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Roller Skates

‘Rinkmania’ was all the craze in Victorian England

January 4, 2022

There are days in history on which an invention so novel arrives, that it becomes all the rage – at least for a time.

An early ‘concept’ of a roller skate as well as a quite humorous interpretation.

One such invention was the four wheeled roller-skate, patented on January 4, 1863 by American James Plimpton.

Unlike an ice skate, the wheeled variety did not require a flat frozen surface and could be enjoyed in a variety of settings.

During the late 1800’s, it also was the catalyst for a ‘sexual revolution’ of sorts.

The roller skates story begins in 1743 when a pair was used in the theatre in Great Britain. John Joseph Merlin patented his version of the skate in 1760. But they were difficult to steer and, because there was no braking system, stopping at will was problematic.

It was Plimpton’s 1863 design which proved to be commercially successful. The Infallible Wikipedia informs us that Plimpton invented what was known as a rocking skate:

“… (He) used a four-wheel configuration for stability, and independent axles that turned by pressing to one side of the skate or the other when the skater wants to create an edge. This was a vast improvement on the Merlin design, one that was easier to use and drove the huge popularity of roller skating, dubbed ‘rinkomania’ in the 1860s and 1870s, which spread to Europe and around the world, and continued through the 1930s. The Plimpton skate is still used today.

1950’s era roller skaters

Eventually, roller skating evolved from just a pastime to a competitive sport; speed skating, racing on skates, and inline figure skating, very similar to what can be seen in the Olympics on ice. In the mid 1990s roller hockey, played with a ball rather than a puck, became so popular that it even made an appearance in the Olympics in 1992. The National Sporting Goods Association statistics showed, from a 1999 study, that 2.5 million people played roller hockey. Roller skating was considered for the 2012 Summer Olympics but has never become an Olympic event. Other roller skating sports include jam skating and roller derby.

Roller skating popularity exploded during the disco era but tapered off in the 1980s and 1990s. Sales of roller skates increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as people sought safe outdoor activities.

Roller skating saw a revival in the late 2010s and early 2020s, spurred on by a number of viral videos on the popular video sharing app TikTok. Many popular brands sold out to the point of back-order, with many people taking up the hobby during COVID-19 quarantines across the globe.”

One aspect of the roller skates history which intrigued was the claim that it inspired a sexual revolution back in the 1860’s.  This is attributable to the stodgy Victorian moral codes of the day in Great Britain.

I’m not quite sure what the heck was going on here… but everything about this photo is intriguing!

According to one article, the skating rink proved to be the one place where romantically inclined young Brit’s could meet other young people.

“By the mid-1870s, a craze for indoor rollerskating had come to Britain, with 50 rinks in place in London at one point. The press dubbed the phenomenon ‘rinkomania’, but the healthy exercise that Plimpton had boasted of was not all that attracted the young ‘rinkers’.

‘The skating rink is the neutral ground on which the sexes may meet,’ reported Australia’s Port Macquarie News of goings-on in London and elsewhere, ‘without all the pomp and circumstances of society. The rink knows no Mother Grundy, with her eagle eye and sharp tongue, for Mother Grundy dare not trust herself on skates, and so the rinker is happier than the horseman of whom Horace sang.’

Holding hands and whispering sweet nothings became easier without Mother Grundy – a contemporary term for a stern matriarch – and her ilk tagging along. Prolonged eye contact with one’s intended replaced stolen glances.”

Skating rinks were also built all across the United States and remained wildly popular for one hundred years. In the late 1990’s and into the early part of the 21st Century, many were shuttered.

1960’s era metal roller skates. Very adjustable, you could make them fit your tennis shoes exactly.

But thanks to the global pandemic of 2020, roller skating has emerged as a great way to get exercise. Roller rinks are seeing a revival in popularity.

I must admit that when I came across this topic, it produced nostalgia. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve been out roller skating. A fear of falling and breaking something keeps me from pursuing this particular activity.

But as a child, I was fearless. In fact, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t roller skate. It was in 1966 when my parents did a home remodel and our carport was converted to a family room. The driveway was relocated and became a large, flat expanse of concrete. It was perfect for a child with a pair of all metal roller skates which attached to her shoes. I spent many hours in the driveway skating around. No doubt I skinned my knees dozens, if not hundreds, of times. But I was undaunted.

When the weather turned inclement I’d sometimes get to go to my Aunt’s house a couple blocks away and skate in circles around their basement.

The current exterior of Yakima’s Skateland

But the holy grail of experiences was on the days when I got to go to Skateland, Yakima’s very own roller rink. I loved everything about Skateland. How it smelled. The wood cubbies where one stored their shoes and coat. The flashing lights suspended over the rink. The planked floor with numbers painted on it for when they had a contest. The sound of hundreds of wheels rolling across it. The impossibly loud music. Dancing the hokey pokey.

September 2001 was the last time I went skating at Skateland in Yakima. The occasion was my niece’s ninth birthday. We are pictured skating together at the left side of the photo.

I feel quite confident that roller skating is in my rear view mirror but I wonder if there is some inventor out there who could create a contraption that would allow all us Baby Boomers to skate once again. Places like Skateland in Yakima, or Skagit Skate not too far from where I currently live, could make it a real thing.

What we BB’s need would be akin to training wheels or even a walker like device. Something that would allow all the old fogies to stay upright and be able to recapture a few fleeting moments of our youth. Ah yes, those were the good old days.

A few links:

First up is Jim Croce’s classic ‘Roller Derby Queen’ – his explanation at the beginning is great!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roller_skates

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31831110

Same Old Lang Syne

The Iconic song with a twist

December 28, 2021

The end of December is, traditionally, a time to reflect on the year just past. No song is more associated with the ending of the year and the start of a new one than Auld Lang Syne.

