Random Memories

Maybe, I’m dying.   I say that because I’ve always heard your life passes before your eyes when you’re about to shake hands with the Angel of Death and lately, my past and its personal battle with glory and infamy, has been creeping into my gray matter.

These days, I’m remembering things like a savant.     Things I haven’t thought of in years.

The first decade of my life was the ten year spans of the 60’s.      I was just eight years old during the Summer of Love.    The word “hippie”?    That was an adjective  used by my mother,  during her more catty days,  to describe big bottomed friends.    When the TV news people mentioned ‘drugs’, I thought of Rexall and the only  “Marx” I knew was the guy who made “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em” robots.

I loved those languid summer days.    After my chores, which I loathed, I could go out and play….and play we did.  We’d be gone for hours; at someone’s house, playing  in a makeshift covered wagon, powered  by imagination.   We were trying to traverse the Cumberland Gap, or whatever the last  land mass we studied in Geography, a few weeks earlier.

I played with neighborhood kids mostly.    They were at my house or I was at theirs.   We hydrated ourselves courtesy of hard, green garden hoses.     We’d eat whatever Skippy or Mary’s mom would let him or her take out of the kitchen.    Playing pioneer people would morph into various things, such as playing board games–Monopoly, perhaps or Mouse Trap which was soooooooooo labor intensive to set up.     In fact, I don’t think I ever actually played the game.    We’d just set it up simply to watch it play out with its Rube Goldberg precision.    The payoff?    Watching that plastic cage trap thing wobble down the plastic poll and land flat, catching that plastic little mouse.

We’d come home hours later, as the sun was starting to set and no one worried about where we were, what we were doing or who we were doing it with.  We were tired….that good tired that ‘s the result of a free and unencumbered childhood.    We were lucky because that’s what we had all those decades ago.

Sure, I grew up in a small town in South Central Texas, but even my big city cohorts would attest that back in the day, they too could ride their bikes everywhere, walk to the park, playground or movie theatre, play in a front yard.   Being kidnapped by a pedophile was not on the day’s ‘ to do’ list.      If it happened, it was a big deal.    Our parents grew up with headlines about the Lindbergh baby’s kidnapping.     They’re still a bit shell -shocked over that one.

In fact, I  grew up with a grandmother who was convinced that children should never, ever sleep near an open window.    That made you a prime target or the gypsies to come steal you in the night.  And if they ever got their hands on you, chances are they’ put you in a travellin’ show where they’d make you dance for the money they’d throw.    Daddy would do whatever he could.    Namely preach a little gospel and if he was lucky, sell a couple bottles of Dr. Good.   (With apologies to Cher)

I can remember playing with three kids who belonged to the same family.  I used to laugh at how all their farts smelled exactly alike.    Why not?  Same diet.   That was like some  crude methane tracking device.  You could always tell if one of the Schnellings was in the room or had been in the room quite recently.

I can remember watching movies about cowboys and Indians and the Indians (native Americans to be PC) used to communicate with smoke signals.   How long has it been since you heard ANYONE mention smoke signals…other than seeing it on the marquee of a  head shop?

Nehi soft drinks.  Nu-grape?      RC Cola???       St. Joseph’s Aspirin for Children?  Creomulsion?    Choks vitamins?     Lik-A Maid, in the perforated accordion packs???

You never see  Milton Bradley board games advertised on TV,  then again, I don’t watch cartoon channels.    Toys today are too weird.    They’re supposed to “edutain” young minds.

What a pant load.

When I was growing up, I had a toy iron that actually plugged in a wall socket and got warm.   So did the Vacuforms and Incredible Edible machines.    Creepy Crawlers, too.   My play flatware had serrated knives and some play spoons could become shivs if bent at the right place.    We ate snow cones made from a plastic snowman with blades in his stomach.   Tore that ice cube up!!!!

easybakeoven1We played with toy ovens heated by 40 watt bulbs that were hot enough to turn bad tasting batter into even worse tasting cakes and brownies.

Wanna know how we all knew someone had gotten a Kenner Easy Bake Over for Christmas??

easy bajke burnsIt was easy to tell.

We were burnt, cut, bruised, scalded, balded, maimed and unduly scarred by our toys.  Talk about life lessons!!!!!!      But all that changed with the introduction to Sesame Street.

Kids may be safer but are they are imaginative?   Creative?     Could they do anything without a keyboard???

There are so many  things they’re missing out on.

