Tuesday, December 30, 2008

little jim

Jim Young was a friend of mine back when I was a kid. His family went to my church, Bellevue Methodist Church, he was a member of the same scout troop (Troop 54 where are you), and we attended the same elementary school together (R.A. Mitchell). His mom died of cancer during the time I knew him. Jim's dad had a Septic Tank service (remember his "Honey Wagon") and is a real nice and funny fellow. Jim's dad liked to chop up Volkswagens and ride them anywhere (ANYWHERE!). I don't know how many he had. He also had some old VW buses. I remember Big Jim driving me and Little Jim up to Cumberland Caverns in his micro-bus. It was an old bus back then and smelled of stale old cigarette smoke. He had magnificent cigarette butt collection up front. I remember when we got hungry, Little Jim, cut open the top of some Van Camp's Beanie Weenies. I wasn't really into cold Beanie Weenies - but it seemed part of the adventure. Every time I see a VW bus - I think of that ride - probably the first and last time I ever road in one.

The photo above is of Jim (in the red, white, and blue pants) and me (in my scout patched jacket). That blue chopped VW was Big Jims. I didn't spend the night with many folks growing up and I remember this visit well. Big Jim picked the two of us up after school and drove us home. He drove us down Fairview Road and then without warning, took a sharp right into the woods. There was no road mind you - just woods. That was the good thing about that little car of his - you didn't need infrastructure to travel. He liked taking unconventional sight seeing trips. The detour was a cool thrill ride for me. I'd never been driving through the woods without a road before.

During that visit, Jim and I didn't hang around the house much, he liked to play in the woods around his house. We always got along fine because we liked doing much of the same things. Jim's bedroom was wallpapered (pretty much) with 18 wheeler and hot-rod posters. He knew back then that he was going to be a trucker and that's what he eventually became. Most of the pictures that I drew as a kid were hot-rods. This wasn't because I was into hot-rods - but because Jim was always wanting me to draw them for him. The picture above was taken at our house at 2624 Scenic Hwy after Big Jim returned me home after my overnight stay. Can you make out the WALLACE sticker on the front of his blue bug? You can also see the back end of Brook's red bug in this photo. The patches on my jacket were from Boy Scout camping trips. I can make out two from Shiloh Trail patches, an Alabama Jamboree patch, and a Cumberland Caverns patch. By the time I was finished scouting - the jacket was too small to wear. I guess that jacket was tossed somewhere down the line - the more camping exploits - the more I wore it with pride. I notice that I am wearing my old Dingo boots. Brook told me that that's what The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) wears when gunning down Italian cowboys. I just had to have them.I haven't seen Jim in years.

I think the last time that I saw him was outside of the old SING convenient store on Noccalula Mountain - probably 25 years ago. We talked on the sidewalk for about twenty minutes. He said he was in town visiting his dad and sure enough - was driving a rig. I guess it was about ten years ago that I got an email from him. Where ever you are Jim - I hope you are doing well and keeping it between the lines. God bless you!

killer B movies

This clip is from The Thing With Two Heads (1975)

Back in the 1970's there was an overage of police cars, so Hollywood was told to write as many movies involving the demolition of police cruisers. Government grants were awarded to studios that could destroy the most squad cars in a movie. The more the totals - the higher the grant. Now I just made that up - but it would explain the thousands and thousands of police cars I saw ram into each outher, run off embankments, flipped, sunk,exploded, cut in two, or what have you. It got to a point where chase scenes got boring - no matter how many police cars you'd wreck in a chase sequence. You can come up with your own reason - but I doubt if it will be as good as mine. Feel free to give it a shot.

What was your favorite police chase scene? My favorite was in the original Blues Brothers. They spoofed the chase scene by destroying more cop cars than all the B-Movies of the 1970's combined.

Friday, December 26, 2008

western auto

Michael mentioned Western Auto Store in my last post. Anytime I think of Western Auto, I think of bicycles. Western Auto had the bikes. Just before the Western Auto closed in our town (late 80's) - I went and bought some assecories for my new mountain bike. My last purchase was a bike chain, pad lock, and bicycle pump. I also bought a handle-bar bag to carry the lock and chain.

