10 Reasons Why

10 Things I Would Be Doing as a Kid on a Saturday in 1973

lidsville-mantiques-2

1. Watching all the crazed, clearly-drug-inspired cartoons on Saturday morning.

I would leap out of bed at the earliest crack and race to turn the TV on and then sit there, glued, for hours. My favorite reefer madness was this thing called “Lidsville”, about a real boy and a special land where the hats were alive and they lived in colorful houses, also shaped like hats. (I am so not making this up, even though many people today think I’m insane and must have been dropped on my head at birth.)

I even had a “Lidsville” lunchbox, the rectangle metal kind that had that little swing-out bracket thing to hold your thermos. I carried this treasure to school faithfully, until the tragic day when I dropped and broke said thermos, shattering it because the insides were made of glass back then and you couldn’t get all dumb-ass with your transportation skills. But jack it up I did, and I had to drag the rattling thermos home and explain myself to Mom concerning my disappointing behavior.

2. Wiring myself up on a candy-based breakfast.

Whilst watching the stoner toons, it was a prerogative that you consume bowl after bowl of cereal as you sat cross-legged directly in front of the TV. And you weren’t doing it right unless you added tons of sugar to your already-sugared cereal. This made things heavenly, and after you crunched your way through the top portion, you would be rewarded with the leftovers at the bottom, a milky and creamy sugar pudding. You could mainline that manna and then go invade a small country.

3. Going outside and playing for hours without any electronic devices or Internet access.

This is a true story. Once upon a time a child could simply walk out the front door, possibly gather other little friends although this was not necessary, and then come up with his own entertainment that would last the entire afternoon. And here’s the most startling aspect of this story: physical activity actually took place. Yep, games were invented on the fly that involved running, jumping and hurling each other from the tops of trees and storage sheds.

One didn’t sit around and wait for a parental unit to purchase yet another toy. Couches were not involved. Unless the couch had been abandoned and was waiting patiently on the curb for disposal. Then the couch became the Starship Enterprise and everybody got to kill space aliens with their stick ponies, which secretly doubled as machine guns.

4. Avoiding toys that could kill.

Not that we didn’t have any toys, mind you, of course we had those. But apparently the country as a whole didn’t have a lot of regulations when it came to the toys of that time. One especially brutal invention went by several names, but we knew them as Klick-Klacks. In short, you had two acrylic balls the size of, oh, large plums I guess, one at each end of a string, and the string had a little ring or stick in the middle. So far, so good.

You held on to the ring and let the balls dangle (yes, they looked like day-glo testicles at first glance), then began to jiggle the balls in a manner that would make them bounce further and further apart. The end goal (although this proved elusive for many) was to get the balls to bounce against each other hard enough that they would rocket around a circumference, slam into each other at the top of said circle, and then hurtle downwards again, rinse and repeat, ad infinitum. If one did things right, it sounded like a woodpecker on crack.

The deadly part? When you screwed up and one or both of the suddenly very-weighty balls would slam into your head or other delicate body parts. You only had to do that a couple of times before you threw the damn thing in the toy box, never to look at it again. (Oh, and the balls could also explode and blind you with the fragments. Suffice it to say that they eventually disappeared from the stores.)

5. Dancing with excitement as the ice cream truck rolled down the street.

One minute, the entire block would be completely deserted, tumbleweeds blowing. Then the maniacal sounds of the jangly truck would break the silence, and suddenly you had 400 hyperventilating kids shoving each other out of the way and thrusting their grimy dimes at the probably-medicated vendor. Slurping would then ensue.

6. Hoping to enjoy some fine local cuisine, urchin-style.

The absolute best restaurant in the entire world was McDonald’s, bar none. (Okay, Dairy Queen was a close second, but some of those places were really old and smelled like grandparents.) The McDonald’s were newer, sometimes came with playgrounds, and often offered cheap prizes that would infatuate young minds. It couldn’t get any better.

And the French fries? Oh. My. God. This was back in the day, when nobody knew squat about healthy eating except for certain hippies and chaste librarians, so those fries would be dripping in grease and completely coated with enough salt that your tongue would actually burn if you ate too many. Good times.

7. Listening to Lobo sing his catchy, heartfelt tunes.

Granted, I was still basically a kid, but I was also a very serious little munchkin at times, in that introspective, budding gay-boy way where you search for meaning wherever you can find it. So I was often perusing “adult” songs whilst my cohorts had a repertoire limited to Sesame Street ditties. And something about the way this man sang and what he said had me mesmerized.