You never see plastic rings in either gumball machines or as Cracker Jack prizes anymore.    Do they still make that  box of candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize?    That’s what you get in Cracker Jack, dee doh dee doh doh…

I remember getting free stuff if you mailed in a certain number of box tops–mainly from cereal.   Prizes also came in boxes of cereal.    You’d either empty it out in a bowl or contort the shape of the box to get at the tawdry little thing wrapped in cellophane.    It never lost its oaty, wheaty cereal smell.    Invariably, your mom would get mad at you because  your manipulations meant  she could never again completely close the box correctly.

Records,  flexible 45 rpms could be found on the back of Post cereal boxes.   You’d cut it out….it was just this flimsy low tech recording with horrible sound that you’d had to let flatten under a large book for a day or two in order for cereal boxit to play correctly on your record player.

Cereal box performers included the dulcet tones of a one Bobby Sherman, The Jackson Five, The Archies, Josie and the Pussycats and a group called “The Sugar Bears” which featured a one hit wonder from the summer of ’72 called “You Are The One”.    Catchy little tune.

One of the backup singers on that sleeper was none other than raspy voiced Kim “Bette Davis Eyes” Carnes.

AM radio was king back then.     One speaker played your fave rave tunes and the sound usually emanated from somewhere on the dash board.  The signal would fade as you went over a bridge or under a tunnel and God knows you could always tell if it was lightning was striking anywhere near.   AM static had an unmistakable sound.

I remember we had seasons at my elementary school.   For a few weeks it would be hopscotch…..jump rope was big too.

Not last night but the night before, 24 robbers came knocking at my door…I ran out……ttttttthhhhhhhheeeeeeeeyyyy   rrrrrrraaaaaaaaaannnn in!!!    (That was your cue to exit while another jumper attempted to enter the the inner sanctum of rotating jute)

We played jacks, too.   Onesies….twosies…threesies.     And your discriminating jacks player never played with the little red rubber ball that came with the set.  You played with a golf ball, pilfered from your father’s golf bag.  It had a better, higher  bounce for foursies and higher.jacks

Jacks season was fun.    We also knew when it was over:   when someone’s dad stepped on a jack at home.

Is Tiger Beat magazine still published?    I never read one….was never into teen idols.     I really didn’t care if  Donny Osmond actually called it “puppy Love or not and I couldn’t be bothered if either of the Brady Bunch chicks had crushes on their on-set gaffers or best boys.

tiger beat

Then there was MAD Magazine.    That rag offered me entre into the world of sardonic humor.   From there, I started reading the National Lampoon.  Back in the early seventies, it —along with the National Lampoon radio Hour which piggybacked Dr. Dimento and Firesign Theater each and every Sunday night on our local underground FM rock station.    They’d play deep album tracks (entire B sides of an LP ..betcha haven’t heard that grouping of words in quite some time).  Forty five minutes would go by without a commercial and if one played, the only advertisers were free clinics, head shops, record stores and ticket outlets for upcoming concerts.

The uber cool jocks always sounded stoned.

You never see ads for sea monkeys…or X-ray glasses or patches for your blue jeans.

cents symbolWhat happened to cursive writing?

And will someone please tell me what happened to the cents symbol on a keyboard????

Go ahead…look.

I’ll wait.

There were bonnet hair dryers and wall mounted pencil sharpeners  in your classroom that only got full when I walked up to use it.    Remember that grinding sound?  And remember how the wood and lead shavings smelled?

Skinned knees were treated with Mercurochrome     We called it “Monkey Blood”.    An antiseptic by any other name would hurt just as bad.  That shit would sting when applied to an open wound of any kind.    Your mom would blow on the ouchie, which helped some, but it still hurt.   And that red stuff stained  your skin for days.

Remember Bactin?  What about Shake-A-Puddin?

I remember the loathsome taste of Fizzies.   It was kiddie Alka Seltzer with a laboratory created ‘fuity’ flavor.   Nasty.fortune telling device

I was never one of those kids who could take a sheet of notebook paper and fold it here and there and origami it up until it was this fortune telling gizmo or….would tell you who with whom you were were really in love.    Anyone remember these things????

I never knew what they were called.    But they could be manipulated with your forefingers and thumbs.  I never married the fourth grade boy it told me I would.

school deskThis is the kind of desk I sat in as I matriculated from first through fifth grade.     This was an all in one, metal and wood hemorrhoid inducer.   Uncomfortable and cold.

It had an indention for pens, pencils and  rulers,  I guess.

And lest we forget Map Pencils.

I can remember going to my grandparents house and wanting to color but all they had were a few Map Pencils.    I’d always be so disappointed to learn you had to make due with Map Pencils.    They were so lacking.    The colors never had the vibrancy that crayons did.

Whatever happened to Hydrox cookies, the poor man’s Oreos???hydrox100_jeh

It debuted in 1908, several years before the Oreos and was made by Sunshine.  It’s name is a portmanteau of the two elements contained  in water:  hydrogen and oxygen.  I had no idea.

