Oh Christmas Tree …

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Happy December to you! Maybe it is because Thanksgiving was so late this year, but it is hard to believe that we are less than a month from Christmas! The reality of that sunk in this weekend as I did a couple shifts at Cars 108 and we are playing all Christmas music.

One song always really sticks out to me each Christmas, mainly because it really isn’t a Christmas song – Linus & Lucy (AKA the Charlie Brown theme) from the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun song that immediately makes be think of Charlie Brown and the gang, but it is a song that is used in basically every Charlie Brown special. Personally, the soundtrack to the Charlie Brown Christmas special is one of my favorites.

O Tannenbaum is the instrumental that kicks off the album. Many know the song as simply “Oh Christmas Tree”. (In case you were wondering, a tannenbaum is a fir tree). It’s one of my favorite versions of the song. I had the chance to hear it over the weekend and it got me to thinking about the Christmas Tree. I recently had the chance to go through a bunch of family pictures and I was surprised at how many of them included the Christmas tree. This blog is sort of a “pictorial” blog featuring some of those pictures.

As I looked through the pictures, it was fun to see the various decorations and the toys under the tree. Bear with me, as some of the years I am guessing on …

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The above picture is of my dad in 1951. He would be 5 here. As I look at this picture, I see a little of me, my brother, and my oldest son in my dad.

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The above picture is my mom. Just a guess, but this is probably from 1953 or 1954, as she looks 5-6 years old here. Tinsel seemed to be really big in the 50’s! Wonder what that “Little Painter” set is worth today….

On Leave

The above picture is my dad, home on leave from Vietnam. The date is 1967. I really have no idea what that tree is made of. Eventually, my grandma had a ceramic tree that my mom made that stood about that high that she put there in the window. This one looks … fluffy. There are pictures of my dad with both his mom and his dad next to this tree too.

My folks told me that the local paper used to put names and addresses of servicemen who were overseas in the paper for people to send letters. Both of my parents were from the same city and my mom sent my dad letters. With letters, occasional pictures were sent back and forth, too.

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I think the above picture is one my mom sent to my dad. I am not sure. I am not sure because I don’t know where this was taken. It would seem to me that this would be a picture that she would send to my dad overseas. At any rate, some things stand out, though. Note the “sunbust” clock on the wall – I know my grandma had one of those. Also, note the cool Hi-Fi with the ceramic cat on it. This was a record player and radio. It probably also played 8 track tapes and stored records. I know my dad, and my grandpa had one of them, so again, not sure when this is.

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I know for a fact that this was taken at my grandma’s house. I know this because of the fireplace and the huge wooden fork and spoon on the wall behind the TV. In my lifetime, I don’t recall my grandparents ever putting a tree on the TV, so I am guessing this is before I came around.

I was born in May of 1970. I was 7 months old for my first Christmas. I am thankful that my folks took lots of pictures. A few of my favorites all come from 1970, all for different reasons.

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The above picture is my and my great-grandpa. He passed away shortly after this. It is the only picture I have of him and I.

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I am not 100%, but I believe this picture was taken in my mom and dad’s apartment. My dad can correct me if I am wrong. I remember that stuffed Bugs Bunny to my right very well.

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I am pretty sure that this is at my grandma and grandpa’s house. What I love about this picture is a little foreshadowing. One of my favorite sports to participate in is bowling. I love that I am propped up next to a balling ball bag in this picture.

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This is absolutely one of my favorite pictures of my mom and me. It was taken at my grandparents house, probably Christmas Eve. I love this picture so much, because it reminds me of another … which I will share in a few pictures.

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The above is obviously from the same year. This time, I am with mom and dad. My grandma always kept her house hot, so mom took off her vest. Dad, who is ALWAYS hot, must not have felt it was too warm, because his is still on here.

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One more from the same year (and you won’t have to look at that brown bowling ball bag anymore!), here is my and my grandpa. I always loved this picture of us. I was his first grandchild, and you can see just how happy he is here.

Grandpa and Grandma Davidson Christmas 1970 (2)

These are my mom’s parents – Grandma and Grandpa D. The date on the picture says 1970, but another scan from my brother says 1967. Not really sure. It could easily be 1970, though. It is one of my favorites of them. The tree is in the corner where my grandpa’s recliner used to always be.

Jodi and Keith Christmas 1972

The date on the above picture is October of 72, which means I am 1 here. This is at Grandma D’s house. That is my Aunt Jodi holding the bear. Note in the background, another Hi-Fi. My grandpa used to have big band records I used to listen to on it.