It somehow seems appropriate that the origins of this poem and song are steeped in the mysteries of time. It was plucked from obscurity by Scottish poet, Robert Burns, in 1788. He set it to music and added verses which most closely approximate the song familiar to all.

The Infallible Wikipedia shares, of course, a plethora of information:

“Robert Burns sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum in 1788 with the remark, ‘The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man.’ Some of the lyrics were indeed ‘collected’ rather than composed by the poet; the ballad ‘Old Long Syne’ printed in 1711 by James Watson shows considerable similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns’ later poem, and is almost certainly derived from the same ‘old song’. To quote from the first stanza of the James Watson ballad:

Scottish Poet Robert Burns

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.

Chorus:
On old long syne my Jo,
On old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On old long syne.

It is a fair supposition to attribute the rest of the poem to Burns himself.

There is some doubt as to whether the melody used today is the same one Burns originally intended, but it is widely used in Scotland and in the rest of the world.

Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year’s Eve very quickly became a Scots custom that soon spread to other parts of the British Isles. As Scots (not to mention English, Welsh and Irish people) emigrated around the world, they took the song with them.”

The song was popularized in the United States by Guy Lombardo who “is remembered for almost a half-century of New Year’s Eve big band remotes, first on radio, then on television. His orchestra played at the Roosevelt Grill in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City from 1929 (snip) to 1959, and from then until 1976 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Live broadcasts (and later telecasts) of their performances were a large part of New Year’s celebrations across North America; millions of people watched the show with friends at house parties. Because of this popularity, Lombardo was called ‘Mr. New Year’s Eve.’”

You would have had to have been born in a cave and lived in the wilderness your entire life to never have heard the song. In December 1980, another artist came along who wrote an autobiographical song which succeeded in connecting yet another generation to the concept of remembering, with a wistful nostalgia, days and people since gone.

Dan Fogelberg’s addition came about following a chance encounter with an ex-girlfriend on Christmas Eve in 1975. They run in to each other in the grocery store and then proceed to share a six pack of beer while sitting in her car at a mini-mart. It is, I think, the very ordinariness of the encounter which juxtaposes so very well with the emotions just under the surface.

Cover for the 1980 single

Somehow Fogelberg – who claimed to have begun the song more as a joke – ended up transforming the opening music from the 1812 Overture into a nostalgia filled classic that ends with Auld Lang Syne.

Perhaps the thing that makes the song resonate with so many people is that one recognizes – as one matures – that life is a series of binary choices. A first love, for example, is just that. A young person simply does not have the advantage of time and experience to understand that once a relationship is over it is likely to stay that way.

Fogelberg – in his song – encapsulates that moment of recognition and the emotion which comes with it:

We drank a toast to innocence

We drank a toast to now

And tried to reach beyond the emptiness

But neither one knew how

We drank a toast to innocence

We drank a toast to time

Reliving in our eloquence

Another ‘auld lang syne’

It is, though, the final few bars of the song which stops the listener and creates the ennui associated with endings… he leaves the car to walk back to his parents’ home and the ‘snow turns in to rain.’ It is at this moment when Fogelberg uses Auld Lang Syne to such devastating effect through a soulful, blues filled saxophone rendition.

Although many regard the song as a Christmas one due to its taking place on December 24th, I’ve always thought it belonged to the last week of December when, as we take down our calendars and put up the new ones, we reflect on the year just past and remember those who are no longer with us.

So here’s a toast to Auld Lang Syne with a short verse which is one of my favorites:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auld_Lang_Syne

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same_Old_Lang_Syne

The Christmas Card

Curses to the person who started it all

December 14, 2021

I have a lot of friends who love, love, love Christmas. The decorations. The lights. Snow. Music. Truly, all of these things are wonderful and there’s a lot to enjoy this time of year.

A Victorian era Christmas card

But as the calendar turns from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas, I am filled with a sense of dread. “But, Barb,” you are no doubt exclaiming, “why?”

The answer is simple: Christmas Cards and presents.

Friends of mine who are not writers or ponderers (is that even a word? If not, it should be!) will never understand the anxiety this time of year brings to those of us who are either or both of these things. I’ve heard comments like “Well, you’re a writer, it’s easy for you to jot a note on a card, right?”

The answer, my friends, is “no, it is not.”

So here I sit on November 21 and I have not purchased a single Christmas card to send but I do still have at least a dozen different blank cards of varying quantities from holiday seasons past. Sometimes I send those out to family along with checks because I have no great ideas for presents.

My ‘collection’ of cards from Christmas past… always ‘some’ sent but never all, leaving a mishmash to choose from each year.

Which got me to wondering, “Who can I blame for the tradition of mailing Christmas cards?”

The Infallible Wikipedia, as always, provides some answers. Historians have discovered a Christmas card sent to James I of England in 1611! It is some 200 years later before the next such missive is noted:

“The next cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on 1 May 1843. The central picture showed three generations of a family raising a toast to the card’s recipient: on either side were scenes of charity, with food and clothing being given to the poor. Allegedly the image of the family drinking wine together proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd: Cole had helped introduce the Penny Post three years earlier. Two batches totaling 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each.”

The idea caught on and, by 1873, the phenomenon had become a cultural change in both Great Britain and the United States. In the early part of the 20th century, with the advent of mass produced cards, the sending of holiday greeting exploded. Hallmark – the largest manufacturer – posts that 1.6 BILLION Christmas cards are produced annually. Now that’s big business.

The sending of Christmas cards is also more likely to be from, ahem, older people. Younger folks don’t have a problem with digital greetings and messages, forsaking the now ‘old fashioned’ physical letter mailed through the post office.

