Category Archives: Growing Up in America 65 Years Ago

Send-In-The-Clowns

Don’t ‘Send in the Clowns!’ (The Looney Clowns are Already Here!)

In the last blog I quoted a line from Shakespeare.  In this blog, I am quoting the name of a composition by Stephen Sondheim which he wrote in 1973 for the musical, A Little Night Music.    Do you remember who first recorded ‘Send in the Clowns?’  Many famous musicians have sung it, including Barbra Streisand, Judy Collins and the most famous version on the ‘Simpson’s’ by Krusty the Clown. But the first person to record the song, after it appeared on Broadway, was Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, in 1973.

But I digress.  I have finally decided that what has changed most significantly during my lifetime, and not in a better way, is entertainment.  For the purposes of this blog, specifically ….comedy (thus the clowns).  What constitutes good comedy today, compared to what was good comedy 50 years ago?

Well, one thing that I have noticed, is that somehow, comedians today think they have transformed themselves into mental giants overnight.  In addition, they have taken it upon themselves to routinely inject their political beliefs into their routines.  They do this with malice, with venom, and with a large dose of aggression that certainly was not present in the comedy of my youth.

Everyone knows what comedienne Kathy Griffin has done recently.  She, in the hopes of having her head sculpted into a memorial atop the Hollywood hills, held up a severed, bloody head of Donald Trump, in pure ISIS fashion.   Besides doing this deplorable act, do you know what the most idiotic part is of this whole ordeal?  It was Kathy Griffin’s surprise about the backlash that occurred by her actions.  She thought she would be beloved by the radical left.  She thought she would become the poster girl for Hollywood and its left leaning politics.  She thought she was being funny.  But then the backlash occurred and it took aim where it hurts the Hollywood elite the most….in the pocket book!  Yes, their god is money and once taken away, they lose faith.  In this instance, sponsors began withdrawing their support and as a result, her New Year’s Eve gig with Anderson Cooper was canceled.  Ouch!  But the idiotic Kathy was not done.  She apologized for doing the act, but she did not apologize to the POTUS or his family.  She did not apologize to Baron Trump who was traumatized by seeing his father’s severed head on national television.  Then she decided to strike back by saying that the Trump family are a bunch of bullies and have “broken her” and ruined her career.  Ruined your career?  You are a D level actress/comedian that has pandered sleazy comedy and sleazy events for years and now you think your career is over?  I sure as hell hope so!  What part of this action on your part was funny?

But wait, another intellectual giant has weighed in to defend Kathy Griffin.  That intellectual giant would be none other than Ace Ventura; Jim Carrey himself!  Here is what he said about comedy: “It’s the job of the comedian to cross the line at all times.  That line is not real and if you step out into that spotlight and you’re doing the crazy things that (Trump) is doing, we’re the last line of defense. The comedians are the last voice of truth in this whole thing.”  Nothing is politically motivated in that statement.  (Yeah, right.)  Exactly, Mensa Jim, is that line that has to be crossed at all times? Respect? (check).  Viciousness? (check).  Politically maligned?  (check).  Common Sense?  (check). Entertaining?  (check).  Funny?  (check).  Are these the components of the imaginary line?  If they are, Kathy Griffin, and your dumb-ass comments defending her are definitely over the line!  What’s this B.S. about the ‘last line of defense?’   I am convinced that the last thing you cowardly wienies would do would be to take up arms and defend this country.  You may defend your country club, but not your country.

Unfortunately, Kathy Griffin is not alone on her ‘cross the line’ diatribes and actions.  Stephen Colbert is so far left politically that it is amazing he can stand up straight.  But….Stephen Colbert has an audience and he uses his platform to spew his malicious venom all in the name of comedy.  Here is a part of one of his monologues when he begins ranting about Trump: “Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine.  You have more people marching against you than cancer.  You talk like a sign language gorilla that got hit in the head.  In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.”  Granted, I do find humor with the Rogaine part of the monologue, but then he ‘crosses the line.’

Not to be outdone, we have Bill Maher.  While on his HBO program Real Time with New York magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman on a Friday night, the 61 – year – old made the incest joke about first daughter Ivanka Trump’s relationship with her father President Donald Trump.  He said: “What do you make of Ivanka and her efforts to sort of humanize her father?  We see all this misogyny at Fox News, we see it in Donald Trump himself.  A lot of us thought, Ivanka is gonna be our saving grace.”  Maher then took it a step further and mimicked Ivanka performing a sex act on her father.

Here is my question.  Why are these two disrespectful, constipated at the mouth morons still on television?  Well, I answered the question earlier in this blog.  Money is the god of Hollywood and these two bring in lots more to their respective networks than Kathy Griffin could ever dream about. She was expendable….they, because of their earning potential, are not.  It would be the proper, respectful, action to take to can both of them, but don’t ever expect something proper and respectful to ever come out of Hollywood.