1975

The above picture was taken at our old house on Brandywine. I am about 4 here and my brother is probably just 2. The thing that stands out in this picture is the ornaments on the tree. See those diamond crocheted things? Yeah, my mom made them. She had many hobbies (I have an entire blog ready about her various hobbies through the years) and this particular year, she was crocheting everything! I remember a maroon vest that she made for me! At any rate, those ornaments were two squares, with a piece of an egg carton in the middle, and a tail hanging down. I am sure she made these for many people. I remember seeing them on other family members Christmas trees, too.

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A year later, same house, and same ornaments! You can see them a little better in this picture! I am probably 5 here, while my brother is 3. This would be the last Christmas at this house, as we moved the following year. A couple things (besides the ornaments) stand out in the picture. First, there is the organ I used to play, and mentioned in the blog about my music lessons. Next, I remember the Ernie and Big Bird stuffed animals! Then there is that picture above the organ – it’s two horses. I think everyone in my family had that picture!! Finally, and this should get my wife’s OCD going, note that I am wearing the pants from one pair of PJs and the shirt from another in this picture! Good Lord!!!

Mom, Chris, & Keith Xmas 79

The picture above has to be from 1977. My grandma bought us each a set of Star Wars figures that year. I think there were like 20 issued the first year. I remember my grandma having trouble finding the Jawa figures! This picture would have been Christmas morning, and we had gotten the figures the night before at grandma’s. If I remember right, we had the big Han Solo and Jawa dolls (pictured here) and Boba Fett and Princess Leia, too. What I love most about this picture is that my mom is in it wearing this yellow robe. I have written about her yellow robe in previous blogs. She wore this thing SO much that it was stained and had tears and holes in it. She loved this robe. Eventually we bought her a new one for Christmas one year and she wore that. We assumed that she threw this one away, but after she passed away, we found it in the back of the closet! I have a “memory bear” made out of this robe.

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The above has to be from 1978. If you can look past my brother’s golf pants and my wacky shirt, you will see a Tie Fighter and X-Wing Fighter. You can see the tree set up on the TV, but cannot really see the amazing display on my grandma’s mantel. Every year, she put up angels, Santa, reindeer, trees, snow and more. There was one piece that always stood out – a little mouse that was in a flower arrangement that I sent her when she was in the hospital. She put that up every year!

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It obviously took my folks awhile to develop film! This is from Christmas of 78, and was not developed until August of 79! First, I love how skinny I am in this picture! Second, I remember having the sliding wooden doors that covered the doorwall. I also remember the bad paneling in the living room! I can see the Polaroid camera on the TV, the candy jar, and the glass candle sticks that my mom had. I wish I could make out more of the presents under the tree, but I remember really wanting this game. I also remember that star on the tree. It was made of hard plastic and the ends were very sharp! It could probably be used as a weapon!!

Grandma and Grandpa Xmas 79

The above picture is of my dad’s folks, my Grandma and Grandpa P. This was in 1979 – I remember that was the year that everyone was taking Polaroids! At family gatherings, everyone took pictures and wrote their last name on the bottom, so they knew what pictures belonged to what family! A couple things I notice right away: The tree topper, I never understood just what the hell it was! It wasn’t a star, it was just this spaceship shaped thing that lit up! I remember the musical angels on the wall. They moved from room to room as I recall. Grandma’s beehive hair! She wore it this way for SO long!! I also notice the pack of cigarettes in my grandpa’s pocket – you could bet they were either Lucky Strikes or Pall Malls. It looks like he is wearing a bracelet in this picture. I don’t remember him wearing one, but he did here. Just love this picture!!

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The above is from 1980. This is my brother and me, with my cousins Arin and Melissa. This is at my Grandma and Grandpa D’s. A couple thoughts on this one – I am holding the very cool Coleco Head to Head Baseball game which I loved! I do not remember that bear I am holding! This is probably the year that my grandpa bought me my cribbage board, too! What is sad about this picture, is knowing that my grandpa would pass away in less than a year after this picture was taken.

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Jumping many years ahead now for the above picture. Remember the picture of my mom and me by the tree? It reminds me of this picture. Here is my mom and Dante’. This may not have been her last Christmas, I think Dante is 2 here. She loved him so much and I see the same joy in her smile here as I do in the picture of her holding me.

boys at trailer

The above picture is about a year or so before my divorce. I just love this picture because these two guys (no matter how much they may fight) really love each other. This was such a spontaneous picture and it remains one of my favorites of the boys!

boys last year

The above picture is from last Christmas Eve morning. Christmas Eve was always bigger than Christmas on my dad’s side of the family. The fact that I get the boys every Christmas Eve Morning to open up gifts is so special to me. I cannot wait until they can celebrate it with their sister. They are going to be such great brothers to her.

