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Santa Claus

An icon of Christmas

December 20, 2022

Over the years, Christmas has blended in to a mishmash of traditions with the blurring of the lines between its purely religious meaning and the more secular elements.

A page from The Night Before Christmas Golden Book, copyright 1955

Take Santa Claus, for example. The idea of the jolly elf who brings presents for children began several hundred years ago. He is based on Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of children.

The image of Santa Claus as a portly and white bearded man dressed in a red suit trimmed with white fur can be traced back to 1823 with the publication of “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

The images which that poem conjured up captured the imagination of people everywhere as the story became a favorite to read to children on Christmas Eve.

You will be pleased to know that the Infallible Wikipedia has an extensive and exhaustive article in regards to everyone’s favorite Christmas elf:

“In 1821, the book A New-year’s present, to the little ones from five to twelve was published in New York. It contained ‘Old Santeclaus with Much Delight’, an anonymous poem describing Santeclaus on a reindeer sleigh, bringing rewards to children. Some modern ideas of Santa Claus seemingly became canon after the anonymous publication of the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas (better known today as The Night Before Christmas) in the Troy, New York, Sentinel on 23 December 1823; Clement Clarke Moore later claimed authorship, though some scholars argue that Henry Livingston, Jr. (who died nine years before Moore’s claim) was the author. St. Nick is described as being ‘chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf’ with ‘a little round belly’, that ‘shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly’, in spite of which the ‘miniature sleigh’ and ‘tiny reindeer’ still indicate that he is physically diminutive. The reindeer were also named: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem (Dunder and Blixem came from the old Dutch words for thunder and lightning, which were later changed to the more German sounding Donner and Blitzen).

By 1845, ‘Kris Kringle’ was a common variant of Santa in parts of the United States. A magazine article from 1853, describing American Christmas customs to British readers, refers to children hanging up their stockings on Christmas Eve for ‘a fabulous personage’ whose name varies: in Pennsylvania he is usually called ‘Krishkinkle’, but in New York he is ‘St. Nicholas’ or ‘Santa Claus’. The author quotes Moore’s poem in its entirety, saying that its descriptions apply to Krishkinkle too.”

There is so much more in the article which I would encourage all Santa researchers to peruse.

Me and my sister visiting Santa circa 1960

From my perspective, Santa Claus is as integral to Christmas as a tree or a nativity scene and he’s always been a part of the holiday for me. Over the past several days, as I considered this topic, the biggest challenge was deciding what, exactly, to share.

I found early home movies of this author at age four or five, standing on the porch of our house with a three foot tall stiff paper Santa and Mrs. Claus. There was a photo of my sister and me sitting on Santa’s lap as well as one of my older brother and one of our cousins.

On Christmas Eve each year we dutifully hung our stockings only to discover them full of goodies the next morning; evidence that Santa had paid a visit overnight.

But perhaps the best part of the Santa Claus myth was when I became a parent and could share the joy with my own children. Like me, both my son and daughter looked forward to hanging the stockings and anticipating Santa’s visit.

I saw the magic happen with my son in 1991. It was a week or two before Christmas and the local fire district had a tradition of Santa riding on the back of a fire truck through the neighborhood.

For a small boy, this was nirvana. On this particular night – well, it was probably no later than six p.m. – my sister and her daughter were visiting and we were eating dinner when I ‘heard’ the fire truck a few blocks over.

What they would do is have the truck’s lights flashing and run the sirens to announce their approach. When we heard the sound, we sprung into action, bundling the children into their coats, arriving out on the street just in time to watch as the big red fire truck, with lights ablaze, roll slowly towards us.

Closer and closer it came, it’s sirens blaring. And then the truck was in front of our house and Santa – riding on the back of the truck – turned and waved at my son and niece – then jumped down and gave each a candy cane.

A moment later, Santa was back on the truck and spirited away up the street. We waved Santa goodbye and then it was back into the house to finish eating dinner. My son, however, was having none of that. I put him in his high chair but he refused to sit down, instead standing there and repeating over and over and over in a staccato voice: “Santa Claus… Fire Truck!”

