A Friday list submitted for your consideration. Items are counted down in reverse order, a la David Letterman.
Back in the day, before shopping malls had been invented, department stores were located downtown in multi-storied buildings. Elevators, operated by attendants, would ferry shoppers between floors. Somewhere along the line they began installing these devices in stores, and they were way more fun to ride. (Now that I think about it, they really haven’t changed very much over the years.) I think it must have been the adrenaline rush that came when getting on the contraption — I remember being nervous every single time — worried that I’d somehow miss the step and fall. And every time I got on without incident, I would exhale and enjoy the ride and a panoramic view of several levels of the store. Sort of like air travel and take-offs, nowadays.
9. The Sno-Cone truck.
I mean, the flavor selection alone! There must have been at least a dozen to choose from; I liked cherry a lot. That truck always managed to magically appear right when the weather was supremely hot and sticky, and those crushed ice treats never failed to refresh. But the paper cone would always lose its integrity before I finished, and then sticky syrup would leak from the very tip and run down my arm. Oh well, definitely worth the mess.
8. New streamers on my bicycle handlebar grips.
I honestly don’t remember who bought these — me? my parents? my brother? Regardless, when the weather warmed up and we got the bikes out of the garage, I would remove the beat up set and thread the new ones through the little vent on the handlebar grips and take off like the wind. A new set of streamers, just like a new pair of Keds, were always able to set you to flying.
7. Brand new Crayolas.
Enough said, right? The scent, the orderly rows, the pristine tips — I loved everything about them. Favorite color: periwinkle. Least favorite color name: burnt sienna. Least useful color: white. (What was that about? Teachers always handed out white art paper, coloring books were printed on white — a color that is never going to show up is just taking up space…)
6. Family sing-a-longs.
Seems like we used a sing-a-long book so we could follow the lyrics, but no instruments — just voices and improvised harmonies. Beer Barrel Polka, Side by Side, High Hopes, Tennessee Waltz — man, I know a bunch of oldies thanks to our Saturday night song fests. Fun, fun.
5. The Ed Sullivan Show.
I eagerly anticipated the new talent he discovered and featured weekly on his show. I was transfixed by Elvis, but my dad changed the channel. Bummer. Missed the Beatles, too; our TV must have been broken. Bummer, Part Two. I sure heard all about it at school the next day, though.
4. Saturday morning TV.
Howdy Doody, Tom Terrific, Mighty Mouse, The Lone Ranger, Rin-Tin-Tin, Sky King… I’ll bet Mom and Dad loved the children’s programming even more than we did; it meant they could sleep in until 10:00 or so.
3. Drive-in movies.
I would be in seventh heaven when Dad came home and said we were going to the drive-in. Mom would pack a picnic basket so we could eat during the show. We’d also throw in blankets and pillows so us kids could sack out whenever we started to get sleepy. Wouldn’t wake up until Dad started the car when the credits started rolling at the end of the show. Best ever drive-in movie night was a double feature: The Nutty Professor, with Fred McMurray, along with Don’t Eat the Daisies, with Doris Day, I believe.
2. Road trips.
Shorter day trips or extended vacations — didn’t matter; both were wonderful. Piling into the car and heading out on the open road, especially if it meant driving through the countryside and getting to see real live cows, was high adventure. Best of all was when Dad would speed up just before going over a small hill, so we kids could feel our “stomachs in our throats,” as we liked to call it.
1. Sitting in my dad’s lap.
As I thought about the one thing I experienced in childhood that gave me the best feeling of all, I was surprised to realize it was something as simple as that. But the reality is: there wasn’t an amusement park ride, a holiday tradition, a game, a toy, or activity that could match the feeling I got whenever my dad would invite me to sit in his lap. We had a generously proportioned upholstered maple rocker with wide arms, just perfect for dads and laps and kids. I would nestle into the crook of his arm, lay my head on his chest and bliss out. A lot of times we’d both end up falling asleep. Then I invariably woke up first and stayed very still while trying to figure out how to get up without waking him. Eventually, I’d slither out from under his arm without disturbing him too much and merrily scamper off to play, my little tank filled up.