement weather. But behind my house there was an endless supply of places to visit and investigate. Charging out of the back door without tripping over an occasional cat, dog, turtle or chicken, I could dash headlong down a steep bank to where the old trolley tracks ran. I’d stop there for a bit, looking for an old rail spike, buried in the grass-lined shoulders of the right of way. It took some archaeological digging; we had no metal detectors in those days.
After giving up on that hunt, I’d amble down to the local swamp, loaded with cat tails, bee’s nests and a whole lot of wonderful murky water, teeming with turtles, frogs, frog eggs with subsequent tadpoles that gradually morphed into frogs of their own by growing legs and shedding tails. Today, of course, the wonderful and educational swamp would be classified as a wetland and ruled off limits to us grubby little rug rats. Don’t tell anyone, but my brother and I hauled red wagons full of dirt and built a path through that wide expanse of sluggish dampness. We had to, to get to the monstrous gravel bank on the other side of that swamp/wetland.
Why the gravel bank? The town dump was there, where it was said you could find anything but money–until one day I found an old weathered dollar bill. It still worked at the little local general store though, buying enough candy and ice cream to keep a few of us full and cool on hot summer days where our energetic selves were working all of those snack foods off in preparation for Mom’s supper of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. (These were WWII years and rationing would not allow much variety in eating. There were no McDonalds, or take-outs, in those days.)
The gravel bank was a super place to build bicycle climbing ramps for fun competition. It also was a wide, open area, ideal for playing baseball, using the banks of the gravel pit for fences. Hitting a ball over the bank and into the corn field was a home run or two, since the outfielders couldn’t find the ball half of the time. Also, a homer meant you didn’t have to slide into a base that might be concealing sharp rocks or broken glass. I learned early on to wear sturdy long pants, even on hot days.
If we could find your way through the maze of maize to the big farm beyond, another wonder world of animals and strange machinery awaited our perusal. Horses to befriend, cows to admire, chickens and turkeys by the hundreds to chase and aggravate, it was better than any zoo and the admission was free. Farmer Vic even blessed us with a shiny dime or quarter occasionally for helping him out with some of his daily chores.
A quarter could buy a loaf of bread, a small jar of mustard and about a pound of sliced baloney, enough to make a sandwich feast. A quarter could also buy eight three-cent stamps or 25 penny postcards to send out birthday party invitations.
Ah, the good old days—at least we thought so!
Roger Farley is a columnist from So. Burlington.
Little Autos and Stacks of Wood
“Heap on more wood! The wind is chill.”
— Sir Walter Scott
The July/August issue of VM magazine featured an article of mine called ‘Autos I Have Known.’ I listed, in somewhat dubious order, the road machines I’ve had experience with over my driving history, which now encompasses about sixty years and well over a million miles.
However, I’ve been chided for forgetting some of the ‘little’ cars I overlooked, although I never drove any. An example was my Mom’s Henry-J. This was a tiny blue putt-putt, slapped together by the Kaiser-Frazer company in the early fifties. Mom’s was a used one — if I remember correctly — but held up for years with low operating costs. She wandered all over Albany, Rensselaer and Columbia, NY counties with it.
Mitt Romney’s dad, George, coined the term ‘compact car’ when he was head of American Motors and producing the ubiquitous Nash Rambler, a vehicle my Dad drove for years, maybe at the same time as Mom’s ‘Henry.’
Competing with Henry and the Rambler for the title of efficient compact cars were names you’ll likely remember. Ford brought out the Pinto, an almost duplicate of the ‘J.’ English imports featured the MG, a little runabout that turned heads. Remember the Willys Aero or the Hudson Jet? How about the Studebaker Lark, Chevrolet Corvair, Ford Falcon or Plymouth Valiant? Even staid old Sears Roebuck marketed the Aero, actually just another Henry J.
While we’re at it, let us not forget the Volkswagen, which snuck into the American market. Germany helped rebuild its economy by selling us those little Bugs and the larger Vans.
A little runabout called the Crosley always fascinated me. It was, at times, an ugly little beast, manufactured by the Crosley Corporation and later by Crosley Motors from 1939 to 1952. I always thought it came from England, but that was the Crossley. (two esses.)
Eventually, sub-compacts came along. A few were the Ford Maverick, Rambler American, AMC Gremlin and Chevrolet Vega. There were others, too numerous to mention, with a lot of auto companies merging and going bye-bye.
