My Brain Peanuts Remembers Soda Pop

Welcome Dear Readers to this edition of my brain Peanuts remembers.  

Today’s topic:  Soda Pop

Drinking soda in the fifties was a lot different from today. First of all, soda came in a bottle. In Washington state, where I grew up, there was no such thing as drinking a can of soda. No siree! We drank a bottle of pop or we drank nothing at all.

Back then, when you bought a bottle of pop, the pop was yours to drink — but you had to give back the bottle because you were merely renting it. After all, you had to pay a 2-cent deposit on it, for crying out loud, and not taking it back for a refund could seriously affect the budget.

So everyone always returned their pop bottles to get their two-cents back because two-cents in the fifties would buy enough gas to get you to Canada from anywhere in the United States.

 "Hot diggity dog! It's my ticket to Canada!"
“Hot diggity dog! It’s my ticket to Canada!”

The only people who drank out of a can were beer drinkers. But beer cans were worthless so beer drinkers didn’t worry about getting their deposit back. They would simply chuck the empties out of the window of whatever speeding vehicle they happened to be drunkenly swerving down the highway in.

Today, we would consider this drunk driving but in those days we simply considered it littering. And in the 1950’s, littering was America’s favorite pastime — as much a way of life as Polio, onesie gym clothes, and radio-active cleansing cream.

But whether you were drinking out of a bottle or drinking out of a can, you would have died of thirst in the 1950’s if you didn’t have one of these.

The most important invention of mankind since the creation of invention ITSELF!!!
The most important invention of mankind since the creation of invention ITSELF!!!

It was a combination bottle/can opener, and it was a wonderful little gadget. One end would pry off the caps of Debby and Bobby’s pop bottles while the other end would puncture a hole in Mom and Dad’s beer cans. (The only thing this can opener wouldn’t do is open a bottle of wine, but this wasn’t a problem because in the 50’s only Europeans drank wine.)

I think it’s fair to say that the bottle opener was as much a part of the foundation upon which the togetherness of the fifties family was built as smearing butch wax on crew cuts, stenciling on eyebrows or hiding under desks together to survive atomic blasts.

I remember my grandparents only drank Pepsi which they always referred to as Peps. Pepsi was for those who think young. Not only did my grandparents think young, they were young. When I was five, my grandmother was only 44. (Back then people started families way younger so they could get it out of the way quicker and have more time to drink Peps.)

Now let’s say you only drank half the Peps in that rented bottle of yours. What would you do? Well, instead of pouring it down the drain, you would save the remainder of the Peps by utilizing another ingenious type of gadget that people just referred to as that bottle thingy.

These bottle thingys were invented for two reasons.  1) to lock in soda pop freshness and  2) to give people in the future something to sell on e-bay.
These bottle thingys were invented for two reasons.
1) to lock in soda pop freshness and
2) to give people in the future something to sell on e-bay.

That bottle “thingy” I’m referring to was a rubber gasket that went into the top of the bottle to seal in the carbonation as well as that delicious Peps refreshing flavor. After all, you spent a whole dime for that bottle of Pepsi, and you wouldn’t want it to go to waste.

Not if you were ever going to afford that trip to Canada!

Until next time . . . I love you

My Brain Peanuts Remembers: Santa Claus

Welcome Dear Readers to this edition of My Brain, Peanuts, remembers.

Today’s Topic:  Santa Claus

The first memory of Santa I have takes place in 1954, when I was three, and Santa Claus was making a live appearance in the basement of the Presbyterian church.  On the big day, everyone filed down the stairs to the chilly  church basement and eagerly awaited the arrival of The Man in Red. (Back then church-goers didn’t really worry about anyone forgetting that Jesus was the reason for the season because 1) there was plenty of room in church for both Santa and the baby Jesus and 2) nobody had thought of that catchy phrase yet.)