Now, some of you won’t care a hoot for this list, and others of you (“of a certain age”) will squeal and run try to download these titles: “Me and You and Dog Named Boo”, “I’d Love You to Want Me” and “Don’t Expect Me to Be Your Friend”. Put on the headphones and reminisce.

8. Playing with my “G.I. Joe” doll.

It was extremely not cool for boys to play with dolls, unless it was one of these. He was all manly and stuff, with his buzz-cut and plastic pectorals. (No penis, though. I checked this out immediately.) You could pull a string in his back, and then he would bark out orders, telling you to run sink a battleship with your bare hands or topple a Communist dictator. It was great fun until his string broke or his voice box got jacked and it sounded like he had emphysema. Then he was relegated to the bottom of the toy box with the Klick-Klacks.

9. Begging to go see The Exorcist.

I had no idea what this movie was about, but there were whispered rumors that people were fainting and even dying at the screenings, and who wouldn’t want to go see something like that? (Mom even had a tattered paperback copy of the book that lived on her nightstand for a bit, so this would provoke me ever more, what with that odd, creepy image on the cover. What the hell was that thing?)

But alas, it wasn’t to be. I wasn’t allowed to go see it, not at that time, anyway. I had to wait a few years for cable TV to become popular and then I got to watch it on a brand-new “pay channel” called HBO. At which point I remember thinking maybe that Regan girl wouldn’t have acted up so much if she’d just cut back on the sugar in her cereal. Or the McDonald’s fries. Something.

10. Watching “Emergency!” on TV.

I really don’t remember exactly what the TV series was about, some mess involving folks that would go save other people who didn’t have enough sense to not get in car accidents or fall off buildings. But I do remember that I was smitten with Randolph Mantooth, the actor who played one of the paramedic heroes. It was quite nice when an episode involved fire, because he would get sweaty, and I was constantly fantasizing about getting myself into situations that required him to rescue me.

Sadly, when these episodes would end on a Saturday night, it meant that I didn’t have much longer before my personal freedom was rudely curtailed, as my designated bedtime was on the horizon. I would often fight this injustice, of course, because I was firmly convinced that I was much smarter than all the stupid adults with all their rules and questionable movies that only they could attend.

But it was a losing battle, naturally. And eventually I would be tucked in and bid night-night. I would then wait for my parents to go become distracted by whatever they did when offspring were presumably quarantined for the evening. Then I would reach over and turn on my little tiny-watt radio, real quiet, and wait for a Lobo song to play…

 

Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 03/24/12 and “Bonnywood Manor” on 01/10/14, minimally revised and updated with extra flair for this post.

Story behind the photo: A few years ago, we were in a vintage store christened “Mantiques”, a clever name identifying the inventory as old crap that old guys would like. I rounded a corner and there was the very same lunchbox I had cherished forty-odd years ago. I nearly wet myself. My partner did not, and he marched right past this altar and proceeded to peruse some Mid-Century Modern highball glasses. We all have our own unique fetishes…

 

39 replies »

    • Yep, I had a GI Joe, which I cherished. I remember fondly rubbing his weird rough-felt hairdo, and never letting him anywhere near my sisters’ Barbie dolls, because they were wicked strumpets with ulterior motives. This, of course, was not the planned behavior by Joe’s creators, but I was already forging my own path… 😉

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  1. Randolph Mantooth, oh yes! McDonalds fries, hell yes!! Klick-Klacks, yes indeed!! You definitely nailed them all!! 🙂 My only major difference was my father would get us Dunkin’ Donuts every Saturday morning to watch cartoons, then we’d have to switch it over when his “cartoons” came on… college football, boooo. Oh… I have one for you… Gamera. The flying turtle. 😀

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    • We also had a donut ritual, one involving my stepfather dragging me to Winchell’s Donuts at 1am, because that’s where we would pick up the Sunday newspapers that we would then spend the next six hours distributing along the remote country roads of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. (Yes, it was a miserable example of enforced childhood labor, but I didn’t know any different.) Now, this Gamera thing. I actually don’t know anything about this, an ignorance that probably earns me demerits in some way. Was this something that you could watch AFTER 1am on a Sunday? Because I was a little busy… 😉

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  2. We were so poor in 1973 that my parents wouldn’t allow me to do anything. Throughout that year I was kept locked in a cupboard under the stairs with only a Staffordshire Bull Terrier for company. I was eventually released from my captivity on Jan1st 1974 after my father was given an incremental rise in his unemployment benefit. From that day we lived very high on the hog indeed.

