Tag Archives: nostalgia

The Lovely Lennon Sisters

Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich lived on the family farm outside of town, a little more than two miles from the tiny farm town of Rowan, Iowa.  I walked it more than once.  It was faster to walk the railroad tracks between the two places.  About a mile and three quarters as the crow flies… three hours as the boy investigates the critters in the weeds, throws rocks at dragonflies, and listens to the birdsong along the way.  But the point is, my maternal grandparents lived close enough to have a profound influence on my young life.  Much of what they loved became what I love.  And every Saturday night, they loved to watch the Lawrence Welk Show.  And that show had highlights that we longed to see again and again… on a show that never really went into reruns.  We lived to see Jo Ann Castle play the old rinky-tink piano, Bobby and Cissy doing a dance routine, and most of all… the lovely Lennon Sisters.

I always wanted to be the things they wished me to be in the song “May You Always”.  I wanted to “walk in sunshine” and “live with laughter”.  They presented a world of possibilities all clean and good and wholesome.  As a young boy who hated girls, I had a secret crush on Janet Lennon who was the youngest, though a decade older than me, and on Peggy Lennon, the one with the exotic Asian eyes.  They sang to me and spoke directly to my heart.

You have to believe in something when you are young.  The world can present you with so many dark and hurtful experiences, that you simply have to have something to hang onto and keep you from being blighted and crippled by the pain.  For me, it often came in the form of a lovely and simple lyric sung by the lovely Lennon Sisters.  When you are faced with hard choices… especially in those dark moments when you think about ending it all because it is all just too much to bear, the things stored in those special pockets of your heart are the only things that can save you.  For me, one of those things will always be the music of the Lennon Sisters… especially when watched on the old black and white TV in the farmhouse where my grandparents lived, and helped to raise me, every Saturday night in the 1960’s.

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Filed under art my Grandpa loved, battling depression, Celebration, humor, inspiration, nostalgia, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV review

Happy Belated Birthday, Lucille Ball

Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri speaks to journalists as he arrives at the Imam Khomini Airport in Tehran

On Lucy’s birthday the “Scary Lucy” statue of her in her hometown of Celeron, New York was finally replaced with one that actually looks like her.

Carolyn Palmer

In this Wednesday, July 20, 2016 photo, artist Carolyn Palmer prepares to apply a cold patina to her bronze statue of Lucille Ball in Saddle River, N.J. The sculptor was chosen to create a replacement statue for one dubbed “Scary Lucy,” in the late actress Ball’s hometown. The much-maligned statue of Ball will be replaced after it drew worldwide attention as “Scary Lucy,” according to the mayor of the western New York village where the 1950s sitcom actress and comedian grew up and her life-size bronze has stood since 2009. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

On Saturday, August 6th, Lucille Ball turned 105.  While it is true that she has also been dead since 1989, we never-the-less must acknowledge the fact that this comedienne and her singular body of work have been influencing life on Earth for over a century.  Perhaps we could even use more like her.

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She has been subtly guiding my own life since the days of black-and-white television and the genre-establishing sitcom, “I Love Lucy”, where she has been advocating for a woman’s right to work and have a career of her own by making us laugh at the situation over and over until it becomes a mirth-filled, easy-to-swallow fact-of-life.  She was the first female film producer to run her own production company, Desilu Productions.  She is the producer behind such television milestones as Star Trek and Mission: Impossible.  Being a child of the 60’s, raised by television almost as much as by my parents, she is a big part of who I am as a person.  To this day she still influences how I feel about things.  She is one of the primary reasons I can laugh at life’s troubles and, by laughing, overcome them.

So, I want to wish Lucy a happy 105th birthday.  And I find it amusing and ironic that “Scary Lucy”, the bronze golem of Celeron, New York, has finally been replaced on her birthday with a statue that pictures her more accurately.  We all need to see Lucy more accurately.  We all need to laugh more and love more and live better lives.  It was the “Golden Age” of television not because of the technology and the craft, but because of the essential goodness we can still get from it, that has stood the test of time for a century.

And I don’t think that I am merely looking at the whole thing through the colored lenses of my own affection for things in the past.  I think more modern and definitely younger people than I can benefit from getting to know Lucy too.  Lasting  105 years is a pretty big thing, even if you are dead when you do it.