Ice-Cold Church Basement Sunday School Clay

Anyway, we all stood around watching our breaths and breathing in the aroma of Sunday School Clay.  That’s because our church basement always smelled like Sunday school clay. Sunday school clay is different from ordinary clay by virtue of the fact that it is kept in the cold church basement.  So Sunday school clay was always somewhat frozen and by the time you got it warmed up enough to roll it into something as simple as a snake, Sunday school was over.

I never understood why they even bothered with having clay unless it was just something to keep us occupied while the Sunday School teacher was earnestly trying to impart some useful biblical wisdom into our somewhat disengaged little minds.

A Communistic Christmas?

Anyway, we all stood around waiting for Santa and shivering beneath the glare of church basement’s fluorescent lights that cast a Russian-esque-like hue over the scene — probably not unlike the same scene that was transpiring on in the opposite side of our cold-war globe in the basement of the Kremlin while communist children waited for Soviet Santa to make his appearance –i.e. Khrushchev in a fuzzy hat.

Santa Khrushchev
I will bury you! No wait . . . have yourself a very merry Christmas . . . and then I will bury you!

 Anyway, when our Santa Claus finally appeared, he was wearing a rubber Santa Claus mask.  The weird thing is, I was the only one that seemed to notice.

Santa Mask
Mask? What mask?

All the kids ran up to him as he handed out candy.  I thought this was extremely alarming. So I began shouting at the top of my lungs, “Thanta Clauth ith wearing a Mathk!”   (I had a slight lisp at the time.)

But no one seemed to care.  Everyone was on board with this rubber-masked imposter. They were taking candy from him like it was candy.  What was wrong with everyone?  I screamed!  I shouted!  I was a three-year-old Paul Revere trying to warn my fellow pint-sized citizens not be taken in by this Santa Claus Charlton!  But nobody listened.

Not the Real Santa

On the way home, my mother tried to tell me that that wasn’t the real Santa wearing the rubber mask in the church basement.  The real Santa was busy at the north pole making presents, and he couldn’t take the time off to come all the way to our town to hand out candy (Plus it was probably too cold in that church basement even for him!)

I do believe in Santa . . . I do . . . I do . . . I do!

I wanted to believe her story.  I really did.  I looked up at the stars and tried to imagine Santa flying through the air.  I strained to hear the sound of Santa’s sleigh bells.  I neither saw nor heard a thing.  Try as I might, the integrity of the Santa story was beginning to form some big, gaping holes.

The Jack Hubbard Incident

When I was five years old, the subject of Santa came up, and I cruelly broke the news to dear, sweet, innocent, Santa-believing, Jack Hubbard that there was no Santa Claus.  I explained that he was merely a figment of the imagination, a tale told by an idiot, full of thound and fury thignifying nothing.(I still had my lisp).

A traumatized Jack Hubbard ran home, broken-hearted and told his mother what I had said.  Mrs. Hubbard called my mother.

My Mother:  Hello

Mrs. Hubbard:  Jack said Linda told him there was no Santa Claus. Did she tell Jack that?

My Mother:  Oh gosh I don’t know.  Let me ask her (my mother put the phone to her chest).  Linda, did you tell Jack there is no Santa Claus?

Me:  Yes.

My Mother:  Yes apparently she did tell Jack there wasn’t any Santa Claus.

Mrs. Hubbard: Why did she do that?

My Mother:  Oh gosh. Let me ask her.  (My mother put the phone to her chest again) Linda, why did you tell Jack there wasn’t any Santa Claus?

Me:  Because there isn’t any Santa Claus.

My Mother:  Oh.

I don’t remember what my mother said after that, but I do remember that neither my mother nor Mrs. Hubbard were none to happy with me and, frankly, I’ve been feeling guilty about it ever since.

This year my five-year-old grandson asked me if Santa Claus really existed.  I told him that believing in Santa Claus is a personal decision that he would have to make for himself. This seemed to placate him since he didn’t exactly understand what I was saying.

If only I had thought of this answer when I broke the news to Jack Hubbard.

Until next time . . . I love you

 

 

 

My Brain, Peanuts, Remembers: Television

Hello Dear Readers!  Welcome to this edition of My Brain, Peanuts, Remembers.

