Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best Toys Ever!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Like many of you, I grew up without all the electronic gadgets of today. We made our own fun and if it was raining and we had to “stay in and watch TV”, it was like a punishment! Usually, I left the house right after wolfing down a bowl of cereal and didn’t come back till the street lights came on!

We didn’t need electronic gadgets to paint the picture for us. We had something even better; our imaginations! I remember one of the best toys I ever had. No one bought it for me; I went out in the woods and got it myself! It was a stick!

Sometimes my stick was a rifle as I rode the range out in the old West; sometimes it was the horse! It was a walking stick and a fancy cane and when I was done being a cowboy it made a neat baseball bat!

We played tag, 123 red light, red rover and the ever popular Simon says; no assembly required on any of those!

There were so many toys that required little or no money such as the coffee can for a spirited game of kick the can! You could usually get the whole neighborhood involved in that one, even the adults!

I would practice for hours with my 25 cent Duncan Yo Yo, “walkin’ the dog”, “rockin’ the baby in the cradle”, “loopin the loop” and of course “around the world”;  Didn’t even need friends to play that one.

Hop Scotch was pretty inexpensive, a piece of chalk and a flat rock and hours of fun and good exercise, don’t think I could get past two today!

Marbles could keep us occupied for hours or until someone said they were playing for “keeps” and then changed their mind after they lost.

I can remember playing “stoop ball” for hours on end, against an imaginary opponent! Still undefeated to this day and kind of amazing how that imaginary person never got tired of losing!

If you were fortunate enough to live near water, a rock was useful to throw into the water and then dive in and find it!

Tossing trading cards to see who could get closest to the wall was fun. Trading cards were inexpensive; you got four plus a stick of gum for just a nickel. They had baseball cards, football cards and I remember collecting the westerns cards! Gunslingers and all the cowboys from our favorite television westerns! Marshal Dillon from Gunsmoke, Wyatt Earp, Sugarfoot, you had to be careful and be sure you were tossing cards of equal value! Wouldn’t want to lose a Paladin to someone tossing a Chester from Gunsmoke!

The girls played a lot of jump rope as well as Jacks! No self respecting boy would be seen playing those! Unless of course there was no other boy around to see him, then it was okay and if you got caught “I’m baby sitting her” was usually a good out!

Kick ball was another good one that could be played inexpensively and even the younger kids could compete. Bases were usually things like a fence post, the neighbor’s car, a tree, or whatever was near where we needed a base!

In those crazy, exhausting, carefree summer days only two things could ruin our fun; rain and street lights!

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Friday, December 14, 2012

A Very Special Christmas!

By Pete Frecchio, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Originally published June 18, 2012...because now this one fits the holidays to a t!

I was lucky that Santa thought enough of me to bring me nearly everything I wanted. That’s just part of my fond memories of Christmas time during my youth. Reflecting on those Christmas memories today I now realize my parents had to make many sacrifices to make sure that my sister and I had a very special Christmas. 

A particularly special memory is from the Christmas of 1970. My mom, sister and I lived in Tempe, Arizona. At ten years old and no longer believing in Santa Claus, Christmas was still a very magical time of year for me. I was looking forward to seeing two big items I wanted by the tree on Christmas morning: My own stereo and a Sears multi-colored three-speed bike. My old bike was purchased at a police auction three years prior and my sister didn’t like it when I tried to use her mono RCA phonograph. 

My dream stereo, a gold General Electric record player with two attached speakers, was at the local TG&Y variety store. After school or when shopping with my mom I’d stop by the store to look at the grooviest music machine I had ever seen. I kept the issue of getting my own stereo on the front burner, though my mom never seemed too excited when l showed her the stereo. That worried me. 

And the 3-speed stingray bike I wanted? It was in the 1970 Sears Christmas Wish Book. It had a boss looking chrome gearshift and small front tire that made it look really cool!  The paint job was a combination of metallic yellow, orange and red! And to make it COMPLETELY cool, the bike had a black imitation leather banana seat and chrome sissy bar just like Peter Fonda’s chopper did in Easy Rider!

My folks were divorced; I knew that if my mom bought the stereo, I’d have to work on my Dad in Michigan to get me the “street machine.”  In my Christmas letter to dad I included the page from the Sears catalog featuring the bike. 

As the big day drew near I wasn’t completely convinced that I would get either of the items on my wish list, but the odds were more likely that my dad would come though with the bike.  Money was a bit tight and my mom had other financial obligations to think about. Would this be the best Christmas ever? Time would tell.

When Christmas morning 1970 came, I was not disappointed. 

There, in our living room, next to our aluminum Christmas tree, was a stereo and a “street machine.”  And, an added bonus, Meet The Beatles and Let It Be LPs!! 

I couldn’t wait to call my dad and tell him how groovy my new bike was. Being that we lived in a mild climate I was able to head out the front door immediately and show off my new bike to the neighborhood.

We can't promise everything on your wish lists, however, we do have some pretty darn GRoovy hand tie-dyed t-shirts! Also GRoove with us at our website, on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Life in Trees.