I pulled my old bike down from the wall a few weeks ago. I cut that old worn out bag off the handle bars. I thought of that last trip to Western Auto as I tossed it into the trash.
I never went into that little store and go straight to a particular section. I'd go in and walk up and down each aisle and check out anything new. Funny thing - they rarely had much of anything new.

Back when I was mowing the lawn at my dad's law office or at our Ponderosa sized yard at home - Western Auto Store was where I'd go to get lawnmower parts.
Western Auto was a great franchise.

i triple dog dare ya

A Christmas Story aired back in 1983. It was an instant classic. Unlike most comedies - it didn't have just one funny scene. This movie was funny from start to finish - a must see if you've never seen it before.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Columbia..and other trips in my mind

My grandmother on my father's side died back in 1969. Until that time, the entire Finlayson clan consisting of eight people of various sizes would pack into a station wagon and drive from Gadsden, AL to Columbia, SC. It was a crowded car and a very long trip.

Dad would drive, mom would either navigate or read a magazine in the front passenger seat. The six kids would be packed like sardines in the rest of the car. There was no room for luggage in the car - back then - folks actually used the luggage rack. Nobody particularly cared about sitting next to Irene because Irene had a tendency to get car sick. Don't get me wrong, Irene is a great sis and all, but to be on either side of her was like playing vomit roulette. Let's be honest here, a person's first reaction is not to puke on one's self, but rather turn away from your own lap and spew elsewhere. Things got better once mom and dad found out that there was a motion sickness pill they could give her and we didn't have to be as nervous sitting next to her. The trip out to Columbia was a long one, but I don't recall any major upsets (other than the on going Irene throw-up watch).

The family had our sing-a-long standards. One of them was a song that dad wrote for his old Alma mater, Cheraw High School. It was a fight song that the school adopted and used for many years. Just ask any of Westbrook kids to sing it to you and we can do it by heart. Dad was a band leader in his pre-law days - so he was always the conductor when it came to what song was sung.

I don't remember us stopping on those trips that much. I know that we all loved pulling over when we came across and A&W drive-in.

I remember our Christmas' in Columbia. I remember going up talking to grandmother as she sat in a chair as the rest of the Finlayson adults put a big breakfast on the table. Jennie Llew, Florrence, Rutha, and mom would prep a huge breakfast spread. The dining room table was extended as far as it would go and we'd all try to fit around it. My aunts would always use the best china, glass ware and silver ware. It was a real different experience for me - eating my eggs and sausages on a fancy plate like royalty or like breakfast at an old plantation home in the old south. Yep, that's it, going to Columbia was like driving back into another era. Most of my family over there talked like Shelby Foote or Scarlet O'hare. The Columbia kinfolk were very elegant folk - very genteel and proper. Odd to think that I was cut from that fine bolt of cloth. I am so not elegant. I stained that cloth from my beginning.

As you can see - I wasn't going anywhere in particular with this post - just sharing memories of Christmas past.

When you're young - you think things are going to be the same forever - that the home you have now is the home you'll always have. That the family around the table will always be there across from or next to you. That parents are eternal. The constant about life is that life nothing is constant - life changes. We grow up, make lives for ourselves - make homes of our own. I've been thinking this Christmas about those Christmas' lived many decades ago. They were great times - surrounded by dear kin folk that I won't see until I see them in Heaven. I am thankful for the life God has given me - all this family - all these memories.

Today I'm experiencing a Christmas with young sweet faces before me. Each Christmas is a new experience and we have our own traditions. Wednesday night at the table I tried to share to my children about those Christmas' in Columbia those many years ago. I sounded like an old fart I know. They didn't seem interested - or able to visualize what I was seeing in my mind's eye. Those were my memories, my past - nothing to do with them. Their eyes are set on the present moment - and on the morning to follow, the Christmas spread immediately before them. I hope that they have as good of a Christmas as I am having right now. I have a loving wife and two great little kids. We sat around the table and each offered up a prayer - then we sang happy birthday to Jesus. I don't remember ever doing that before - perhaps a new tradition.