It is obvious that Ace Ventura never watched or followed the comedy of his predecessors.  During my youth, the comics were extremely funny and they did not have to ‘cross any line!’  Grandma P’s favorite comic was Red Skelton.  He was on TV for over 20 years, from 1951 to 1971.  He ended every show with the words, “Good Night and God bless.”  His shows were hilarious as he was also a talented mime.  His most memorable character was Clem Kadiddlehopper.

I had two favorites.  In the early 50’s and 60’s it was Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners.  He was a bus driver in New York (Ralph Kramden) and his next door neighbor was Art Carney (Ed Norton), who played a sewer worker.  Their wives were played by Jane Meadows (Alice) and  Joyce Randolff (Trixie).    His ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes provided for a solid basis in humor.

But, my all time favorite comedy show was the Carol Burnett Show.  It ran continuously from 1967 to 1978.  Her supporting cast included Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Lyle Waggoner, and for a short time, Dick Van Dyke.  The show was made up entirely of skits, and, done before a live audience.  Some of the routines were hilarious.  What made them particularly funny was that oftentimes, there was ad-libing taking place, especially by Tim Conway.  The reactions of the other actors was as funny as the skit itself as they were completely caught off guard by his shenanigans.  I recommend watching the films of this show.  You will see what comedy was meant to be.

There were many other comedians that were extremely funny.  Don Rickles, Ernie Kovac, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno,  Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Phil Silvers, Dick Van Dyke, Lucille Ball, Morey Amsterdam;  these were just some of the funny, humorous comedians of my youth and you know what?  They did not cross any damn line to be funny!  They may have all pushed the envelope on occasion, but they were never disrespectful, crude or vulgar.  They never, ever used their fame for a public political stage.  They knew what their position was in our society, they were there to provide entertainment for the family.  

So the clowns of the present could definitely learn from the clowns of the past.  No one, and I mean no one, is interested in your crude, malicious political commentary.  It is classless humor coming from classless people.

Damn.  I miss the old days of comedy.

Shakespeare-kill-all-lawyers

Let’s Kill All the Lawyers!

‘Let’s kill all the lawyers’ was a line spoken by Dick the butcher (how appropriate!) in Shakespeare’s play, Henry the Sixth, part 2, act 4, scene 2.  Dick’s Utopian idea to kill all of England’s lawyers is his addition to the promises of the traitorous Jack Cade, who envisions a quasi-communistic social revolution with himself installed as autocrat.  Why would Cade want this revolution?  Cade alleges that all lawyers do is shuffle parchments back and forth in a systematic attempt to ruin the common people.  His demagoguery is simply a calculated appeal to simple folks’ longing to be left alone.  Holy bat crap, Robin, does any of this sound familiar?

I have three close, personal friends who are all lawyers.  Each one is a very great guy and fun to be with.  But you know what my real problem is with lawyers?  Well….here it is….there are just too damn many of them!

This is just not a personal opinion, but an opinion that can be verified with statistics.  Do you know how many people graduate from law school in the United States each year?  Well, that number would be approximately 50,000.  Do you know how many lawyers the United States needs each year?  Well, that number would be about 25,000.  Doing simple division from Mrs. Meyers’ third grade class tells me that 50% of graduating lawyers do not end up in the legal profession.  What other college degree would do this?  Doctors?  Teachers? Nurses? Accountants? Engineers? Without doing the research, I am confident that the vast majority of people with those degrees will find employment in their chosen profession.  Over 70% of all lawyers in the world are in the US even though we account for only %5 of the world population!  That equates to one lawyer for every 300 people in America!

As parents of future college students, you may want to evaluate the profession that your future college bound student is pursuing.  This is especially true if they are thinking of a legal profession. There is more bad news!  These are the words of the managing director of Daimler Benz: “In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs.  Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans.  So if you study law, stop immediately.  There will be 90% less lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain.”  He goes on to say many other predictions for the future, but you get the gist of his message.

Here is my second problem with lawyers.  What do they actually do?  Well, some time ago I attended a sales convention that was geared toward construction general contractors.  I forgot who the guest speaker was, but we had many good ones.  Fran Tarkington, Joe Theismann, and Brian Billick (All football players and coaches.) were all speakers.  I digress.  The speaker at this particular convention pointed out that general contractors ‘created wealth.’  By constructing buildings, this allowed companies to expand, thereby causing them to purchase more equipment and material and requiring them to hire more employees.  This stimulates the economy!  Hip-hip-hooray!  What do most lawyers do?  Well, they bring lawsuits and handle divorce proceedings.  Yes, I know this is a simplification, but indulge me by following my reasoning.  Our guest speaker at this convention went on to say that, “attorneys do not create wealth, attorneys redistribute wealth.”  If you have ever been a party in either a lawsuit or a divorce, you will recognize the brilliance of this statement.  They take money from one party, and give it to another.  All of this after a healthy legal fee has been collected.