But, being from the afore-mentioned Albany, Rensselaer, NY area, I’ve made hundreds of trips back to that land and then, of course, back up here to the green land of Vermont. I had always marveled just how intense in August the dark green was, gracing the mountainsides, the fields and the tops of hills. However, at this time of the year, those trips back north looked quite different. The dark, intense green gradually changed to sort of a lime. On subsequent trips, that light green changed to the marvelous ever-changing hues of our famous fall colors, which annually bring busloads of outlanders up from the ‘big cities’ to ooh and ah at the brilliance of those displays.
Those magnificent colors were produced by trees, changing their clothes for their upcoming displays of white upon white of the same hillsides, sometimes marred by the blankness of down hill ski areas. To me, interspersed among the red, yellow and orange of the changing leaves, were the brown trunks of dead or dying trees that eventually made their way to my backyard to be cut, split and stacked into cords of dry or drying firewood. I’m still a big fan of a merry fire going in the fireplace or wood stove with the radiant infra red warming me on a crispy, frosty January day.
Somehow, though, the wood has gotten harder, the big chunks heavier, the chains on the chain saws duller and the edges on the splitting maul and splitting wedges less sharp than before. Some chunks, formerly splitting easily into wood stove size pieces; now don’t give up so easily.
In the words of an article I read once about different types of wood, some are downright nasty in their resistance to my now much heavier splitting maul.
Autos I Have KnownBy Roger Farley
“Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car.
- E. B. White -
You’ve noticed by now that this publication’s logo has changed from Vermont Maturity to “VM.” Since my mind works in very strange ways, I look at the big VM on the cover and see Vim & vigor, (yes my strange mind sees an “i” in the middle of VM.) Vim & vigor is what us old timers should have and which could conceivably come from drinking some V8 juice. When I see V8 in that weird mind’s eye of mine, I think of another V8, the super Ford flathead engine of my old stock car days, way back in the fifties of last century.
However, I have had speaking acquaintances with many automobiles before I started to juice them up for racing purposes. Going way back is the 1924 Model T which keeps my younger brother busy maintaining it. Probably next is the 1936 Ford my dad kept running through and beyond WWII and in which I learned to drive. I could whip that little bucket around street lamps and trees with no sweat although a couple of days before my driving test my dad purchased an upside down bathtub that the advertising people called a Nash. (No, before the Rambler.) Its low profile scraped on a high curb while turning around in a narrow street (part of the test) and caused me to fail my first attempt at reckless driving. I mastered the tub and its faucets though and got my license a few weeks later.
A high school buddy of mine and I decided that, after working summer vacation after graduation, we’d go to Florida. I don’t remember why. To do that, we purchased a 1939 Chevy, tore out the back seat, which we filled with sleeping bags, food, a Bernz-O-Matic stove, a pup tent and a few blankets. We may have brought books, but as recent grads, we thought it was time to wean ourselves from those tomes. Pop music of the day included, “On the Boardwalk at Atlantic City,” “On Top of Old Smoky” and such. We took that route, stopping to walk the Boardwalk and actually driving to the top of Old Smoky — even after blowing a fan blade in rural North Carolina — and where we had an altercation with an army corporal, a bear and some “livermush.” But, that’s another story.
When the old Chevy refused to go further on the streets of Columbus, Georgia, we sold it quickly for a few bucks and bought some food for our rapidly dwindling bodies. We got work at a carnival and then at a company that traveled us throughout the south and then up to the coal regions of Pennsylvania.
Breaking an ankle by jumping out of a burning building in Philly brought me home after a brief stay in the horse-pistol and eventually to a 1939 Plymouth that I called “Sam.”
After that it was a 1940 Ford convertible with a leaky roof and then to a succession of Chevys and Fords when I went to work for a company that kept me employed for 33 years, they kept me supplied with new vehicles for that third of a century. Wow, just think of it, no insurance, no operating expenses, no maintenance, but just another succession of Fords, Chevys and their big brothers, Mercurys and Buicks. I finally retired, kept a company vehicle, drove it for a while, crunched it and now have driven a Buick Century, bought at the turn of the century, that has taken me from coast to coast, surviving my big foot and giving me roughly thirty miles a gallon for most of that time.