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  3. You have reminded me that I am ever-so much older than you. in the 1950s, I went to the movies on a Saturday afternoon. Admission was 25 cents and a non-erotic Flash Gordon was the short. Ah, how times change.

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    • Well, you can’t be THAT much older than me, although I really have no idea, as I pay little attention to age and more attention to the beauty of a person’s soul. (How’s THAT for a really good conversational save? We can now hug it out and continue.) I would also go to movies on a Saturday afternoon, perfectly content to go by myself and sit through the same movie three or four times, or until some management jerk would surmise my lack of proper departure protocol and kick my little ass out…

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  4. I remember Klik-Klaks, fortunately my children had too much sense to request their own, being quite content to watch their schoolfriends maim themselves instead. My son had an Action Man, I made him a sleeping bag and pillow from the leg of my son’s worn-out jeans.

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  5. I remember Klackers. Mine were purple and so was my wrist most of the time!

    “I still love you David Gates, but why did you send Becky a letter and not me?”
    Needless to say I dumped David after that incident and started my bad girl years with Peter Frampton, Steven Tyler and Elton John!

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    • I had a purple set of Klackers as well! Oh, how I loved them. Until they broke my skull. Then we drifted apart. And my bad girl years started once I discovered gay bars. Different trajectory, but music was still involved… 😉

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  6. My one wish, being older, is that I remembered 1973. I remember those damn glass-lined lunch box thermoses, though. I have often thought of finding one and dropping it, just to sample the incredible shaker sound it made. Dig this. Paper Mache on a light bulb. Let it set up. Smack it on a table. Instant maracas. There are so many things you can do if you aren’t plugged in…

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    • That incredible shaker sound is the sound of shame and loss, at least for me. It reminds me of having to inform my parents that I had failed as a trusted Keeper of the Thermos. On the flip side, why did my parents put that kind of pressure on a wee bairn that just wanted everybody to love him? There’s a movie in this mess, somewhere. Now, this paper mache and light bulb thing? Dude, you had your hands on some vintage herbage, am I right? Said with complete respect… 😉

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      • No no. I was but wee myself when the light bulb maracas were shown to me by a barely teenaged female cousin as part of a music appreciation segment of vacation bible school. You can (please) run with that VBS thing, I’m busy with a story about childhood and goats.😮

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  7. I do not remember Lidsville, but everything else – absolutely! I especially remember the sound of the ice cream truck, oh those were the days. Thanks Brian for the flashback to a better time. Have a great weekend. 🙂

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  8. Ahh bovril days indeed! We had (have) a farm and any free time was spent playing in the fields, letting the handbrake off the tractor and see how far it would roll, riding bareback on cows with hats on (the cows, not us!) calf tail races, sliding down silage pits and dodging open manholes (open slurry pits) dotted around the farm. How the hell did me and my 8 siblings survive I’ll never know! Luck of the Irish I guess!
    Great trip down memory lane Brian

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    • 8 siblings? Honey, how did you ever get any kind of individual affirmation in that challenging environment? Then again, due to the short-attention span of my father and his multiple marriages, there was a time when I actually had 10 half-siblings and step-siblings, but that was only for a few short years and legal maneuverings since then have greatly reduced the official total. Now, your mention of farm-life antics has reminded me of many stories buried in my archives, concerning things that involved cows and/or poor decisions about what one should do with those cows. I might have to unleash those tales in the near future. Stay tuned!… 😉

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  9. I have no knowledge of this Lidsville of which you speak, but as it so happens, I was a fan of H.R. Pufnstuf, and according to Wikipedia, some of their characters appeared in episodes of Lidsville!
    Yet more evidence that you are my brother from another mother. 😀

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    • Your mention of green Klick-Klacks triggered a buried memory of one of my sisters (and the only one at the time) who found an alternate use for her own green Klick-Klacks. Namely, this involved her hurling said Klacks at me whenever she didn’t get her way which, considering she was the younger, happened more often than she cared for it to happen. Luckily, she had very poor aim and the threat level was quite minimal. And then one day her impromptu weaponry magically disappeared… 😉

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