There is a third reason why I don’t like lawyers.  I think some lawyers are destroying our country…piece by piece.  

Do you think the cost of health care is too high?  Why is that?  Well, one reason is because we have become a litigious society because of all those lawyers.  Some medical specialties can have medical malpractice insurance costs exceeding $200,000 per year per doctor depending on their medical specialty and location.   Some states have placed caps on the size of a medical malpractice claim. George ‘Dubya’ Bush tried to establish medical malpractice limits throughout the US during his first term.  It was defeated by a congress that was full of……. quess what?  Lawyers!  But the lawyers are not done.  How many times have you seen that TV ad that says; “If you have used drug XYZ anytime in the last 250 years and suffer from or experience any of the following 539 symptoms, you may be entitled to a settlement!”  Call the following number: 1-800-WESUE4U.  Who do you think answers that phone number?  The FDA?  Disease Control?  Your local doctor?  NO.  You are calling a law firm and they are bringing suit against a drug company.  The drug companies protect themselves with very expensive product liability insurance which again increases the cost of drugs and health care.

Remember, only 50% of all law school graduates find employment in the legal profession.  Where do the unlucky 50% go?  I know some that are excellent real estate brokers and insurance agents and I am sure that they end up in other interesting fields.  But unfortunately, many of these lawyers end up pursuing a political career, and that is where they can do the most damage.  Do you know where you can find a whole slew of lawyers?  Washington, D.C!  One out of every twelve residents in Washington is a lawyer!  Holy double bat crap, Robin!  Washington accounts for only 1/5 of one percent of the US population, but has one of every 25 lawyers in America!  Luckily for us, there is a decreasing trend in the number of lawyers in congress.  Today that number is slightly less than 40%, compared to 80% in the late 1800’s.

But do you really want to know where you can find the most lawyers, those people that are masters at redistributing wealth?  In the Democratic Party, which in one article is referred to as the ‘Lawyer’s Party.’  Need proof?  Barack and Michelle Obama are both lawyers.  Bill and Hillary Clinton are both lawyers.  John and Elizabeth Edwards are both lawyers.  Every Democrat nominee since 1984 went to law school, although Al Gore did not graduate.  Every vice presidential nominee since 1976, except for Lloyd Bentsen, went to law school.  Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are both lawyers.  The Republican Party is significantly different.  Both Bush presidents and vice president Cheney were businessmen.  Newt Gingich was a history professor.  Tom Delay was an exterminator.  Dick Armey was an economist.   Paul Ryan has degrees in economics and political science.  Former House Minority Leader John  Boehner was a plastic manufacturer.  Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is a heart surgeon.  And of course, our current POTUS is a businessman.  Do you remember the last Republican president that was a lawyer?  Gerald Ford, over 40 years ago.  Oh, the Republicans have let a couple of lawyers sneak into the party, most notably Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Republican Party is made up of real people doing real work, who are often the targets of lawyers.

Why do I think lawyers are destroying America piece by piece?  In the words by author Bruce Walker: “Lawyers seek to have new laws passed, they seek to win lawsuits, they press appellate courts to overturn precedent and lawyers always parse language to favor their side.  But it is an awful way to govern a great nation.  When politicians as lawyers begin to view some Americans as clients and other Americans as opposing parties, then the role of the legal system in our life becomes all-consuming.  Some Americans become adverse parties of our very government.  We are not all litigants in some vast social class-action suit.  We are citizens of a republic that promises us a great deal of freedom from laws, from courts , and from lawyers.  Today, we are drowning in laws; we are contorted by judicial decisions; we are driven to distraction by omnipresent lawyers in all parts of our once private lives.  America has a place for laws and lawyers, but that place is modest and reasonable, not vast and unchecked.”

He summarizes by saying: ‘Perhaps Americans will understand that change cannot be brought to our nation by those lawyers who already largely dictate American society and business.  Perhaps Americans will see that hope does not come from the mouths of lawyers but from personal dreams nourished by hard work.  Perhaps Americans will embrace the truth that more lawyers with more power will only make our problems worse.”

I could not have said it better, so I did not try.

Some of my liberal readers may take exception with my statement calling the Democratic Party the ‘Lawyers Party.’  It should be easier for you to understand when you know that 97% of the political contributions from the American Trial Lawyers Association go to the Democrat Party.  Then you realize who is responsible for our medical and product costs being so high.

So in the broadest sense of the word, “I really hate most lawyers!’  (Except Duane, Don and Jim.)

