Wednesday, May 25, 2011

the last days

Most of you who know me know that I didn't have a pleasant public school experience.  Let me just say that my favorite days of school were always the last days of school.  For the most part, classwork, studying and testing had come to a halt.  We were now all over the hump, just biding our time.

Through out the year, I would glance outside the large steel framed windows every chance I got.  Outside where the grass was green and the sky so blue.  The birds and all God's little creatures were always free but me.  The outside burned with vibrant colors.
The inside was dark, drab and ever bleak.  My soul was in captivity.  I can't tell you how many times I just wanted to slip out that heavy door at the end of the hall and run away.  I could make it home from here.  Sure it would take me an hour or so, but I could get there.  I wanted to be free!

The last days were always my favorite days.  It was a three month reprieve.  Summer meant not being reminded daily of ever trying and ever failing.  Summer meant not having to walk quietly in single file, or fear certain teachers.  What a terrible world.  The last days meant I could go home to friendlier faces.  Home meant freedom, riding my bike with my dog Emma racing beside me.  Disappearing in the woods, climbing rocks, and not think about all my academic shortcomings.

My children are down to their countdown till Summertime.  I am always reminded of those old feelings. 
The last days meant counting down the moments.  The daily tension let up as children were allowed to enjoy a longer recess, more time to draw or play board games on the floor at the back of the classroom.  I usually kept to drawing or looking out the window thinking of that blessed moment.

Usually there was a little party.  A teacher would bring store bought sugar cookies or cupcakes for the children - swallowed down by Hawaiian Punch or Kool-Aid.  I'm sure that school would have been more tolerable if the teachers had done that more often. 
I don't know many kids who liked going to school - I hated it.

I don't know if any other kid felt like I I wished that big clock on the wall would hurry up.  I believe school clocks are made to run slower just to torture you.

Monday, May 23, 2011

badge 417

Jack Webb
Apr. 2, 1920 – Dec. 23, 1982
My dad liked this guy.  The older I get, the more I like him too.  Jack Webb played a straight-laced straight talking gum shoe police Sergeant Joe Friday on the television series Dragnet.  Jack wasn't a 'hip' guy, and that didn't seem to bother him one iota.  Joe was a real good guy.  He and his partner always caught the bad guy, and Friday always had the last word.  Joe Friday was old school and a lot of riff-raff got old schooled by him.

If Joe were around today, I'd don't think he'd be much of a hipster.  He wouldn't be very PC.  He's too honest for that.  Like me, Joe Friday is a black and white guy with very little grey to be seen.  I never heard a Sergeant Joe Friday speech that didn't ring of truth, that wasn't spot on.  Now decades later, Joe's dialogue and style might seem campy and corny - but his sermons on right and wrong are still right on.

"A small role in the film noir classic He Walked by Night
(1948) led to the creation of "Dragnet". During production, Webb befriended a LAPD police consultant assigned to the film and became fascinated with the cases he heard told. He successfully pitched the idea of a radio series to NBC using stories drawn from actual LAPD files. Dragnet first aired over NBC radio on June 3, 1949. There was a time when Dragnet was used as training films at the LAPD Academy.

Jack Webb, the guy that played a cop, was buried with full honors befitting an LAPD detective, including a 17-gun salute.  When Jack died, the badge number 417 was officially retired by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

dusting off old stars

Ours was the first generation to have television.  Here in Gadsden, AL we got our pick of thirteen channels.  The vast wasteland wasn't as vast back in our youth.  There wasn't near as much programing that we have now.

There were no made for television movies, so the old movies that had long since been pulled from the silver screen were broadcast onto our little screen.  We were introduced to the stars of of yesterday.  The stars of our parents became our stars.

Still today I love old movies.  Not many of the films today can measure up to the films of yesterday.  I remember watching  Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan on Saturday mornings, along with Three Stooges and a show called The Funny Men.  The Funny Men was a collection of the old silent movies - Keystone Kops etc.

Most Sundays there would be a showing on one of the channels of Shirley Temple movies.  I think PBS aired those shows, as well as movies from the silent era with Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Loyd.

Every day after school Tom York would host Dialing for Dollars.  It was there that I discovered science fiction and horror movies.  Vincent Price and Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre are some of my favorites from these genres.