The adorable stationary I chose for the 2021 Christmas letter

For me, personally, I prefer the ‘Christmas Letter.’ Why? Because when I have a blank card in front of me I feel guilty if I just sign my name and don’t pen a personal note to the recipient. But with the Christmas letter, I can agonize over each word, looking for just the right combination of humor and humility. And I get to type it on a computer which is much easier for a wordsmith.

For those who get one in the mail AND read my weekly Tuesday Newsday blog, the format of this will look familiar. Why, I asked myself, mess around with what works? And why not, I also conjectured, blend the need for Christmas greetings with my regular column?

Just one of about a dozen pages of Christmas cards in a scrapbook which belonged to my Great Aunt Frances DeVore. These are from 1945.

Voila! It’s the first annual Tuesday Newsday Christmas blog and greeting letter. A tidy way to accomplish it all.

No Christmas letter would be complete without a bit about the family. So here it goes: both kiddos are off doing their own things. The son is living in Mexico having recently purchased a Mexican fixer upper house. His days are filled with work as a Senior Software Engineer (working remotely) or solving a deluge of plumbing issues. The daughter got married at the height of COVID in December 2020. Not even the bride or groom’s parents attended the ceremony… the party was delayed a year to give close friends and family the opportunity to fete the happy couple. Even better is that the pair moved back to the PNW in April 2020 and both work for Amazon. I do my part to help support them. Sometimes so does the hubby. Thank goodness for that Prime membership!

Speaking of the hubby, he became president of our HOA earlier this year and he and I both manage to stay busy via our involvement with Masonic organizations. As I am a state officer for the Order of the Eastern Star this year, most weekends find us at a reception somewhere in Washington and many a weeknight I’m off to visits. What a wonderful experience it has been!

Photo Christmas Card from my Aunt Helen and Uncle Al to our family December 1956. The stockings behind them were handmade by my grandmother.

When not traveling, I stay busy writing my blog (www.barbaradevore.com), crafting my seventh novel, and cleaning house. Just kidding about that last one. My lazy housekeeper does that. For those wondering, my hope is to finally get a novel or four published. Back in 2005-ish I penned a list of things I wanted to accomplish. First on the list was ‘Write/Publish a Novel.’ Turns out the write part is easier than the publish part. Why? Well, in today’s world, one pretty much has to self-publish and self-promote their book(s). And that takes one commodity which I often find in short supply: time. Until I have the time to do it right, publishing will have to wait.

But I am determined that eventually everyone can meet the Paxton family and find out ‘who’ is The Darling of Delta Rho Chi.

Well, I just looked at my word count and see that I’m about a dozen words from the magic thousand… the amount which fits on a two sided piece of cute holiday stationary. I certainly cannot send out plain paper! Despite my protests over the anxiety of Christmas cards, etc., I love, love, love, stationary. Thanks Amazon!

So Merry Christmas to All, and to All a good night! (Final word count: 988)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_card

National Pumpkin Day

The Ultimate Symbol of Halloween

October 26, 2021

During the last week of October, this item dominates American culture. Its bright orange color and – often large size – make it impossible to miss. I am talking about the pumpkin

National Pumpkin Day is celebrated every year on October 26th.

Believed to be one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, pumpkins originated thousands of years ago in northern Mexico and the southern United States. There is evidence that the gourd was used as early as 7,000 BC!

The average person, however, might think that it came from New England since its first well documented historic use was at the first Thanksgiving held in Plymouth in 1621. (Although it is disputed as to the Massachusetts event being first since a similar celebration reportedly took place in Virginia two years earlier)

The pumpkin was introduced to the Pilgrims by the natives of the area. The Infallible Wikipedia advises:

“An alternate derivation for pumpkin is the Massachusetts word pôhpukun ‘grows forth round’. This term would likely have been used by the Wampanoag people (who speak the Wôpanâak dialect of Massachusett) when introducing pumpkins to English Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony, located in present-day Massachusetts.”

As a food, it is dense and fiber rich; it’s primary nutrients beta-carotene and Vitamins A and C.

Still one of my favorite photos ever of my children

The thing which catches most people’s attention, however, is its visual allure. This time of year a field of bright orange pumpkins is hard to miss. Their large size and eye catching hues are a visual treat. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Traditional C. pepo pumpkins generally weigh between 3 and 8 kilograms (6 and 18 lb), though the largest cultivars (of the species C. maxima) regularly reach weights of over 34 kg (75 lb).

The color of pumpkins derives from orange carotenoid pigments, including beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha and beta carotene, all of which are provitamin A compounds converted to vitamin A in the body.”

The largest pumpkin ever documented and the two runners up in Germany in 2016

The heaviest pumpkin ever documented was in Belgium in 2016 and weighed 2,624 pounds! It’s amazing.

A little horseplay was always in order
One of the last pumpkin carving years

Visiting the pumpkin patch was, for our family, an annual tradition for many years. From the time my children were little we made it a priority to wander out on a sunny weekend day to pick the perfect pumpkin.

One year, while at Remlinger Farms, they had on display a pumpkin which weighed 500 pounds more as either kid. We ended up in the background of a video for one of the news stations as their reporter and cameraman were there at the same time to report on the monster pumpkin.

For a couple of years – when the kids got a bit older – we combined the pumpkin patch visit with exploration of a corn maze which was lots of fun.

Over the years many a photo was snapped of pumpkin patch fun. My favorite photo, however, came from the year we ended up just off Sahalee Way and 202 between Redmond and Sammamish. Our kids were probably around ages 10 and 7 and getting the right gourd was important. The kids – perched on a pallet of pumpkins – are clearly enjoying the event.

