Since I’ve started writing “Sundays with Steve” I’ve been thinking about vignettes of my life growing up in North Idaho. I realize the town where I grew up and the life I lived with my family is really a classic, all-American story. Perhaps you will recognize some of your childhood in these writings. And perhaps you will recognize the town you grew up in, too, and some of the characters you knew. Mrs. Steve has encouraged me to write these as attempts of “creative writing” as opposed to the more factual journalistic style I was trained in and practiced in my early career, all those years ago. So my apologies if I stumble a bit here and there trying to blend the two styles together
SMALL TOWN MUSINGS - Goofy made us do it
It was those Mickey Mouse cartoons and the insidious Mickey Mouse Club programming that spelled trouble, deep trouble for Brother David and me. It was Goofy’s fault, that a spanking was coming our way.
Television was not the dominant media in our Northern Idaho town in the 1950’s. We spent very little time in front of the tube. Our first television was a boxy affair, mounted on four spindly metal legs with images projected only in black and white. I think My Dad brought it home around 1954. Over the next few years we became fans of Howdy Doody, the Lone Ranger, and the Mickey Mouse Club.
I think it was the Mickey Mouse Club that had way too much influence over our young, impressionable minds.
Wes and Dorothy Tollenaar, my parent’s best friends and our favorite non-related adults, lived across 3rd Street and down a ½ block. This childless couple owned a camera store in downtown, and over the years Wes taught me how to take pictures with a Bell & Howell box camera. It was my pride and joy for many years. Wes and I would review every picture I took, critiquing each for angle, composition, subject, and lighting.
The Tollenaar’s added television sets to the store’s product line in the mid-50s.
It was an event when the Tollenaar’s received the first color television in our town. It came just in time to show the first broadcast of the Wizard of Oz. Wes and Dorothy invited 25 or 30 customers and friends, us kids included, to come downtown to the store to watch this amazing broadcast.
We watched television in black and white at home for maybe ten more years. It didn’t matter as virtually all TV programming then was in black and white. Color didn’t start popping up until the mid- 1960s. Remember clips of all the JFK assignation and funeral coverage? The space shots of the early 1960s? The old TV commercials? They were all in black & white.
One of the greatest fascinations of 1950’s television for us little kids was watching magicians. We were intriqued with how they would make people disappear while waving a cape in front of them. Or when they would magically move objects, such as a ball, from one side of a table to the other! Of course pulling a rabbit out of a top hat was truly amazing. But the magic that really caught our attention was when the master magician locked his pretty female assistant inside a full sized box, with her head sticking out of the top so you knew she was still there. The magician would then run long swords through the box! Presto, Chango! We were always amazed and astounded that the assistant was never harmed.
I think that particular trick was on every kid’s show we watched in those years. But when Goofy did it one Saturday morning on the Mickey Mouse Club, we knew we had to try that, too.
So we did.
We didn’t have a pretty female assistant to run the sword through, or a large box to lock the assistant in, or even a sword. But we had the next best things.
In those post-war years, 75% of adult Americans smoked including my parents. Dad was partial to Chesterfields and Mom preferred those new fangled cigarettes called Virginia Slims. There was always a carton of each on the kitchen counter.
And under that same counter was the drawer where the metal ice pick was kept. The ice pick, to our young minds, strongly resembled a long sword.
A cigarette, we knew, was vulnerable and easily harmed, just like a pretty female assistant. And we had two whole cartons of them.
It stood to reason, then, that if Goofy could run a sword through a box with an assistant inside and not harm her, we could run an ice pick through a carton and not damage the cigarettes inside. Perfect logic.
We knew we couldn’t run the sword through the box too many times, just a few, because there was a chance that the sword might accidentally hit a cigarette and damage it. So if we did it just a few times, the magic of Goofy would work and protect the vulnerable cigarettes.
We stabbed the carton only a couple dozen times. With great finesse and expertise.
But nothing happened. We could not tell if we were successful or not, for when we opened the carton to look, it was filled with unopened packages of cigarettes. There were some holes in those individual packages, but we were certain we had caused no damage.
We quickly lost interest in our magic experiment and returned to Saturday morning television.
Until my father came in about an hour later. He was not happy. He was, for lack of a better word… irritated. My father was a kind man, a nurturing man, a generous and a gentle man. But not that day. He was not impressed that Goofy and any other magicians on TV could do the sword trick. “Just because they do something on TV,” he said sternly, “doesn’t mean that you can.”
Spankings were rare in our house growing up. But on occasion I suppose they were called for. That day, whether called for or not though, spankings were administered.
Damn that Goofy and Mickey Mouse. Those two were nothing but trouble for Brother David and me.
Trouble #1 nd Trouble #2. David left. Steve right.
See you next Sunday.
The Horseradish Dinner.
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