Friday, February 26, 2010

She's All Ears

The above picture is pretty old - it goes back to 1957, not long after the opening of Disneyland - the original Disneyland, well before Orlando fit into the picture. But some things never change - Mickey Mouse ears are still in vogue even fifty years (plus) later. And that is not to imply that any of our children are catching up with us age-wise. Fact is, I venture to say our eldest daughter Linda may have forgotten this picture was ever taken.

It's always fun to go back through old pictures because most of them tell a story beyond the basic theme. So it is with this picture. The focus is on the ears.

The picture was taken in early 1957 at a time when I was attending a school at Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, California. It is a reminder of a wonderful day with all the wonder of Disney and we all carried memories of it for a very long time.

Move, now, to November. School completed, we've returned to Rantoul, Illinois. Summer is gone and an early chill of winter has fallen on central Illinois. We're living in a 38 foot Elcar mobile home that we pulled to California and back and the one toilet has stopped working. Pull the handle and the residue in the toilet starts to go down the drain. Suddenly, like a geyser, it burps back, and almost as quickly, the toilet contents begin to go down the drain - very slowly. Pull the handle - the water starts to go but stand back - the geyser happens again and again. Obviously, there is a problem and with four of us in the trailer a backed up toilet will not do.

So, I turn off the water, disconnect supply tubing, remove the bolts from the floor, and the entire toilet ends up in the yard. Nothing is evident in the hole in the trailer floor - no blockage there. But when I checked out the toilet, voila! The problem is obvious - there is a Mickey Mouse hat in the toilet drain.

Needless to say, the Mickey Mouse hat and ears ended up in the trash. The picture remained - memories of a fun day remained with the faded picture. But the real memory was not so much of the day at Disney as it was of the Ears in the toilet. I venture to say Linda doesn't even remember that event (or THOSE EVENTS) but for some of us we are always reminded of a couple of special memories every time we see a Mickey Mouse hat. And we are reminded that with little kids, one never knows what will end up in the toilet.

Oh, there was another time - this time it was a little girl's toy teacup saucer that did the same thing - but it acted like a flapper valve. The bowl would start to flush - then, with a vengeance, it became a geyser - just for a moment or so - and then would drain as if nothing had happened.
The force of water, to begin with, rotated the saucer blocking the drain. Then, when the water pressure ended up, the saucer would rotate back to an open position. Removal of the saucer solved this problem as well.

Events like this make one wonder if maybe the old outhouse concept might have some value - one didn't have to depend upon the force of flushing water. But December in at outhuse leaves a lot to be desired. Especially when the snow is a foot and half deep between the house and the facility and the temperature is down around zero with a 20 mph wind blowing out of the north. Kids toys in the toilet become less stressful when you think about that.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spring Has Sprung - Almost

My first radio job, at WBRK - Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was writing commercials. I applied at the station and the General Manager had some some strong reservations - pronounced DOUBTS - about my potential since I had never worked in a radio station other than as a CBS page years before. As a test he gave me five bits of information to use in a couple of commercials - he wanted a 30-second spot announcement, and another that would last one minute. And he gave me about five or ten minutes to do it. When I was done he looked at what I had done and said something like "not bad for a beginner" and he hired me on the spot.

One of the most memorable of my products over the next year was for a grocery store on the east side of town. It produced a catch phrase that lasted for years: Spring has sprung, the grass is riz; smart shoppers shop at Sias's.

Well, Spring hasn't really sprung in Michigan - there's a smattering of snow on the ground - but I thought I'd bring a little spring into our living room. I was shopping at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and I noticed, in the produce department, some pots that contained spring bulbs. No plants - just a pot, some soil and little green thingies poking through the dirt. Well, those little thingies have grown like Topsy (so to speak) and the picture above is a result == daffodil's in Michigan in February and who knows what else? And in the background outside the window, a light coating of snow

This has been a really mild winter in Oscoda. Temperatures above normal - not much snow - so maybe there'll be an early spring. But then again, Michigan weather can be capricious. When we moved to Michigan on March 27th of 2003 our move-in day had temps in the 70s and no snow on the ground. But on April 1st (April Fools Day) we had close to a foot of snow - and I didn't even have a snow shovel.