His little fist was extended and he pumped it up and down pronouncing each syllable: “San-ta-Claus… Fi-er-Truck!”

This continued for the next half an hour and even after that it was a tough night getting him to settle down and go to sleep.

I think for my sister and me it’s one of our favorite Christmas memories and one we reminisce about every year.

When cleaning out my parents’ home, I came across a copy of the book “The Night Before Christmas.” Picking it up and reading it was like getting together with an old friend: the story and colorful artwork a familiar companion from Christmas’ past. Inside the front cover, it was signed by my grandmother who gave the book as a gift to my sister (I got Frosty the Snowman that year). It seems like my sister said I could keep the book. I include it as part of my holiday decorations each year now.

Three treasured books from my childhood. The Night Before Christmas and Frosty The Snowman were gifts to me and my sister on Christmas circa 1961

Truly, it wouldn’t seem like Christmas without Santa Claus. And a fire truck.

The links:

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

And, yes, Santa riding on Fire trucks is a thing all across America:

Eastside Fire and Rescue in Sammamish have been doing the Santa thing for many years

Nutcrackers

A nearly 400 year Christmas tradition

December 13, 2022

An early Nutcracker by Friedrich Fuchtner

I’ve long been fascinated by the thought of how primitive people learned about foods and what was safe to eat. Take nuts, for example. Here were these things encased in shells which grew on trees. I imagine the people watched as animals collected and ate the nuts.

People, being inventive creatures, are always looking for solutions to problems. I suppose they figured out that if they placed the hard shell on a rock and then hit it with another rock that they could get to the seed inside, the nut meat. And nut meats, it turns out, are delicious.

Over the millennia, those ever inventive people devised better ways to get to the nut meats, developing devices which have become known as ‘nutcrackers.’

Some of the earliest ones were forged from metal and became prized items. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Nuts were historically opened using a hammer and anvil, often made of stone. Some nuts such as walnuts can also be opened by hand, by holding the nut in the palm of the hand and applying pressure with the other palm or thumb, or using another nut.

Manufacturers produce modern functional nutcrackers usually somewhat resembling pliers, but with the pivot point at the end beyond the nut, rather than in the middle. These are also used for cracking the shells of crab and lobster to make the meat inside available for eating. Hinged lever nutcrackers, often called a ‘pair of nutcrackers’, may date back to Ancient Greece. By the 4th century in Europe, nutcrackers were documented in England, including in the Canterbury Tales, and in France. The lever design may derive from blacksmiths’ pincers. Materials included metals such as silver, cast-iron and bronze, and wood including boxwood, especially those from France and Italy. More rarely, porcelain was used. Many of the wooden carved nutcrackers were in the form of people and animals.

An antique metal dragon nutcracker

During the Victorian era, fruit and nuts were presented at dinner and ornate and often silver-plated nutcrackers were produced to accompany them on the dinner table. Nuts have long been a popular choice for desserts, particularly throughout Europe. The nutcrackers were placed on dining tables to serve as a fun and entertaining center of conversation while diners awaited their final course.”

The wooden nutcrackers we associate with Christmas originated in Germany in the late 17th century in the Ore Mountains. Again, from the Infallible Wikipedia: 

“One origin story attributes the creation of the first nutcracker doll to a craftsman from Seiffen. They were often given as gifts, and at some point they became associated with Christmas season. They grew in popularity around the 19th century and spread to nearby European countries. As the demand grew, nutcracker doll production also began on a mass scale in factories. Friedrich Wilhelm Füchtner  (1844–1923), commonly known in Germany as ‘father of the nutcracker’, began the first mass production of the design (using a lathe) at his workshop in Seiffen in Saxony during 1872.”

As the popularity of the dolls grew, nutcrackers were often given as gifts to children so they could crack the nuts which filled their stockings. Although nowadays stockings are filled with toys and candy, at one time they held nuts and fruits.

