Thursday, February 28, 2013

Alligator Purse

Besides the singing circle games on the 1930s playground, we also jumped rope. That did require equipment – a long length of clothesline -- and the big girl who owned one got to be pretty bossy.  She chose the big girl to turn the other end, started the chants and chose the first jumper.  The routine I remember best went something like this:
I had a little BROTHER and his name was JIM
I put him in the BATHTUB, to LEARN him how to SWIM,
He DRANK all the WATER,  he ATE all the SOAP,
He DIED that NIGHT with a BUBBLE in his THROAT.  (What do you suppose Freud would have made of that?)  Then the girl playing Jim, already skipping inside the rope, was joined by daring others, all intent on not tripping the moving ropes --
IN came the DOCTOR, IN came the NURSE
and the line that still haunts me –
IN came the LADY with the ALLIGATOR PURSE
--after which OUT went the DOCTOR and the others one by one, ending with a triumphant
Out goes..Y..O..U!

Some of the challenges for the girl skipping inside the rope are listed in another chant—
TEDdy bear, TEDdy bear, turn aROUND,
TEDdy bear, TEDdy bear, touch the GROUND 
A lot more skill was needed for an advanced version known as Double Dutch, which I’m amazed to learn survives to this day in some places as a varsity sport.  We didn’t get to try that often, because it required two long clotheslines, which were turned in opposite directions.  But a few of the verses linger –
Oh dutch, double dutch, Mother’s got a baby,
Oh joy, it’s a boy, Daddy’s nearly crazy,
Wrap him up in tissue paper…” 
I'm afraid I don't remember what happened to him after that.
So what I want to know is, were those still out there when you were in school?  Are your daughters, grand-daughters playing jumprope today?  Do they even know what a clothesline is?



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Up Like Thunder

Made a mistake the other day (big deal – some days I can make as many as four mistakes before breakfast) but at any rate – Set the cell phone alarm for an early evening tv show I wanted to watch, and evidently hit am instead of pm.  So it obediently woke me at the crack of dawn.  I struggled up angry, then glanced out the window, and –
I’ve been looking out that window just about every morning since 1954, and never before seen a sunrise like that.  The sky was a huge heavy red over most of our backyard and those on either side.  I considered the word “aflame” but this wasn’t fiery -- flames are a more delicate orange or even yellowish red.  And this was none of your rosy-fingered dawn either.  The phrase that came to mind was Kipling’s -- this Dawn Came Up Like Thunder.
Which reminds me – what ever became of the “On the Road to Mandalay”?  When I was a girl, the song was all over the radio.  Now I haven’t heard it in years.  It’s not even that easy to find on youtube, either.  I kept running in to stuff about Burma during World War II.   But finally I turned up three performances, and Don Ameche (who had a wonderful voice himself,btw)  introducing it as “one of the best loved songs in American music.”   Frank Sinatra’s version doesn’t count -- he wasn’t even there in those days.  If you’re interested, let me recommend Nelson Eddy, star of all those great movie operettas,, or you can try Laurence Tibbett of the Metropolitan Opera: .

Trust me, you’ll be humming it all day.  It’s rousing!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Lonely Cheese

          In the 1930s, was it only in New England that little girls played singing games in the playground?  Does anyone else who was a little girl in the 1930s remember?  For that matter, does anyone else who was a little girl in the 1930s even read this?  And I wonder  -- do little girls still play singing games at recess, or are they all just standing out there sending texts and tweets?
We did not have “Duck duck goose” in those days, and we did not have boys involved, except sometimes at birthday parties, when we sang about London Bridge and ducked under linked arms to avoid being trapped.  I seem to remember some sort of tug of war involved at the end?
But in school, at recess, a few bossy girls would organize the rest of us into circles to act out what I now recognize as age-old songs and chants.  Verses I haven’t heard since the 1930s still linger –
“LITTle Sally SAUcer, SITTing in a CORner” --the first girl, crouching just inside the circle, rubs her eyes. The next line is lost but after that comes the moment I always liked-- “RISE up, SALLy, WIPE away your TEARS” at which she starts promenading the inside of the ring.  “LOOK to the EAST and LOOK to the WEST and LOOK to the VERy one that YOU love BEST.”  Big suspense, until Sally stops in front of some lucky child who then becomes the next Sally and we start all over again.
We had more elaborate steps, which I now forget, to  “Go in and out the Window”, which betrays its old-world origin in the line “Now follow me to London (as we have done before.”)  I’ll bet it’s on Youtube—hang on.  Yes, the search brings up an ad for Pella Windows, but then a cartoon version with exactly the tune I remember.  It includes the line about London, but leaves out the last line, which came back to me as I watched – “Now go and choose another.”
So many of these games involved choosing the next lucky person. There was always the dread of not being chosen.  Or with “The Farmer in the Dell” the threat of being the very last choice, when “The Rat takes the Cheese”.  I forget where the others would have been crowded together – the Farmer, the Wife, the Child and all the rest, but what heartache there is in the last verse -- and to make it even worse, everyone else is so happy:
 “The Cheese stands alone,
                                           The Cheese stands alone,
                                           Heigh-ho the merrie-o—
                                           The Cheese stands alone.” 



