Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Good Old Days

Oddly, in the same weekend, I read two nostalgic newspaper articles that made me smile and truly LOL more than once.  I read When Summer Was Easy in the Saturday WSJ, sitting on my porch glider, coffee mug in hand and dogs at my feet.  I laughed so hard a few times that I almost choked on my coffee.

Born in 1955, Dave Shiflett reminisces about his boyhood summers, and those earlier days sound pretty enticing.  He’s honest about homes without air conditioners, sweltering summers with mosquitoes and TVs with only three channels, not anything to yearn for.  But his descriptions of riding bicycles, jumping rope, and generally playing outside all day without fear took me back.
 I had to laugh at his description of how we dealt with the heat back then: “When it got hot, you turned on a fan.  When it got real hot, you prayed for a thunderstorm.”  I suddenly flashed on playing in the sprinkler in the backyard followed by a vision of the small oscillating fan used to cool me and my sister in the two single beds in our NYC bedroom.
I smiled at the mention of Vacation Bible School and his recollection of having extensive summer reading lists. I don’t remember having lists, but I definitely whiled away my summer reading plenty of books; I didn’t need an assignment for that.
I couldn’t relate to his tale of going camping with friends and taking his pistol and was horrified when I read that the pistol fell off a bench, accidentally discharged and cut a groove in his finger--while he was holding a cigarette to his mouth.  I did laugh, though, at the fact that his “parents… [were] learning of the shooting incident for the first time as they read [the] article.”
That reminded me of the time my sisters and I were laughing about some of our antics, and I mentioned my younger sister getting caught drinking beer in the school parking lot when she was in the eighth grade. Little did we know that Daddy had never mentioned the incident to Mother, and that was the first she’d ever heard of it.  I hope Dave’s parents took his revelation better than Mom took that one.
He mentions that he and his friends patterned their adventures after the TV shows Combat and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  We girls watched those alongside our parents but were also hooked on Gidget, with Sally Field, and The Patty Duke Show. Believe it or not, I opened the Sunday paper that same weekend to an article about none other than Patty Duke—Remembering ‘The Patty Duke Show’ 50 years later. 
If you were around then, you may recall that she played two parts in that show—“the mischievous Patty from Brooklyn Heights and her quiet, studious British look-alike cousin Cathy.”  She confesses in the article to being more comfortable with the Cathy role and feeling “tickled when baby boomers approach her about the series…and say,’ I grew up with you.’”   
 “Duke’s series…reminds [us] of that quieter, more innocent time.” In today’s world of nonstop television, emails and texting, both of these articles did that for me, and I’d say that’s not a bad thing at all.