Today’s Topic:  Television

Back in the 50’s, before there was nothing  good to watch on hundreds of satellite and cable TV channels,  we had to make do with nothing good to watch on only three measly little channels, ABC, NBC and CBS.

Ah the Simple Days!

Watching TV in the 50’s couldn’t have been simpler.  First of all, there was no remote to bother with.  We never had to spend upwards of a half hour rummaging around the Naugahyde davenport cushions trying to find the remote control.

Instead, my brothers and I would spend upwards of a half hour arguing over who should change the channel because they were the closest one to the television set.

I have one vivid memory of me and my little brother, Ricky, and my older brother, Peter, plastering ourselves against the back wall of our living room, each trying to make ourselves farthest away from the TV.  I can’t even imagine how many episodes of Ruff and Ready were wasted in this way.

Changing Channels

Changing the channel in those days was pretty simple.  You simply walked over to the TV and turned the dial until it would clunkily kachunk onto either 2 (ABC), 4 (CBS) or 6 (NBC).  The dial had way more numbers on it than 2, 4 and 6.  (It might have gone up to 11 now that I think about it.)

Obviously, TV manufacturers were the visionaries of the 1950’s. They kept their eyes focused on a day in the not too distant future when there might actually be more than snow to watch on all those other channels.

50's television snow
They saw the future and it didn’t look anything like this, thank god!

But in the 50’s, because there wasn’t that much on TV and because we were all so giddy about television viewing, we were all pretty much okay with watching snow.

My grandmother, who lived way out in the country and had no cable connection or antenna reception, claimed she got channel 13.  She’d proudly turn on her TV set and turn the dial to channel 13.  There  would be nothing but snow on the screen. But if you listened closely enough, you could occasionally make out the sound of voices although it was impossible to figure out what they were saying.

I remember visiting my grandmother and sitting in front of her TV set watching the snow and listening to the random voices.  Her TV set was pretty fancy.  It was in a blond wooden cabinet that had shuttered doors.  I’d sit in front of it, watching the snow and listening for voices while my grandmother would watch from her new white Naugahyde couch while she crocheted colorful afghans (the blankets not the people). My grandmother was totally on board with mid-century decor.

The Thrill of Saturday Morning Cartoons

My brothers and I would get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons.  But if we were too early, we would turn on the TV and watch the snow because all the stations quit broadcasting at midnight and didn’t resume broadcasting until about 7 a.m. in the morning.

So every night at midnight, all three stations would broadcast a recording of The Star Spangled Banner and then sign off.  Everybody was a lot more patriotic in those days.

Maybe because there was a cold war going on, and you never knew if tonight would be the night that Nikita Khrushchev would get tanked up on vodka and accidentally pass out on the atomic bomb button that was aimed directly at your hometown.

It’s little wonder that TV programmers figured it was probably a good idea to send everybody off to bed with a good dose of patriotism.

Anyway, on Saturday morning, my brothers and I would watch the snow until the thrill of the test pattern came on:

IndianHeadTestPattern16x9 (1)
Not only is this impressive, did you know one of the colors is magenta?

Once the test pattern came on things really got exciting.  It meant we were almost to the beginning of actual television broadcasting and one minute closer to watching the cartoon adventures of Ruff and Ready!

The test pattern was accompanied by a long tone like you would hear during an emergency broadcast warning.  Then an announcer would come on and explain what the colors of the test pattern were.  One of the colors was magenta. Every week my brothers and I wondered what color magenta was.

MagentaIcon
Okay just googled magenta,. and even google isn’t sure what color magenta is.

Sometimes while we were waiting for the cartoons to start, my brothers would scrape the frost off the freezer box in the refrigerator and eat it like a snow cone. I never cared much for the frost on the pre-defrost-free refrigerator freezers.  I always felt it had a funny aftertaste. But my brothers seemed to enjoy it.

freezer frost
Peter and Ricky viewed this freezer frost as the snow cone half full.

