Doing What Old Men Do

    I’ve just returned from a delightful outing with my childhood pal Buddy Gorday.  For the past hour, we’ve been sitting in his truck in the parking lot of the Madison County Airport, a very active airport for its size, watching aircraft takeoff and land… and sharing sweet memories of the past.  We were doing what old men do.

    There was a time, way back when, in the days when I was far, far younger, when I simply couldn’t relate to this.  This morning my memory was jogged to such a time, many years before, when I experienced a stark and powerful illustration of the ‘progress’ of time, which I could not at that time comprehend.

    Buddy is only eighteen months older than me.  But a year is much, much longer when you’re ten… than when you’re eighty.  Remember?  This day, Buddy and I were far closer to 10.  We were in his front yard at the time, probably doing what robust, active boys did during those days long before TV and video games.  We chased one another, dared each other to ‘see’ if we could jump over the neighbor’s hedge, always doing active and physical things like that.  And that’s when we spied him… and old man slowly making his way down Evergreen Street.

   I don’t recall if he had a cane or not, but he walked slowly, carefully, and slightly bent over as if he needed one.  I stopped my activity, and simply stood and watched, actually a bit confused.  In my young mind, I could relate to only my then young and active body.  I couldn’t understand his slow gate and posture.  My thought was:  Why is he walking so painfully slow?  Doesn’t he understand that all he needs do is to stand elect and walk purposefully and correctly?  I even walked a few paces myself as if to demonstrate!      

   Fast forward seventy years.  Now I understand.  

   This morning, when Buddy pulled up in my driveway, it was two ‘old men’ meeting to go out and play again.  But we had no plans to chase one another around the yard, or to jump hedges.  It was to do what ‘old men’ do… sit and watch the airplanes take off and land.  It’s only ‘the fun’ that has changed to other things.  I’m sure we haven’t changed a bit!

The photo above is of Buddy and me taken on Evergreen Street. I’m sitting in my beloved and much-used airplane ‘kitty-car.’ I’m not sure of the date, but at the time, we were just doing what kids did in the 1940s.

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MEMORIES OF EVERGREEN

    We didn’t have NCIS when I was growing up.  We didn’t even have TV.  TV didn’t come to town until I was in the 5th grade.  We had ‘The Shadow’ and ‘Dragnet’ on radio… and personally, I had THE GLOBE DETECTIVE AGENCY just across the street from my house!

    On the corner of Peabody and Evergreen, at 801, resided the Welchels, a middle aged couple who operated the detective agency from their home.  They were, wording it thoughtfully and respectfully, ‘different.’

    I live at 802 for the first 19 years of my live.  Mrs. Welchel was a semi-friend type of person, who ventured out of the house to shop, or for what ever purpose.  But I can’t say that I ever once witnessed him leaving the premises, or even venturing onto the front porch for that matter.  There were however, frequent ‘visitors’ there, who parked either in front of the house, usually, around the corner on Peabody.  The Welchels owned and managed the agency… these come and go ‘visitors’ were the legs and ‘eyes’ of the company.

       I was inside that house (front room only) less than 1/2 a dozen times, if that many. He was a large man, usually sitting behind that was to me a HUGE desk, that was always VERY CLUTTERED. On it were stacked with reams and reams of paper!  And usually, at least one cat was sitting on a stack of paper like a fully paper-weight.  

    I have memory of her that will never fade — of her standing at the front door and in a shrill voice, calling the cats inside… “Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty”…. all strung out like that and run together as if it was one long word!

   Evergreen was truly a street with CHARACTER! 

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THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

jetshot1@ 2018  Bill Murphy

Bob Hope had it right!  We can be thankful for some memories.  But for a toy?

A few of my childhood toys bring back memories…. like the large 3-wheel bike, without brakes.  I was 5 or 6 at the time.  The thing was really an oversized, stretched tricycle.   Boy was it fast!  I discovered that the very first time I rode it.

Dad unloaded the new toy at our driveway, and I immediately took off, lickety-split down Evergreen.  I should have gone in the other direction.  I was rapidly approaching busy Terry Road when I discovered the thing had no brakes.  I managed to pull off the sidewalk as I neared Mrs. Busby’s house, hoping I could slow it down in her front yard, or perhaps, as I circled her house.  I did neither.  Instead, I crashed full-tilt into the large tree, with larger roots, at the end of her driveway.  I think I went 5 feet UP that tree!

Things like that, one can’t help but remember.