Most of the wooden nutcrackers sold today are not equipped to actually crack nuts but are for decorative purposes only. One reason for this is that those always inventive people continued to find better ways to harvest nuts. Today that is done in factories with machines which can crack open large quantity of nuts with efficiency.

For those who love Nutcrackers a visit to the Leavenworth, Washington, museum is a must see.

I hadn’t much thought about the origin of the soldier nutcrackers until the late 1980’s when the hubby and I lived in the Timberline neighborhood in Sammamish, Washington. (Note – it wasn’t even ‘Sammamish’ at that time, just unincorporated King County!)

As a new development ,Timberline attracted primarily twenty and thirty something professionals who worked in nearby Redmond and Bellevue or commuted to Seattle. Many in the neighborhood were transplants from other states from all over the U.S.

It was never anything official, but Christmas became a big deal in the neighborhood. I suppose that many of us were simply trying to replicate the cozy warmth and hominess of our childhoods by putting up lights and outdoor decorations. Truly, the Timberline neighborhood had more than its share of over the top displays.

But there was one street in particular which gained a reputation for being ‘THE’ must visit lane due, in large part, to resident Peter Johnston and his giant nutcrackers.

In December 1991, I was the editor of a neighborhood newsletter, The Timberlines, and decided to write a feature story about the Nutcrackers. From my story:

Peter Johnston at work creating his third 3D Nutcracker, the Fireman, in 1991

“Peter’s vision began four years ago when he and his wife, Sue, were looking at Christmas lights in Issaquah. On one street, every home boasted a large ‘Nutcracker’ decoration. Painted on plywood, the soldiers created a very nice Christmas effect. Although impressed, Peter’s vision was much grander. ‘Why not,’ he thought, ‘Do Nutcrackers in 3-D?’”

Peter started creating his 3-D nutcracker using materials he worked with during his day job as an electrician. Soon the ‘Nutcracker’ took on a life of its own and went far beyond simple 3-D. Suffice it to say that when it was finished, the Nutcracker was nearly seven feet tall and its head was filled with motors, lights and moving levers. The mouth opened and closed and the eyes blinked.

Johnston’s original 3D nutcraker how it looked when stored

It was an instant holiday hit. The next year he built a Nutcracker which drummed and the year I wrote the article, he completed a firefighter who held a hose and poured water on a flame.

The article I wrote is far too long to include in its entirety, but I’ve attached it for anyone who wants to read the whole thing.

‘Peak’ Nutcracker was, for us, that Christmas of 1991 when our son was not quite two years old. Every day of December, around five in the late (and dark!) afternoon, we would bundle into the car and he and I would go to see the Nutcrackers. I would have to roll the window down so my son could see them better and talk to them. It was a magical time thanks to the inventiveness of one Nutcracker artist and his vision.

The links:

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

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

Page 1 of the article I wrote in 1991
Page 2 of the 1991 Newsletter article

When PONG was King

The original video game

November 29, 2022

Back in the 1970’s life was much simpler. There were no personal computers; no cell phones; no video games. To entertain ourselves, we would tune in to the local radio station and listen to the hits of the day; we might go for a drive – if our parents let us use the car; we’d call our friends on the phone and, perhaps, meet at the local pizza parlor; or we might hang out at the local arcade and drop quarters in a pinball machine.

THIS is what the excitement was all about…

It was on November 29, 1972, when the first hint of the coming electronic age poked its head up out of the ether with the introduction of the earliest of all electronic games: PONG by Atari.

I could attempt to explain to anyone born after 1970 what Pong was, but will let the Infallible Wikipedia do the heavy lifting for me:

“Pong is a two-dimensional sports game that simulates table tennis. The player controls an in-game paddle by moving it vertically across the left or right side of the screen. They can compete against another player controlling a second paddle on the opposing side. Players use the paddles to hit a ball back and forth. The goal is for each player to reach eleven points before the opponent; points are earned when one fails to return the ball to the other.”

