Friday Photo Flashback

This is a “feature” I started a couple weeks ago with a Daily Writing Prompt. It’s been fun to find a photo to write about each week. This week’s gem comes from way back!

Yes, that is me! I’m going to guess I am about a year old in the picture. I don’t have a date on it, but judging by the grass and the fact that I am wearing a coat, I’d guess this picture was taken in the spring of 71 (although it could be Fall of 70).

Look at that fire truck! It was all metal! I can’t recall, but I think it had pedals (sort of like a tricycle) and you could “drive” it around. There are not many pictures of me with it, but I wish there were more. Somewhere my dad has old 8mm home movies and one of them has my mom pushing me down the hallway of our house in this fire truck.

I chuckle as I look at the bike horn attached to the hood of it. If you started honking it, no one would think “There’s a fire!” They’d think, “Hey! Here comes Harpo Marx!”

I remember the string that attached to the bell. You pulled it and the bell clanged, much like what you’d see in a Little Rascals short. Of course, my truck was a lot more sturdy than the truck Spanky and the gang were riding on!

I look really interested in that steering wheel, which isn’t even a wheel at all. It’s a combination oval/rectangle. It looks like the string for the bell is actually tied onto it, which makes no sense to me.

I think I am wearing a pea coat here. At least that is what it looks like. I remember those brass buttons were kind of loose and hung from the string that held them to the coat itself. They had to be loose because the coat was thick and the buttons needed to fit into the button holes.

I love to see how much hair I had as a baby. If they trimmed my bangs the right way, I could look like one of the Beatles in ’64 here.

I also love to see those chubby cheeks. Over the years, the chubbiness moved from my cheeks to other parts of my body!

I love the look of that ridiculous grill on the fire truck! The fact that there are fake headlights cracks me up. Those wheels, too! I bet they each weighed about three pounds! They were that hard rubber with thick metal – built to last!

I know this was taken at my grandparents house. I recognize the lamp post to my left in the picture. While we didn’t play often in their front yard, I remember that the pole has this crossbar that went through it.

I think it was meant to hang the numbers or a name plate. My brother and I used to reach up and try to hang from it. It was only aluminum, so I’m sure my grandpa knew that eventually the weight of one or both of us would eventually snap it, so he’d yell at us to leave it alone when we played around it.

I should have reached out to my dad before I posted this picture. I do not know whose car is in the background. It may be ours, or it may be my grandfather’s. I know that they both owned their share of black cars in the past. I am not one of those guys who can look at the style of hubcaps and tell the make and model of the vehicle either. If dad sees this, maybe he can fill in the blanks on it.

What immediately stands out about the car, beside the color, is the HUGE bumper! Those old cars had these bumpers that were like 6 inches wide and solid. One time, my dad, my brother and I were at K-mart. He was backing out of a parking spot in a ’73 Impala. He hit some woman who drove behind us. Her car crumpled like a piece of tin foil while ours didn’t even have a scratch. At that low speed, the bumper destroyed her car!

As I look at the shiny reflection off the hood of this amazing fire truck, I can only imagine the thrill that I must have been experiencing as a child. I don’t know how long I had this, but I wish I still did so that I could pass this very cool toy down to my kids. I know today they have these battery operated 4 wheelers and such that all kids seem to want. But I can tell you one thing, put one of those up against this fire truck and those plastic things would crumble, just like that woman’s car in the K-mart parking lot!

Christmas Memory – The High School Holiday Band Concert

If my memory serves me correct, our high school band played three concerts. The first was the Fall concert, usually in early November, which featured both Concert Band and Marching Band songs. The Spring Concert happened in mid-May, and usually featured some of the more “fun” songs. In between those, we had a holiday concert in December.

This concert featured both the Concert Band and the various choir groups. The band almost always opened the concert and would play every 5th or 6th song. I think the band may have played a total of 4 or 5 songs during the entire concert. My grandparents, who were at every band concert, disliked the Christmas concert. They didn’t like having to wait so long to hear the band play.

It wasn’t easy for us band kids to sit on the stage throughout the entire concert either. I want to say that the area of the stage that the band was on was darkened while the choirs sang. It didn’t stop some of the goofing off in the brass and percussion sections. I can recall the drummers dropping things more than one time while the choirs were singing. They would get the “evil eye” from our band director which basically said, “Cut it out!”