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The above picture is from 2018 (on the right) and 2017 (on the left). When we first got Moe (left) he got up in the tree! When Maizey came along last year, the fact that she was almost in the same exact spot as Moe the year before made me laugh. So I put together this comparison picture. It still makes me laugh!!

sam at tree

This picture (along with the song I mentioned earlier) was the reason for this blog. As I mentioned, so many favorite pictures involve the Christmas tree. I took this picture of Sam just the other night. It was her idea. The silhouette of her baby bump against the lights of the Christmas tree is just beautiful!! I posted it on Facebook (she did, too) and mention how I cannot stop looking at it!

The reason is that it brings about so many feelings: Feelings of love for my beautiful wife. Feelings of joy and nostalgia – because it is Christmastime and the Christmas Tree. Feelings of excitement and anticipation – because the baby will be here soon. Feelings of happiness – because the picture brings a smile to my face every time I see it.

In the years ahead, I hope that more and more wonderful pictures will be captured near the Christmas tree … so I can reflect on them, too!

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Bedtime Books

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Today’s blog comes from a “Daily Writing Prompt”. The prompt reads: “Do you remember your favorite book from your childhood?” This prompt comes after I stumbled on a set of books that I had as a kid in a used book store.

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The Charlie Brown Dictionary was a set of 8 books that had definitions of words. I remember my parents ordered these from somewhere and every month a new volume would arrive. I loved when a new volume would arrive. They had the entire set at this book store for the bargain price of $2! How can I pass that up?!

The writing prompt also comes a week or so after the baby shower. One of the things we want for our baby is a good library of books to read. We did receive some books at the shower, some of which I recognized, and some that I didn’t. Some of the books we received were books that I had read to my boys, and I am excited to share them with our daughter, too!

As I thought about the prompt, I don’t know that I can actually recall my “favorite” book as a kid. There are, however, many that I do remember vividly. I thought it might be fun to sit and off the top of my head, write about some of the ones I remember. I am sitting down to write this blog knowing that it will be incomplete. It will be incomplete, because I know I am going to probably miss a lot of them. Here goes:

The Poky Little Puppy

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When I was growing up I think I had every one of the “Little Golden Books”. Of all of them, this is the one that immediately comes to mind when I think about my childhood. I remember buying it when my oldest was a baby and reading it to him. I really didn’t remember the story up until that point, but for me to remember it for so long, I am just guessing it was a favorite. I remember there being many Disney stories that were in the Little Golden Book collection.

Another Little Golden Book that I had, and eventually shared with my sons was a Sesame Street book.

The Monster at the End of This Book

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As a child of the 70’s, I watched a lot of PBS. Sesame Street was a show I watched faithfully. Mr. Hooper was still alive when I was watching Sesame Street! The adventures of Ernie and Bert, The Count, Big Bird, Grover, and Kermit helped me learn letters and numbers. I mentioned in a previous blog that I had an Ernie hand puppet. I also had a stuffed Grover. I liked him cause he was always so silly. Grover is the star of this book. It is such a fun book to read and I am sure that it made me laugh as a kid, as much as it made my boys laugh! I can’t wait to share this one with Ella.

Dr. Seuss Books

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I probably had every single Dr. Seuss book ever written! They were very popular with my generation. I have found that people either love or hate his books. I had a friend who just loathed when her son would pick Green Eggs and Ham to read. I could never figure out why.

I remember I was doing mornings on B95 and it was Dr. Seuss’ birthday. We had one of the contestants from American Idol (Phil Stacey) in town to do a show for us. We were talking about Dr. Seuss books with our newsman, Hal Maas earlier in the show, and he couldn’t remember half of them (which we razzed him about often). We actually had Phil Stacey read “Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?” on the air! The book has all kinds of silly noises, and Phil played it up on the air! It was so silly to hear him reading this, but he told us how much fun it was!

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I am sure I will be reading Ella many of his books.

Three Little Kittens

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This was one of Dante’s favorite books. I think he loved it because of the cat noises I used to make while reading it to him. I am almost positive that this was another book my mom read to me. This is a must for me to read to Ella, especially since we have two cats at home.

Like I said, I KNOW I am forgetting others that were probably read to me as a child. I am hoping that those of you who are close to my age will offer us some of YOUR favorites. By doing that, maybe you’ll refresh my memory about other books from my childhood.

Books I Read to the Boys

The books above were books I loved growing up, and read to my boys. The following books are some of my favorites that I remember reading to them at bedtime. These will all be in Ella’s library, because I love them all!

Goodnight Moon

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This book is so simple. I loved saying goodnight to all of the objects and having the kids point to them. Dante’ would always make a “Squeak” noise when we said good night to the mouse.

Rainbow-Fish

This book came in very handy when trying to teach about sharing and being selfish. The moral of the story and showing how sharing with others can make everyone happy is a great lesson that even adults need to remember.

The Kissing Hand

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This one was voted one of the Teacher’s Top 100 Picture Books for Children. I read this to both boys especially as it got closer to when they were going to preschool. It’s really a great book to help children deal with the “separation” issue of going to school. Our book came with all these little red heart stickers and I think Dante’ used to put them on his backpack or pencil box.

