October 31, 2020

Halloween 1970: Fifty Years Ago


Fifty years ago I was a lion for Halloween.

FIFTY YEARS AGO! That's amazing to me. What's equally amazing is that I remember--I think, anyway--going with my mother to the Woolworth's at North DeKalb Mall and buying this costume. Or do I just remember her bringing it home to me? I'm not sure. I have a very vague memory of the yellow Volkswagen Beetle we had then ("we" I write, as if I sometimes drove it), and bringing in a shopping bag containing a box containing this costume.

And this is what Halloween costumes looked like in 1970: a plastic mask you put over your face with an elastic band, doing your best to align your eyes with the imperfectly-placed eyeholes, and a thin plastic (vinyl? I'm not sure what it was actually made of) one-piece suit that was an appropriate color for whatever you were supposed to be, that had a picture representing what you were supposed to be on the chest. Costumes like this didn't so much make you look like the thing you were supposed to be as make you look like someone wearing some kind of weird advertisement for the thing you were supposed to be.

The first picture was taken in the basement ("fellowship hall"? I'm not sure what it was actually called.) of the old Ingleside Presbyterian Church in Scottdale. Back in the 1970s, Ingleside used to have Halloween gatherings every year (though I suspect they were on a Friday or Saturday night, not necessarily on the actual date of Halloween); there's a picture I'd love to post but which I can't find, taken at Ingleside the year my brother Jeff dressed up in a fantastic Cookie Monster outfit Mom made for him.

The second picture was taken at our house in Clarkston, the living room of which apparently had a floral motif. I don't know if the Trick or Treat bag I'm holding is in an empty pre-trick-or-treating state or is full of candy. I'm not sure if I actually went trick or treating in our neighborhood or not; I have no memory of it. It's possible that the second picture above was actually taken before the first one.

Another amazing thing is thinking about how different the country, and my world, were when these pictures were taken. The Vietnam War was still going on; Nixon was still in his first term as president; the Watergate scandal was still a couple of years in the future, and the first moon landing was less than a year and a half in the past. Dad still had another week as a twenty-five-year-old, and Mom wouldn't turn twenty-five for another year. All of my grandparents were still alive, and several of my cousins had yet to be born. First grade for me was still nearly three whole years away.

April 02, 2020

Nearly Everything That Was Wonderful About My Youth

This picture, from one of our family vacations to Florida around (I'm guessing) 1978, illustrates nearly everything that was wonderful about my youth:

First of all, we're in Florida, and among my most treasured memories are those of our annual family vacations. And, as you can see, Jeff and I are playing miniature golf--you probably can't read it, but the oval sign at the left edge of the frame says, "No. 9  - Woolly Mammoth - Par 2." Was there, for a young boy in the 1970s, any place cooler than a miniature golf course with statues of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures and monsters of various kinds? (The answer is No, no place cooler--though admittedly quite a few places equally cool; many of them also happened to be in Florida.)

If you look closely, you can see that Jeff and I are wearing Star Trek and Star Wars shirts. Jeff's shirt has a picture of Chewbacca on it; mine features the star ship Enterprise. There was nothing more wonderful back then, nothing more wonder-filled and pure, than the love of an eight or ten or twelve year old boy for Star Trek and Star Wars. (Equally wonderful, though, I will admit, was the obsession we had back then for the collection of Micronauts and Shogun warriors that we were amassing at home...but that's another story.)

Most important, though, is the fact that somebody took this picture. Somebody cared enough to preserve this moment on film so that more than forty years after the fact I can appreciate it. Somebody loved us enough to have bought us Star Trek and Star Wars shirts, enough to take us to Florida, enough to pay our admission to the miniature golf place.

And that is the most wonderful thing of all.

March 26, 2020

Decorated Cakes

It's a pretty wonderful thing to be a kid in the mid-1970s with a mother who can make cakes like this:

(As I write this, Easter 2020 is less than three weeks away, though the wisdom of the usual Easter festivities right now seems in doubt, given the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing and stay-at-home orders with which we've been living for the past couple of weeks. Maybe I can convince Anna and the girls to recreate the above cake for us this year anyway.)

Mom took a cake decorating class sometime around (I'm guessing) 1975, I think at Sears of all places. Maybe it wasn't Sears; that doesn't matter, what matters is that I remember being amazed that my mother could make these beautiful cakes, which in my memory she was doing almost constantly, for every occasion, such as the one above, which must have been an Easter cake, probably around 1976, and this one:

If you can't tell, it's a Scooby-Doo cake, and must have been for Jeff's birthday, which apparently we celebrated (at least in part) at my grandmother's house in Tucker (where this picture was taken). (And oh how I wish I could remove my ridiculous grinning self from this picture, but I don't want to misrepresent my past, and plus also I remember the navy winter coat I'm wearing here, with its fur-lined hood, with an indefensible fondness. One year I wore it as my Trick-or-Treating costume; I zipped it all the way up and said I was an Eskimo. But I digress...)

Until I found the picture below, I remembered this one as a Scooby-Doo cake; I must have been conflating it in my mind with the one above. I remember Mom meticulously decorating Yogi Bear with frosting stars applied with a piping bag and tip:

I'm happy that my children continue the baking tradition. In fact, after I click Publish on this post, I'm going to eat a piece of the Oeey-Gooey Butter Cake that Elyse made for us tonight. It's not decorated, but I'm excited about it nonetheless.