Okay, I know, I know. All you Gen-Xers, Millennials, and Gen-Z types are saying: “Really? That’s what you thought was fun back in the 1970’s, Boomer?”

Yes. Yes we did.

The Infallible Wikipedia continues: “The Pong arcade games manufactured by Atari were a great success. The prototype was well received by Andy Capp’s Tavern patrons; people came to the bar solely to play the game. Following its release, Pong consistently earned four times more revenue than other coin-operated machines. (Nolan) Bushnell estimated that the game earned US$35–40 per day (i.e. 140–160 plays daily per console at $0.25 per play), which he described as nothing he’d ever seen before in the coin-operated entertainment industry at the time. The game’s earning power resulted in an increase in the number of orders Atari received. This provided Atari with a steady source of income; the company sold the machines at three times the cost of production. By 1973, the company had filled 2,500 orders, and, at the end of 1974, sold more than 8,000 units.”

1972 Pong Arcade game from pongmuseum.com

I cannot say for sure when Pong first entered my consciousness. My arcade hopping days were a few years later and I can assure you that my mother would not have let me near one anyway. But I did have something which exposed me to the early games: older brothers.

It was likely my eldest brother – nine years my senior – was all agog over Pong. From the earliest days of electronics, he was in to it. Really in to it. No doubt he went to arcades and played Pong, looking to extend a win streak or earn a high score, responsible for giving Nolan Bushnell a bunch of quarters.

When, probably at Christmas 1975, the first home Pong gaming console was released, my brother brought it to the house where we grew up and everyone got a chance to try their hand at the game. All that Christmas there were whoops of joy and cries of dismay as games were won and lost. While I no doubt played Pong, I was never that in to it. I really didn’t get the attraction of moving a little line up and down one side of a screen trying to ‘hit’ a little blinking thing.

By the early 1980’s, the arcade version of Pong became a relic of the past as newer, more involved electronic games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong took their place. (I wrote about them here: https://barbaradevore.com/2017/10/10/pac-man-fever/)

Similarly, the dedicated ‘at home’ gaming consoles eventually were able to feature multiple games in the form of interchangeable cartridges.

Atari stayed at the top of the heap for a few more years with the introduction of a dedicated gaming console. The Infallible Wikipedia shares:

“The Atari 2600, initially branded as the Atari Video Computer System (Atari VCS) from its release until November 1982, is a home video game console developed and produced by Atari, Inc. Released in September 1977, it popularized microprocessor-based hardware and games stored on swappable ROM cartridges, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F in 1976. The VCS was bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge—initially Combat and later Pac-Man.

(snip) The Atari VCS launched in 1977 with nine simple, low-resolution games in 2 KB cartridges. The system’s first killer app was the home conversion of Taito’s arcade game Space Invaders in 1980.”

A ‘gotta have it’ Christmas gift of the 1970’s

My brother, however, did not go with the Atari but invested in the Commodore VIC 20 which was an early home computer system which had a whole bunch of compatible games for it. I have a distinct memory of being at my brother’s  home in Ballard in the early 1980’s and we are all huddled around the TV in their small sitting area, watching as my brother and the hubby battle it out over some game.

I imagine it’s difficult to imagine the thrill of those early games when compared to the sophistication of today’s technology. Yet, it had the power to make us all sit up and notice and be in awe of things we’d never seen before.

As is my custom, I do try to ferret out how I might have been involved with whatever my Tuesday Newsday topic might be. Which led me to my small collection of diary’s from the early to mid-1970’s.  I was rewarded with this gem from December 31, 1973:

The “Upper Valley (DeMolay) New Year’s Eve dance was tonight. It was slow at first. I danced some. Once with Alan, and twice with his friend. Then towards the end Sally and Julie and myself were dancing with Tony, Cory A., and some other guy. It was a fun dance. We went to Pizza Pete’s afterwards but I didn’t eat anything. I played electronic Ping-Pong with Lee L., Kev, Mike K., and beat them. I played Tony and lost.”

Oh, us crazy Boomers. Such wild things! Did we know how to have fun or what!?