The Going To Bed Book

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Sandra Boynton has so many great books for kids! I loved reading this one every night. It was so fun and her characters are just so cute! This is just one of MANY of her books that I loved.

I’m Thankful Each Day

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Probably one of my top 5 books to read! One of my favorite bible verses is I Thessalonians 5:18 which reads: “In every thing give thanks”. Raising children, we want them to be thankful! We tell them to say “please” and “thank you”. What I love about this book is that you see this little boy who is full of gratitude. He is thankful for big things in his life, as well as the small things. He is so grateful – and happy! It is a must for Ella’s bookshelf!

Snowmen At Night

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I love this book for so many reasons. Remember when you were a kid and you’d make your snowman? Then the next day you’d come out and he’d look a little different? It always made me wonder what he’s been up to! That’s exactly what this book is about. What do snowmen do at night?! This book is just so much fun to read and the illustrations are a hoot, too!

This book was a favorite of both my sons! Caralyn Buehner wrote a few sequels to this too (Snowmen At Christmas, Snowmen At Play, Snowmen At Work, Snowmen All Year)! My goal is to have all of these in Ella’s library.

Reading Dads Rock!

Reading is SO important! The great stories that are found in books will fuel a child’s imagination for years and years! A parent reading to their child is one of the greatest things in the world. It is quality time together. It is bonding time. It is something that I cannot wait to do with our daughter. Bring on the bedtime stories!!

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Halloween Dress Up

Tonight on ABC, one of the greatest Halloween specials of all time aired again – It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  It is in this special that poor Charlie Brown utters those sad words, “I got a rock.”

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In that scene, Lucy is wearing a witch mask.  It got me to thinking about Halloweens of my past.  I remember the streets would be packed with kids when I went out trick or treating!  I remember standing in lines at the doors of my neighbors, waiting for my turn to yell “trick or treat!”  By the time I took my boys out on Halloween, I was sad to see that the streets were not very busy at all.  I remember being out late and rushing from house to house – hoping to get them all before they turned the porch light out (telling you that “we’re out of candy”)!

As I sat here pondering this blog, I tired to think of some of my past Halloween costumes.  I can remember some of the ones from when I was older: a vampire, Oliver Hardy, and a Robot.  The robot was a couple cardboard boxes my dad taped together and spray painted silver.  We put cassette tapes, a vacuum hose, and other things on it and it was actually very cool.  My brother used the same costume for a play he did in elementary school.

Other than those mentioned above, I didn’t remember any specific costumes off the top of my head. This is probably because most of the costumes I grew up wearing sucked.  They were so bad, Jerry Seinfeld did a bit about them in his comedy act.  I did a Google search for Halloween Costumes of the 1970’s and it all came back to me!  Halloween costumes back when I was a kid were hardly original.  Today, if you go to an elementary school and watch a Costume Parade, you will see some really good costumes!  Many of them will even be homemade.  This was not the case when I was a kid!

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You usually bought your costumes at K-Mart, or Kresge, or the local drug store.  The costumes of the 70’s consisted of primarily a mask.  The mask had two big eye holes (which you really couldn’t see out of!), two small nose holes (which you couldn’t breathe out of!), and a slit by the mouth.  It was a cheap piece of plastic and it sometimes cracked.  The mask had a cheap rubber string that was stapled to each side.  This rubber string was what kept the mask on your head.  If the string broke, you either re-stapled in, or you took it off and didn’t wear it.

The costume also included a cheap one piece outfit.  They were like “onesie” pajamas.  You first put your feet and legs in it and then your arms.  There was a tie that you tied behind your neck to keep it on.  On the outfit it usually has the character’s name in bold letters on it.  This must have been so if the mask fell off, people knew who you were supposed to be.  97% of all kids wore these dumb costumes when I was a kid!

While I Googled, I came across two of those stupid costumes I sort of remember having.  The first was The Six Million Dollar Man:

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I also remember having C-3PO:

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I think I may have had an Underdog costume, too!

The outfits were so cheap that by the end of trick or treating, there were rips in the crotch or legs.  Sometimes they were ripped up before you even got to go out trick or treating!  We’d wear our costumes to school that day and they would rip in the classroom!  They were paper thin, too, so you either had to buy it three times too big, so you could wear something underneath it, or you covered it with your coat and no one saw what you were anyway!

Here are some of the funnier costumes I found while searching:

From TV – Welcome Back, Kotter:

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Mr, Kotter (above) and Barbarino (below)

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Mork from Mork and Mindy

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The Fonz from Happy Days

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There were plenty of super heroes, including Batman!

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And, despite how sexy she looked on TV, the Wonder Woman costume was actually quite scary …

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I mean – look at Lynda Carter!  She’s beautiful!!  That costume is just freaky!!!!