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Filed under artists I admire, clowns, comedians, goofy thoughts, humor, review of television, sharing from YouTube, TV as literature, TV review

Boyhood

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Fifty years ago when I was ten, the world was a very different place.  Many people long for the time when they were young.  They see it as a better, more innocent time.  Not me.  Childhood was both a blessing and a nightmare for me.  I was creative and artistic and full of life.  And my family encouraged that.  But I was also a victim of a sexual assault and believed I had to keep a terrible secret even from my parents so that the world would not reject me as something horrible.  We were on the way to the moon and the future looked bright.  But President Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963, and Apollo 1 would end in a fiery tragedy in 1967.  I look back with longing at many, many things, but I would never want to go back to that time and place without knowing everything I know now.  I am grateful that I survived.  But I remember the nightmares as vividly as I do the dreams.

 

As a teacher, I learned that childhood and young adulthood defines the adult.  And the kid who is coddled and never faces the darkness is the one who becomes a total jerk or a criminal… or Donald Trump.  I almost feel that the challenges we faced and the tragedies we overcame in our lives are the very things that made us strong and good and worthy.

 

When you are a boy growing up, hating girls on the outside and pining to get a look in the girls’ shower room on the inside, you can’t wait to grow up and get away from the horrors of being a child.  Except, there are good things too.  Tang, of course, wasn’t one of them.  We drank it because the astronauts drank it, but it was so sweet and artificial it tasted bitter in that oxymoronic way that only fake stuff can achieve.  Quisp is nasty-tasting stuff too… but we begged for it because, well, the cartoon commercials were cool.  I only ever choked down about two boxes of the vile stuff.  You went to school a little queasy on mornings when you ate Quisp in milk for breakfast.  But one box had a toy inside, and the other had an alien mask on the back that you could cut out, but not actually wear.

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But when it comes down to how you end a goofy-times-ten-and-then-squared essay like this one, well, how do you tie a proper knot at the end of the thread?  Maybe like this; It is a very hard thing to be a boy and then grow up to be a man.  But I did it.  And looking back on it, the pie was not my favorite flavor… but, hey!  it was pie!

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Filed under battling depression, feeling sorry for myself, finding love, goofy thoughts, happiness, healing, humor, Paffooney, Uncategorized

The Lovely Lennon Sisters

Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich lived on the family farm outside of town, a little more than two miles from the tiny farm town of Rowan, Iowa.  I walked it more than once.  It was faster to walk the railroad tracks between the two places.  About a mile and three quarters as the crow flies… three hours as the boy investigates the critters in the weeds, throws rocks at dragonflies, and listens to the birdsong along the way.  But the point is, my maternal grandparents lived close enough to have a profound influence on my young life.  Much of what they loved became what I love.  And every Saturday night, they loved to watch the Lawrence Welk Show.  And that show had highlights that we longed to see again and again… on a show that never really went into reruns.  We lived to see Jo Ann Castle play the old rinky-tink piano, Bobby and Cissy doing a dance routine, and most of all… the lovely Lennon Sisters.

I always wanted to be the things they wished me to be in the song “May You Always”.  I wanted to “walk in sunshine” and “live with laughter”.  They presented a world of possibilities all clean and good and wholesome.  As a young boy who hated girls, I had a secret crush on Janet Lennon who was the youngest, though a decade older than me, and on Peggy Lennon, the one with the exotic Asian eyes.  They sang to me and spoke directly to my heart.

You have to believe in something when you are young.  The world can present you with so many dark and hurtful experiences, that you simply have to have something to hang onto and keep you from being blighted and crippled by the pain.  For me, it often came in the form of a lovely and simple lyric sung by the lovely Lennon Sisters.  When you are faced with hard choices… especially in those dark moments when you think about ending it all because it is all just too much to bear, the things stored in those special pockets of your heart are the only things that can save you.  For me, one of those things will always be the music of the Lennon Sisters… especially when watched on the old black and white TV in the farmhouse where my grandparents lived, and helped to raise me, every Saturday night in the 1960’s.