Home we would go each year and a day or two before Halloween, the pumpkins were carved and the costumes assembled, all in advance of the big night. But more than any other activity, it was the trip to the pumpkin patch which was my favorite part.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumpkin

Mork and Mindy

Na-Nu, Na-Nu

September 14, 2021

Na-nu, Na-nu! This phrase – unknown before September 14, 1978 – became a part of the American cultural vernacular thanks to the incomparable Robin Williams in his role as Mork in the sitcom Mork and Mindy.

The show catapulted Williams to fame and fans of the show tuned in every week to see what crazy new thing Mork would do.

The story of Mork began the previous year as a plot line in the popular TV show Happy Days. In one episode Richie encounters Mork – an alien from the planet Ork – who attempts to capture Richie and take him back to his planet for study.

Apparently fans loved the Mork character and the concept. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Mork appears in the Happy Days season five episode ‘My Favorite Orkan’, which first aired in February 1978 and is a take on the 1960s sitcom My Favorite Martian. The show wanted to feature a spaceman in order to capitalize on the popularity of the then recently released Star Wars film. Williams’ character, Mork, attempts to take Richie Cunningham back to his planet of Ork as a human specimen, but his plan is foiled by Fonzie. In the initial broadcast of this episode, it all turned out to be a dream that Richie had, but when Mork proved so popular, the ending in the syndicated version was re-edited to show Mork erasing the experience from everyone’s minds, thus meaning the event had actually happened and was not a dream.”

The spin off show catapulted to the #3 spot on TV during its inaugural season, leaping ahead of Happy Days in the ratings.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

Mork arrives on earth in an egg

Mork arrives on Earth in an egg-shaped spacecraft. He has been assigned to observe human behavior by Orson, his mostly unseen and long-suffering superior (voiced by Ralph James). Orson has sent Mork to get him off Ork, where humor is not permitted. Attempting to fit in, Mork dresses in an Earth suit, but wears it backwards. Landing in Boulder, Colorado, he encounters 21-year-old Mindy (Pam Dawber), who is upset after an argument with her boyfriend, and offers assistance. Because of his odd garb, she mistakes him for a priest and is taken in by his willingness to listen (in fact, simply observing her behavior). Snip

Culturally, the impact was huge and spawned a variety of toys and games

Storylines usually center on Mork’s attempts to understand human behavior and American culture as Mindy helps him to adjust to life on Earth. It usually ends up frustrating Mindy, as Mork can only do things according to Orkan customs. For example, lying to someone or not informing them it will rain is considered a practical joke (called ‘splinking’) on Ork. At the end of each episode, Mork reports back to Orson on what he has learned about Earth. These end-of-show summaries allow Mork to humorously comment on social norms. Snip

This series was Robin Williams’ first major acting role. Pam Dawber found him so funny that she had to bite her lip in many scenes to avoid breaking up in laughter and ruining the take, often a difficult task with Williams’ talent.”

In the fall of 1978, I was 21 years old and in college so I didn’t see every episode of Mork and Mindy. But the show, specifically Williams’ role, made an impression. My fellow sorority sisters and I loved Mork and soon mimicked some of his outrageous phrases and antics.

People magazine cover October 1978

We greeted each other with “Na-nu, Na-nu” and the accompanying hand gesture; we used the term “Kay Oh” instead of “Oh Kay.” The crazier male students attempted to ‘sit’ on their heads. In many ways Mork provided a primer on how to be outrageous which, when you are in college, is a goal for many.

Mork and Mindy was like fireworks, bursting onto the television scene, in a soaring arc of sparks and light. Many tuned in just to see what crazy thing Williams would say and do. I can only imagine how exhausting it must have been for Williams to keep it up week after week.

Although the series remained popular in subsequent seasons, nothing quite compared to its meteoric season one.

Occasionally, I still find myself saying “na-nu, na-nu” or “K-O” without even realizing how these terms – so very novel when first uttered – have become a part of American culture. All due to an alien named Mork who conquered the world in September 1978.

The link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mork_%26_Mindy

Answers to the Facebook post: Three’s Company (1976), Mork and Mindy (1978), Taxi (1978), Welcome Back, Kotter (1975), and Laverne and Shirley (1976)

The Ice Cream Truck

The best thing on a hot August afternoon

August 17, 2021

Lost in the hazy memories of childhood summers are the snippets from hot afternoons spent playing outside with the gaggle of kids who lived on my street.

Our days were filled with pick up softball games, bikes, Barbie Dolls and board games. But there was one distinctive sound which caused our collective to drop everything and run home. That sound was the blare of the song Greensleeves.

In suburban communities throughout the United States, the ice cream truck has been a summer fixture for several generations now.

It seemed to me that the ‘truck’ which roamed our streets was open like this one and the driver turned in his seat to get the treats

They also, according to the Infallible Wikipedia, are very popular in Britain and are described thus:

“An ice cream van (British) or ice cream truck (North American) is a commercial vehicle that serves as a mobile retail outlet for ice cream, usually during the spring and summer. Ice cream vans are often seen parked at public events, or near parks, beaches, or other areas where people congregate. Ice cream vans often travel near where children play — outside schools, in residential areas, or in other locations. They usually stop briefly before moving on to the next street. Along the sides, a large sliding window acts as a serving hatch, and this often displays pictures of the available products and their prices. Most ice cream vans tend to sell both pre-manufactured ice pops in wrappers, and soft serve ice cream from a machine, served in a cone, and often with a chocolate flake (in Britain), a sugary syrup, or toppings such as sprinkles. While franchises or chains are rare within the ice cream truck community (most trucks are independently owned and run), some do exist.”

When one is a child, we often take for granted certain things. One of those things was the ice cream truck which came down our street frequently during the summer. Of course I didn’t think about it much. All I thought about was how I was going to get my hands on the nickel (and when the price went up, a dime and a nickel) I needed to buy a treat.