Now

It’s a Shake and Bake Society, Baby!

During my lifetime, I have experienced, and seen, technological revolutions that can only be described as miraculous.  These technological advancements have made life easier and faster.

Let me provide a few examples of some great technological advancements, both big and small.

Do you know when the first TV dinner was created?  Do you remember who created it and what that dinner contained?  The first TV dinner was created in 1953 by the Swanson Company, thus the Swanson TV dinner which is still available today.  That first dinner was designed for a Thanksgiving meal.  It contained turkey, cornbread dressing, frozen peas and sweet potatoes.  It was packaged in the aluminum tray that was used by airline companies to serve food on their airplanes.   The cooking directions called for 25 minutes in the oven at 425 degrees.  That first meal cost 98 cents, and they sold a whopping 5000 dinners that first year!

What an advancement!  Up until that time, in our house, either Mom or Grandma had to make everything from scratch.  Because we lived on a Midwestern farm, we had animals and a huge garden.  Our Thanksgiving turkey took 7-8 hours to cook.  Oftentimes the bird was stuffed the night before Thanksgiving, placed in the refrigerator, and then someone had to get out of bed by 5:00 AM to place it in the oven in time for dinner.  All rolls and bread were baked from scratch as were the pies. Grandma’s pies were to die for!  All the crusts were made from scratch as was the filling.  No pumpkin pie filling, cherry filling or blueberry filling came from a can.  The pumpkin pie filling came from pumpkins grown in our garden.  The cherries were purchased and pitted.  The blueberries were picked in the summer and frozen until used.  I know all about blueberry picking as my grandmother made me go with her.  For the uninitiated, blueberries grow in low-lying areas and ripen about the same time as the bumper mosquito crop matures.  We had to wear nets over our heads and wear long sleeve shirts even in the summer, so as not to get bitten hundreds of times.  Unfortunately, because of the small size of the blueberries, we could not wear gloves.  Our hands became the ultimate mosquito target and we would spend almost 2 hours picking and swatting, picking and swatting to get enough berries for 3-4 pies.  It was not uncommon for a Thanksgiving feast to take three days of preparation.  Whew! What a difference from 25 minutes at 425 degrees!  (Honestly, our meals were bigger and much better.)

But the food industry was not done.  In 1969, the first TV breakfast meal was made available.  That was followed in 1973 by the Hungry Man Meal.  Do you remember who the first spokesman was for the Hungry Man Meal?  It was Pittsburgh Steeler footballer, Mean Joe Green.

But wait….there’s more!  In 1986, the first microwavable TV dinner was made available because 25% of the American homes had microwave ovens.  Microwave ovens were the next great technological leap for food preparation.  My parents bought me a microwave oven as a Christmas gift in the early 1980s.  It cost almost $500, and it took two men and a boy to lift it from the trunk of a car to my counter top.  After its usefulness as a microwave, it could have been easily converted to a boat anchor!   A BIG boat anchor!

Do you know how many years it was between the first airplane flight and landing the first person on the moon?  The first flight by the Wright brothers was in 1903.  The moon landing?  1969.  Sixty six years between airplane invention and an almost unbelievable space travel accomplishment!

During my lifetime, communication in our house went from having no phone to having a party line phone.  Yes, you could actually pick up the phone and hear your neighbors conversation.  And yes, they could hear your conversations.  Next came the invention of mobile phones.  Those first mobile phones were the size of a brick and weighed about the same as a brick.  Then we went to light-weight small pocket sized phones and now you can have a phone on your wrist!  A wrist phone just like the one Dick Tracy used in the 1930s comic books!  (Okay.  Dick Tracy had a wrist radio.)

When I was in high school and college, we were never allowed to use calculators.  That is because the first pocket calculators cost $250, and not everyone could afford them.  Remember….the minimum wage was $1.00 an hour!  While in high school, we could use slide rules.  Right now, no one under the age of 50 has the slightest idea of what I am talking about.  A slide rule was one step up from an ancient abacus, but multiplication and division could be done on a slide rule.  To show the real advancement of technology, my first pocket calculator cost $250.  When it finally broke, the exact replacement cost $59.99.  When that pocket calculator broke, the exact replacement cost $19.95.

The first computer that I bought in 1991 was a butt-kicking 40 megabytes!  I say it was a butt-kicking computer because all my competitors had 25 megabyte computers.  I was king of the hill.  That computer, monitor and daisy-wheel printer cost me $2200.  I now write this blog on an 8 gigabyte computer that cost me $600 six years ago.  The monitor and printer were extra.  My printer not only prints, but it is capable of scanning, copying, and faxing….if I knew how to set it all up.  The printer cost me less than $150.  In the late 1980s, my old boss bought a fax machine for $2500.  He was bragging about what a great deal he got because he got a free case of fax paper with the machine. Do they even sell fax only machines today?