Ah yes!  TV in the 50’s.  I often ask myself if there’s anything today that compares to that long-ago  thrill of hearing the theme song to Ruff and Ready while eating freezer snow cones . . . and the answer, Dear Readers, is yes . . . practically everything!

 

Until next time . . . I love you

My Brain Peanuts Remembers: Penny Candy

Hello Dear Readers!  Welcome to this edition of My Brain, Peanuts, Remembers.

Today’s Topic:  Penny Candy

Nuclear_Explosion.svg

Growing up during the cold war wasn’t all that bad. That’s because the cold war wasn’t exactly cold and it wasn’t exactly war. The cold war was really more of a squabble between two little-girl super powers arguing over whether Barbie should live in Barbie’s Dream House or on Barbie’s Soviet Union Collective Farm — except that if these two little girls ever got mad enough to start pulling ponytails, mankind would have been wiped off the face of the planet.

But while the constant threat of getting blown to smithereens at any given moment wasn’t a pleasant thought, we kids of the 1950’s were pretty much able to shrug it off.

After all, we had pop bottle empties to redeem, money to collect, and penny candy purchasing decisions to make!

Here are some of my thought processes when it came to making penny candy purchases in the cold war:

Black Licorice

When investing in penny candy, I always made sure I included at least one stick of black licorice.  Black licorice came in long, braided sticks.  It not only cleansed my palate for other penny candy flavors, but also, it was a tremendous bargain.

A stick of black licorice was about eight inches long, and in the event of a national emergency such as a nuclear attack by the Russians (the only kind of national emergency that existed in the 50’s), a highly-disciplined child might be able to survive a week or more by rationing a single stick of black licorice– providing, of course, the child was safely tucked away in a bomb shelter or, failing that, not quite so safely tucked away in grandpa’s aluminum foil- covered basement.

Never take refuge in an aluminum foil basement without at least one of these
Never take refuge in an aluminum foil basement without at least one of these!

Red Licorice

I always felt red licorice to be a far inferior penny candy to that of black licorice both in flavor and in value. Aside from the obvious drawback that it was Commie Red, red licorice was also much shorter than a stick of black licorice – making it a much less suitable choice for atomic bomb holocaust survival.

Because when you really think about it, how long could a kid actually survive after a nuclear holocaust on one lousy stick of red licorice — bomb shelter or no bomb shelter?  (And that’s not even taking into account the fact that one measly stick of red licorice would make for a really lousy last meal.)

Commmie Red
“Here’s your last meal.”
“Never mind, I’ll skip it.”

Pixie Sticks

Pixie Sticks were paper straws filled with a sickeningly-sweet, Kool-Aid-like, powdery substance that came in a variety of flavors such as: cherry, lime, orange, grape and lemon.  All the flavors tasted the same except that they turned your tongue the color of whatever flavor you thought you were eating.

I have no idea what that powdery substance consisted of — but if you were to look at my sorry dental X-rays from that era, it was probably some sort of concoction devised by Russian scientists to penetrate the Colgate Shield.

Penetrating the Colgate Shield
“Uh oh, Billy. It looks like the Soviets have been tampering with your Colgate Shield, again!”

Jaw Breakers

Jaw breakers were the “ve have vays of making you talk” penny candy of the cold war world.  A jaw breaker was a ball of sugar hardened to the consistency of steel (probably utilizing secret technology stolen from the Russians).

Jaw breakers were designed to do one or all of the following things:

1) break your jaw

2) shatter your already cavity-filled teeth (see Pixie Sticks) 

3) administer death by choking.

But despite these drawbacks, jawbreakers remained a reliable penny candy purchase if only for the sheer excitement of sucking on them while cheating death.

Sputnik Jaw Breakers

The most memorable jaw breaker of cold war penny candy was called a Sputnik. 

It was blue with sharp little spikes sticking out of it.  It had that telltale 1950’s mysterious blue candy flavor you could never really put your finger on – maybe because it was derived from blueberry extract with just a hint of radio- active isotope but we’ll never know for sure.

"Care for a Sputnik?" "No thanks I"m trying to cut back on my radio active isotopes."
“Care for a Sputnik?”
“No thanks I”m trying to cut back on my radio active isotopes.”