One of the most ridiculous costumes was this one based on the movie Jaws!

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Finally, for the gals who thought Donny Osmond was cute … this costume should make them think twice.

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Come on!  That looks like a weird Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner!!!

For whatever it is worth, I am going to guess that these costumes are probably worth money today.  I have a lot of friends on Facebook who have extensive toy collectibles, and they probably have some.  Mine are long gone, more than likely because they were ripped up and destroyed the same year we bought it.

It was fun to just spend time searching up the old costumes and looking at them.  Do you remember wearing these?  What were some of your favorite costumes?  What are some of your favorite Halloween memories?

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The Comics

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While prepping for my weekend shift on the radio, I was going through some old prep to see if there was anything that I could recycle or update.  In that prep was a line about a paperboy delivering papers.  At first I laughed, because, are there even paperboys anymore?!  Second, does anyone read the paper physically today?  I mean, most newspapers are all online today – some of which you have to pay for!

I was a paperboy for both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.  I remember as a kid reading my horoscope, the Names and Faces column, Bob Talbert, and all about the Detroit Tigers.  The thing I loved about getting the paper was reading the comics page!  There were so many great comic strips over the years.  I could always count on a good laugh from some of my favorite characters.  Off the top of my head, here are just some of my favorite strips (past and present)…..

The Far Side

From 1980 to 1995, Gary Larson provided a daily laugh for me and so many others!  At one time, I owned all the books and every year I bought the wall calendar.  The cartoons are like a good movie, or TV show – you have seen it hundreds of times, but they are still funny!  I miss this comic so much!

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The Argyle Sweater

This is the closest thing to The Far Side that I have found.  I love how Scott Hilburn incorporates puns almost daily.  Since there is no more Far Side wall calendar, I get the Argyle Sweater one for 365 laughs a year!

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Peanuts

This seemed to be the first comic on every comics page for as long as I can remember.  Charles Schulz created some very memorable characters.  I related to Charlie Brown in so many ways growing up.

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Calvin and Hobbes

LONG before Toy Story showed us what toys do when we aren’t around, there was Calvin and Hobbes.  Calvin was a kid with a big imagination.  He had many adventures with his stuffed friend, Hobbes.  The strip only lasted 10 years (1985-1995), but still remains one of the best!

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Crankshaft

Ed Crankshaft was a former minor league baseball player for the Toledo Mud Hens, who now is a school bus driver.  One of the running gags was how he destroyed his neighbor’s mailbox on a daily basis.  At times, this strip had some serious story lines, and remains a favorite.

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Funky Winkerbean

Crankshaft was actually a “spin-off” of this strip.  One of the reasons I loved this strip so much, was that it would occasionally focus on Harry Dinkle, the band director and his marching band.  Our band director could be strict, but hardly as strict as Dinkle.  It was not uncommon for strips about band camp to appear the same week we were doing band camp in high school.  As a band geek, I loved this strip!

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Drabble

There are so many things I love about this comic by Kevin Fagan!  The relationship between the father (Ralph) and his son (Norman) reminds me so much of the relationship I have with my dad.  I can relate to the constant dieting struggles that Ralph endures.  There are funny story lines about their dog (Wally), their duck (Bob), and their cay (Oogie).  Ralph’s friend is named No-Neck!  This reminds me of my dad and my grandma – they had nick names for everyone!  The strip has been going since 1979 and Kevin is still drawing it!  GREAT strip that always makes me laugh!

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Overboard

Chip Dunham started drawing this in 1990.  How can you go wrong with a bunch of incompetent pirates?!  The adventures of Captain Crow and the crew of The Revenge range from battles with their enemy (the Green ship), golf, pet care (thanks to Louie, the captain’s dog), and gardening.  One of the things I love about this strip is the occasional breaking of the “fourth wall”.  Often, the “cartoonist” plays a character in the strip he is drawing….

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Foxtrot

Another great strip that follows a very funny family – the Fox’s.  Bill Amend began this strip in 1988 and up until December of 2006, it ran 7 days a week.  Since then, it’s been running only on Sundays.  Many of the funny situations involved their 3 kids, Peter, Paige, and Jason.

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I was almost 30 when this strip debuted in 1997, but found it very funny.  Jeremy is a teenager struggling with typical teenager stuff: girls, school, etc.  There were many times where I could picture myself in his shoes.

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Honorable Mentions

There were so many comics that I read each day.  The ones mentioned above are just a few favorites that I enjoyed.  Others include: The Wizard of ID, Mother Goose and Grimm, Garfield, Hagar the Horrible, Beetle Bailey, Pearls Before Swine, and BC.  I am sure there are more, but without using Google, these are the ones that came to mind immediately.