Each year is a little different. Each Christmas day plays out it's own way. The eve is over and tomorrow will be a rush of opening presents and visiting kin folk across town. Like always, evening will come too fast. I hope that in the rush of season that in my children's mind - a few precious memories will be made and kept for the ages - something worth recalling and telling to their children.

Merry Christmas you all - and Happy Birthday Jesus!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

classic benny

This is a Jack Benny Christmas episode (part 1) that I found on youtube. It is the first of three parts, and worth watching the entire episode. This is classic Jack Benny. For those of you who don't know the premise behind most of Jack's stories is that he's cheap - real cheap.

Jack fancied himself a great violinist on his show. In the show he was terrible at it. In real life he was a great violinist. real life.

Mel Blanc is featured in this episode. Mel is the voice behind all the Warner Brother's cartoons (Bugs Bunny, Daffy, Porky Pig, et more) we grew up loving. Mel was funny fellow and I always enjoy seeing him in action.

Jack Benny is among my very first impersonations. I could also do a pretty good Don Wilson. Decades ago, while doing my Jack Benny voice - my Dad joined in with a great Rochester. I never new dad to do an impersonation before. I had tried to figure out that voice prior and didn't know how to get Eddie "Rochester" Anderson's gravely voice. Dad told me how he did it and in a few minutes I had that voice nailed as well. It was the only impersonation I had ever heard my father to do before or since.

How do you do Rochester's voice? Dad told me to breath in while talking. His Rochester was better than mine because Dad had a little more gravel to his voice.

Monday, December 22, 2008

the night the animals didn't get it

There was an ABC Network Christmas special that came out back in 1970 called The Night The Animals Talked. I've made mulitple attempts to post the original ABC promo of it from YouTube - but it won't work for me. This stupid attempt at a Christmas Special aired for many years afterward during the Christmas holidays. I didn't see it until the mid to late seventies, until I was in my late teens. I enjoyed animation (Disney & Warner Bros) but didn't care for the cheap looking animation that were churned out in abundance back then. Anyway, when I finally did watch it - do you know what it was all about? Do you know why the animals talked? Would you like to know what this show boiled down to? The animals at the nativity didn't talk because Jesus was born - that Jesus - the very Son of God was born in the form of man. The animals at the manger talked because they were witness to the birth of a child. That's it. The miracle in this story was that childbirth itself was the Christmas miracle - the birthing process! The animals talked not because our Savior was born, but because a human child was born. Just goes to show that animals need to remain dumb.

From ABC Network...this Holiday Season...from our crumby network to you...let's take Christ out of Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

ah the good life

I have been reminded on countless occasions through out my life what was like as a child. The most recounted story of my babyhood was my love for fried chicken legs. Here is the photo proof of how I enjoyed eating fried chicken legs. Mom and Dad would tell me that I would stand up in my high-chair and eat a fried chicken leg and then toss the bone across the room as I was finished with each leg.

To this day, the idea still appeals to me. I don't think it's the way grown-ups should behave mind you. I just look at this photo and wonder what it would be like to go to KFC or Popeyes - stand on a table or chair and eat my chicken legs and throw what is left of the carcass anywhere I damn well please. Though the action still seems appealing for some strange reason - I know that I would get arrested or at least asked to leave the establishment.

Life as a baby is simple bliss. You can throw food where ever you want and if you got to go - just download in your diapers right where you are. That's right, back then we didn't even have to be concerned with our own tinkle or poop. Fortunately we've all have come a long way - most of us anyway. I look at my little six year old daughter. She's learning responsibilities a day at a time. She's not as messy as she used to be. Thank goodness. I look at her and see a lot of me in her. For now I will pick up her discarded bones and learn to duck and laugh a little. Remind myself that God and my parents were gracious and patient with me.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

here comes Dr. Jordan

Dr. Charles D. Jordan wasn't just our family doctor for decades - but he was a very close friend of my dads. They had been friends since the early sixties. Mother told me that East Gadsden Clinic used to be on Hoke Street when they first took Irene (one of my sisters) to Jordan back around 1961-62. Dad and Charles got along quite well and became good friends.