Of course, the links:

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_2600

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VIC-20

Patti Play Pal Dolls

Companion Dolls were all the rage

November 8, 2022

Patti Playpal with her original box

Way back in the early 1960’s, a type of doll – known as Companion Dolls – were all the rage. Little girls everywhere wanted one of these dolls. Ranging in height from 28 to 36 inches, they were about the same size as the child and often wore the same size clothes.

The most famous of these dolls was Patti Playpal, manufactured by Ideal Toy Company from 1959 to 1962.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Patti Playpal, also spelled as Patti Play Pal, was an American line of dolls created by both Neil Estern and Vincent DeFilippo (creator of the “baby face” sculpt Patti) both versions were produced by the Ideal Toy Company during the late 1950s to early 1960s. The dolls head, arms, legs and torso are made from vinyl. The process used for the torso and legs is known as blow molding.[1]

A main selling point of the dolls was their size. At 35 inches (89 cm) they were made and marketed as ‘companion dolls’ to children, and thus are able to share clothing and play with its owner as if it were a real child.

Besides the original Patti Playpal doll, several variants were also released (a ‘walking’ version and the non-walking version). The doll line had ‘family members’ which included: 32 inches (81 cm) Penny, 32 inches (81 cm) Saucy Walker who also was sold in a 28 inch version, 28 inches (71 cm) Suzy, 24 inches (61 cm) Bonnie, 24 inches (61 cm) Johnny and the 38 inches (97 cm) Peter. A related line, the 38 inches (97 cm) and 42 inches (110 cm) Daddy’s Girl dolls, were also released around the same time, representing a 12-year old girl. Special editions, including Playpals modeled after child actresses Shirley Temple and Lori Martin, were also produced.

Owing to the popularity of the line, similar companion dolls and counterfeits were made and marketed by other companies under different names, such as those from Allied Eastern, Sayco, Madame Alexander and numerous other manufacturers.”

The year I was four, a companion doll (Not a Playpal brand, but a knock off) arrived for me on Christmas morning. Based on the home movies shot by my dad that year, I was thrilled; footage of me hugging and kissing the doll preserved on celluloid.

The author with ‘Sandy’ on Christmas Day 1961. Photo captured from home movies shot that day.

I’m not sure why but I named the doll ‘Sandy.’ And Sandy was a big part of my life for a time. She became the victim of a murder one afternoon when our cousins were playing at our house. That was the day she lost the middle finger of her left hand when the rope tied around it pulled the digit off.

Like all toys, Sandy eventually was relegated to the back of my closet where she stayed until my parents moved from that house in 1983. A number of years later, when they asked if I would please take my things with me, I obliged and Sandy relocated to our home in Kirkland. It was now the mid-2000’s

Not really having a spot for her, she was a bit of a nomad. She landed in a corner in the guest room where she patiently waited for someone to notice her.

New Year’s Eve 2015… Sandy isn’t quite sure about their beverage choice

That day came December 30, 2015 when my daughter and her boyfriend were in town for a visit. The daughter was reading on her i-phone in bed and happened to notice Sandy standing in the corner… and her eyes were glowing.

The daughter soon arrived at the door of my room demanding that I get that ‘creepy doll’ out of her room. I, of course, thought that it was hilarious that my adult daughter was freaked out by a doll. But I obliged… and moved Sandy into the bathtub of the bathroom my daughter was using. Of course Sandy was concealed behind the shower curtain. Then I went to bed.

The next morning I was rewarded with a scream and some choice words letting me know that my daughter was not pleased with where Sandy now resided. So I transferred the doll down by the Christmas tree. Which is where she remained until later that afternoon.

The daughter and boyfriend had plans to visit friends for New Year’s Eve and had gone to the store to obtain some beer… which they put out in our garage to get cool. Then they left for awhile and, once again, Sandy made her way to the garage to see what beverage they’d chosen and patiently waited for their return. Once again, we were pleased to hear a scream and suggestions as to where Sandy was NOT allowed.

