October 2 – Comedy Trifecta

Today is an important day in comedy, as three legends celebrate birthdays.

Groucho Marx was born today in 1890. He had great success, of course with this brothers in the many Marx Brothers movies. He also found success on radio and television as the host of You Bet Your Life.

Bud Abbott was born today in 1897. Along with Lou Costello he starred in many films, as well as radio and television. The team will be forever remembered for their Who’s on First routine.

George “Spanky” McFarland was born today in 1928. He is best known for appearing in many of the Our Gang/Little Rascals films.

The amount of laughter that these three were responsible for is unmeasurable. Groucho’s ad-libs, Abbott’s wonderful setups for Costello, and the fantastic facial expressions of Spanky brought (and still bring) joy and happiness to many generations.

Remembering these three with a smile today….

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!

Library Memories

Yesterday’s blog about taking Ella to the library led to various conversations that brought back many of my own library memories.

My first trip to the library was of course during grade school. We always had a day during the week where we could go and check out a book. There were some occasions where we got to go to the library and listen to audio cassettes or record albums. I remember they had the worst headphones for listening to things in the library!

The above picture is close to what those headphones looked like, but I think the ones at school had very little cushion to them. They were either so tight that they left your ears red, or so loose that the never stayed on. It was rare to every find a pair that were “comfortable.”

On a trip to the library last year with my sons, my oldest wanted to play on the computers and asked for headphones. You guessed it – the headphones they gave him were almost identical to the ones we had in elementary school. Maybe they want them to be uncomfortable, so you won’t be on the computer too long?

My buddy Max reminded me that before the days of computers, you would take the book to the desk and they would stamp it with the due date. This was very similar to the way books were checked out in school, but in school, your name and the date showed up on the card.

Note the card had the date loaned, your name, and your classroom number … just in case they needed to hunt you down!
This one is a bit different in that it has the due date, homeroom and your name.

Today, you go into the library and do a search on the computer for a book. Back in the day, you had to use the card catalog!

With the card catalog, you could look up a topic, a title, or an author. As I recall, the cards were hand typed and in alphabetical order. You would then be able to find the section where the book was located using the Dewey Decimal System. You’d get the number, find the section, find the numbers, and hopefully the book was on the shelf. Each book had those white stickers with that info on the binder.

When I think about the library, two great childhood memories come to me immediately. Growing up, they used to play old radio shows on the radio. I was familiar with them because we used to check them out of the library on cassette tape! I was introduced to Jack Benny, Amos and Andy, Fibber McGee and Molly, Suspense, Dragnet, and so many other shows because of trips to the library. I loved checking them out and listening to them at night.

I also remember looking forward to the nights my dad rented the 16 mm projector from the library.

It was always fun to have dad set up movies and us watch them on the wall. He always checked out old Laurel and Hardy films, Three Stooges shorts, the Little Rascals and Smokey & the Bandit. This was in the days before any of these were out on video. It was awesome to be able to see these at home! I remember those nights very well. I was probably introduced to so many classics this way.

It’s been many years since I got my first library card. In that time the media used at the library had changed drastically. Instead of records and cassettes, today you can check out DVD, Blue Ray, and CDs. There are computers readily available for folks who have no internet. And, of course, there are millions of stories sitting upon the shelves in books. When I hear people say there is no need for the local library, it makes me sad, because it remains one of my favorite places to go.