In the houses up and down my street, our mothers’ doled out the coins needed. Soon we all lined up, patiently or not, for our turn to peruse the desired frozen treats, the cloud of cold steam from the dry ice billowing out like some magician’s trick. The truck always stopped between our house and the Tuttle’s house. This strategic location often produced a dozen eager customers as my family boasted four children and the Tuttle’s had six. Added to our ten were several groups of three additional children within a few houses and even more further up the street. That was a lot of potential customers!

Vintage ad for a Creamsicle from the late 1960’s

Soon I’d have the frozen delight in hand and would sit on the curb with the others. I can envision our gangly group, in pedal pusher pants or shorts and the summer footwear of choice: thongs. For those born after about 1970, we never called them flip-flops, they were thongs and every single one of us wore them all summer long despite the occasional bee sting or stubbed toe.

But I digress. Although I often thought about buying something new and different, I always got the same thing: an orange creamsicle.

My mother, no doubt in a futile attempt to cut back on the money spent at the ice cream truck, developed her own frozen treats. She would fill an ice cube tray with (I think) chocolate fudge jello and freeze the little squares. Into each square was inserted a wooden popsicle stick. These would be doled out on hot August afternoons when the ice cream truck did not come up our street.

When my own children were growing up I would often make Koolaid based popsicles in specially designed holders. My daughter could go through several every day.

Of course one of the reasons for this is that there were no ice cream trucks which ventured the steep driveway up to the house where we lived. Unlike the street where I grew up, my pair of children mostly played with one another or with a friend or two invited over for the afternoon.

A delicious fudge bar and ice cream cone.

When we moved to Kirkland in 2004 the kids were 14 and 11 and past the age where the ice cream truck was a motivating factor. Even so, there were many afternoons when I’d hear the familiar Greensleeves, it’s Pavlovian tune beckoning to youngsters.

In the past three years I have yet to hear or notice an ice cream truck in our neighborhood. Perhaps, with the advent of instant grocery deliveries, it’s now been swept into the dustbin of history. I think our society is a little less rich if that is the case.

Perhaps the next time I’m at the store, I’ll purchase a package of creamsicles, blare Greensleeves from Spotify, and then close my eyes and imagine I’m 8 years old once again, sitting on the curb and savoring that wonderful childhood treat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_cream_van

The Driver’s Test

40 was the magic number

August 3, 2021

At one time this test was an important rite of passage for the American teenager, an indication that they were about to enjoy one of the privileges of adulthood: being able to drive.

For one Mariam Hargrave of Yorkshire, England, no doubt it was an ordeal. It was on August 3, 1970, when the 62 year old finally passed her driving test. Although the Infallible Wikipedia has an article about driver’s tests, they ignore poor Mrs. Hargraves. Instead, I was able to glean this information:

“By April 1970 Mrs. Miriam Hargrave had failed her test thirty-nine times. In the eight preceding years she had received two hundred and twelve driving lessons at a cost of £300. She set the new record while driving triumphantly through a set of red traffic lights in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Disappointingly, she passed at the fortieth attempt (3 August 1970) but eight years later she showed some of her old magic when she was reported as saying that she still didn’t like doing right-hand turns. — Stephen Pile, ‘The Book of Heroic Failures’”

Back in 1970’s Yakima it was a big deal to learn how to drive. By the time I was in high school, they were offering Driver’s Ed classes which involved learning the rules of the road and practicing driving. I doubt there were any braver educators anywhere than those who willingly climbed into a car with a 15 ½ year old, hormone driven, child and allowed them to command a 2,000 pound vehicle on city streets.

Yet, they did. I seem to recall my Driver’s Ed teacher, Mr. Breshears, always popping antacid tablets. I suppose the only thing which gave the instructors any comfort at all was the fact that the cars were equipped with a set of brakes for the front seat passenger.

Our simulators looked something like this set up from 1969.

Three students at a time would go drive with the teacher. It was a bit terrifying since not all budding drivers had the benefit of a parent who worked with them after school. There was one student I recall who tested Mr. Breshears patience each time they got behind the wheel. Those instructor brakes got quite the workout.

But the favorite part of Driver’s Ed class was getting to go to the Simulator. It was a windowless trailer which had been equipped with two parallel rows of seats, separated by an aisle sort of like being on a bus, and all faced forward. Each station had a steering wheels, brakes, etc. to look like the driver’s area of a car. At the front of the trailer was a large screen. Once all the students were settled into their places, the lights would be dimmed and the screen would come to life as though one was behind the wheel, driving down the street. It was our job to accelerate in unison with what we saw on the screen. It was also imperative that we hit the brakes at the right time.

From the IKE Reveille year book, 1972

Driver’s training films seemed to mostly consist of tree lined city blocks which, at first, seemed like lovely enclaves of blissful American life. But no. Those streets were every driver’s worst nightmare. Balls of all sorts would suddenly bounce out into the road followed by adorable tikes chasing them. Woe unto those who didn’t hit the brakes in time!

There were dogs and cats; there were other vehicles; things fell off the backs of trucks, branches crashed down. Who knew how truly hazardous things could be in one bucolic town?

Of course, some cheeky student would purposefully ‘run’ over the simulated hazards and a little red light would illuminate on their console, publically shaming them for an egregious infraction. I always wondered if students who ‘ran’ over cats, dogs, and children, failed the course.

Over the years I have learned just how accurate those simulations were as I’ve encountered many of the hazards portrayed. Thankfully, it’s only occasionally that such things happen. The hubby and I, if we are in the car together, will comment in unison ‘Driver’s Training film!’ when something we experienced in the simulator occurs in real life.