While I don’t get a newspaper on a daily basis anymore, when I do, I still go straight to the comics page.  What comics did you enjoy reading in the paper?

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My Top 20 Favorite Christmas Characters

Growing up, I loved watching all of the various Christmas specials that were shown on TV every year.  With the availability of almost all of them on DVD, we can watch them whenever we want – even if it’s not during the holiday season!  My brother and I would sit in front of the TV and watch Jimmy Durante tell us the story of Frosty the Snowman, Fred Astaire delivering mail while telling us about Santa, and Burl Ives shared the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I don’t care who you are or how old you are, if you have kids – it’s still just as special watching these specials together.  I even know some people my age who have no children – they find themselves watching them on TV, too!

Technology has come a long way from when these TV specials were made!  Today, the cartoons and animation are above and beyond what these classic specials had.  While some of the specials were animated – most of the favorites were done by Rankin and Bass and were done in stop animation.  It had to have taken a long time to shoot these specials for sure!  What make these so memorable are not only the stories and songs, but the characters and the people who voiced them.

There were some pretty talented voice actors and big stars who provided voiced for these iconic characters!  They had many memorable lines, too.  Here now, are my Top 20 favorite characters from the Specials of Christmas Past (and Present):

20 – Jingle Bells (The Year Without a Santa Claus)

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Jingle Bells (right) is the #1 elf at the North Pole.  He is partnered up with Jangle Bells (left) and they remind me of a Laurel and Hardy type team.  Jingle is the smart one, Jangle – not so much.  Together, they get in some trouble while trying to find some Christmas Spirit. It’s Jingle who suggests they call Mrs. Claus for help.

19 – Sally Brown (A Charlie Brown Christmas)

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One thing that I loved about the Charlie Brown Christmas special is that the voices are done by real kids.  As someone who has had to record children for commercials and such, I can tell you this is no easy task.  You often have to feed them lines one at a time and edit them together.  This is obviously what happened with the girl who plays Sally. Listen to her say  – “Will you please write a letter to Santa Claus for me?” next time you watch it … you can hear the edits.

I love Sally because in her letter she gets on Santa’s good side by asking how his wife is and then goes on to say she has included a list of things she wants and for him to “note the size and color” of each item.   LOL!  When Charlie Brown questions her – she tells him that she just wants her “fair share”

18 – Doc Bobbin (The Year Without a Santa Claus)

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Santa is sick, so Mrs. Claus calls the doctor.  This guy is just miserable!  He’s cranky and angry!  He’s an example of someone with no Christmas spirit.  He tells Santa he’d be surprised if anyone still believed in him and is just plain rude.  His appearance is a short one, but my favorite line from him is “Nobody cares a hoot and a holler for you (Santa) or Christmas!”

17 – The Grinch (How The Grinch Stole Christmas)

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The Dr. Seuss classic – not the new one or the Jim Carrey one! This guy reminds me a lot of Ebenezer Scrooge.  He’s a mean one, as the song suggests, and yet in the end, he finds the true meaning of Christmas and he is a changed Grinch.  It’s a bonus that the great Boris Karloff is the narrator for this cartoon.

16 & 15 – Mr. and Mrs. Claus (The Year Without a Santa Claus)

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Mickey Rooney and Shirley Booth!  What’s not to like?  Mickey played Santa in Rankin/Bass’s Santa Claus is Coming To Town and did and amazing job.  It’s a treat to hear him revisit the role – his vocal inflections (while acting like he has a cold) are perfect.  The playfulness of Shirley Booth as Mrs. Claus is just as good.  She is our story-teller and plays and all important part in the story.

14 & 13 – Rudolph and Hermey

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Now, to be honest, I wasn’t going to include Rudolph in this list.  However, when I thought about Hermey (the elf who wants to be a dentist), I felt that Rudy should go with him.  These two are here because they are truly a “couple of misfits”.  They are different and you know what?  That is ok!  Be different!!!  Be spectacular!

Recently there have been rumblings about the lessons taught by this Christmas special, and in all honesty, the talk is annoying to me.  Something offends everybody and everybody is offended by something these days!  Hey!  Get a grip!  In order for the wonderful ending of this tale to mean anything – there had to be mean reindeer and a mean elf!

12 – Professor Hinkle (Frosty the Snowman)

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Here is a nasty man.  He is a crappy magician and he has no idea how important his hat really is!  He’s on the list because he is voiced perfectly by Billy De Wolfe.  One of my favorite lines of his is: “When you’re grown up, you’ll realize that snowmen can’t come to life!”  Oh, how wrong he was!

11 – Lucy Van Pelt (A Charlie Brown Christmas)

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Lucy is a real piece of work.  She bosses everyone around, has an opinion about everything, and is a know it all.  She’s also kind of a jerk.  So why is she on the list?  Because of all the things I just mentioned and this quote: “Look, Charlie Brown, we all know that Christmas is just a big commercial racket.  It’s run by a big Eastern Syndicate, you know?!”