The concert always ended with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah. Our choir director would invite any alumni up to the stage to join in and sing. It was a perfect way to end the concert. The stage was already packed with the band and all the choir people, but we always made room for the various alumni singers.

The holiday concert my senior year was pretty special for me. I can’t recall if it was the entire trumpet section, but we all got to go up on the roof of the auditorium a half hour before the concert and play Christmas carols. They were arranged in 4 part harmony and it sounded so cool. I was lucky enough to direct the players. I can only imagine how cool it must have been for folks walking into the concert and hearing us from the roof.

As a kid, I stumbled on a Boston Pops Christmas album. It had many of the songs that would play over the PA system as you walked through K-Mart or Hudson’s during the holiday season. The first song on the album was an almost 9 minute medley of Christmas songs by Leroy Anderson called A Christmas Festival.

The song remains one of my favorites to this day. I used to grab a stick and crank this up in my headphones and “conduct” the orchestra in my room. For the holiday concert my senior year, we actually got to play it, which made it even cooler for me. I was so familiar with it already, but playing it was challenging. It was a tough piece. There were plenty of time signature changes and key changes, and some high notes. We also played the “band” version of it, which was a little different from the “orchestra” version. It was such a neat piece to play. One of the things I did after the concert was grab a copy of the conductor’s score so I could watch it as I listened to the record from home.

Give it a listen:

After we graduated, there were a few times that some of the alumni band got together to play Christmas carols in the lobby prior to the school’s holiday concert. I miss those days and miss playing my horn.

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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Questions and Answers #3

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The Facebook “Memories” feed can be a good thing or a bad thing.  Sometimes, I am reminded of times in my life where I was just going through the motions, pretending that all was right in my world, when it wasn’t.  Sometimes I get sad to see picture of my son’s as toddlers and am reminded of how fast they grow up.  Sometimes, I will smile at things from my past radio career and sometimes I smile as I see reminders of the good things that have happened over the past few years.

This blog is just over a year old, and this week I was reminded by Facebook that I asked my Facebook friends to ask me questions they wanted me to answer.  I looked back through my blogs and realized that the last time I did a “Q&A” blog was in October, so I once again asked for Questions…..what follows is the answers to those questions.  (If a non-Facebook friend and follower ever has a question you’d like answered, feel free to ask in the comments.)

Melanie

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Melanie was my next door neighbor in Flint, MI.  Our street was literally behind K-Mart.  Her question, which was probably meant as a joke, is “Do you miss living behind K-Mart in Flint?”  I say she probably meant it as a joke, because the neighborhood, which used to be a very nice one, is a far cry from what it used to be.  The crime level in that part of town is much higher than it was when we were living there.

I have to be honest, I do miss that house.  It was the first home I ever bought.  It is also the home I brought my first son home to.  I remember painting the nursery in tan and putting up all the Noah’s Ark themed borders, building the crib, etc.  I remember watching my dad and son play catch in the backyard.  I remember my mom, who was still in the middle of her cancer treatments, laying on the floor and playing with my son.  I have so many great pictures of her with him in that house.

I remember the old shed in the back and the swing set I built for him.  I remember almost setting the house on fire with the barbecue and ripping out the fence that was between our house and Melanie’s old house.  I also remember pulling my son in his birthday wagon around the neighborhood on summer days.

I also remember the great neighbors we had.  As I said, Melanie and her husband lived next door and were always good neighbors.  On the other side, Jerry lived there with his daughter Terry Sue.  Her kids Jerry and Stephanie would often come over and they’d play with my son.  I would often talk with their Aunt Diane, too, who lived just down the street.  Jerry was a nice man.  He was always willing to loan me a tool if I needed one, or help me with my lawnmower.  He’d often be the guy who cleared my driveway with his snow blower in the winter.  Sadly he passed away shortly after we moved in.

Next to Jerry was Harry and Myrt.  They were an elderly couple who were from down south.  Harry loved to talk politics.  Myrt always made us candy at Christmas time.  You could always find them on the porch drinking sweet tea, and always a pleasure to talk to.  Another elderly couple lived across the street when I first moved in, Ed and Margie.  They were such great people, he was always riding his bike around the neighborhood and always smiling.  We were so sad when he and Margie passed away.