This photo is from the Eisenhower High School 1972 annual. The headline above this proclaimed “380 license-hungry students swamp driver education course this year.” Apparently there were a bunch of us who turned 16 that year.

The  instruction I received was successful and on my 16th birthday I took the tests – written and driving – and emerged as a licensed driver and, despite losing points for parallel parking, never came close to Mariam Hargrave’s, 212 lessons, eight years of time, and over $700 (US) spent.

The links:

An entertaining look at early simulators:

https://www.dmv-written-test.com/washington/practice-test-1.html?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=%2Bwa%20%2Bstate%20%2Bdriver%27s%20%2Btest%20%2Bpractice&utm_campaign=DMV%20-%20Search%20-%20WA%20-%20EN%20-%20CAR~Driver%20Question%20Test&msclkid=ee5a27bd586710c0735246b5495d31f5# (Can you pass the written test for Washington State?)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driving_test

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_Heroic_Failures

Disneyland

The Happiest Place On Earth

July 20, 2021

Where oh where to begin with this week’s topic? For those of us born from the mid-1950’s on, there was never a time when this, the ‘happiest place on earth’ did not exist.

We learned about Disneyland via Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Color which featured Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle against a back drop of colorful fireworks. It was an aspirational sort of thing, I suppose, instilling in our Baby Boomer hearts the desire to go to Disneyland and find our own happiness there.

The crowd running towards Sleeping Beauty’s castle July 17, 1955

It was the third week of July 1955, when the park officially opened, one year and one day from when construction began. Walt Disney’s concept came while sitting on a bench at a park one day and watching his two daughters play. Instead of parents just observing from the sidelines, he mused, wouldn’t it be great to have a place where kids and parents could have fun together?

It would be nearly 20 years before Disneyland would finally become a reality.

The Disneyland most people know today would be nearly unrecognizable to Disney himself. The first rides were, for lack of a better term, rather bland. There was not a roller coaster to be found anywhere within the park. It’s most popular early attractions were “Jungle Cruise,” “Autopia,” and “Rocket to the Moon” (later to Mars). Guests strolled along Main Street, hopped aboard the Disneyland Railroad, or sailed the raft over to Tom Sawyer Island for fun. There were a few carnival type rides but by today’s standards those would be considered ‘kiddie’ rides.

Opening day was a disaster. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

Walt Disney and his grandson taking a break from the 101 degree temperatures on opening day

“Traffic was delayed on the two-lane Harbor Boulevard. Famous figures who were scheduled to show up every two hours showed up all at once. The temperature was an unusually high 101 °F (38 °C), and because of a local plumbers’ strike, Disney was given a choice of having working drinking fountains or running toilets. He chose the latter, leaving many drinking fountains dry. This generated negative publicity since Pepsi sponsored the park’s opening; disappointed guests believed the inoperable fountains were a cynical way to sell soda, while other vendors ran out of food. The asphalt that had been poured that morning was soft enough to let women’s high-heeled shoes sink into it. Some parents threw their children over the crowd’s shoulders to get them onto rides, such as the King Arthur Carrousel.

In later years, Disney and his 1955 executives referred to July 17, 1955, as ‘Black Sunday’. After the extremely negative press from the preview opening, Walt Disney invited attendees back for a private ‘second day’ to experience Disneyland properly.”

Despite the inauspicious start, Disney persevered, never resting and always looking for innovative ideas and opportunities to improve the park and thus the experience for paying guests.

The first roller coaster, the now iconic Matterhorn, opened in 1959. It was eventually joined by a second coaster, Space Mountain, in 1977.

The Matterhorn under construction 1959

Although many of the original attractions are still a part of Disneyland, the Disney company has never been afraid to update and upgrade to keep pace with the changing technology or the desires of the public. Many of the attractions kids of the 1960’s and 70’s remember fondly are long since gone.

As a child – and knowing about Disneyland – it was a place I wanted to go. For my family, however, it was not within reach. It was only after the passing of my grandmother in January 1970 that the wheels were set in motion for a trip which took my Dad, Mom, Sister, and me south to Anaheim. I chronicled my first Disneyland visit in a previous blog post https://barbaradevore.com/2020/05/26/the-great-american-road-trip/.

Having gotten a taste of the Disney experience, I was excited when – along with the Rainbow Girls – I had another day at the park in late July 1976. And much like the first visit, it was a one day visit. The rides were few and mostly I recall riding the Matterhorn and meeting the Big Bad Wolf.

My sister encounters the Big Bad Wolf

It was after the hubby and I had been married for nearly eight years when we hatched our ultimate Disneyland plan. We flew to California in January 1988 to spend three entire days at the theme park. While there, we agreed, we would ride EVERY ride they had to offer; see every show; eat all the food. We would immerse ourselves in all Disney, all the time.

A few things stand out from that trip. One, when we arrived at John Wayne airport it was probably 8 or 9 p.m. and 60 degrees. To us, coming from 40 and rain Seattle in January, it seemed like summer. We laughed at a woman standing near the open air luggage carousel who was, literally, wearing a parka, fur hat, and big mittens.

Second, we videotaped pretty much every ride. Alas, without the magic of the machine which can convert VHS those tapes are consigned to a dusty box in the Harry Potter closet. (see article here: https://barbaradevore.com/2020/06/30/winchester-mystery-house/) One of these days I do plan to get those old tapes digitized!

Third, it was truly one of the best vacations the hubby and I took. We were 30 and 31 years old, did not yet have children, could afford to pay for whatever we wanted, and for three days we got to act like teenagers but better. Not only did we go on ALL the rides (yes, even the ‘kiddie’ rides), but we did several of the best ones multiple times. Space Mountain? check/check. Matterhorn? check/check/check. Haunted Mansion? check/check/check. Big Thunder Railroad? check/check/check/check/check.