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pigeons to the Flag

Pledge of Allegiance reports are in from granddaughters in Vancouver.  They did not pledge to the Canadian Flag in school.   One does not know the U. S. Pledge, the other does only “...because it's in a Ramona Quimby book, where she mistakes the first line for 'I lead the pigeons to the flag'."
And this from people who have been registered from birth as dual citizens, entitled to carry two passports!  Depending on the provisions of the new Immigration Bill, I can see them flunking a quiz at the border some day.

Years ago I attended a conference in San Diego and at the start of the Saturday night banquet, we stood to pledge allegiance to The Flag – after which we turned toward the other end of the head table and pledged allegiance to the Flag of Texas.
  And a lot of people in that room knew it.  I wonder if that’s the only state with its own Pledge?


Monday, February 18, 2013

Changing Allegiance

           It’s quite a while since I’ve had lunch with an organization that begins by standing for a Pledge to the Flag.  After that, the singing of “America the Beautiful” and a tactfully inter-denominational Grace, we had a good meal and good conversation.  At one point I directed my remark to the woman on my right, the one with the most grey hair,
“Well, the Pledge has certainly changed over the years.”  Yes,  she said, she remembered it  before “under God” was added in the Eisenhower years.
“And what about that Hitler Salute?” I asked.
 Blank stare.  She wasn’t as old as I thought.  Nobody at the table was old enough.  No one else remembered.  But when I had said The Pledge just a few minutes before, my  muscles automatically tightened on that sixth word, “I pledge allegiance to the FLAG…”  and my right arm almost shot out, the way we were taught as children.
          It wasn’t until the late 1930s that school districts became uncomfortable with what had become that Heil Salute, and not until 1942, months after Pearl Harbor, that Congress officially retired it.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Researching on eBay, I find that if you want your very own Little Orphan Annie decoder badge like the one I got for a reasonable facsimile of an Ovaltine label and a three-cent stamp, it’ll cost you anywhere from $26  to $116.  Of course three cents was worth a lot more in 1935. 

Results of family survey on the Pledge of Allegiance –

Midwesterner emails that they started Pledge and National Anthem every day after 9/11.  Says he and a few classmates would not stand for it.  Does not say why. Upstate New Yorker says she would not stand for the pledge because she was a Fabian Socialist (whatever that was).  I did not hear from any Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Teacher in an inner-city junior high (also Midwest) says one salutes the intercom, but only on alternate days during Student Resource Time, and only if the front office has remembered to broadcast the Pledge. Says there are flags in some classrooms, but although she asked for a flag three or four times, nobody ever did get around to supplying one. “I'd have brought my own in, but the only flag in the house happened to be the Union Jack.”

My own memory of the 1930s is the Pledge every morning (complete with that Hitler salute), followed by – and was this only in the Boston area? – recitation of the Lord’s Prayer (King James version) and Teacher’s reading of a Psalm.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Who Could It Be?

Just remembered an earlier example of media interaction, though I still maintain we didn’t even have that word in the 1930s.  Every weekday afternoon I listened on the kitchen radio--yes, Depression or no, we had TWO radios: next to Daddy’s Chair in the livingroom a big furniture-sized Philco, present from the Rich Uncle who had the furniture store, and also a little radio in the kitchen.
So every afternoon I listened to Jack Armstrong, the all-American Boy, sponsored if I remember right by Wheaties, the Breakfast of Champions.  Or was it by Ralston?  Jane and Jimmie too say it’s best for you, Ralston Cereal can’t be beat.”  And to Little Orphan Annie—“Who’s the little chatterbox?  The one with pretty auburn locks?  Who could it be?  It’s Little Orphan Annie.”  And YES! -- I just looked, the song is on Youtube.  Of course.
Annie was definitely sponsored by Ovaltine.
And at the end of the program came the secret message, which you could solve if you had a Little Orphan Annie secret decoder pin. Only rich people could afford to buy Ovaltine, but you could also get the decoder if you sent in a “reasonable facsimile” of the label (I  remember relishing those two four-syllable words), so that’s what I did--took  pencil and paper down to the A and P and made a copy.
And like Ralphie, I turned that inner wheel to line up the letters and numbers, and  was disappointed by some really dumb messages. But you’ve got to admit, it was a pioneering attempt at interactivity.   

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Niece tells me that chopping expired cereals into bird food is an good example of upcycling.  New words for new worlds, I guess.

You take the word interactive.  I’m pretty sure I was grown-up before I first heard that term.  Maybe it had something to do with a kids’ tv show -- you sent for a plastic sheet to stick  on your tv screen, and then maybe there were crayons involved,  perhaps to achieve a primitive form of color tv?  An early first attempt at interactivity?  Does that ring a bell with anyone?

When I learned what upcycling is, I realized a new word isn’t really needed at all.  In the real estate world the process has been known for some time as adaptive re-use.  If you've ever seen Union Station in Washington D.C., it's a fine example.
What I did the other day was simply effect the adaptive re-use of organic gluten-free yuppie corn flakes.  