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Filed under art my Grandpa loved, battling depression, Celebration, humor, inspiration, nostalgia, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV review

Old Timey Stuff

Okay, here is something to look at if you are ridiculously old and out of date like me.  If you have read any of the doll collecting posts or the Pez dispenser posts I am constantly and obsessively posting, then you know I have hoarding disorder almost as bad as my Grandma Beyer, the old string-saver.  She had a collection of used Christmas wrapping paper in her basement that went back to the 1930’s.  It cost her nothing to collect and keep that hoard.  She merely had to be loony about never letting anyone tear their wrapping paper when she wrapped presents.  So, inspired by that, I have found many ways to collect and hoard many kinds of free collections.  This is one I keep on my computer, hijacked images from the internet that remind me of my past.

I’m sorry if you don’t know who or what some of these things are.  Drive-ins, Davy Crockett, The Captain and Mr. Moose, NBC in color on Grandma Beyer’s RCA color TV… these are important things from childhood in the 50’s, 60’s, and early 70’s.

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Do you know who and what they all are?  Does it matter to you like it matters to me?  This is just a glimpse of the museum inside my mind.  I can’t help it.  I am almost 60, and I have been absorbing the detritus of culture since I was four.  That’s a lot of images to collect and catalog.  Have fun making your own collection.  It doesn’t cost anything… as long as nobody sues me over copyrighted images.

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The 40-Year Class Reunion

This Goodwill rescue Barbie is stamped 1966, but an irate collector once pointed out to me that is no indication of when this doll was actually made and sold.

This Goodwill rescue Barbie is stamped 1966, but an irate collector once pointed out to me that is no indication of when this doll was actually made and sold.

One of the main reasons that I went to Iowa this Summer at the time that I did was because the Belmond High School Class of 1975 was having a reunion dinner for the 40th anniversary of the high school getting rid of all of our dumb behinds all at once, an entire class full of mooks and monkey-heads and minions.  I desperately wanted to see them again… for possibly the last time in our lives.  It has been 40 years.  Seven of us are gone (more than 10% of a small, rural Iowegian high school class).  And now I want to tell stories about them and relentlessly make fun of them… though I will change the names to protect the innocent… and the ones I like… which is all of them.

We had the hootenanny at the Belmond Country-Club and Golf Course (and no, we were not eating golf balls… the most favorite of all Belmond restaurants had been destroyed by a tornado not long ago, and is now re-opened at the Country-Club grounds).  I was really hoping to see my best friend there, Dr. Bilbo Bonaduce… the mook in the lobster shirt in high school that always got my jokes in Mr. Salcomb’s English classes, but never laughed… because he always needed to top them.  (That goof-ball was willing to say out loud in front of everyone the kind of jokes I could only whisper to him behind my hand… needless to say, I only basked in the laughs second-hand.)   Unfortunately, he was not there.  He suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and may not even still be among the living.  It has been a decade since I last saw or heard from him.  Gee, this part of the story is not nearly as funny and uplifting as I had planned.  But, then, time and fortune are not universally kind.

I did get to see the boy I fell in love with in Junior High.  Now, that is not exactly what it sounds like.  Neither of us were ever gay, and both have children by the one and only wives that we each married.  I loved him because he was magical.  He relied on my big brain to help him in Math and History, and I relied on him as we played together, side by side, in football, basketball, and track.  As a teammate, he always made me better at what I was doing.  I tackled harder and shot the ball more accurately and ran faster because he was always there encouraging me.  I was actually the better athlete of the two of us (in my unbiased opinion), but he lettered in three sports when I did not letter in any.  He dated the girl I had the hugest crush of my life upon… for a while… and got all the glory.  But I shared in it because he was my friend and the “shiny” rubbed off on me.  He grew up to be the only farmer in our class who is still actually farming.  Still living the life we once knew.  God, Roger, I never envied you more, and I love you still.

This is a picture of Brent Clarke, not Roger Williams.  Character and inspiration?  Maybe.

This is a picture of Brent Clarke, not Roger Williams. Character and inspiration? Maybe.