These are just some of the marvelous technological improvements I have observed during my lifetime.  Just think of all the improvements in the medical field.  Look at the new devices that are a standard feature on an automobile that were unheard of during the 1950s.  GPS?  Back-up cameras?  Alarms?  Many of the new advancements have been for safety, but many of our advancements are popular because they either save time, eliminate work, or provide instantaneous information or instantaneous gratification.  (Who researches using encyclopedias when google and Wikipedia are available.)

But the one thing I have noticed over my lifetime is that people and society have become less patient and tolerant.  People today want instantaneous results.  They want things to happen fast.  They want things to happen faster than getting their food in a short line at a ‘fast food’ restaurant. (What a great belt-busting invention fast food has become!)  I am convinced that some people believe that Rome was built in a day.  The mantra seems to have become, ‘I want it and I want it now.’

Unfortunately, the attitude and mantra of ‘wanting it and wanting it now’ has permeated our expectations as to how our federal government should operate.  I am glad that the ‘First 100 days of the Trump presidency’ have finally passed.  How many times did you hear this:  “Donald Trump’s presidency will be considered a failure if he doesn’t (fill in the blank) within his first 100 days.”   Here were the most popular ‘fill in the blank’ items:  1.  Replace the Affordable Care Act,  2, Have a budget,  3.  Build the wall, and, 4. Provide a tax reform system.  I heard each one of these items, attached to a 100 day timeline, being touted as signifying a failed presidency if not accomplished.  Of course, these notions were mostly advanced by liberal politicians on liberal-leaning media sources. There were more ‘fill in the blank’ items, but these were the biggies.

So here is my advice…..”GET A GRIP AMERICA!”  Rome was not built in a day.  Do you really believe that these major issues, some of them decades old, could be reasonably alleviated in 100 days?  I am glad that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act was defeated early in the Trump presidency. Why?  Because, unlike the original ACA passage that was shoved down the throats of all Americans by the Democratic party without Republican input, this repeal will have the input of both parties.  I would much rather have a ‘good’ bill than a ‘fast’ bill.  But if you want to believe the media hogwash, we wanted a fast bill.

It amazes me that any Democrat would have the cajoles to fault this administration for not having a budget (it was passed recently) when Harry Reid, the Senate Majority leader for 6 years, promised to not have a budget reach the Senate floor as long as he was Senate Majority leader.  The ‘gatekeeper from hell’ kept his word.  Our government ran for 6 years without passing a budget.  (The next time you see a street corner hot dog stand, remember, he probably has a budget!  Our federal government did not.)

I am sure that with a little time, there will be tax reform for both corporations and individuals.  No one seems as concerned about building the big, beautiful wall now that illegal aliens attempting to enter this country has been reduced by over 70%.

But here is where the rubber meets the road; our society seems to have a disconnect between reality and expectation.  Because of our faster than lightning technological advancements and our fast paced society, we begin to believe that all things should be fast.  That may be true in some instances, but certainly not all.  When it comes to governing, I would much prefer ‘slower and better’ than ‘faster and crappy.’

After all, it took my grandmother over 3 hours to make one of her delicious pies from scratch.  She enjoyed making them and we really enjoyed eating them.  Sara Lee would have been easier, but my grandmother would not let us have any of that.  You were the perfect example of ‘slower and better.’   I love you grandma!  You always took care of us.

Happy Mother’s Day.

good-old-days

Were the ‘Good Old Days,’ Really That Good?

Donald Trump presidency…………….D +… Eighty something days!

There are some days when I really, really miss the good old days.  Most people under 30 have not really grasped the concept of the ‘good old days’.  The forty somethings and 50 somethings are just beginning to grasp the ‘good old day’ concept.  But trust me when I say that those of us over sixty years old have not only grasped the ‘good old day’ concept, but we are trying to grasp it so tightly that we have almost choked it to death. (And we enjoy imparting our good old day experiences on the younger generations.)

Our small Midwestern town had a drug store that had a soda fountain.  During my youth, a cherry coke could be purchased for 5 cents.  A Snickers bar was 5 cents.  There was a marshmallow/chocolate candy bar called Valomilk.  It also cost 5 cents, but it had a gimmick.  Inside each wrapper was a small cardboard disk.  Once you collected 30 cardboard disks, you sent them to the manufacturer for ten free Valomilks!  Wow!  So, in about a ten day time span, I purchased and ate thirty Valomilks. Yes….I ate them all myself because I was in my non-sharing, bratty stage of child development.   (I was also hyperactive from all that damn sugar!)  About two weeks later, I received ten free Valomilks delivered in a round cardboard sleeve.  I was in hog heaven!  And….I thought I beat the system.  I figured that if I got ten free Valomilks with the little cardboard disk inside, I would only have to purchase twenty more Valomilks to get the ten free Valomilks again.  It was my nine year old mind’s version of a ponzi scheme regarding candy bars. But, alas, the manufacturer outsmarted me.  There were no cardboard disks in the ten free Valomilks.  I only did that promotion once, as I really liked a Snickers better.