And that’s how Sandy The Creepy Doll became a thing.

Truly, it started as a joke between my son and me as a way to torment his sister. But then a weird thing happened. The doll took on a life of her own. Remember the eyes and how my daughter said they glowed? Well, they do. Since they are made out of glass, a flash from a camera will capture the glow. And I swear that when that glow is recorded you can tell if Sandy is happy… or mad.

Weird things often happen during photo shoots. Not only did I get a cactus spine in my leg, but someone (cough, cough, Sandy) switched the camera to ‘sepia’ instead of color

Now, to really do it right I created a Facebook page for her in April 2016 started chronicling her activities through photos. Sandy has been a true companion doll for a number of years now, traveling around Washington State to places like Yakima, Leavenworth, Blaine, and Long Beach.

In 2018 she tagged along for a two week road trip to the Albuquerque Balloon festival visiting Lassen Peak, Death Valley, Saguaro, Carlsbad, and Arches National Parks along the way.

I have been the recipient of her displeasure. Like that one time at Saguaro National Park when I learned that she’s not a fan of cactus, and was uncooperative during the photo shoot. I backed into a cactus while trying to get the perfect picture, taking a spine in my calf… or the time I tripped over the rock at Lava Beds National Monument…I swear she was judging me as I sprawled on my behind on the hard dirt. She got over it when a woman insisted that Sandy be in a photo with… her dog.

At Lava Beds National Monument with her new best friend.

Sandy doesn’t travel much these days but she is there to greet any houseguests who make their way to the upper floor. I think she kinda freaked out my niece and her boyfriend a couple weeks ago. Sandy was only standing guard outside the room where they were staying. But don’t tell my daughter, okay? One of these days she might come back and stay the night. But I’m not counting on it.

A couple of links:

https://www.facebook.com/SandytheCreepyDoll

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

https://youtu.be/ybWzkwsgVXQ – A 1960’s commercial for Patti Play Pal

https://youtu.be/W6XEpzilaHI – A video about a man who collects and restores the dolls

.

I added this photo as her expression clearly says “I’m not amused.”

At Area 51 museum in Rowell, New Mexico. I got the impression the lady there had seen it all…Sandy, on the other hand, seems a bit worried about that alien.
 
 

Trick or Treat

A tradition which spans centuries

October 25, 2022

My brothers trick or treating circa 1958

For children everywhere, dressing up for Halloween and getting to go out trick or treating is almost as great as Christmas. After all, what’s not to like about a day when you can put on a costume, roam the streets of your neighborhood in the dark, and have people fill your outstretched bag with candy?

For anyone who grew up in the 1950’s and later, Halloween has been a day to embrace the joys of childhood.

Which got me to wondering this week “When, exactly, did the tradition of trick or treating begin?”

For the answer we turn, of course, to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Since the Middle Ages, a tradition of mumming on a certain holiday has existed in parts of Britain and Ireland. It involved going door-to-door in costume, performing short scenes or parts of plays in exchange for food or drink. The custom of trick-or-treating on Halloween may come from the belief that supernatural beings, or the souls of the dead, roamed the earth at this time and needed to be appeased.”

Mummers – those who participate in costumes in pantomime plays- depicted

Okay, so it was not invented recently. Today’s current trend in the United States has its roots some 80 years ago:

“Almost all pre-1940 uses of the term ‘trick-or-treat’ are from the United States and Canada. Trick-or-treating spread throughout the United States, stalled only by World War II sugar rationing that began in April, 1942 and lasted until June, 1947.

Early national attention to trick-or-treating was given in October 1947 issues of the children’s magazines Jack and Jill and Children’s Activities, and by Halloween episodes of the network radio programs The Baby Snooks Show in 1946 and The Jack Benny Show and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in 1948. Trick-or-treating was depicted in the Peanuts comic strip in 1951. The custom had become firmly established in popular culture by 1952, when Walt Disney portrayed it in the cartoon Trick or Treat, and Ozzie and Harriet were besieged by trick-or-treaters on an episode of their television show. In 1953 UNICEF first conducted a national campaign for children to raise funds for the charity while trick-or-treating.

