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Nostalgia May 2017

As I See It

Scruffy Dogs and Magical Fireflies

By Fern Smith-Brown

One of my favorite things was flitting around at dusk catching fireflies. A jar full of lightning bugs could light up the container like a fairy wand had waved its magic over it.

For a few minutes I allowed my mind to slip back to a quieter time in those days of yesteryear. Remember the ‘50s? What a great time to grow up. All those memories flood my thoughts and make me smile. Follow me down yesterday’s path and recall your own cherished memories of a time that was — but can never be again.

Our best companion was our dog — Spot, Rover, Poochie, or whatever name you chose for your mutt. We all had a dog, but no one I knew had a purebred dog. Ours were mixed, the kind everyone called Heinz Variety. But we loved them just the same and didn’t care if they were the scruffiest in the neighborhood. There was one so scruffy that Scruff was his name!

Remember how we all looked forward to Daddy’s payday – the day we got our allowance? We’d get in line with our siblings, holding out our grubby little hands for that quarter that made us feel rich. After all, it had started out as a dime, so this was pure and simply independent wealth! It was ours to do with as we pleased. Oh, yeah, we were happy kids.

Remember when your mother wore sheer stockings with a garter belt? That were oh, so elegantly packaged in a slender, square box with each pair wrapped in tissue paper. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to wear them with a lacy garter belt that made me feel so grown up.

When Daddy’s car needed gas, a serviceman came out and pumped the gas, cleaned the windshield, checked the oil and then gave our mothers trading stamps to put in her book for free merchandise. No one in our neighborhood went out to dinner that often, but when we did, the family went to the local diner where no one had to get out of the car. Curb service was standard at the drive-in restaurants. You were served by a pretty girl carhop who would zip up to your car on roller skates, and place a tray for your order on your side window, which had to be rolled down manually.

Mother collected glasses and dishes from cereal and laundry detergent boxes and often had complete sets. She even got many of her dishtowels from those boxes. One could almost outfit a kitchen with these necessary items — and all for free!

Do you recall the mimeograph machine? It was the forerunner of today’s technology of scanners and printers. My mother was a teacher in a small school and we would often help her run off mimeograph papers for the next day’s class. It was a smelly process with that duplication fluid and that gooey jelly platform that somehow made it all work.

Purple ink would get on your fingers and was difficult to remove. And forget ever getting it out if you got it on your clothing — which would earn you a scolding from your mother.

Every teenager’s favorite car was a ‘57 Chevy or a Mercury — preferably pale blue — and referred to as a Merc. One was proud to cruise the neighborhood in one of those babies!

And just think of this fact — no one ever lost their keys because they were always in the car ignition. The car doors were never locked, nor were our house doors. This was a quiet, gentler time when everyone knew everyone’s neighbor and all looked out for each other — and for each other’s children. It truly did “take a village.” I wonder when it all changed?

We savored a pretty day with puffy cotton ball clouds. You and your best friend or sibling would stretch out on a grassy knoll, or onto the sweet-smelling green grass in your yard. Amid yellow buttercups and wild violets peppering the yard, we’d stare up at the sky and all those wonderful clouds that sparked the imagination. Seconds later, one of you would say, “That cloud looks like a….”

Games were very imaginative and when you got up a team for baseball, there were no adults to interfere in the process. Kids knew the rules and played by them. Many a game decision was made by saying, “Eenie, meenie, miney, moe….”

Oh, the games we would invent. Remember when you and your friends would spin around until you were so dizzy that you got nauseated and had to stop or you fell down, sprawling on the ground, laughing your head off? Happy giggles resounded round the yard from the rest of the kids. And after you caught your breath and the dizziness faded — you’d get up and do it again!

One of my favorite things was flitting around at dusk catching fireflies. A jar full of lightning bugs could light up the container like a fairy wand had waved its magic over it.

Progress is inevitable and mostly a good thing, but don’t you just wish you could magically slip back in time and savor those wonderful days again? And wouldn’t it be great if you could take one of today’s youngsters with you – just so they could see what it was like when you grew up? The charm of the era will forever remain in the happy spots of our heart.


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