My Life

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

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 old-school, clunky 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” and “Bonnywood Manor”, 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.

No Klick-Klacks were found on the premises, sadly. But life goes on…

 

52 replies »

  1. Ah the memories. Most of those are true for me too. As for #5, a friend of mine convinced his young daughter that when the ice cream truck played music, it meant they were out of ice cream. Cruel in the extreme.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I could have been your teenage babysitter, unless I had a good date offer, which I usually did, causing me to call in sick from scheduled babysitting jobs.
    If I actually did make it to babysit you (doubtful), all the things you did, would be cool by me, except for ‘The Exorcist,’ which created an existential-teenage-terror-crisis in my still undeveloped mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now, let’s think about this. If you HAD bothered to show up for our adventure in babysitting (yes, a movie reference, there’s always a movie reference around here), we could have combined our future blogging efforts and ruled the world. But no, you had to go on a date, thus altering the time-space continuum… 😉

      Like

  3. I can relate! Except I was curtailed quite a bit. No Mcdonald’s or sugared cereals were allowed, no Barbies, cartoons were limited to one show. (No librarians or hippies in my house but my mother was a narcissist and my father was mostly disconnected.) But I availed myself of this stuff when I could. It was like finding treasure. Thanks for reminding me of those fond memories. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was actually considerably curtailed during my early formative years, with a narcissist daddy who rarely allowed a bit of candy to breach our inquisitive lips. That changed dramatically with The Great Divorce when I was 7ish, and then the doors were thrown wide open as Mom experimented with other examples of the male species in her quest for a suitable mate…

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    • Do you really want to compare who suffered more in ’72? Because I will take you down with the truth. But you do get bonus points for the exciting, action-adventure aspect of your demise. Mine was the boring result of neglect and parental malpractice, a rather ho-hum denouement… 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for the trip down memory lane! I usually don’t laugh out loud, but yeah, the GI Joe with emphysema got me! I was only 5 in 1973 but fast forward a few years and I remember spending my Saturdays much the same way as you. Just add Barbie and Ken and my amazing tree fort in the woods across the street. Mom worked nights as a nurse and slept during the day so we stayed outside most of the day. Good times!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interestingly enough, we have a lot similarities. We had a tree fort across the street (near a skanky-looking pond where someone had died, according to neighborhood folklore), my mom worked as a nurse’s assistant for a while, albeit during the early shift, and we young uns stayed outside most of the day, partly because my parents shoved us out and locked the door and partly because it was so much fun playing out our imaginative games near a pond where there might be a body…. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “Emergency” was loosely based on the early ‘invention’ of EMTs as a ‘real’ thing. Apparently prior to the late 60s/early 70s, firemen did the EMT job, and because they weren’t medically trained (although the ones who did the EMTing did get some kind of basic first aid course)…this state pissed off the firemen, because the ones that would be EMTs got double duty. And a choice. Did you put out the fire OR save the old guy turning blue because he had such severe smoke inhalation? And your fellow fire fighters (fireMEN only in those days) sometimes were surly and thought the pre-EMTs were putting on airs and were entitled. A thing not really known about then. Ah. Good times. This is why the show’s producers had that incredibly hot Doctor and Nurse Julie with a sort of CB affair where they could advise and supervise the EMT in the field (or the fireman. They didn’t get the EMT title until a lot later I don’t think). Randolph Mantooth? Oh my. You weren’t the only one fantasizing about him rescuing them, followed by Dr. Bracket and then Kevin Tighe (sp?) who is still hot and on certain B list movies and TV series now and then. Kevin always plays a villain in them too, so maybe he was really bitter about being forced to play a pseudo EMT. He seemed a little testy back then too actually. Now a weird little thing I just thought of…Randolph’s teeth weren’t precisely straight nor all that white. The 70s had different standards and sometimes it’s a shame those were lost.

    I used to hit my annoying brother with my klick-klacks, which were purple and much more durable than theirs were. By accident on purpose. The third time I brained him, my mother threatened to throw ‘those go**amned’ things in the trash if I didn’t stop misusing them.

    And playing outside was far more interesting than sitting in the house watching the paint dry. I had discovered books too, which provided more entertainment than a dozen TV shows of the time (Emergency! excepted of course).

    Thanks for this walk down Memory Lane…my lunch box was the “Prom Queen” one, and I broke that thermos early on and then used it to house my Matchbox cars ™ which of course I had! I had brothers. Boys liked playing ‘cars’ in the day, and if I wanted to play too? I had to have my own garage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, you have a plethora of information about EMTs and “Emergency!”. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I’m just mentioning it as a concern that you might be more obsessive about trivia that I am, and I didn’t think such a thing was possible. I bow down before you, with pleasure and acceptance of your greatness. Long may be your reign.

      Now, in another example of our intertwined cosmic congruence, I also made note of Kevin’s “not quite ready for prime time” teeth. But I didn’t care. Once he had rescued me, I knew that I could wisely counsel him on the benefits of the brisk use of a quality toothbrush and the wonders of orthodontics. We would share the burden together.