It’s been a long while since I ported and relieved a Ford V8, shaved a flywheel or torqued down both heads on some super thin gaskets for just a little higher compression. Unfortunately, those powerful engines twisted an axle or two off on the tight turns of a third mile dirt track.
But in the racing world—them’s the breaks.
Roger Farley lives in South Burlington.
More Poetry—More Musicby Roger Farley
“The divinest music has not been conceived, even by Bach.”
— Lincoln Steffens
I’ve been severely castigated for leaving out more appropriate examples of “Poetry in Music” in last month’s article.
But, it would be impossible to even list the hundreds – if not thousands – of combination melodic and lyrical examples that were composed or written in the early to mid decades of the last century. The “war years” alone (WWII variety) brought titles such as “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” “We’ll Meet Again,” and “Coming in On a Wing and a Prayer.” Those were serious songs, written with hope and fear in the heart of the composer.
But, at the same time, there were novelty airs and light, but still remember-able songs. The late, much beloved Perry Como was grand at recording these. Remember “Hot Diggety, Dog Diggety?” Some teens learned the alphabet with Buddy Kay and Fred Wise’s, “A, you’re adorable, B, you’re so beautiful, C, you’re a cutie full of charms…,” also vocalized by Perry.
Most music was composed and/or written with not only the teen community in mind, but slanted also toward adults who, back in those days, controlled most of the music-purchasing money. Seems today the teeny boppers have more loot to burn than their three-job parents.
Those boppers back a half century or so ago were busy not only learning the alphabet with song, but were absorbing the proper sequence of months of the year with an amazing set of words in a song that used a unique way of rhyming. I’ll quote those words.
“In the middle of May, I met a girl named June. Took her out in July, ‘neath an August moon. All through Sept, I was kept admiring her charms and all through Oct, we were locked in each other’s arms. From November to Jan, the runaround began, February to March, I was a worried man. It wasn’t ‘til April that she said OK and we were married—in the middle of May.” This melody was put together by Fred E. Ahlert with lyrics by Al Stillman. Gene Krupa’s band had a big hit with that one.
Unrequited love was a popular theme. “You won’t be satisfied until you break my heart, you won’t be satisfied until the teardrops start. I try to shower you with love and kisses, but all I get from you is naggin’ and braggin’, my poor heart is draggin’.”
“Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative,” was an “up” song. Most tunes were. That one had words like, “To illustrate, my last remark, Jonah in the whale, Noah in the Ark.”
There was a tremendous variety of music, back in the dark ages before the twangy, atonal guitar was invented. Some tunes were downright ridiculous, but fun. All you have to do is hear the name Spike Jones to remember the butchering of any popular melody. But, there were also Homer and Jethro and Allan Sherman to do the same.
Novelty bits were always somewhere around, such as “Cement mixer, putti, putti” or “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and little lambsidivey.”
If you were country oriented, there were scores of, “lost my wife, my house and my dog” songs, wailed by many a cowboy with a classic guitar, banjo or mandolin. But there was great country music also, sung by smooth warblers such as Patsy Cline and Eddy Arnold. If you were a fan of yodeling, Elton Britt or Kenny Roberts kept you satisfied. How can anyone forget “I Never See Maggie Alone?”
Well, once again I’ve come to the end of another diatribe, certainly leaving out everyone’s favorites. If you wish, do some of your own recall and make your own list of love songs, country and western, or novelties, or cutesy kid songs, or poetic masterpieces, or downright silly pieces from the thirties, forties or fifties. Notice the variety and compare it to today’s so-called music, featuring “artists” with half-octave ranges, singing unintelligible words, all trying to emulate someone else along with “me too” wailing.
Or better still, refute my contentions – but with examples.
Poetry in MusicBy Roger Farley
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
- Victor Hugo
Remember music? Do you recall when the radio featured smooth hum-able and whistle-able melodies, plus an understandable set of lyrics that could not only be easily understood, but usually told a story in rhyme?
The forties, during WWII, produced many of these from an extraordinary group of composer/performers such as Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer & Cole Porter. Some of this was Gershwin’s fault, with a lot of his semi-classical pieces rivaling the pop tunes of his day and lingering long after we lost him. Locally, Brian Harwood of FM-101.7 is easing Gershwin into the classical genre.