The United States government was pretty sore when the Russians beat us into space by launching the Sputnik satellite; but not as sore as the Sputnik Jawbreakers made the inside of kids’ mouths all over America.

Bubble Gum

There were two types of bubble gum to choose from: Double Bubble and Bazooka.  Both came with comics wrapped around a little pink squares of bubble gum and each had a dividing line down the middle so that it could be divided equally and shared with a friend or comrade (if it came to that).

I always preferred Double Bubble simply because I felt the Double Bubble comics were funnier than Bazooka’s.  Plus, I never much liked Bazooka Joe. He seemed untrustworthy with that patch over one eye, which, looking back on it now, probably had a miniature camera hidden in it to document whether or not American kids blew bigger bubbles than Russian kids.

"Look at funny American kid trying to blow inferior bubble!"
“Look at funny American kid trying to blow inferior bubble!  Kremlin will get kick!”

Kids today just don’t realize how lucky they are to not have to worry about such things while making their penny candy purchasing decisions.

On the other hand, one piece of penny candy now costs $2.59 –so I guess everything has a way of evening itself out in the end.

And there you have it, Dear Readers.  My brain, Peanuts, remembers penny candy.

Until next time . . . I love you
 

My Brain Peanuts Remembers: First Grade

Hello Dear Readers and welcome to this edition of  My Brain, Peanuts, Remembers.

 Today’s Topic: First Grade

I never went to kindergarten.  I don’t know why.  I think maybe it hadn’t been invented yet so by the time I started first grade,  I was so bored out of my gourd at being stuck at  home — that I was as ecstatic about becoming a “real school girl” as Pinocchio was about becoming a “real boy.”

What are we celebrating, the fact that she's not made out of wood or that she's in first grade? Both
Me –100 Percent Wood Free!

At first, I loved school with every fiber of my color crayons.

Sitting at my desk, drawing letters with fat pencils, every once in a while having the thrill of needing to get up out of my seat to sharpen it,  learning to love the small, repetitive vocabulary describing the barely perceptible lives of  Dick and Jane . . .

Dick and Jane and Spot
Dick and Jane — Ah!  the Halcyon days of looking and seeing.

And then there was learning to distinguish — through the cutting-edge technology of film strips — which old. bald men were good (Eisenhower) and which old, bald men were evil (Khrushchev).  What was not to love? (Except for Khrushchev, of course.)

I've got more hair than you do! No you don't! Yes I do! No you don't I will bury you.
“I’ve got more hair than you do!”
“No you don’t!”
“Yes I do!”
“No you don’t!”
“I will bury you.”
“Who care’s? I’ll still have more hair.”

Biting the Bubble

Oh you should have seen me, Dear Readers.  I had such a wonderful school attitude!   I took to heart the film that warned us about the dangers of putting our mouths directly over the spigot of the drinking fountain and just sucking  — a fate worse than heroin addiction in those days.   (And nobody “bit the bubble” with as much gusto as I did, nobody!)

I was becoming an indoctrinated first-grade fool and loving it!  

I always made sure to “stop, look and listen before I crossed the street,” and never to accept a ride with a stranger because, you never knew– they might be a poor driver — and, of course, I also learned how to properly carry my chair when we marched down to the multi-purpose room to have our little brains washed by current affair film strips ad communnauseum.  My education was all going so well.

Here’s a 50’s vintage film showing children how to walk 18 miles alone to school through the streets of Los Angeles:

It was all going so well until the day Eddie Sickles threw up

Then one day, while I was trying to color my picture of wheat in my workbook as well as  Claudia Hevel, who was the smartest girl and best colorer in the class,  my teacher, Mrs. Combs said, “okay let’s turn to the next page now” and that’s when the futility of school hit me like a ton film strips and transformed my attitude of good citizen to reluctant participant — plus Eddie Sickles threw up right next to me.

What difference did any of it make?