I spent the most time talking to three people I had not talked to much in 40 years… Rachel McMichaels was one of the organizers of the dinner.  She was the brainiest girl in our class and the Valedictorian in high school.  The scuttlebutt was that if I courted and married Rachel, all our children would have frizzy white hair and mustaches like Albert Einstein.  She was as warm and caring as ever.  She asked all about my family and told me one or two things about hers.  There was never a flicker of romance between us in high school… probably because of all the teasing… but I do realize what a good thing was always there to be missed out on entirely.

Daniel Mastermill was there too.  We sat beside each other in the front row of the infamous Miss Rubelmacher’s seventh-grade Science class.  The terrifying Miss R sat us there together in her seating chart because of size.  Daniel, in seventh grade, was even shorter and scrawnier than I was.  At the reunion, he was telling me the story (which I had never heard before) of his family’s buried treasure.  It seems that his parents buried a treasure on their family farm, and told the children that it was there, but never gave them a treasure map, or told them what was in the treasure.  The old folks apparently died without telling where it was buried, and the children spent weeks digging up everything they dared to dig up looking for it before the farm was sold.  The treasure is apparently still there.

And I sat next to Reggie Simmery all during the meal.  Everybody talks to Reggie.  He was the class clown.  We were sitting across the table from Angela Oberkfell, the classmate who was also the Junior High School Principal’s  daughter, and listened to a recounting of several times Reg was subjected to paddlings, stern lectures, and even a couple of suspensions.  Reggie could never resist the temptation to say or do the most ridiculous, stupid, and pointless things his little peanut-butter-powered brain could think of.  And he always laughed about everything, even when Angela’s dad whacked him on the behind with a board of education.

The reunion was a disappointment because I didn’t see all the people I wanted to see.  Even the girl I had the greatest crush of my life upon was not there.  (Clever of her to avoid me.)  But I saw people I needed to see, and felt the things I needed to feel, about a time and place so long ago now, and my heart is full… re-filled to the brim.

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Taking the Road Home

The Road HomeI was once offered a hundred dollars for this oil painting of State Highway 3 in Iowa.  The art collector who offered it was a fellow teacher at the time.  He didn’t really know much about painting.  He collected wooden Santos, or carved saints from Mexico, and he had bought wooden carousel horses before.  He was very knowledgeable about wooden sculpture from Mexico, but kind of a dithering old fool who was actually going blind at the time from cataracts when it came to other kinds of art.  He wanted to encourage me as an artist, although he couldn’t really see the painting very well.  I loved the old guy, but blind guys shouldn’t really be teachers (unless they have Daredevil level hearing skills), and they definitely shouldn’t try to evaluate art that they can’t see by touching.   I was flattered, but also very happy I held on to the painting instead of selling it.

You see, this is literally the road home.  Traveling west on Highway Three, you only have to go a couple more miles down this road to reach the little town where I grew up, Rowan, Iowa.  And I am going home this week.  My parents live on what used to be the Raymond Aldrich farm.  Up ahead in the painting you turn right on the gravel road north to reach the connecting gravel room that takes you to Grandpa and Grandma’s farm house, where my parents, in their 80’s now live.  In many ways it is a journey into the past.  I have a class reunion of the Belmond High School Class of 1975 on July 3rd.  I get to revisit the town where I grew up and the family farm which always used to be the center of my world even though we lived in a different house in the town of Rowan.  My whole family of 5 is going along.  My sisters and their families will also be there.  It is worth the 700-plus mile trip, which we are doing today.  Soon, the picture becomes reality.  I thank my lucky stars I never sold it.

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Being Iowegian

I was born in the 1950’s in Mason City, Iowa… the town that produced Meredith Wilson, the creator of the Broadway Musical, The Music Man.  Yes, River City in The Music Man is Mason City.  So I was born into a unique Midwestern farm-town heritage where swindlers came to town and saved the day with music and an eleventh-hour change of heart.  I was born into the land of Chmielewski Fun Time on the black-and-white TV, Lawrence Welk champagne accordion music, and the Beer-Barrel Polka, courtesy of loads and loads of German ancestry.  I am that unique crossbreed of Scandahoovian and sqare-headed Deutschmann  known by the only slightly racist term of Iowegian.

Corn Country!

943363_457313854350548_485543538_n388135_298275616878726_103835066322783_936339_2005428082_nLand of Long Winter and the ice-storm breezin’ down the plains.