I’m sure you remember the tunes—so here are some of the lyrics:
“You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”
This standard was written by Herman Hupfield in 1931 for the Broadway musical, “Everybody’s Welcome.” But it was made famous in the movie “Casablanca” with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and sung by Dooley Wilson. But did you know it was also recorded earlier by Vermonter Rudy Vallee of Island Pond?
How about Johnny Mercer’s “Dream?”
“Dream when you’re feelin’ blue, dream, that’s the thing to do.
Just watch the smoke rings rise in the air, you’ll find your share of memories there.”
Or, in 1944, Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer wrote, ““Gonna take a sentimental journey, gonna set my heart at ease. Gonna make a sentimental journey, to renew old memories. Got my bags, got my reservations, spent each dime I could afford. Like a child in wild anticipation, I long to hear that “All Aboard.””
Who can forget Doris Day’s great version, with composer/performer Les Brown and his orchestra?
Again, a common thread of these familiar songs was the combination of a catchy melody that was almost instantly remembered and words that could be readily understood and bereft of the four-letter variety. Lyrics also usually told a little story, rhymed—sometimes very artfully—and made use of multi-syllable words, such as previously mentioned “fundamental, sentimental and anticipation.”
Hoagy Carmichael was a master at this. Remember “Stardust?” When the super-familiar melody impacted your ear drums, your grey matter produced the lyrics, “Sometimes I wonder how I spent the lonely hours, dreaming of a song. The melody haunts my reverie and I am once again with you, when our love was new and each kiss an inspiration. But that was long ago and now my consolation is in the stardust of a song.”
Less familiar is the lead-in verse. Listen in your mind and remember the melody.
“And now the purple dusk of twilight time steals across the meadows of my heart. High up in the sky the little stars climb, always reminding me that we’re apart.”
It goes on to mention nightingales and paradise—more multi-syllabic expressions.
Was that a manipulation of the English language or not? Hoagy is generally credited with the whole composition, but he had a little lyrical help from Mitchell Parish. Stardust goes back to the twenties, but is still with us. That’s going on a century!
Burlington area radio 1230—WJOY—features a Saturday morning big band show featuring a lot of the “oldies.” If you have DirecTV, tune to channel 801 and reverie.
Remember a TV program, based on a previous radio show in 1952, called, “Name That Tune?” It featured a pair of contestants that vied for quick recognition of played music. Familiar names hosted the show, including such as Bill Cullen, Dennis James and Johnny Olson.
Contestants, hearing a few notes, rang a bell and yelled “I can name that tune!”
It would still work today, but only if the contestants were selected from a cadre of old timers such as us.
So, “It’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die.
The world will always welcome lovers, as time goes by.”
Roger Farley is a local columnist living in Sourth Burlington.
Baseball AcronymsBy Roger Farley
“The Outlook Wasn’t Brilliant For the Mudville Nine That Day.”
— Ernest Lawrence Thayer
I get annoyed at times by the use of acronyms, abbreviations and truncations. But then I find I’ve been using those most of my life. I was schooled back in the forties by a very strict language teacher and now have trouble with English “shortcuts.” And these “buzzwords” are getting tougher to keep track of. If you don’t know your acronyms, you’re in tough shape.
But, as a life-long baseball fan, I’ve never had trouble with substituting RBI for Runs Batted In, LOB for Left On Base, or MLB for Major League Baseball, which leads me to the subject of this article.
MLB is now becoming a very common acronym. I’ve watched MLB on TV (Television) now for years, paying extra for a subscription on DTV, (DirectTV). This MLB “Extra Innings” allows me to see most every game, at its game time, for the whole baseball season. I routinely check out MLB.com, (commercial) where both contemporary and historic rosters and box scores are available almost instantly.
Now there’s MLB.TV (baseball everywhere, live or on demand,) and there’s MLB.net on TV, instituted just about a year ago, where you can watch some kind of baseball 24 hours a day all year long. This whole MLB thing is evolving, still confusing, but great!
Nostalgia is a powerful force in our lives, becoming more intense as one grows older. A goodly portion of these memories involve where you were when great events occurred. For instance, I remember being at the Motor Vehicle Bureau (MVB) when the Challenger disaster happened and in a small elementary school in upstate New York when Kennedy was assassinated down in Dallas.