Suddenly a horrible realization washed over me. What difference did it really make how well I colored? Or bit the bubble? Or knew which bald-headed old man to hate?  What I really wanted to do with my life was to get away from Eddie Sickles and go outside and play,  watch Popeye cartoons,  and eat Trix.  Was that so wrong?

"No silly rabbit!  Trix are for juvenile deliquent first graders!"
“No silly rabbit! Trix are for juvenile delinquent first graders!”

I’m sorry to say, Dear Readers, that First-Grade  Futility of School feeling never really left me.  I never liked school from that moment on.  Oh I still went everyday.  (It was just pathetic how sick I never got.)  And I tried to have a good attitude.  But I never went to school again with a song in my heart.

The best I could manage was a hum in my spleen.

And there you have it, Dear Readers.  My brain, Peanuts, remembers first grade. If you have any first-grade memories that you’d like to share, my brain, Peanuts is all ears!  

Until next time . . . I love you

My Brain Peanuts Remembers: My Mother Janey

Hello Dear Readers and welcome to my brain, Peanuts remembers. Today’s topic is my mother, Janey.

Janey - Copy
My Mom Janey

Janey was a Fainter

When my mother was  little, my grandparents had a record they would play of a bird singing.  Every time, my mother heard it, she would  pass out by  falling over backwards.

You’d think after the initial discovery, my grandparents wouldn’t have played that record anymore, but people just thought things like that were funny in those days.

Janey and her parents
Here’s my mom with her parents, who apparently weren’t playing the bird song at the moment, anyway, since my mom is upright

Janey also fainted in movie theaters and department stores.  Once when I was in the 8th grade, we were shopping in the Crescent Department Store in downtown Spokane looking at sweaters.  I hadn’t seen my mother for awhile so I thought she was trying on clothes.  Well, it turns out she had fainted and woken up in the manager’s office.

Funny, it never occurred to me until just now that when Janey fainted, the clerks must have drug her into the manager’s office — like in the movies when somebody gets murdered!  (If my mother was alive today, I’d call her up right now with this new revelation!)

Janey had a delicate appetite

One of my mother’s main themes in life was that her appetite was easily ruined.   Any number of things could occur in which Janey could lose her appetite, not the least of which being unpleasant conversational topics at the dinner table, as well as having to observe someone (such as one of her kids) not using good  table manners.

One never knew  exactly what would set off  Janey’s “loss of appetite” but looking back on it now,  she never seemed to equate it with the case of Nestle Crunches she always kept on the top shelf of the cupboard and that she was always nibbling on — as being a factor in her  “loss of appetite.”

The only thing standing between my mother and starvation!
The only thing standing between my mother and starvation!

The time Janey was a trooper

Janey was never big on water sports, but one summer Janey bucked up and decided to try her hand at water skiing behind my dad’s new fishing boat.

His boat  had a weak outboard motor that was about as powerful as a sick kitten.  It barely managed to pull a child up out of the water on skis, let alone an adult.

But for some reason, Janey, who had never been much into water sports decided to try water skiing.  We were all a little shocked when she suggested it, as we had never see her swim without keeping her hair from getting wet, but try she did.

Stand back! Janey’s going in!

She slipped right into the water, oblivious to the fact that she could ruin her hairdo  as well as  smudge her fire-engine red lipstick.  My brother, Peter,  helped her position herself in the water with her skis.  When she was finally ready,  Peter gave the signal and my dad gunned it as it were.

But instead of popping Janey up  out of the water, the boat pulled her  along underneath the water.

I’ll never forget the image of Janey’s fire-engine red lipstick shimmering from beneath that green wake of water  that was pouring over the top of her head.

But still,  she  hung on for dear life.  And she hung on and she hung on until finally a miracle occurred!  She suddenly popped up from beneath the water, and proceeded to water ski in a big circle around Williams Lake — albeit in a squatting position, but still!  

Janey was water skiing! Hurray!

I hope it’s true what they say about your whole life flashing before you eyes when you die.  Because I do so want to see that part again, Dear Readers!

Until next time . . . I love you

Janey
Janey? Is that you?