I know that dad did some legal work for Dr. Jordan, and that Dr. Jordan had stuck plenty of needles in Westbrook's kid's butts down through the years (professionally of course). I can attest to this because I have been a recipient Dr. Jordan's handy needle work through out my childhood. I remember many times going into my father's office and see Dr. Jordan had come by for a visit - sitting in the chair closest to dad's desk - catching up on life. Dr. Jordan was also at dad's side when he crossed over Jordan (July 1990).

Mom told me a humorous story tonight about Dr. Jordan. As I previously mentioned that Dr. Jordon would drop by. He mentioned to dad that he had an odd area on his leg and couldn't figure out what was going on. This is a great physician mind you - who are human too. Dr. Jordan dropped his pants in dad's office and showed hima red rectangular sore on his leg that baffled him. It was a definite red shape on the lateral/anterior aspect of his leg (about where the bottom of a pant pocket would be). Dad looked at the mystery mark and reminded Charles that he was a smoker. "Yes?", the Charles replied. "Well, that's a burn from your cigarette lighter Charles." They both got a laugh from that one.

I remember a day back in the early eighties that dad asked me to take him to see Dr. Jordan at his clinic to take care of a cyst that was on dad's forehead. Dr. Jordan and I got to cutting up as he was actually cutting on dad's head. Dad didn't like it that we were having so much fun together during the procedure. Up until then, I didn't know dad's friend had such a healthy sense of humor. I'm sure my dad knew about it, but didn't want any shenanigans going on while he was personally under the knife.

Florrie called me a little while ago to let me know that Dr. Jordan had died this past Thursday, December 18, 2008 at the age of 83. He was a kind doctor and a good man. I know that Dad was there to greet his old friend at the gate.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


The previous post reminded me of an older post about remembering life on Scenic Hwy. I wrote it after I returned home one day after going to a party at a home on Tuckahoe Circle. I rarely drive up Noccalula Mountain - probably no more than five times a year. Driving up the mountain from 12th Street used to be so common - now no more. The mountain is a foreign land to me and every time I drive up the hill and through the neighborhoods - my mind keeps flashing back. I see Falls Drug, Noccalula-Nic-Nak, the old bridge that would always jam on weekday mornings that would always have school traffic bottle-necked. Pearly & Ben died a long time ago. Mr. & Mrs. Cartee. So much is still the same up there - enough to turn the projector on again. Too many places are gone. Too many folk have gone on. The mountain to me is filled with ghosts. I know this wouldn't be if I drove up there more.

I remember it snowing up there occasionally. We had great hills in our yard for sleds. We had great steep roads for defying death on a sled. Tuckahoe Golf Coarse was a great gathering place for kids on the mountain to ride down on their sleds. Once you got going, the ride went on for a very long time. You'd hear kids screaming and laughing and then after a while all you could hear was the wind and the sound the skids made as they cut through the snow. I had to turn the sled sharp in order to stop short of the barbed wire fence that bordered the tree line. It was so very cold that ride, and a very long walk back up to the crest. My toes felt like ice that particular day, my face was freezing- but the moment was so very awesome.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

thinking back on the season

i remember my home
2624 Scenic Hwy
on the rolling hill
among all those looming pine trees
the big bay window like a beacon lit
filled with a huge live tree inside
being dressed
with lights of different colors
my family pulling ancient ornaments from old boxes
each made and filled with memories of Christmas' past
dad from the chair orchestrating
the children each given tasks
of making the living room ready for the joyful season
the younger ones occasionally study the fireplace
wondering how such a huge fat man
could manage down that chimney stack
once the tree was up and trimmed
the clock started inside each of us
my heart raced for that day
that certain morning
when we all would stand in the hall waiting together
from oldest to youngest
all six of us
behind dad's wheel chair
like cars behind a great locomotive
ready to roll
and chug into the living room
to see what gifts awaited
small hearts racing
giddy giggling small faces
peering forward
for the train to roll together forward
into Christmas day

i've got a secret

Many of you out there might get a real kick out of this. Just picture this eleven year old a couple of decades older and singing about Jesus.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

lest we forget fernwood2night

Martin Mull had a great little late night show back in the 70's. Jim Varney (Earnest Goes To *blank here*). plays a re-occuring talk show guest Virgil Simms.