Baseball, though, is my life’s love, so I remember where I was when Bobby Thompson hit an explosive home run off Ralph Branca in 1951 — when the then NY Giants beat Brooklyn in the playoffs – in a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia. Another home run tweaks my memory, one by Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazerowski off New York’s Ralph Terry, to clobber the Yankees in the 1960 World Series. This time I was in a factory in Minneapolis. I had a sentimental attachment to Pittsburgh, since the Pirates were the mother club of the Albany, NY (New York) Senators AA ball team. I grew up taking the bus most Sundays to Hawkins Stadium in Menands, NY, to watch a colorful doubleheader.
My favorite National League baseball team in those days was the Brooklyn Dodgers. The team had many nemeses, a chief one being the NY Yankees. Finally, in 1955, my Dodgers led by Gil Hodges and a local pitcher named Johnny Podres, finally beat the dreaded Yankees in the big one, the World Series. I listened to it in Whitney’s department store in Albany, where I was a salesman in the sporting goods department. Sadly, the next year the Bombers got their revenge when Don Larsen zeroed the Dodgers with a perfect game in the ’56 World Series. I still listened at Whitney’s.
When my Dodgers left for the west coast, I adopted the NY Mets, a bumbling new team led by Casey Stengel and featuring legends such as Marvelous Marv Throneberry and Harry Chiti. But, they grew up and punished the Orioles in the ’69 Series, with personalities such as Al Weiss and Duffy Dyer. I was sitting in a parking lot of UVM (University of Vermont) listening to that historical fifth game. Notice that I listened to all these games on the radio, letting my imagination color the action.
Now, though, on MLB.net, I can see all those wonderful happenings and despite the grainy pictures, the baggy uniforms and the varying shades of black, white and grey, I can marvel how tight and concise baseball was during those monumental times.
I’ve seen the Al Gionfriddo catch off Joe Dimaggio in the 1947 World Series and Willie May’s catch off Vic Wertz in the 1954 fall classic. True baseball fans will know why these stick in one’s memory.
Where were you?
How Did Boomers Survive the ’70′s?By Roger Farley
“We would like to live as we once lived, but history will not permit it.”
— John F. Kennedy
Last month’s column featured an excursion through the sixties with today’s baby boomers. Let’s move up a decade.
Somewhere in the seventies, the Baby Boomers turned ancient! That is to say they attained the ripe old age of thirty. Too old now for attempting sports—those aching legs just won’t take it anymore. Bones are becoming brittle. It’s time now to stay at home, watch TV and talk to the wife and kids.
But, there’s something missing. You never had time for that marriage bit. Are you too old to have children? Procreate now and by the time they grew you’d be well over fifty, too decrepit to have a spirited game of catch or help with moving the newlyweds into their new mobile home. You could even be a grand parent!
Wise up, Lord and Lady Boomer. It’s time to get your life going. Marry up! Have kids! Take your daily vitamins and maybe you’ll still have the energy to play with the little (or big) tykes. Shave that revolutionary beard, comb out the burdocks and bird nests. Cut your hair, it tickles your shoulders anyway. Scrape the mud from your rock concert boots. Put away your placards and quit protesting everything the “Man” does. Find an empty drawer and put your pet rock away for a nap.
Oh, you did that! It’s now the 21st century and you’re retiring from a big company, with a nice pension and a generous benefit plan. Congratulations! But, how did you survive the Vietnam War protests, the resigning of a President, the Kent State Massacre? Trends of that time were a growing disillusion of Government, the women’s movement, a growing concern for the environment, increased space exploration and advances in civil rights, including mandatory busing to force school integration. Sound familiar, or did it all pass in one ear and out the other? Were you so involved with your mood ring or watching your lava lamp that you didn’t realize what was going on?
How did you overcome all those distractions? By trying to solve your Rubik’s Cube?
There were other things to think about also. What to wear? Should you don bell-bottom trousers or go with the leisure suit? Do you wear platform shoes with your hot pants or hip huggers? Smiley face stickers probably appeared on them and seemed to be everywhere. An Arab oil embargo caused a major gas and fuel oil crisis, with big increases in prices. Some gas stations closed from a scarcity of supply. Sometimes, you could only fill up every other day, depending on the last number of your license plate—if you could find an open station. There were cries of increasing oil exploration here at home. Sound familiar again?