So, I guess I'll have to come up with some other kind of a jingle - something that relates to a February Spring in Michigan. Like - Pots will come - and plants will grow -- In February == so what do you know! Or, The sun shines bright in Oscoda town -- but wait a while -- snow will come down -- In February - In Michigan. Just wait and see.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's Olympic Time

Just another wild and crazy guy - dressed for the occasion.
It was February 1953 on the slopes of Colorado, and I was a bit leaner and a lot younger. It was fun times as several of us spent our weekends west of Denver as we escaped work at Lowry Air Force Base.
My skiing days began in the very late thirties and very early forties in New York. I had fourth-hand skiis and leather strap ski bindings that were not the greatest in the world. We skiied on a neighbors hill (had I done it behind our house I would have ended up in the creek) There were no tows or lifts and so for every one minute slide down the hill there was a 15 or twenty minute herring-bone climb up the hill.
A few years later (with a car available) I graduated to commercial slopes like Catamount, almost on the New York/Massachusetts state line and now there were rope tows and longer more challenging trails. I got infected with the ski bug in those days.
The real conversion came in Colorado. Rocky Mountain powder snow was wonderful and the slopes far more challenging. The mountains were higher and every weekend was filled with adventure.
I guess it's the same way nowadays -- ski all day and party all night. I remember snake dances down the main street of Idaho Springs, Colorado and celebrations atop Lookout Mountain, overlooking the city of Golden. As I said, it was a wonderful time for a young, wild and crazy guy.
My last real involvement with snow skiing was in Italy in November and December of 1955. I was assigned to the Italian Air Force at a base in the foothills of the Dolomites not far from Venice. In the process I gained some Italian ski troop friends who would take me to Cortina on weekends to prepare the slopes for the 1956 winter Olympic games. So, I can claim to have skiied Olympic trails but never got to see the actual Olympics because of a transfer to Holland a week or two before the competion began.
Today my competion Northland hickory skiis, my wonderful magnesium skiis, and my very early Head laminate skiis are long gone. What we have in the immediate area here are some of the best cross-country trails in Michigan; however, I don't have the stamina or the urge to ski anymore. If I lived in Colorado I'd have serious vertigo problems. Guess that's part of the aging process. Still, it's nice to dig out old pictures, and watch the Vancouver Winter games, and reflect on what it was like when I was young and carefree.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Twisted (or Warped) Love

I've just given up. Admitted that my computer has a mind of its own which prevented me from rotating the picture so just turn your computer screen on its side and I presume you'll get the message. It's Valentine's Day weekend 2010.

Can you remember the first Valentine card you ever got? For me I think it was in the 1st or second grade where we all threw anonymous cards into a small box and pulled them out at random. The handwriting on the card I drew wasn't mine - but then, it didn't look like a girls either. Looked more like one from the fat boy two rows over from where I was.

In the third grade I discovered girls and I addressed one to "Jane" who was the most beautiful creature on earth - or at least in the third grade.

Because we moved almost every year there was a new Valentines crush each year and there was little or no response from the love offerings I made each year. The crowning blow came from a high school girl who I wooed on a unique way. There was a song way back titled"You'll Never Know" (I think Frank Sinatra sang it) and it really carried a message. It grabbed my heart so strongly that I called up a girl I admired and played the song to her on the phone. Her response: "I'm sorry, you have the wrong number!"

Then there was "Secret Love" by Doris Day which sometime later was superceded by Rosemary Clooney's rendition of "Half As Much." I think it was about this period of life that I began to think that perhaps I was cut out for monastic life - and then I was transferred to the Detroit area. For fifty six years my love letters and valentines wishes have gone to the girl from Michigan.

Well, neither of us are kids anymore but the valentines messages carry the same thought -
a reminder that love is what you make of it and for those who are blessed, it get's deeper and more precious every year. So to my wife: Thanks for the memories - thanks for the love you've shared - and thanks for being you. Let the candy above give you a warped view of how I feel this Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dream On

Well, the forecast is for snow - starting at mid afternoon. But it's dismal and cloudy and spitting something already. And to make matters worse, our down-the-hall neighbor said she leaves Thursday for a week in Florida.
It brings back memories of when we lived there. Seventeen years worth. And people said, when we headed back north that we were crazy. But them we remembered what Florida is like in the summer. humid. hot. hurricanes. Bugs. and tourists. And you could only take so many clothes off to keep cool. In the north if you are cold just pile on another set of long-johns and a few more sweaters. And stay indoors if you don't have to go to work.
This winter has been a weird one. Chilly but not much in the way of bitter cold and very little snow. Our friends in Washington would probably say it's part of global warming - but then, they'd have a tough time saying it about their own surroundings. And it would have been hard for us to endorse that thought last summer when it was chilly for two weeks out of our three-week vacation out west.
So Punxarwany Phil predicts another five or six weeks of winter. Hey, the way it's been going
we're halfway through winter or more already. Maybe any yen to go to Florida this winter can be put on the back burner - it's been too chilly down there.
But the picture in today's blog is one of my favorites. I took it in 2004 and had to fight snowstorms down and back. It was taken at a beach in Venice, Florida in January. It's a sunset picture of my beloved watching the sun go down. There's not much that will beat a Florida beach sunset unless, perhaps it might be a Lake Huron sunrise in mid-summer Michigan.
So, I'll just dream on of the good days in Florida and the good days in Michigan. And be thankful for this one day of my life. And for the memories of days gone by.