Maybe it is not run by a syndicate – but one thing is for certain – Christmas is, and continues to be, a big commercial racket!

10 – Santa Claus (Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer)

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Ok, yes … Santa is already on the list.  That, however, is the Mickey Rooney Santa.  This Santa is different and is played in a whole different way.  I agree, he was a jerk to Rudolph.  However, he does come around at the end and Rudolph saves the day.  Why is he #10?  He says one of my favorite lines: “Every year I shine up my jingle bells!”

Take that however you want.

9 – The Head Elf (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)

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Just like the above Santa, this guy was kind of a bossy jerk!  Think about it, how many bosses have you had that were jerks?  That is what some bosses are good at – being jerks.

At any rate, this guy gives Hermey a hard time.  Not only does he have a workshop to run, but he also has to run Elf Practice!  I mean – how else are elves gonna learn how to wiggle their ears, go “hee-hee” and “ho-ho” and “important stuff like that”?  He was probably thankful that Hermey’s dental practice was able to get him in so soon after Christmas……

8 – The Winter Warlock (Santa Claus is Coming To Town)

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Voiced by Keenan Wynn, the Winter Warlock is yet another character who has a change of heart.  He is a mean man who is frigid and cold – that is, until Kris Kringle gives him a toy.  The ice and cold melts away to show he is really a gentle old man.  He tells Kris he really is a mean and “despicable creature at heart” and tells Kris how difficult it is to “really change”.   Kris tells him that changing from bad to good is “as easy as taking your first step” which leads into the great song “Put One Foot In Front of the Other”

7 – Linus Van Pelt (A Charlie Brown Christmas)

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Linus is Charlie Brown’s friend.  He is often there to give him insight on issues that he is dealing with.  He often prompts Charlie to think about things a little differently.  It is Linus who says the crappy little tree that Charlie Brown picked out isn’t so bad and just needs a “little love”.

It is also Linus who gives an amazing little speech about what Christmas is all about quoting from the King James Bible Luke 2: 8-14.  Linus, who carries around his security blanket at all times, does something really unique while reciting these verses.  To the casual observer, it may go unnoticed, but I think it is amazing how this kid who needs this blanket so badly, drops it when he says “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy”.  That’s powerful.

With so many people offended by things, I am truly amazed that there isn’t an uproar about this special because of Linus’ speech.

6 – Sam the Snowman (Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer)

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Voiced by one of the familiar “voices of Christmas”, Burl Ives, Sam the Snowman tells us Rudolph’s story.  He’s like a gentle old grandpa telling us the story.  Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without hearing Burl’s version of Holly Jolly Christmas – which is just one of the songs he sings in this special.

He tells us the story with bits of info (First castle to the left) and humor (“haven’t you ever seen a talking snowman before?”) Even though he is telling a story, he still is frightened by certain parts of it (the Abominable Snow Monster of the North), enough so that he hides under his umbrella!

I have to admit, I often find myself singing lines from Silver and Gold every year when I trim the tree.  As a kid, I remember making a snowman and then sliding behind him, making a trail – so it looked like he glided into place …. just like Sam.

5 – Charlie Brown

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How many of us can relate to Charlie Brown – not just at Christmas, but all year round? He tells Linus, “I’m just not happy. I don’t know the way I am supposed to feel.” While this is a real issue for many people, Linus tells Charlie Brown that he is the only kid he knows that “can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem”.

He’s a “blockhead”, but he means well.  He tries and he fails – but he never stops trying.  He is the director of the Christmas play and louses up the production, but in the end, it all comes out ok.  He buys a scrawny tree, and his friends make it something special they wish him a Merry Christmas.

Charlie is a simple kid and we are all a little bit like him.

4 – Burgermeister Meisterburger (Santa Claus is Coming To Town)

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Voiced by the great Paul Frees – this guy is a presence on screen!  Just what the hell is a Burgermeister?  Well it is a sort of mayor – he is an executive.  Our Burgermeister is the head of Sombertown (why would anyone want to live there?).  He makes it clear that he hates toys and children too, apparently!

The story could have gone very differently, as the baby Claus shows up on his doorstep and he orders his soldier to “Get the brat out of here!”  Good thing the soldier, Grimsley, loses the baby on a sled and it shows up at the Kringle house…..

He isn’t all bad – he does love playing with a yo-yo!

3 – Yukon Cornelius (Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer)

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How can you not love Yukon Cornelius’ sense of adventure!?  Here is a guy who is out looking for gold and silver!  He is on the hunt with the mindset of striking it rich!  He knows no fear!  He makes his own rules!  He isn’t afraid of that Abominable Snow Monster of the North, whom he downplays by calling him Bumbles, and actually attacks him.  Sadly, he goes over a cliff with the monster during the attack.