When Melanie moved away, we were blessed with another wonderful couple as neighbors – Jamie and Jason.  Their plan was much like ours, this house was kind of our starter house and we had hoped to move once our son came.  They moved before we did and that was when things started to go bad.  Their old house had a milk chute.  It was next to their side door.  The guy who moved in was probably about 24, and he was up at all hours of the night.  He was renting the house from his aunt and we found out he was using the house to sell drugs.  There were people up and down the driveway all night.  They’d drop their order in the milk chute and come back to get it later.  He never threw anything away and there were bags of trash all over the back yard.  I’m still not sure what exactly happened to the guy, but he suddenly disappeared.  I have heard rumors, but never really found out more.  It wasn’t long after that, we moved away.

James

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Again, probably meant as a joke, but he wants to know my “take on breakdancing”. Here is my take – I can’t do it.  I can do the Curly Shuffle and the Box Step (thanks to high school gym class).  I am amazed that people can do this.  There is talk of it being an Olympic Event, so it must something that interests people.  If I had the chance to take dance lessons, I would opt for ballroom dancing over break dancing.

Marcia

Marcia is a dear friend from elementary school and always loves to ask questions.  Today, she asks “Who was your favorite teacher at Carlson (our school) and why?”

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I moved to the district in 2nd grade.  Any time a kid moves and had to change schools, there is stress involved.  I remember Mrs. Cook being a very sweet lady and made the transition much easier.  I only had her for about half a year, and remember that I liked her very much.  However, if I had to pick a favorite elementary school teacher, (meaning someone who’s class I was in) it would have to pick Mrs. Gallop.

I remember her being very fun.  While I don’t remember many specific things, I remember she made me laugh a lot.  I had a great respect for her and I remember not wanting to ever disappoint her.  Two distinct memories I have of her class both involve reading.  I remember she read many books to us.  It was one of my favorite things about the class.  I remember her reading us “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume.  There was a sequel she read to us to about the main character’s brother Fudge.  She always was very animated when she read them.  I have those books on my shelf, as I bought them for my sons.

I also remember her reading James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.   I remember there was a swear word in it (ass or damn, I think) and she prepped the whole class.  “There is a bad word in this story.  I really don’t want to read it, but if I do, remember that it is not nice to say words like that.”  When she said it, some gasped and some chuckled.  She just kept on reading …

Fourth grade was probably my favorite elementary school year.  Mrs. Gallop was instrumental in that.  She was so much fun and made learning fun.  Years after I graduated, I was working for the district as a custodian part-time.  She had moved up to either principal or assistant principal at the middle school.  She was in her office and I remember walking in and saying hello.  I told her she probably wouldn’t remember me, but when I told her my name, she said “Of course I remember you.  You had just got your glasses over the summer and you told me that you were so glad you could see the board, and your friends, and me!”  How she remembered that, I really don’t know.  I assumed she was just saying she remembered me to shut me up, but I had gotten my glasses over the summer, so she remembered.

I may or may not have looked for her on Facebook, some teachers who have Facebook accounts don’t use it to connect to former students.  At any rate, she is not my friend on there.  I have written about teachers in the past, and I firmly believe that they make a difference each and every day in the lives of their students.  They play such an important role.  She was such a wonderful lady and I was lucky that I was in her class.  If any teachers from the district still keep in touch with her, please let her know that I am forever grateful for the laughs, the learning, and for making me feel like I mattered.

Joseph

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Joe is one of my oldest friends.  We met in band class in junior high.  One of the things we have in common is our love for music.  No surprise that his question is “What was your favorite piece of music to play in band?”  I responded and asked if he meant concert or marching band.  He said it was my choice and that he would “go easy on” me.

Trying to pick one song out of four years worth of music is quite a task.  I thought about it a lot before writing this.  I have narrowed it down, but cannot pick just one.  I also looked at both marching band and concert band separately.  I hope you don’t mind, Joe, but here are the Top 5 for each:

Concert Band

5 – The Seventies Medley

4 – Armed Forces Salute

3 – Hall of Fame March

2 – Tin Pan Alley

1 – Four of a Kind

Marching Band

5 – Washington and Lee Swing (for sentimental reasons)

4 – Artistry in Rhythm

3 – Doggin’ Around

2 – We Got the Beat

1 – Sing, Sing, Sing

It was far from easy to do this, Joe!  I also realize I can probably write an entire blog about this.

Vince

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Vince asks a question that I used to get often when I did Career Day presentations at schools while working in radio.  He says, “Radio call in prizes … Ex: Caller #20 wins tickets …. are they legitimate? If yes, is there a strategy to calling in?”