The Oreo came four years later, inspired by the Hydrox but somehow, the Oreo  stole it’s thunder.   Hydrox was always looked upon as a poor Oreo facsimile.   Interesting becasuse the Hydrox recipe resulted in the chocolate wafer part of the cookie being for better for dipping in milk.    It stayed crunchy even after being submerged in cow juice over and over again.     Not only that, Hydrox were kosher and DIDN’T use lard as an ingredient in the white filling mix as Oreos did.

Keebler bought Sunshine in 1996 and revamped Hydrox as something called “Droxies”.      Then, Kellog bought Keebler and sent Droxies packing into creme filled sandwich cookie netherworld in 2003.     

lustreI remember Lustre Cream shampoo that came in a thick, white glass jar with a metal lid that screwed on and off.   The shampoo itself was pink and had a consistency of cold cream.   I think we had a jar of that stuff on the shelf for several years.

I can’t remember how it smelled, but I remember it certainly left a ‘sheen’ in the bathtub.

Speaking of soap, there was this stuff called Fuzzy Wuzzy.    Anyone remember that?   It was a bar of soap shaped like a bear and maybe a few other animal shapes.   It came in a box decorated like a circus cage.     You left it out in the open air and it would grow air.     And when you used it all up, you’d find a toy surprise in the middle–usually a ring, or a whistle or a a martian.

I had a Fuzzy Wuzzy.

It was a bear.

It grew this thin, uneven whitish grey layer of fuzz or perhaps it was moss ……dust….or albino algae.

I got tired of waiting and cut my alopecic bruin in half and dug out the prize.     I think my mother made me throw out the Fuzzy Wuzzy.    It didn’t grow any hair…and neither could I on any of the large, red,  irritated patches of skin on my torso.

I used to love Soakies as a kid.   These were plastic bottles of bubble bath shaped in  the form of the day’s most popular cartoon characters:  Topcat, Bullwinkle, Rocky, Deputy Dawg, Popeye…and characters from the Disney and Warner Brothers animated pantheon. topcat

And then there this final memory.

When I was a little girl, there was a Clorox Bleach ad on the back of a magazine.    It was Ladies Home Journal or McCall’s ..I don’t remember which, but, in this one ad that was introduced in 1965/1966, so many people told me that one of the children featured in the ad looked just like me.   Was my splitting image, my doppelganger.   We were around the same age and had the same haircut and coloring:  blond with brown eyes.   I saw the ad myself and agreed there was a striking resemblance, as did members of my immediate family.

Well, I’ve been on a vision quest trying to find that ad.   In the late 70’s I scoured the library at the University of Texas looking out countless vintage magazines in their collection, looking through fiches.    That was more than 30 years ago.

But thanks to the advent of the Internet ( I could just kiss ya, Al Gore) all those years of searching are over.  I have found the ad and I will share it with you.    My twin sister from different parentage.    The one on end in all white, with the dirty sock and inability to lift her leg in the balletic position known as retire.   Oh, and by the way, my nose wasn’t as wide..

clorox ad

Or maybe it was.     Now that I think of it, I was the one member in my family who could find truffles in no time flat.


  1. Just finished reading this. I grew up during the same time period, and also lived in south central Texas. What great memories you brought back for me.
    Thanks again

  2. Do I know you? Grew up in Austin, obviously the same age, I had a fuzzy fuzzy! Austin High, UT and your attitude seems like someone I would have known.

  3. Hello John,

    My name is Laurie Kendrick. I’m 58, graduated from a litttle town in South Central Texas in 1977 with 76 other students. I started UT two days after graduating. Spent two years there before they asked me to leave. Something about grades…fuzzy memories.

    So, I obliged and then like a B-52 song, roamed around the world to grow up some. Didn’t even bother trying to get back into UT, so I chose SWTSU (as it was known back then). Got my degree in Journalism while working as a bridal consultant at Foley’s in Highland Mall, which I understand are both defunct. Graduated in ’85 (my mother was so embarrassed it was taking me so long to graduate, she told everyone I was getting my second masters). I immediately went to work in TV and radio in various markets and mercifully, was able to retire five years ago after a 31 year career in broadcasting, 23 of those years spent working in Houston. In th fall of 2012, I moved to the HIll Country. I have a b,of, a dog and two cats. I’m currently writing a screenplay (uh….can you say hyperbole???) and I’m currently remodleing my new house. (Blood letting reality). I blog when I’m bored or feel arrogant enough to think anyone gives a good goddamn about what I have to say. Ultimatlu, I say ‘”screw ’em”. When in doubt, kill ‘me with bombast.

    Nice meeting you, John.


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