Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sundays with Steve - Goofy Made us Do it!

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.


Kat said...

Loved this little slice of life Steve. I loved the Mickey Mouse Club, but can't say that I ever tried the magician trick on cigarettes or anything else for that matter. That darn Goofy, nothing but a trouble maker! Kat

RoeH said...

I loved 50's television programming. My dad bought one in 1952. He then proceeded for the next half century to control when we could watch it and what. It was nothing to him if we were involved in a something good and interesting to come over and turn it off and hell hath no fury worse than mouthing back to him. I always wondered...why'd he even buy the dang thing?

Cheryl said...

I think Goofy had mended his ways by the time I was old enough to watch. I still can't believe you guys used what had to be precious cigarettes as sparkly women!

Katharine said...

Always look forward to Sunday's with Steve! Great post~

ImagiMeri said...

Hi Mr. Jenny,

Your story "struck" home with me as I have my own ice pick story. I had captured a praying mantis one day, and went in search of the proper container to house my catch. In those days (the 60's) glass jars were the natural choice. The jar had a metal, screw-on, top. How was my treasure supposed to breathe, I couldn't leave the top off as my treasure would surely get away. The only logical choice was to "punch" holes in the top of the lid. I'm pretty sure you can guess where the story goes next. I chose the wickedly long, frighteningly sharp ice-pick. While holding the lid between my left thumb and index finger, I proceeded to jab at the top with the ice-pick. Yes, I went totally through my hand, twice!!!!

I still carry the scars, and you've brought back the memory.....thanks.

I hope you have an awesome week.


Deb said...

my brother and I were fasinated with being scientists..we were always doing experiements on things...and of course...usually ended up in trouble...neither one of us become scientists...oh well...loved your story...

Jeanie said...

You must be the reason they came up with the phrase "Don't try this at home, kids". All I ever did with my dad's Chesterfields was steal one every now and then and try to smoke it.....those things were awful.

Pondside said...

That was a sweet story, from a more innocent time, when children were influenced by goofy goings-on. I shudder to think of some of the inspiration available today.
We got our first TV in 1958 and my parents gave it away shortly afterwards, not to get another until well into the 60's. The Great Dane and I did the same thing and did without TV during the kids' young years - no regrets.

Janiece said...

Oh my goodness...I can only imagine the spanking that day.
I love Northern Idaho. What a wonderful and beautiful place.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

This was a wonderful story, Steve! Children all practice "magical thinking" where in their innocence they believe certain things will happen.

I visited the new Walt Disney Museum in the Presidio area of San Francisco this summer and it was wonderfully nostalgic for all those who grew up watching WD movies and TV shows. I highly recommend it!

genie said...

Jenny...First, let me thank you for your lovely comment about my A-Allergies post; you were so gracious. I’m thrilled I found you and your blog and am now a part of this great group. Thanks for allowing me to join in. Second, I want to tell you this writing was a memory filled tale for me to read tonight. Being born in 1939, I remember the old black and white TV qt home, the magicians, Lawrence Welk, and the shows like Father Know Best. My, how things have changed in the last 50 years.


Anonymous said...

Great two little boys sure looked cute and could anyone ever think you would do magic tricks to cause harm. :) My older children watched the TV programs you mentioned in your post. Lots of memories flowed through my head as I read this. Thanks, for all your memories you share, I really enjoy reading them. Hugs

Judie said...

When we were little and lived on my grandparents' farm, Easter chicks were all the rage! They came in quite a range of colors (ASPCA members, don't read this, please!), but eventually the dye was replaced with big chick feathers, and they became part of my grandparents' herd of chickens. When they were prepared for Sunday dinner, we had no idea that they might have been our Easter pets. When we moved into the city, however, come Easter, ours were the only chicks for miles around, and they had the run of the backyard. Eventually they grew up, though, and one afternoon, we came home to find them in a pot on the stove. We were outraged that someone had killed our pets for us to eat. We promptly poured dish powder, comet cleanser, and God knows what else in the pot, so no one would be able to eat our pets. My mother never said a word, and swept the incident under the rug.

Lourie said...

Oh my I am so glad you two were smart enough to use cigarettes and not each other. And what a great picture. Love it. Couple of cuties...looking like lots of trouble! ;)

Holly Lefevre said...

I love this story. You have to watch out for that mouse and that dog - they are trouble. Maybe you can sue Disney and take over the corporation!