Our small town hardware store provided just about everything.  You not only were able to purchase the traditional hardware materials, but you could also purchase shotgun shells, rifle bullets, dishes, baseball mitts, toys, hot water heaters, stock watering tanks, electric fence materials…..well, you get the idea.  It was much more than just a hardware store.  All of those items mentioned were either purchased by me or my family.  Oh….the simplicity of the ‘good old days.’

I also bought the one and only bike I owned until I was over 40 years old from that hardware store. Purchasing it was simple.  You picked the one you liked from the 12-15 available boys bikes.   That large selection was only available during the spring.  If you waited, you bought your bike from the remaining dregs because they did not restock until the following spring.  Mine was a pretty red and white bike with the conventional one speed.  That one speed being that the faster you peddled, the faster you would go.  If you could afford a three speed bike, you were not only rich, but you would be branded a sissy.!

Grandma P never did have a bicycle.  Her family of six could not afford them.  She got her first bicycle when she was 64 years old.  Even though she knew how to ride, it was terrifying for her to start riding again.  Now she enjoys riding her bicycle and she rides it with confidence.  Our oldest grandson would be surprised about Grandma P never owning a bike.  He got into BMX racing and owns seven bikes!

A trip to the local A&W was  simple, easy and inexpensive.  A small root beer cost 5 cents.  A large root beer was a dime.  A hamburger was a quarter and french fries were an additional 15 cents. More importantly, the food was brought to you by a beautiful female carhop.  The owner of the A&W hired all the cheerleaders during the summer to be his carhops!  Not surprisingly, he sold hundreds of gallons of root beer every year!

The small cone at the local Dairy Queen cost 5 cents.  They had a jumbo cone that cost a quarter, but you really had to like ice cream to be able to finish that cone.  A malted milk cost a quarter and there were many available flavors.  My favorite was blueberry and sometimes an occasional strawberry.  They were delicious.  Occasionally, in order to diversify my calorie laden diet, I would order a sundae rather than a malt.  This also cost a quarter.  My two favorite sundaes were either butterscotch or hot fudge with nuts.

Because our small town was 60 miles from a major city, our choices for radio channels were rather limited.  We had two AM stations that played rock and roll that we were able to receive on our AM only radios.  Our cars only had AM radios.  It was much later before FM made an appearance in our community.  People owning FM radios were either listening to classical music or to PBS offerings. But for us youngsters, AM rock and roll was our choice and where it was at!

Life was much simpler in many other ways.  For instance, we only had three television channels, ABC, NBC and CBS until an independent station took our total to four.  As a result of this, we only had three different sources of news casts.  Each of the major networks had 30 minute time slots, followed by the local channel with another 30 minutes of news, weather and sports.  A total of one hour of news beginning at either 5:30 or 6:00 PM.  There was another half hour of local news, weather and sports at 10:00 PM. (As an aside, the networks went off the air at night and did not come on again until the next morning!  Imagine that…you millennials!)

So why am I writing about all this stuff concerning the good old days?  Firstly, I hope that sometime in the future, my grandkids will actually read my blog.  Secondly, and more importantly, I do believe life was much more simple during the post WWII years than they are today.  This is especially true when it comes to television media and its hundreds of channels.

Did you notice that I began this blog with the ‘Donald Trump presidency……D+ eighty something days.’  Have you followed all the 24/7 news channels that are headlining the following:  Donald Trump, the First 100 days?  The one thing I miss about the good old days was that after a spirited and tiring presidential election….everything seemed to quiet down as  the new president was getting acclimated to his new position and to his new cabinet.  The media took a break.  Not any more!  Do any of you baby boomers remember any other POTUS getting the following and the scrutiny of this President as soon as he took the oath of office?  What happens when the hundredth day arrives?  Is the newest headline going to be:  Donald Trump presidency….the second hundred days?  The first year? The second year?   Do they realize that his term is over 1460 days?  I have watched more White House press conferences since Trump became POTUS than I have for my entire life.  Can’t they hold two a week instead of every day?