We went from big cars to small cars, to save fuel, and then found that our interstates were designed for large cars, so driving on them was now dangerous. Computers became all the rage, especially with the introduction of that magnificent new device—the floppy disc and its associated drives. Advancing technology also brought us MRIs, jumbo jets and DNA. Video games and VCRs changed our entertainment radically. Genetic engineering brought the first test tube baby, Louise Brown, (now 31 and a mother.) We were introduced to retail bar code scanners and recorded data on reams of paper with laser printers. Our Presidents were Nixon, Ford and Carter. What a decade!
But, you made it, Mr. and Mrs. Boomer. Once again, congratulations. Others survived the decade also. People with names like Jesse Jackson, Benjamin Spock, Patty Hearst and George Wallace, although the latter, running for the Presidency, was shot and paralyzed. You danced, though, to Disco. The breakup of the Beatles dealt contemporary music a big blow and when we lost Elvis, music fragmented into soft, hard, punk, country, folk and shock rock. It’s still fragmenting.
But you, the Boomers, have gotten it all together. Kudos!
Roger Farley is a local columnist living in South Burlington.
Boomers and Beatlemaniaby Roger Farley
“Nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation.”
— Adlai Stevenson
Looking back, the sixties were, if not always pleasant, very entertaining. So, I’ve been excoriated to writing toward those formerly young, but now ancient baby-boomers. Those Boomers are generally considered to be those born immediately after WWII, when Johnny came marching home, eager to procreate and replace the many thousands of fine youngsters lost in the war to save our country from the feared Japanese, Germans and Italians, all buddies of ours now. We were helped in that conflict by the Russians and Chinese, both contentious now, of course.
Let’s do a little reflecting to bring back what was happening in the early sixties when most Boomers were of the impressionistic age, being thirteen to sixteen and plus.
Beatlemania had taken over the world, causing much distress by those who were used to the poetry and symmetry of the beautiful music featured in the forties and fifties. We went from “Stardust” and “I’ll Walk Alone” to “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Woe, Woe, Woe and Baby, Baby, Baby” and other (in my opinion) abominations of so-called music. To be sure, some outfits, even the Beatles, produced some melody. So did Bill Haley and the Comets and their ilk, but pretty music was generally left to Sinatra, Como, Peg Lee and their like.
Pudginess, at least from the female point of view, was already becoming anathema. The Bikini (less cloth for more bucks)had settled solidly in. Clothing designers and manufacturers found that miniskirts could follow the same trend and statuesque legs became firmly in fashion.
In the sports world, expansion was taking place. Pro football came out of hiding and supplanted, in popularity, those big college events, such as the Army-Navy game. The sixties saw pro teams expand from 12 to 26. In baseball, hurried expansion allowed even the lowly new New York Mets to become World Champions. More sports and more teams meant bigger and better — but expensive — stadiums, with food staples such as the hot dog becoming luxury items.
The absence of good music forced radio to switch to talk shows, which began to proliferate in those sixties. By the sixties, Old Hollywood had died, but as usual helped to color people’s lives. Due to accidents and “accidental overdoses,” we lost Marilyn Monroe, Robert Walker, Jayne Mansfield and Montgomery Clift. We can’t forget the Manson murders of Sharon Tate and company. Big blockbusters, such as Lawrence of Arabia, however, lent somewhat of a positive note.
The topics of sex and drugs became, if not common, talked about more often. Woodstock happened in the New York Catskills, (where I spent a lot of time, but not at Woodstock).
Those goings-on reverberated around the world and are now remembered fondly and celebrated somewhere yearly — I suppose. That accepted behavior of do-your-own-thing, when and where you want, without taking others into consideration, quite possibly led to the awful assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King.
Not helping in that respect was a character named Timothy Leary, a Harvard professor, who advocated, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” He was a big supporter of and urged the ingestion of, psychedelic drugs, in particular LSD. In his later life, I read that he was trying every form of happy juice available.
Automobiles were generally becoming colorful and fast and furious. Ford’s Thunderbird and GM’s Corvette led the way to a sporty car frame of mind. Air-conditioning was forcing the remake of the rag-top (convertible) into a vehicle that would not disturb the significant lady’s bee-hive (B52) hairdo.
I remember having a lot of fun and a lot of children in the sixties.
Did you? Both?
Roger Farley is a local columnist living in South Burlington.