He is a scene stealer and there is a sense of sadness when he tumbles off the cliff, but he is friggin’ Yukon Cornelius!  He shows up later with Bumbles to everyone’s amazement!  How did he survive?  Well…..Bumbles Bounce!!

2 – Heat Miser (The Year Without a Santa Claus)

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He’s Mr. Green Christmas!  He’s Mr. Sun.  He’s Mr. Heat Blister.  He’s Mr. 101!

To me, when you talk about the Miser Brothers from The Year Without a Santa Claus, everyone knows Heat Miser first.  Some would say that he should top this list.  I can see your argument and it’s a good one – but a close one.

Voiced by George S. Irving, Heat Miser obviously doesn’t care about Santa.  He asks Mrs. Claus is Santa is “out doing another commercial” for his brother.  He describes Santa a “traipsing around in that stupid sleigh of his!  Stirring up cold winter breezes and causing everyone to think fondly of snowball fights and – urgh – ice hockey!”

Not only does he not like Santa, but he certainly does not care too much for his brother!

1 – Snow Miser (The Year Without A Santa Claus)

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He’s Mr. White Christmas.  He’s Mr. Snow.  He’s Mr. Icicle.  He’s Mr. 10 Below!

The Snow Miser tops my list.  He’s just a bundle of energy and damn funny!  Voiced by Dick Shawn, he conveys a carefree attitude and is just a fun dude.  When he is summoned by his mother (Mother Nature), he and his brother are arguing and they are told to stop.  His response is “If I can’t have any fun, I might as well leave.”   While he and his “hothead” brother don’t get along, he loves Santa and Mrs. Claus.  He tells “Mrs. C” to make sure she brings him with her next time she comes and they’ll have “a blizzard”. He is a friendly, loveable, and fun guy who loves “chilly humor”.

I have always been amazed that when radio stations play Christmas music, they will play songs from various Christmas specials, but they never seem to play the Miser Brothers songs….and that is just sad! You mention the Miser Brothers and the first thing that happens is someone starts singing their songs!

Closing thoughts

As I look at this list – there are some good guys and bad guys.  Maybe there are more bad guys than good … I don’t know, I didn’t count.  Here is an observation, though that fits into what’s going on today.

Without bad guys, there can be no heroes.  You kind of need bad guys, bullies, and jerks to make the end of the story a happy one.  Good conquers evil!  Good wins over bad!  Sure, the bad guys may be doing things that we don’t agree with, but they are necessary to the plot to get us to the happiness at the end!  Imagine A Christmas Carol without Scrooge!  Imagine It’s a Wonderful Life without Mr. Potter!  It feels better and more special when the good guys come out ahead….doesn’t it?

What characters are your favorites?  Who is missing from my list?

 

Spooky Flicks

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My friends Brian and Elaine look forward to October every year. They LOVE Halloween movies! They spend each evening in October in front of their TV watching a different horror movie. What a perfect way to work your way to Halloween! I liked this idea so much, I stole it.

I, however, do not care too much for the really scary or gory movies. I also don’t care too much for the “slasher” movies. While some people might prefer Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Freddy Krueger movies, I tend to watch what I call “the classics”. These would mostly be the movies that were put out by Universal studios in the 1930’s and 1940’s. I also like some of the comedy/horror films, which would fall in to the more “modern” category.

I thought you might like a list of my Halloween themed movie recommendations. Here now, in no particular order, are enough movies for you to get through the rest of the month (and then some), and that you can file away for next October:

  1. Dracula (1931)
  2. Dracula (1974)
  3. Frankenstein (1931)
  4. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  5. The Wolfman (1941)
  6. The Mummy (1932)
  7. Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
  8. Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943)
  9. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  10. The Birds (1963)
  11. House of Wax (1953)
  12. The Invisible Man (1933)
  13. The Mummy’s Curse (1944)
  14. House of Frankenstein (1944)
  15. House of Dracula (1945)
  16. Son of Frankenstein (1939)
  17. The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
  18. Psycho (1960)
  19. Young Frankenstein (1974)
  20. The Shining (1980)
  21. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  22. Ghostbusters (1984)
  23. Beetlejuice (1988)
  24. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  25. Army of Darkness (1993)
  26. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
  27. Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951)
  28. Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)
  29. The Addams Family (1991)
  30. Addams Family Values (1993)
  31. Creepshow (1982)
  32. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
  33. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
  34. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  35. Hocus Pocus (1986)
  36. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) (not really a movie, but a classic)
  37. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  38. Zombieland (2006)
  39. Alien (1979)

You’re list may differ from mine. You may prefer the REALLY scary ones. You may prefer the bloody and gory ones. These, however, are some of my favorites. I am sure I left some off the list … feel free to add yours.