Here is the problem and the big difference between the television media today and the television media during the good old days.  Today, we have more 24/7 news channels than we had total channels during my youth. Those news channels need something to broadcast for that 24 hour period.  When we had three total channels, the important issues and highlights were covered, human interest stories were added and that was it…..short, sweet and simple.  That was how we got our news. Today?  Well, today, just to make sure there is enough content to cover a 24 hour period, every issue is covered in depth, and deeper, and deeper, and repeatedly.  Teams of talking heads are assembled to make sure that if one talking head needs to take a breath, another talking head can chime in with a divergent opinion.  This creates dissension, which somehow must equate to ratings.  Then, if there is not enough worthy news to fill a 24/7 news cast, there are two options: either repeat what has been covered or make something up. Unfortunately, I believe more news channels are reverting to ‘make something up.’  I believe the new terminology is ‘fake news’ or ‘false news.’

What would the liberal biased television media report if they did not have Donald Trump?  What acting job would Alec Baldwin have if he could not lampoon Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live? These are almost important issues.

If you have followed my blog, you have surmised that I am a political junkie.  But since the Trump inauguration, I have ‘crossed the Rubicon’ when it comes to the news reporting about politics.  The television media has worn me down.  I find myself turning off the television and watching less and less of what is being reported.  I wish these news channels would just report the news in clear and concise terms.  But if they did that, there would only be about 90 minutes of news to report every day.  And then my dear readers, we would be back to reporting as it was during the ‘good old days.’

Oh well, the good old days are long gone.  I think I will eat my $1.49 Snickers and my $5.00 hamburger.   I’m on my diet so I will have to pass on the $3.50 malted milk.

Tomorrow is Easter.  Never forget the purpose of the holiday.  Much was sacrificed for our salvation. God bless.

Xmas

How We Celebrated Christmas in the 1950’s

Earlier this week, President-Elect Donald Trump finished a victory tour speech in Wisconsin.  At the end of his speech, he said, “Merry Christmas.  God Bless America.”

It did not hit me at the time, but then I began thinking, ‘when was the last time we heard that from an elected official?  From a president?’  I know we haven’t heard it in the last 8 years and I finally quit straining my brain to remember if we heard it from George ‘Dubya’ Bush.

Then I began reminiscing about Christmas when I was growing up in the 50s.  About our small town.  About our family.

I grew up in a small Midwestern farming town with a population of less than a thousand.  Within a 10 mile radius, there were probably another thousand people.  (Our town was so small, we had to take turns being the town drunk!)   As I was growing up, that time after Thanksgiving always, always got you greeted with a hardy “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”  Before Thanksgiving it was always, “Happy Thanksgiving!”  After Christmas it was, “Happy New Year!”  I really don’t believe I heard anyone greeted with “Happy Holidays” until I left to attend college in the big city.

Our little town tried to keep it simple with the standard, stock greeting of Merry Christmas.  We had three churches in our town; a Methodist, a Lutheran, and a Catholic church.  They all did special programs and services for their parishioners.  But the best program was put on by the high school music department.  It involved both the choir and the band playing the traditional Christmas songs. When I was in high school, I was a participant in this program.  Everyone in the audience knew the words to every traditional number that was presented.  Our town kept it simple.  No modern, hippy-crap music for us, by God!

Santa made his annual appearance…at the local movie theater.  Every child got a bag of candy and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap.  For a small town, it was a very big deal!

The merchants went out of their way to make Christmas special.  We had two big events a year in our town, the first was a Midsummer celebration that is still held on the third weekend of June.  And, coincidentally, Christmas is always around the third week in December, exactly 6 months apart. The local newspaper would have a Santa with reindeer picture, which was the foundation of a coloring contest.  Every kid would color the picture, submit it to the paper, and then wait to see if they were one of the top three finishers in their age group. I believe the age groups were 5 to 12 years old.  Even if you were not the winner in your age group, it was a big deal to see your name in print.  (The big prize was seeing your name in print.  There were no participation trophies!)  The winners got prizes.  Some of these prizes were cash!  The winner would get two whole dollars! Today, two dollars would not get you two candy bars; but in the 50s, that would get you four trips to the movie theater with soda and popcorn!

Each merchant would place ads in the newspaper with entry forms for a drawing that they were having in their store.  There were about a dozen entry forms taking up a whole page in the paper. Our paper was a weekly, so these entry forms appeared three times before Christmas.  Everyone, including my family, would meticulously fill out each entry form and deliver it to the sponsoring merchant.  For a small community, these drawings generated a lot of ‘buzz,’ and a whole bunch of local sales for the merchants.

Our town had about a dozen pair of street lights through the commercial area.  These lights were the old mercury-vapor lights which always had a slight orange tinge to the otherwise bright light.  At Christmas, the local electric company would string cable across the street from one street light to its corresponding partner across the street.  They would then run green garland and lights up each lamp pole to the top.  Then, they ran green garland across the street draped from the cable.  This garland was not lit.  The crowning touch was the face of a big illuminated jolly Santa right in the middle of the street.  The same decorations were on a dozen pair of poles, about 50 feet apart.  One night, I drove into town.  The streets were empty.   There was  light fluffy snow falling to the ground on a windless night. The street lights were casting their ‘orangish’ hue on the falling snow.  Between that, and the lit posts, the lit Santa faces and the store front decorations….it was magical.  Not bad for a town so small that the city limit signs could have been located on the same post.