In the years since, we’ve taken our children to Disneyland a couple of times and to DisneyWorld once. The hubby and I even had a solo day at Epcot a few years ago. But I’m not so keen on roller coasters any more. Those are, sadly, more the province of the young and less fragile among us. Even so, I think it would be fun to return to Disneyland with our adult children (neither of whom have any children at this point) during a time of year when the crowds are reduced and we can once again ride any ride we like as many times as we want. That, to me, would be magical.

Hubby and me with the two littlest ones on the Disneyland railroad 1995
Hubby and kids waiting for Big Thunder Railroad roller coaster circa 1998
Disneyland circa 1998

As Walt Disney said on opening day in 1955:

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”

Disneyland Map 1970

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disneyland

A Puzzle for the Ages

The Rubiks Cube

July 13, 2021

Choices, choices. That’s what today, July 13, gives us. A number of Tuesday Newsday worthy people are celebrating birthday’s today. I thought I had it all figured out until my brother, who is a disc jockey and sends me his show prep once a week, included the birthday of a person whose invention changed the toy landscape of the world.

The yummy Indiana Jones aka Harrison Ford

So what to do? First of all, I say Happy Birthday to actor Harrison Ford who is 79. Ford, for those might have been living in a monastery in Tibet, is known for multiple memorable roles: Bob Falfa in American Graffiti, Han Solo in the Star Wars films, Jack Ryan in The Patriot Games, and the swashbuckling Indiana Jones. There is much more to Ford’s career which has now spanned 51 years. There is currently another Indiana Jones movie being filmed.

To learn more about Ford and his career, the Infallible Wikipedia can be accessed here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Ford

On a personal note, the closest I ever got to Ford was during a trip to Disneyland the third week of February 1995. The Temple of the Forbidden Eye ride – based on the Indiana Jones movies – was slated to open in early March. That’s when we learned about ‘soft openings.’ On our last day at the park they opened the ride… two weeks before its official opening date. I was jazzed and the hubby and I figured out how to take turns on the attraction since our daughter was only two and not tall enough to participate.

My sister and nieces outside the brand new Temple of the Forbidden Eye attraction, February 1995

Once the ride was over, it was time to head back to the hotel for some down time and we worked our way to Main Street and the exit. Our plans were thwarted – in a good way – when a parade halted our progress. The crowd was excited and we asked someone what was going on. “Harrison Ford is in the parade,” one enthusiastic woman said. Yes, it was a parade to celebrate the opening of the newest Disneyland attraction.

Sure enough a few minutes later both Ford and Carrie Fischer (who had no role in the Indiana Jones movie but was still there) rode by in a pair of convertibles.

Now on to the second birthday of note. Until I looked at his Wikipedia page I could not have picked this person out of a police lineup. Yet one of his inventions lives at our house and has done so since nineteen eighty something. Happy 77th Birthday to Erno Rubik, inventor of the popular cube puzzle.

For most people I imagine their cubes look like this most of the time.

Rubik is a Hungarian inventor, architect, and professor of architecture. The invention of the Rubik’s cube came about, according to the Infallible Wikipedia, when Rubik, using blocks of wood and rubber bands:

“…set out to create a structure which would allow the individual pieces to move without the whole structure falling apart. Rubik originally used wood for the block because of the convenience of a workshop at the university and because he viewed wood as a simple material to work with that did not require sophisticated machinery. Rubik made the original prototypes of his cube by hand, cutting the wood, boring the holes and using elastic bands to hold the contraption together.

Erno Rubik

Rubik showed his prototype to his class and his students liked it very much. Rubik realized that, because of the cube’s simple structure, it could be manufactured relatively easily and might have appeal to a larger audience. Rubik’s father possessed several patents, so Rubik was familiar with the process and applied for a patent for his invention. Rubik then set out to find a manufacturer in Hungary, but had great difficulty due to the rigid planned economy of communist Hungary at the time. Eventually, Rubik was able to find a small company that worked with plastic and made chess pieces. The cube was originally known in Hungary as the Magic Cube.

Rubik licensed the Magic Cube to Ideal Toys, a US company in 1979. Ideal rebranded The Magic Cube to the Rubik’s Cube before its introduction to an international audience in 1980. The process from early prototype to significant mass production of the Cube had taken over six years. The Rubik’s Cube would go on to become an instant success worldwide, winning several Toy of the Year awards, and becoming a staple of 1980s popular culture. To date, over 350 million Rubik’s Cubes have been sold, making it one of the best selling toys of all time.”

Since that article was posted, an additional 100 million cubes have been sold which places it as THE bestselling toy of all time.

The Rubik’s cube has been a true conundrum for the average person. It’s unsolvable unless one understands and applies at least two algorithms as they move the pieces around. In fact, according to an article on Ruwix.com, there are 43 quintillion possible combinations. Another interesting note is that it took Rubik himself over a month to solve it once he invented it!

Over the years there have been books written as to ‘how’ to solve the puzzle. There are now links on the internet providing the algorithms for free.

One Felix Zemdegs of Australia holds the world record for the fastest solving time. His record: 4.75 seconds. It’s pretty amazing to watch:

As I said, we have had a cube floating around our house over the years. After our son arrived, he became fascinated with all the games we owned. It was a daily affair for the game cupboard to be unloaded. Of course the cube was of interest. When he was probably 5 or 6, he became frustrated in his cube solving attempts. No amount of telling him that adults (including his mother) were incapable of solving the puzzle appeased him.

Who knew Ford was a Rubik’s master?