The quick answer (at least in my experience) is yes.  Before I explain, let me talk a bit about contesting.  When I first started in radio, access to the internet was not really a thing.  We used to have many trivia books and often asked musical questions or questions we found in those trivia books to give away prizes.  When Trivial Pursuit came out, we had the boxes of questions in the studio to ask.  It’s hard to do those kind of things today because so many people can Google the answers and it is just not fun to do any more.  I’m not sure why the “be caller # ___” contests have become so popular, to be honest.  I really dislike those contests.  There is no entertainment value to it at all – and it is not fun for the DJ.  When I was at Kiss-FM, we had 6 requests lines, today, it’s usually 3.  So the DJ has to literally answer the phones, “You’re caller number 1 (click) you’re caller number 2 (click) you’re caller number 3 (click)” and so on….

Many stations use their frequency to pick the caller number – 95.5 looks for the 95th caller, 89X looks for caller 89, etc.  How is this entertaining for the listeners who are not playing?  The answer is – it isn’t.  As far as a strategy, I don’t know of any.  Back in the day, you used “speed dial” to get in and just keep redialing.  Today, with cell phones, there is no speed dial.  It’s the luck of the draw.  There are people who we call “contest pigs” who literally sit and listen for radio contests up and down the dial.  They spend all day dialing to win prizes.  There are two things radio DJ hate about those winners – first, when they tell you “I was caller 1, 7, 18, 33, and ….” we usually edit that out of the call for play back on the air.  We don’t want other listeners to know that they couldn’t get through because you and your family were monopolizing the phone lines.  The other thing we hate is when we finally get a winner for a very cool prize and they act like they could care less.  “Hey, Vince!  You just won $15,000!” and their response is an unemotional “Gee, thanks.  Do you like write me a check or something for that?”  That’s the response you expect from “Congrats!  You just won a free taco and tickets to the flower show.”

I don’t do radio full-time any more, so contesting is a bit different now.  Many stations run company wide contesting now.  They’ll tell you this in their promo mentions.  Basically, a company who owns stations throughout the country, all the stations are giving away the prize and all the listeners from all the stations have a chance to win it.  The odds are just a tad worse than when there is a local contest.

Aaron

Of all the questions asked, Aaron asked the most difficult: “If you had to pick your top 5 or 10 1980’s (your choice) movies for a must see list what would they be?”

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For the record, I literally went year by year from 1980-1989 thinking I could narrow it down to 5 or 10.  Then I thought “I can’t do this!” and thought if I divided it into genre, I could make it easier.  That actually made it more difficult.  If anything, it made me realize how many great movies were made in the 80’s.  It also made me realize that some could easily fall into more than one genre.

So, Aaron, from my list here are some “must see” flicks from each year:

1980 – Airplane!, The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack, The Shining, Somewhere in Time, The Empire Strikes Back

1981 – Arthur, Cannonball Run, History of the World Part 1, Night Hawks, Private Lessons, Porky’s, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Stripes, Zorro – The Gay Blade

1982 – 48 Hours, Creepshow, ET, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

1983 – A Christmas Story, The Dead Zone, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Trading Places, War Games, Doctor Detroit

1984 – Beverly Hills Cop, Footloose, Ghostbusters, Johnny Dangerously, The Karate Kid, The Natural, Police Academy, Revenge of the Nerds, Terminator

1985 – Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Clue, Fletch, A View to a Kill

1986 – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Golden Child, One Crazy Summer, The Three Amigos, Top Gun, The Color of Money, Aliens

1987 – Good Morning Vietnam, Fatal Attraction, La Bamba, No Way Out, Planes Trains and Automobiles, The Princess Bride, Robocop, The Untouchables, Adventures in Baby Sitting, Spaceballs

1988 – The Naked Gun, Rain Man, Scrooged, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Coming to America, Big, Beetlejuice

1989 – Batman, Dead Poet’s Society, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Weekend at Bernie’s, Tango and Cash, UHF, Uncle Buck

After spending way too much time trying to sort them….It was just easier that way.  I had hoped to expand on all of these.  I am sure that I left MANY off.  I even edited the edited list to get to these.  Some of them are on the list because they are personal favorites.  How about you, Aaron (or any other reader)…if you had to pick 5 or 10, could you do it??

Thanks to those who sent questions!  It’s always fun for me to answer them!

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