But the toy which brought me at least as much pleasure, but with none of the pain, was a unique water-gun.  My guess is that it came from H.L.Greens, downtown.  It probably costs no more than 50c.  But it gave me many, many happy hours of flying and fighting fun!  This water pistol was made in the shape of an airplane!

Jets were new at the time, and this toy was a close replica of the all new U.S. Air Force Republic F-84 Thunderjet.  I’d fill ‘er up, grab the handle, and take off… zooming into action… on search and destroy missions all around our yard.  I’d sweep down low… making my best jet-fighter sounds… and strafed anything and everything that moved: enemy tanks (roly-polies), ants (troops), crickets (vehicles), and worst of all, evil spiders, (artillery)!  The fun only stopped when I was forced to return to base to re-fuel and re-arm.

A few months ago I saw this one pictured above (with missing canopy) for sale on eBay. Someone obviously knew just how much unadulterated fun was contained in this small plastic toy – because I could have purchased several dozen cases of them way back when… for what they wanted for this single item today!

No, I didn’t purchase it… it was that expensive.  Anyway, I suppose I would look rather silly now, running across the yard make jet-noises, and squirting at ants.

 

 

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Our Evergreen Playboy

JohnsonSmith74

© 2017 Bill Murphy

Years before the bunny-magazine hit the news stands, the boys of Evergreen Street had our own ‘play boy’ magazine. (Calm down – this is a squeaky clean story.)

It was not a magazine actually, but a catalog – a catalog right out of Aladdin’s magic storehouse! It overflowed with all manner of exotic and exciting items to thrill, inspire, and educate us. This wondrous publication was the Johnson Smith Catalog, which gained almost Biblical respect among the boys of the neighborhood. (The illustration at right is not from a 40s edition.)

This was the late 40s and early 50s. We were school boys then, grade school, junior high. Cokes were a 5c, and bubble gum a penny. Everything in the Johnson Smith Catalog was dirt cheap! We always had enough change in our pockets to order that next ‘gotta have’ item.

For only $2.50, shipping included, I ordered a telescope kit. What came in the mail was only two glass lens, and a single page of instructions. But I was NOT disappointed. Actually BUILDING the thing was the major part of the fun. The telescope body was made from a section of round, aluminum rain-gutter pipe, almost 3 feet long. The movable focusing scope was a piece of metal electrical conduit. The ‘seat’ for the eye-piece lens was an empty wooden sewing thread spool supplied by my mother. But guess what? When finished, I could actually seen the craters on the moon!

Then there were the crystal radio sets. Years before battery operated transistor radios, for $1 (or less) we ordered crystal radios. They were not much more than a small pea-size glass-like crystal, a small coil of copper wire, a thin wire ‘whisker‘ which sat onto the crystal, and a short metal rod inserted through the copper wire coil. It came with a one-ear ‘ear-bud’ head phone, and an metal alligator clip fastened to a long wire. To listen to your favorite radio station all you need do is: set the whisker on the crystal, attach the alligator clip to a metal pipe (most schools had hot-water radiators for heat, with lots of metal piping), move the metal rod to the right position to tune in your station – then LISTEN! Remember, there were NO batteries, NO outside power source. Unfortunately, there were teachers who caught us listening to the radio in class.

I ordered the ‘learn to throw your voice’ kit, fortunately BEFORE ordering the ventriloquist dummy.

There was the disappearing ink, fake ink spill, fake vomit, fake doggie poop, whoopee cushion, miniature ‘spy‘ camera, and my favorite – ITCH POWDER. (It really worked!)

No doubt, there were very few male 12 year old Johnson Smith customers who did not order the X-Ray Glasses. They were a huge disappointment. It was enough to warrant a letter to the Better Business Bureau.

The frame of the infamous X-Ray glasses was nothing more than two pieces of cardboard glued together to hold in the ‘X-Ray’ lens. X-Ray lens – yeah, right! Then ‘lens’ were nothing more that pieces of BIRD FEATHERS! The false-advertised X-Ray vision was created when one eye, looking through the bird feather saw a shadowy silhouette of the cute girl in front of you, and the other eye saw the same silhouette, but slightly off to one side. Where the two shadowy figures merged in the center, your eyes/brain gave you the fuzzy impression of viewing a skeleton. Bummer.

Amazingly, Johnson Smith is still alive and well (and selling X-ray glasses), although the cost of a single item is more than 6 months worth of my orders way back when. And the catalog is in color now, and on-line. Oh, and now they’re more truthful in advertising, admitting that the X-Ray vision is only an illusion. Peggy Sue – you are now safe from prying eyes!

Things just aren’t like they used to be. Oh well.

 

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