Then one day he walks into the kitchen and proudly shows me the ‘solved’ cube. I was impressed until I detected that some of the colored paper stickers on each cube were a bit crooked. On closer inspection it was obvious someone found the ‘easy’ way to solve it.

But his engineering brain was not to be deterred. We got him a new cube a couple of years later for his birthday and then he set about learning the final algorithms needed to solve the puzzle.

I’ve been able to get one face and then two rows of color correct, but that’s as far as I’ve ever gone. I’m okay with that. As someone who does not have an ‘engineering’ brain I’m content to watch in awe as those that do solve the Rubik’s cube, the world’s most famous puzzle.

A couple more links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ern%C5%91_Rubik

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubik%27s_Cube

Pokémon Go

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

July 6, 2021

Until early 1999, I had never heard the word “Pokémon” which is a shortened version of the Japanese term for the iconic Gameboy creatures, Pocket Monsters, created in 1996.

Pikachu – the iconic symbol of Pokémon .

It was in the spring of 1999 when Pokémon trading cards took over the elementary school where my son was in the third grade. For a number of months we made frequent treks to the card store so that my son could buy a packet of the cards to add to his collection and, ostensibly, trade with his school mates.

Like all such fads, the trading card obsession faded and by Fourth grade year, it was over. Or so I thought.

If everyone thought the Pokémon cards were a big deal they had not, in the words of the Bachman Turner Overdrive song You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

It was on July 6, 2016 when Pokémon Go was launched and became a worldwide experience.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The game was referred to as a ‘social media phenomenon’ which has brought people together from all walks of life. 231 million people engaged in 1.1 billion interactions that mentioned Pokémon Go on Facebook and Instagram in the month of July. Numerous media outlets referred to the surge in popularity as ‘Pokémon Go Mania’, or simply ‘Pokémania’.The massive popularity of the game resulted in several unusual positive effects. For example, the game placed players where they can help catch criminals and report crimes in progress, although it has also placed some in harm’s way, and has even aided law enforcement’s community relations. albeit with caveats. Businesses also benefited from the nearby presence of PokéStops (or them being PokéStops themselves) with the concomitant influx of people, and the intense exploration of communities has brought local history to the forefront.

The highly coveted Charizard trading card

For those unfamiliar with the game, it popularized AR – Augmented Reality –with users being able to find and capture the Pokémon which appeared as animated creatures on an i-phone or Android device. Think of it this way: when you open the Pokémon Go app on your phone, the world appears in a cartoonish form with grass, trees, water, and buildings. If a Pokémon is nearby it will materialize on the screen and provide the user an opportunity to ‘catch’ it by throwing a Pokéball at the creature. Once caught, the Pokémon is added to the user’s collection. The goal, initially, is to catch at least one of every Pokémon. These, most often, can be evolved into a new Pokémon – so long as you have earned enough points to do so by capturing many, many of the original Pokémon.

PokéStops can be found in every community, and when accessed give the user rewards in the form of additional Pokéballs and other game enhancers.

Despite many of the initial players not continuing, the game’s early success garnered a number of firsts. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The game was awarded five Guinness World Records in August 2016: most revenue grossed by a mobile game in its first month ($206.5 million); most downloaded mobile game in its first month (130 million downloads); most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its first month (top game in 70 different countries); most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its first month (top grossing in 55 countries simultaneously); and fastest time to gross $100 million by a mobile game (reached in 20 days on July 26). By September 2016, Pokémon Go had been downloaded over 500 million times worldwide, and became the fastest game to make over $500 million in revenue. Pokémon Go was awarded the App Store’s breakout hit of 2016. Pokémon Go was reported to be the most searched game on Google in 2016.

The crowd which descended upon us in search of Charizard on August 21, 2016 in Bellevue.

Pokémon Go arrived at my house about a month after its release. I’d been in Yakima and arrived back in Kirkland about 7 p.m. one August evening and just as I turned down our street I notice my son out walking. I pull to the curb and ask him where he’s going. At that moment he admits his friend Vincent had gotten him started on Pokémon Go.

Curious, I went out walking with him the next night to see how it all worked. This went on for two weeks and then I cracked and loaded the app on my phone. Soon my son and I were venturing out in search of rare Pokémon, making trips to parks and other places to ‘catch them all.’

The ‘oldest’ creature in my collection is the Charizard I caught on August 21, 2016. AR allows one to take ‘pictures’ with your Pokémon

The most amazing Pokémon day of all was on August 21, 2016. We had driven to the Downtown Park in Bellevue (across from Bellevue Square) and there – with hundreds of our ‘best’ friends – wandered about the park capturing digital monsters.

And then it happened. The rarest of rare Pokémon, the ONE everyone had coveted from way back in the card collecting days of 1999, pops up on our screen and we are standing – literally – a few feet away from the GPS location where it spawned.

A collective roar goes up across the park and – I kid you not – the pounding of hundreds of pairs of feet headed our way shake the ground like an earthquake. My hands are trembling as I attempt to capture Charizard (I’m still a very green novice at this point), ignoring the masses who are descending upon us in their frenzy to capture the beast. Of course I am attempting the same thing. On the third attempt, the elusive fire dragon is locked in my Pokéball and the son and I emerge from behind the bushes to an unreal scene. I did have the presence of mind to snap a couple of photos of the massive crowd that evening.

Since that day both my son and daughter have quit playing the game. I admit it has lost a lot of its appeal; it was a fun way to spend time with my adult children. Even so, I still play it as it gives me something to do when a passenger on a trip. But nothing will ever replace the thrill of the hunt on that August night in the summer of 2016 when Pokémon ruled the world.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Go

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon

The conversation is between my son and I after the great Charizard spawn and capture on August 21, 2016

Answers to the FB post: Machop, Chancey, Eevee, Grimer, Drilbur