I see Martin Mull acting on shows here and there from time to time - but his place to me will always be in Fernwood. It was a very lively and funny show.

So who out there remembers Fernwood2night?

Saturday, December 13, 2008


This is one of my all time favorite Christmas stories. Art Carney plays a down and out fellow who receives a very magical Christmas gift. - the kind of gift that can only be found in The Twilight Zone.

Night Of The Meek

Friday, December 12, 2008

Disco Noel

Nothing says Have A Very Annoying Christmas like DISCO NOEL. Back in the years when I was dating Gina, her mother (now my mom in-law)used to keep DISCO NOEL loaded in her 8-Track. Now I never was fan of disco - and even a lesser fan of Christmas Disco.

Poor Mrs. Hale, lost her copy a long time ago and lamented it's absence for Christmas' ever since. About three years ago I went on a quest to find it for her and bought a CD burn of it on Ebay. Now that's love - willing to give her music that will be tormenting me for years to come. Merry Christmas Mrs. Hale.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

the pinto

It's the new 1970 Ford Pinto - a new frisky compact car to compete with the Japanese imports. How is it frisky you ask?

the pinto


Saturday, December 6, 2008

accordubg to Gort

klaatu barada nikto

Hollywood is about to release a remake of the 1951 movie THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. I can guarantee you that even though with all the special effects and big name actors, it's not going to be as good as the original. I going to go see it when it comes out - but I don't have any big expectations. -

I remember the old black and white Zenith sitting in the living room. The Finlayson kids sat around the room riveted to the screen. I was a kid scared out of his pint sized wits. I jumped behind the sofa when Gort's decended the space craft. The creepy sounds as the silver giant opened it's robot laser eyes. I'd seen a lot of 50's horror movies - but this one rattled my little cage. Gort could destroy armies - Gort could defeat America - Gort could destroy worlds. I heard the screams and the cannon fire - I'd peeked around the side of the sofa and it was still standing there. Nothing was going to stop it. I remember that movie. I remember hiding behind the sofa. I didn't want to leave the room. I didn't want to miss the movie - but I was too scared to look. I don't recall another movie ever doing that to me.

Oh Rob!!!!

Van Dyke Show selling product for their show's sponsor - Kent Cigarettes. It's the perfect holiday stocking stuffer. Delicious flavor and clean tobacco taste...your kids will love them.

Friday, December 5, 2008


I guess it's good that I never saw this commerical. I would have wanted one...and then I would have tried to have figured a way for it to shoot fire out of the back like the real batmobile.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

sixty four dollar question

One of my old favorites - BATTLEGROUND (1949). The battle-weary and bitter cold really comes across in this wonderful movie. This movie doesn't glorify war - merely shows men doing what has to be done - between a rock and a hard place.

There's a lesson here in the chaplain's talk with the men that can speak for those today who have ears to listen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Unusual Pairing

This classic reindition was recorded the same year Bing Crosby died. Crosby was in England to record his Christmas Special early and was looking for a young artist to showcase. He had no idea who David Bowie was - but Bing's son knew of him.

David Bowie was asked if he was interested in the gig. Bowie had been a long time fan of Bing Crosby and jumped at the chance. Bing wanted to sing the Little Drummer Boy, but David felt that it didn't showcase his talents - so Peace On Earth was added to the number. The two got together and rehearsed the song for an hour and then nailed it on the third take. The rest is history. It's a wonderful and unusual pairing of talent.

Too bad Bing Crosby didn't live long enough to join David Bowie in his China Girl video. Of course I jest.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

santa clause conquers the martians

This clip is from Cinematic Titanic - the same guys that brought you MSK3k. Santa Claus Conquers The Martian might be the worst Christmas movie ever.

It's offically Christmas Season here in Boomerville, USA. As I post, lights are being hung across Main Street - just outside my window, my dear old pal Jim Thompson is waving to me outside my third story window. How he can stand on the top rung of the ladder I'll never know. He loves Christmas - loves hanging all those lights. God bless him.

Come on down to City Hall tonight - there's free Hot Chocolate for everyone - lighting of the tree. Plenty of Christmas blog posts to put you in the holiday spirit.