Sunday, February 10, 2013

It Stopped Snowing

Three 40-pound bags of birdseed are in the trunk of the car in the garage, but no way of getting them through all that snow out to the feeder.  I waited just a couple of hours too long.  So I decided to see what was in the dry-cereal/crackers cupboard above the stove, which I haven’t touched since Norm died.  (There’s another blog post in that, but anyhow --)

It was an interesting collection, way back to the corn flakes Norm liked, then all the politically correct stuff the kids bought while he was in the hospital and since then, organic, gluten-free, don't ask -- plus one Frosted Flakes that some grandchild must have sneaked in when nobody was looking.  Every bit of it past expiration date.
So I mashed it all up in a blender, went out in the storm ALL BY MYSELF and filled the tube feeder.  Not sure the birds are crazy about it – there’s still a lot left this morning when the SUN IS SHINING.  But that’s their problem.   




Saturday, February 9, 2013

Isolated Snowbound Old Lady

Storm Nemo Report
One way of looking at this:  old lady lives alone, snow-bound and isolated, all her children and grandchildren hundreds or even thousands of miles away.  Scary situation, and lonely.  It’s past noon and she hasn’t even got dressed yet.  Unhealthy.
Or: let’s look at it this way: it’s past noon and I haven’t even got dressed yet because I made the mistake of coming out to sit down at the computer.  Skyped with grandchild in the Midwest, who is doing extremely well indeed, caught up on all fronts – satisfying work, good health, good spirits, good cat, everything a grandmother could wish.
Then before I had time to go and get dressed (which I’m beginning to think may be unnecessary anyhow) skype from Manhattan with daughter, rest of her family still asleep so nice long uninterrupted chat complete with cameras out our windows to compare snowfalls.
Then before I had time to go and dress (which I’ve just decided is definitely out of the question for today and maybe for tomorrow – it’s still snowing) skype from friend in California whose five-year-old got on and started quizzing me with flash cards (well, okay, with an new app) to see if I could identify birds from pictures and bird calls.
After which friend showed me how to use skype to view each other’s power-point presentations.  Mine’s on Jane Austen, his is on declining newspaper revenue from classified advertising.  Depressing to see the point at which the blue line on that last chart goes below zero and that’s the end of newspapers.
This is the same friend – if you were reading this blog last October – who told me not to bother showing his little boys how newspapers carry my picture at the head of the column because his kids don’t even know what newspapers are.

So if I ever break down and buy a notebook computer (or I guess these days it's a tablet) you'll read:
"Isolated snowbound old lady never even needs to get out of bed at all."  Definitely unhealthy.

Still Snowing This Morning

When I look out it's pure white, but the camera sees so much more blue than it did yesterday...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Post About Post Office

             In 1944, if I remember right, I’d hurry back to my dorm between classes to see what had arrived in the morning mail.  So there must have been an afternoon mail also – and this in wartime with the whole country mobilized, zero unemployment and a tremendous labor shortage.
An envelope like this one, with its triumphant FREE! Instead of a stamp, saved the just-drafted 18-year-old soldier three cents.  That’s not to be sneezed at, actually.  I had a part-time job, that year, for 43 cents an hour, minimum wage.  Figure it for yourself – the 3-cent stamp was a lot more expensive than today’s 45-cent stamp as a fraction of current minimum wages.
In 1944, of course, soldiers did not make minimum wage.  Maybe the figure had been raised by then, but at the start of the war I remember the words of a song about the Army that boasted “Twenty-One Dollars a Day! – Once a Month.”
Do today’s soldiers get to frank envelopes for free postage?  Or – never mind – do today’s soldiers even know what an envelope is?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Aging Puzzle--ears

It’s a lot easier to find material now that I’ve decided to devote every other post to a report about Getting Old.  Today’s isn’t so much a whine as a puzzle.  Looking for some income tax papers, I just  came across last year’s mis-filed hearing test.  Fine,  I’ve been wanting to compare it with the one I took last week. 
In the Pure Tone test, the new chart looks just about identical to last year’s.  Nothing lost.  Right ear still better than the left.  Same low notes still test better than same high ones, at about the same levels.    So here’s the puzzle:  On Word Recognition (You.. will.. say .. “base..ball”) last year I recognized 92% of the words with the right ear, 72% with the left.  This year it’s 56 and 52.  No wonder I miss the joke when everyone else is chuckling.  But I wish I’d thought to discuss that with the doctor.  If I still hear the same sounds, why don’t I get the same words? 
My own suspicion:  it’s not the ears, it’s the brain.  Which does, come to think of it, seem to be lazing off in other areas.
Any ideas?

Friday, February 1, 2013

News Flash on the Organic Front

As you know (if you've been reading this blog) I was bemused when I saw that Trader Joe's carries something known as "Organic Maple Syrup."   And yesterday I discovered that Wegman's offers it also.  What's the world coming to?  How can a product made up entirely of boiled-down sap from the maple tree -- "Pure" Maple Syrup -- be anything but organic?  Avi tells me he and Dannette once saw "Estate Maple Syrup" offered for sale. 
                     How yuppie can you get?