      I must also admit to some questionable behavior when it came to sibling advice concerning the Klick-Klacks. I may or may not have fed some misinformation to my sister, hoping that she would be felled on the front lawn and I would rule the juvenile kingdom. (This was before the additional potential usurpers to my throne were born.)

      Finally, I love your last paragraph. “I had to have my own garage” is brilliant and expository about our shared childhoods… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well I must admit that I watched Emergency! on some classic TV (read old series like Dragnet and Leave it To Beaver (which always sounded vaguely obscene to me) show and saw the entire series from Episode one (where a lot of that trivia I shared was explained) to the last one they made. I saw ‘Dr. Brackett” on some Hallmark movie recently, where he played the old and incredibly wise grandfather of some clan or other. I admit to shedding a few tears because where did all the good old days GO??

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I watched Emergency…loved to visit fire stations. I have a GI Joe doll…complete with dog tags.
    My favorite cartoons were Fractured Fairy Tales…particularly the ugly duckling, who all the other chickens made fun of…and it grew up to be a swan . 🦢

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The only difference in our childhood habits is that I would finish the night listening to Dr Demento or Weird Al. Still love me some Lobo, though, and I’m very proud that 2 of my nephews grew up to be EMTs, just like Randy Mantooth on Emergency.

    I’d share my Tigerbeat or 16 magazine covers with you from that time, but, alas, wordpress is text only for comments. Thanks for the walk down memory lane…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, I listened to quite a few things in those long-ago years, happily falling down any rabbit hole that I could find. The more obscure, the more I loved it.

      As for the magazine covers, I would share snaps of “Dynamite” magazine, which I thought was the coolest thing on the planet at the time. But as you say, the WordPress gods actively subvert what we can do in the comments…

      Like

    • I used to listen to Dr. Demento all the time! Of course he was only aired in Utah at midnight (or later) because he might ‘corrupt’ the young minds listening to him. So many good songs..and he played a LOT of Weird Al, didn’t he?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is pretty much my childhood too! The other day, Ken and I were actually talking about how Emergency! gave us the ability to know how bad an emergency was by the number of sirens that go off. And Klick Klacks? I had those too–crushed a couple of fingers before I got good at it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I forgot about the “number of sirens” angle. You’re right, we learned quite a bit, even though we didn’t know we were learning. It does make one wonder how much we have lost in this modern age where real-life experiences have been reduced to sound-bites on the Internet..

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Loved your description of the sugary milk pudding at the bottom of the cereal bowl, while watching TV. The stuff dreams are made of!

    Re: Klick Klacks – a family friend gave us a set of those when we were kids. They were orangey-yellow, and we used them exactly once before my mother confiscated them. Drat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I miss me some sugar pudding, sure do. My doctor would now advise against such, since my plumbing can no longer tolerate mainlining the sucrose. Still, those were the days, my friend…

      As for the Klick-Klacks, my parents eventually ripped the torture devices from my inquisitive hands as well, but not before I had managed to bruise myself in an alarming manner…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The cultural references are on the wrong side of the Pond for me, but I do know Me And You And A Dog Named Boo! And I remember what we call ‘clackers’. We had some dark green ones, and many a knuckle was rapped. I’m remembering ours as being made out of solid glass, but that doesn’t sound right. The ice cream van was responsible for my first visit to hospital for stitches. Running back carrying 2 ice-cream cones, wearing a long dress, because it was the 70s, and I tripped. Not wanting to let go of the cones, I fell forward and used my knees on the concrete pavement as a means of stopping myself. I’m sure I was 7 and as it would’ve been summer, it must’ve been 1974 😉 Most of my Saturday mornings in the 70s were spent at dancing class 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Okay, this one I TOTALLY remember! I said something about Lidsville, like “what the hell?” and you said, “yeah the hell” and I said “no man, H.R. Pufnstuf is where it’s at,” and you said, “Totally by the same people” and I said, “no way!” and you said, “way” and then we built a fort using my dining room chairs and your G.I. Joe sleeping bag. Good times… good times.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m enough older to have missed most of the toys (and I seem to remember when pre-sugared cereal was invented–or possibly when grain was invented). Where was I going with this? Yes. The ice cream truck. I grew up in Manhattan, so when it appeared those of use whose parents had money to throw down to us (which wasn’t all of us) and who lived in the front of the buildings (again, not all of us) would bellow up, begging our mothers for money. Mine used to wrap coins in a bit of white paper and throw it down.

    The exercise gave me a voice that can carry across entire counties.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, “when grain was invented” was a delicious and unexpected turn. Kudos.

      Second, I am extremely jealous of you having a childhood in Manhattan. I grew up in the sticks, and the dirt has never washed away.

      Third, I think I heard your voice last night, country-crossing, mixed in with a wisp of calliope music. Ships we are, passing… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • That must’ve been someone else’s voice, because mine’s kept its accent. I’m an unapologetically stubborn old thing, in many ways, including that. The music sounds good, though. Manhattan childhood. Hmm. I loved it, and still do, but I also believed that living in the country would be romantic and perfect and all that sort of thing. Wherever we’re not, that’s what we can idealize. And I might as well confess that when I was eleven we moved to Yonkers–one block north of the city line. Our lives still centered around the city, though.

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