Friday nights the Finlayson kids got to stay up late and watch an old classic together on our black and white Zenith.  Mom would pop come popcorn on the stove top for us and we'd be good to go.  I love the old movies, I enjoy seeing those familiar faces still on Turner Classic Movies.  It's my favorite channel.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

what they should taste like

This looks nothing like the one I just went to.  It's just a cool photo.
"Well, where do we eat?"  My sisters Irene and Cindy were with me returning from Birmingham early this afternoon.  Cindy said she wanted to cover our lunch because we were doing her a favor by driving down to the big city to look at a VW bug that's for sell down there.

We decided that Trussville was the best place to stop because of the variety of culinary choices.  Usually when I'm in the area with my wife and kids, we opt for the Milo's across the street from Whataburger.  They really like Milo's.  I'd never eaten at Whataburger, so I mentioned that we try them out instead.  I had seen the restaurant up on the hill on countless occasions, but had never had one.

We decided to dine-in.  I took my first bite and my mind shot back four decades to my youth.  This is the taste of the burgers I used to get at burger joints when I was a kid.  This is the way fast food burgers ought to taste.

Anyone that knows me knows that I am not a fast food hamburger fan.  Fast food burgers are just a means to eat, just forget about taste.  I was pretty impressed with Whataburger.  I had forgotten how fast-food burgers used to taste and wonder why they aren't as good as they ought.  Jacks, McDonald's, Burger King burgers are so mediocre.  The Whataburger is old school goodness.

Now I'm not saying that Whataburger is the greatest thing on earth, but that it's the kind of burger that we should expect from franchises today.  It just took one bite of that sandwich and my mind immediately went back in time.  My mouth experienced a flavor I had not had in years.  Just try it, it will come back to you.

I will be back.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Boy's Life

Boys' Life was my first magazine subscription ever.  It was chock full of cool stuff from cover to cover.  My favorite section in the magazine was always the adventure story.  Reading Boys' Life made me feel more like a Boy Scout as a kid.  That magazine made me proud to be a scout.  I was excited every time I got my issue in the mail.

I wonder if picking up an current issue would still stir one's curiosity and sense of adventure.  The magazine just celebrated it's 100th Anniversary.
  I hope the years haven't changed the basic function of the magazine - stirring that young imagination - encouraging boys to be the best scout they can be.

Friday, May 6, 2011

when good lost it's goodness

John Wayne was the last real movie good guy.  I remember watching my old hero slowly ride into the celluloid sunset, as a young gun-Clint Eastwood, rode into scene from the Italian West.  No more white hats.  After Eastwood there were no more real good guys.  Westerns were changing, and so was our culture.   The movie audience started paying money to watch anti-heroes rather than heroes.  Now this might not have started with Eastwood, but it was when I noticed the shift.

Now I like the anti-hero movies (especially Sergio Leone' movies) but The Good from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly wasn't really a good guy after all.  Let's shoot straight -the man with no name was a fortune hunter.  He wasn't a selfless character.  His motive, like that of The Bad and The Ugly was money.

Don't get me wrong.  I am a big fan of the anti-hero genre, but we lost something.  We lost the goodness in good.  We lost the real good along the way.  I miss it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

more than a star

Bob Hope: May 29, 1903 – July 27, 2003
Indeed, Bob Hope was more than a star.  He served his country with hope and laughter.   As a kid, I loved watching Bob & Bing's road pictures.  I enjoyed all his movies.  I also remember his televised Christmas specials.  It was always great seeing him play-through with a guest appearance on the popular television shows of our day.  He was a funny and lovable guy.  Bob was the king of one-liners.  No, not all of his jokes were funny - but it seems as if even his bombs found there target.  Everyone loved Bob Hope.

"I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful." - Bob Hope

Bob Hope was more than a star.  He was more than a comedian.  He packed his golf clubs and jokes and did countless goodwill tours around the world.  He appeared in or hosted 199 known USO shows down through the years.

"Bob Hope appeared in so many theaters of war over the decades that it was often cracked that "Where there's death, there's Hope"."
In 1996, The United States Congress honored Hope by declaring him the "first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces."   He was a great American - and served his country well.

Monday, May 2, 2011

got a light?

Back in the sixties, my dad had a gas yard light installed next to our house on 2624 Scenic Hwy.  I remember it burning, but remember it not burning most of the time we lived there.  I remember Dad having it fixed, and then it it was broken again.  Maybe it was just to much hassle to keep one burning.  My mother in-law, Mrs. Betty Hale, still has her gas yard lamp post.  I never saw it working.  Ivy vines have taken over the post many years ago.  These kind of lams remind me of another time, when yards everywhere were graced with gas lamp posts.  You can still buy gas lamps - I just wonder how practical they are in these times.