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The Wonder Years

Home Made Board Games 

     We used to play a baseball board game that our friend, Jack McCabe had made. A very cool thing. It had a stick with a rubber band on it that you held back, and the fence part had notches, with different types of hits and outs on it. One guy would roll the marble (pitch) and the other would swing (let go of the bat while retracted). Way cool. No video games, yet. Years in the future. It beat the heck out of playing "Old Maid." Solitaire was cool, though. You could cheat at it and have very little consequences. (Just kidding. I never cheated ... much!)


   Monopoly was big, too. I'd be holding out for Boardwalk and Park Place, while my brother kicked my rear with St. Charles Place and Mediterranean Ave. The blue ones, the orange ones. You know, the cheaper ones. I'd be rolling for the pretty and expensive ones, like Marvin Gardens and Pennsylvania Avenue. Meanwhile, he'd be putting houses and hotels on an entire side of the board and den some. You know the rest. I was toast every time. And such was the fate of, "the kid" who loved playing with the older guys.

The Furniture Movers

   My parents had just bought a brand new couch for the living room. The delivery guys showed up when my folks weren't at home, but I WAS! I was gonna surprise Mom and Dad and bring it into the house. If you at look in the picture of me climbing the tree on the previous page, you can barely see the front door behind it. It was a low floor house, with only a couple of standard brick heights as steps. Anyway, my brother picked up his end as I attempted to lift the other end. Needless to say, at my age and size, I was unable to handle it, and that couch got dragged across those entryway bricks. We had it turned at a bit of an angle, to try and get it through the door. The front, bottom cloth part of the couch, that is always exposed to view, was literally "dragged and raked" across those rough- edged bricks, ripping and tearing with each tug and slide of the couch. It absolutely destroyed that new couch. Broke my mom's heart when she came home and found it. Dad was more stoic; he simply refrained from doing what he wanted to do, which is whip our butts. He did find some humor in it, but not right away.

Ham bones at an early age

   Below is a posed picture of me on top of our bunk beds. Check the curled lip, toy cork shooting rifle, baseball cap, two footballs, "piggy" bank, pillow, wind up bear from Yosemite and a navy ship. Also, notice the $0.39 balsa wood, rubber band wind up plane, with wheels that would take off from the street, if you put enough winds in the rubber band so it doubled, or tripled the knots on itself. A very cool thing, indeed. Ultimately, we would break the rubber band going for that one extra wind to get a longer flight.


    During my mid-childhood years, I used to stand beside the piano, listening to "Heart and Soul" on Mom's new Acrosonic spinet piano, as well as some of those 50's doo-wop songs. It made for a lot of music filled afternoons. I watched as songs that we were hearing on the radio, were plunked out. We'd be singing harmony on, "Dream, Dream, Dream" by the Everly Brothers, while we were picking up walnuts or whatever. This was cool, being able to do rock songs because we had learned to sing harmony in church.


     All the Warner Bros. cartoons were big favorites of mine. Daffy, FogHorn Leghorn, Sylvester and Tweetie, Yosemite Sam, Pepe le Pew, Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig. In 1976, while living in Santa Monica Canyon, California, I was going through my CB stage. One day, I was broadcasting and a guy came back to me whose handle was "Bugs Bunny." He said he lived up in the Palisades, across from my home. Later, I found out it was actually Mel Blanc, the voice of all those wonderful cartoon characters, that I was talking to. Talk about a brilliant man that effected multitudes of kids. An entire generation of us. His son, Noel Blanc does the voices now.

   Other afternoons were spent in front of the tv set watching, "The Mickey Mouse Club." Years later, with Three Dog Night after we "reunited" in the early 80's, we played at Disneyland and some of the original Mousketeers were there. Way fun for me

   Another tv standard for me was "American Bandstand," then, still broadcast from Philadelphia, PA. I was almost always sitting on the floor, up close to the tv, (no remotes back then) with a large spoon filled with peanut butter. The spoon was turned upside down for optimum licking technique. Paul Anka, Joey Dee and the Starlighters, Jackie Wilson ... all the teenagers lined up doing "The Stroll" and the ubiquitous, "I'll give it a 98, Dick. It's got a good beat and you can dance to it." All the same things that most American youths were into at the time, but taken just a tad more to heart, perhaps. From 1958-60, The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show was a must, too. The girls in the front row, chewing gum and swaying to the beat of the opening song. Jack Scott's, "My True Love," Jody Stevens', "A big Panama with a Purple Hatband," Paul Anka, Dion and the Belmonts, and others. A big, big favorite of mine were the Everly Brothers. Their songs were on my lips way before I learned to play guitar.

    Speaking of guitar, at age 8 I made my first attempt at making a guitar (see below). It consisted of taking a board (1" x 12"x 36") and cutting two rectangular pieces out of it with a hand saw, leaving a long piece in the middle. Later, I would learn that it was called the neck of the guitar. Rubber bands for strings and nails for tuning pegs. About this time, I was getting the sermons from cousin Andy Crowe, on the merits of rock n roll. Late at night, (9:30 pm) listening to Chuck Berry under the covers on a crystal radio, using wire windings wrapped around a toilet paper roll. A crystal diode for station selection and one earphone from the Army Navy surplus store. I loved to listen to Little Richard, The Platters, Ross Bagdasarian (David Seville & the Chipmunks), Elvis, Gene Vincent, Ray Stevens (Ahab the Arab), Fats Domino, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, The Champs, The Tokens, Eddie Cochran, The Big Bopper, Link Ray, Jackie Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Floyd McPhatter, The Del Vikings, Ritchie Valens, Dion and the Belmonts, Bill Black Combo, Sam Cooke, Johnny Mathis, Conway Twitty, Jerry Butler, Brook Benton, Gene McDaniels, Ketty Lester, Dinah Washington, Patti Page and later, Ricky Nelson, The Kingston Trio, Duane Eddy, Ray Charles, Freddie King, B.B. King, Nat "King" Cole, Lonnie Mack, Tony Mattola, Dionne Warwick, Martha and the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Little Stevie Wonder, The Ventures and most other radio rock groups that came down the pike. A time of dreams. The revelation of a "lifelong calling" was yet to fully reveal itself.


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