By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team member

Not talking about swinging from limb to limb. We had a giant pine tree in the background however; the lowest branches were too high to even think about climbing in, thanks to my dad sawing off the lower branches! I did climb a tree a few times in a friend’s yard though.

We’re talking about Christmas trees!

I vaguely remember an artificial tree that was white when I was really young. It had lots of shiny ornaments on it in yellow and red, with a few green glass balls and lots of blue! 

And the blue theme continued outside; in the front yard the small pine tree (maybe about eight feet high) was adorned with big blue bulbs. Yes, only blue, and the larger bulbs that were seven watts each. Hey, electricity was cheap! To bring a little more punch, 2 red wreaths with a sole red bulb were hanging in the two bay windows in front of the house. 

Sure, most homes decorated with a lot more color than we did!

Our family later graduated to an artificial tree in green. It was fun putting it together with the color coding on the tip of the metal rods. First we’d sort them by color and then go to town putting them into the poll. That tree wound up moving with me a few times and I lost it during a move. I may have given it away too.

When I reached adulthood, I had to try out having a real tree. I was really bad at watering it and pine needles were everywhere! At the time I on a tinsel kick, however, I gave that up when I realized that my dog was pulling tinsel off the lower branches, eating it, and then gracefully throwing it up. Ick.

A few years later I started discovering all things mid-century modern. Never mind that my house was Victorian! I started buying color wheels at garage sales for around $3 each. My first aluminum tree was $1. It is three feet tall and was in the original box with thin paper tubes protecting most of the branches. I happily (and stupidly) strung lights on it the first couple years I used it until someone told me that was dangerous! 

Then I hit the mother lode; a six foot high aluminum tree for $15! It even came with swanky turquoise tassels with gold trim (which I have never used on the tree!). 

Each year they are taken out of the box and assembled more aluminum falls off. Both are looking a bit shabby nowadays and were last used in 2010. 

About ten years ago I bought a three foot high light green tree; pre lit. That one goes into use as an accent tree nowadays, usually in the dining room.

2011 called for a change. Found a website where trees come in all colors and sizes! Debating on a color was hard; my brain kept saying “be practical and go for green or white”. While really digging the purple, then thinking that was too extreme, I settled on orange and haven’t looked back. 

Three pieces, pre-lit, (even the wiring is orange to match) ten minutes and it is up! Lots of colors look terrific on it! So there you have it; a new tradition.

Next year? Who knows? Maybe I’ll drag out the aluminum trees once again. Stay tuned.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Oh! Christmas Tree!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member                         

The Christmas Tree: Green, pretty lights, Santa puts gifts under them, pretty simple; you’d think, see one you’ve seen them all. Wrong!

Growing up we always had a fairly traditional tree, tall, spaces between the branches for hanging ornaments with the old 5 watt bulb lights. Mother used to put aluminum foil around the base of the bulb so it wouldn’t touch the tree and possibly start a fire.

Of course there’s the tree topper: Angel or star? Tough decision; it was always star growing up but since starting my own family it’s been both depending on my wife’s mood.

Mother would spend some time at the Christmas tree place to pick out just the right tree, no bare spots, and must reach to almost the ceiling! Then when it was set up and the lights strung we kids would get to help decorate; mother would hand us the ornaments and help direct us as to where to put them.

Then came those aluminum trees with the color wheels. Some of the trees were even different colors, like pink or orange etc, lots of folks seemed to like them. I did not! Got to have a traditional green tree with multi colored lights.

In 1967 I was working part time after school, making a dollar an hour bagging groceries, and one day Mom said she wanted an artificial tree. All I could think of was those silver aluminum ones! So I said okay, but I’ll pick it out! She said, if you pick it out, you pay for it. That’s how one July day in 1967 we went to a Christmas store and I spent $120 on an artificial tree. That was a lot of money but it looked great, just a real hassle to assemble; each branch is color coded and you insert them one at a time from the bottom up!

After getting married and having children of my own, we’ve had lots of different types of trees. For a long time we had to have a natural tree, in October we’d go “tag” a tree at the Christmas tree farm, then go back and cut it down the day after Thanksgiving. We had some ornaments from my family and hers along with new ones purchased over the years. One year we even had the “country” tree complete with popcorn and cranberries strung as garland, and hand made ornaments from the kids.

Now we have an artificial tree. It comes in three sections, is pre-lit, and takes all of ten minutes to set it up. Not the natural tree that I’d prefer but I must admit to having gotten older, and I like the easier part and at least it looks real!

Growing up, we put ours up one week before Christmas and it stayed up until January 2nd. Now I like to start the season early and begin feeling the Christmas spirit so it goes up the day after Thanksgiving and it comes down sometime around New Years. The advantage of the artificial tree; they last longer!

My wife does the tree trimming. She is into the whole Victorian look, to match our home, and I must admit she does a great job! And that 1967 tree? I set that up on the front porch and it still looks great!

Real or artificial; green or silver; star or angel; blinking lights or not; set up early or close to the day! Makes no difference. one of the great things about traditions, everyone has their own and there is no right or wrong.

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