Here is a big change between today and the 50s; Christmas did not begin until after Thanksgiving! Even in the big city, no Christmas merchandise or decorations were displayed until the day after Thanksgiving.  Our small town followed that unofficial rule diligently.  Now, I am seeing Christmas decorations and merchandise in October.  There is nothing quite as sobering as hearing Christmas carols on Musak on October 1.  I know this has been done for commercial reasons, but don’t you think it detracts from the holiday and the purpose of the holiday itself?  Its the same principle as the last election campaign season. Too long.  Its over.  Good riddance.

Christmas was very special for our family.  The biggest focus was on our Christmas tree, and we had some really beautiful trees.  By trade, my dad, Big Daddy G, was an automobile body work repairman.   Dents, dings and crashes were his specialty.  Big Daddy G was a Picasso when it came to painting cars.  He carried this talent to our Christmas.  He would flock our fresh cut trees in his paint spray booth.  When he flocked a tree, it looked like snow had fallen on it.  He got creative for many years, but I remember one year and one tree in particular.  He bought a Norway pine tree with the long needles, took it to the shop, and flocked the whole tree in a very light blue color.  It was gorgeous!  Then, it was decorated with red and green ‘bubbler’ lights.  Bubbler lights were about three inches long and the thickness of a pencil.  Once plugged in, they would heat up and create bubbles that gently ran from the bottom to the top in some kind of liquid.  With the addition of silver tinsel, the customary glass bulbs and the crowning expensive glass ornament……….this tree was spectacular!  I would pay $200 to have a color photo of that tree today. Unfortunately, all photos were black and white and I have not seen any bubbler lights for over 50 years.  Maybe they were radioactive or cancer producing, but they sure were pretty.  When the tree came down, the ornaments, especially the crowning ornament, were all carefully packed and stored as they were not only expensive, but were all very fragile glass.

Of course our family had Christmas gifts.  And I, being a hellion in training, would search out the aforementioned gifts, find them, open them, play with them, and then wrap them up again.  All of this without anyone being any the wiser.  I was really good at expressing surprise while opening the gifts at the family gathering.  I started all this larceny at the ripe old age of 6 years old, and continued until my teens.

The two worst ‘Christmas snoops’ in the family were by mother and my grandmother.  In retrospect, they were both worse than the kids when it came to wanting to open the presents early.  The anticipation of what they got almost became an obsession.  They would both pick up a package, look at it to see if they could see through the wrapping paper for a clue to the contents, and then shake the package to see if there would be a ‘tell-tale’ sound.  This procedure was begun about two weeks before Christmas, but generally about a week after I had already played with and re-wrapped my gifts.  One year, Big Daddy G bought my mom a very expensive coat.  It was what she needed and what she wanted.  Before wrapping the gift, Big Daddy G placed a small bell into the box.  It drove my mother crazy!  She picked up that package and gently shook it at least 50 times before Christmas trying to figure out what it was.   It was hilarious and provided the rest of the family with much entertainment.  Not to be outdone, the following year my uncle and I decided that grandma needed a lesson, too. I had gotten Lincoln logs for Christmas a previous year.  The Lincoln log container was a round cardboard cylinder with a metal screw top.  So we took this container, filled it with broken glass, wrapped it,  put a tag on it saying it was from Santa for Grandma, marked it ‘extremely fragile’, and put it under the tree.  We knew the ‘extremely fragile’ marking was not going to stop Grandma from shaking that present, and we were right!  Both of us perpetrators were in the room when she picked it up and shook it for the first time!  The sound of the broken glass and the corresponding look on her face was priceless!  It was funny as hell and my uncle and I had to leave the house.  We were both suffering from a very strong fit of laughter to the point of producing tears in our eyes.

Our family was small.  We all got together, aunts. uncles, cousins, grandparents on Christmas eve for food, eggnog and other liquid libations.  Christmas day was for each individual family.  Even though our family and our town enjoyed the ‘Santa’ tradition of Christmas, it was never forgotten that the purpose of the holiday was the name of, and the birth of Christ.

I miss those days.  My small town is no longer small.  We don’t have the flocked trees with bubbler lights and fragile ornaments anymore.  Two dollars doesn’t get you into four movies.  The older relatives are gone.  My, how things have changed.

But there is one thing that I can do that immediately puts a smile on my face and reminds me of  the Christmases of my youth……………

“MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!”   “MAY GOD BLESS YOU, YOUR FAMILY, AND AMERICA!”

Grandpa T