And if you ask an Iowegian if he loves Iowa, he will answer, “You bet!”

And if you ask a northern Iowegian the same thing, he will say “You betcha!”

Iowans talk funny, don’t you know…

There are still corner stores and farm supply stores, though they have gone to brand names now, like Casey’s, BP, and Tractor Supply Co.  You can still find HyVee and Safeway grocery stores.  There are still a precious few family farms that haven’t been swallowed whole by big corporations and agri-businesses.  If you go to the county fairs, you will still find kids showing the cattle or pigs that they raised for 4-H projects, and if you go into the barns after the auction, they are still producing tearful kids hugging and kissing that calf that won a red ribbon and now has to be sold… and they will never see poor Barney or Moo-berry again…

1399024_220039334824422_480122723_o 1450109_688917614523503_5237770938249269421_n 10418988_688917684523496_8272199480536313576_n 10350345_10152788940611349_2865049925004654610_n 10563018_688909541190977_6371844517698833981_n DSCN7127It is the land of the lonely gravel road… the back-street cattle pen… the Saturday night tornado (nearly every Saturday in Spring)…  The VFW and the Lion’s Club Fish Fry at Lake Cornelia….And it is a place where most everything reeks of the past and old ghosts and times long gone, soon to never be remembered because there’s no longer anybody around who is old enough to tell the stories that grandparents and aunts and uncles used to tell.  I not only miss it desperately, but I feel deeply saddened by the loss.  Would I like to go home again?

“You betcha!!!”

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Filed under humor, nostalgia, photo paffoonies

{Old Photographs}

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One of Facebook’s gifts that I actually appreciate is the connection it has given me to old photos.  Being connected to family members and old high school friends that live far away and I haven’t met face to face for a very, very long time gives me access to shared photos that have existed for a very long time.  I never would have gotten access to them if somebody hadn’t posted it on Facebook.  Example number one is a photo of Son Number One who is now a Marine stationed in (No the government did not remove this portion.  That is paranoid old me.)  The picture shows Dorin as a ring-bearer at a family wedding in the Philippines when he was not yet two.  I was teaching at the time and couldn’t go with them, so, though I have seen copies of this Photo in relatives’ houses, I never had access to it until photo-mania hit Facebook.

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Here’s another case in point.  There was a time when my Iowegian farm family had lots of four-generation photos and even some five-generation photos.  This one makes me a little sad.  Only the two little girls in this photo are still living.  Great Grandma Hinckley (I can use her real name here because she’s been gone since before desktop computers… who is going to be able to exploit that in any way?) lived to be almost 100 years old.  This shows not only her, but her eldest daughter, that daughter’s only son, and that son’s three kids.  John was younger than me, but his heart did not last anywhere near as long as mine has at this writing.  My own three kids would never have even an inkling of who these people were and their blood connection without the Facebook posts of a cousin who is still kicking. (Thank you for that, Louise.)  Four-generation photos have not occurred again in my family for a long time now.  And before this photo was taken, Iowans did not live long enough on average to do photos like this.  My Great Grandma (who actually was pretty Great and doesn’t get the Great just for being old) took a lot of these, as did both of my Grandmas.  Big farming families generate lots and lots of family photos.

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The photo from the train station in Yugoslavia was a gift from a time when my cousins hosted a foreign exchange student and the whole family got to broaden its world.  I am able to be Facebook friends with the Yugoslavian girl (Whose name translates to Snow White in English) even though she has lived most of her life in Eastern Europe.  I can even collect pictures of her grandchildren if I wish.  (Can’t return the favor, though, as I don’t have any grandkids and probably won’t for a few years.  Mom has to settle for a three-generation picture.   And it is harder and harder now to get the whole clan together, (especially since my younger brother has become a Tea Party Republican and swore off both logic and the use of facts in shaping his thinking).   But I think the best gift of all is how these old photos can keep my family alive for me in ways mere memory can’t manage.  We lost Uncle Larry a couple of years ago now to lung cancer.  Still, life and love and laughter live on…

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Rowan, Iowa

Here is a tap-dance made of photographs to musically and terpsichorially depict my old home town.

10475969_298109007017454_846022390001380906_o Hollyhocks photographed by Belinda Buchanan.

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