(snip) The National Confectioners Association reported in 2005 that 80 percent of adults in the United States planned to give out confectionery to trick-or-treaters, and that 93 percent of children, teenagers, and young adults planned to go trick-or-treating or participating in other Halloween activities.

My own earliest memories of Trick or Treating on Halloween were likely from the second fall after we moved to Yakima. That would have been the year I was five. It is all a bit fuzzy but I remember getting to dress up as a gypsy and wearing a hard plastic face mask with the face of a smiling lady wearing a scarf and large earrings painted on it.

My older brother evaluating his loot circa 1958

It was my father who walked with my sister and me around the neighborhood. I’m pretty sure my older brother got to trick or treat with friends. The best part was when we got home and we dumped our prizes out on the living room floor and sorted the bounty.

This went on for the next five or six years. Eventually, my older brother ‘aged’ out since my mother had a rule that once you turned twelve you were too old for trick or treating. By the time I first went trick or treating, my oldest brother had been relegated to the passing out of candy.

When the year arrived I turned twelve, my mother had apparently been worn down by all her children because somehow I was allowed to go out trick or treating. The last year I remember participating was the year I was… 16! In my diary entry that year I wrote the following:

“In Reveille (yearbook class) we had a party, and it started to snow. The snow stuck, 2 inches of it. Andi & Vicki came down & we went out Trick or treating.”

I knew that it snowed the last year I went trick or treating but was surprised at how old I was!

Eventually the allure of trick or treating faded away… until October of 1990… and it was time to share the tradition with my offspring.

A few days before Halloween my son (in his tux, tail, and top hat) and I joined our Mom and Baby group for a party.

My son turned nine months old that Halloween and I dressed him up in a baby onesie which looked like a tiny tuxedo. I made him a black top hat and he was quite dapper. Then the hubby carted him to a few neighbors’ houses so he could trick or treat.

In the ensuing years, Halloween was ALWAYS a big deal for the kids, a tradition to be embraced. Each year they both would plan their costumes and this mom was frequently pressed into sewing services to create their vision.

My kids and nieces, ready to head out trick or treating. My son is dressed as the Pokemon Marawok and my daughter as a can-can girl. One of the years I did not make costumes.

By the time my daughter was a teenager, we were involved with the Rainbow Girls and Halloween was an opportunity to help the community. For most of those years, our group planned a food collection event. The girls, most of them now too old to be trick or treating, would distribute fliers a week to ten days before the holiday to about 300 houses asking for people to donate canned items for the food bank. Then, on Halloween night, the girls would go in pairs to the houses and collect the food. An adult would be in a car on the road so the girls had a place to put the collected items.

When I asked my daughter what her most memorable Halloween was, here’s what she wrote:

“Not sure if this counts but my most memorable Halloween from my youth was the year I was worthy advisor (president) and we collected like 600lbs of canned goods for NW Harvest.”

Although the photo is a bit fuzzy, you can see the 600K+ pounds of food collected by the Rainbow Girls. 2009

Although I miss the excitement of Halloween night with my children, it is fun to see a new generation ring my doorbell and shout “Trick Or Treat!” when I open it.

The link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trick-or-treating

Happy Days

Fonzie Jumps the Shark

September 20, 2022

There was, perhaps, no more popular and successful Sitcom of the 1970’s than Happy Days. In its eleven years on the air it was culture defining.

Its early success played off the nostalgia of the 1950’s, portraying a traditional family of that era. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Happy Days originated during a time of 1950s nostalgic interest as evident in 1970s film, television, and music. In late winter of 1971, Michael Eisner was snowed in at Newark airport where he bumped into Tom Miller, head of development at Paramount. Eisner has stated that he told Miller, ‘Tom, this is ridiculous. We’re wasting our time here. Let’s write a show.’ The script treatment that came out of that did not sell. But in spite of the market research department telling them that the 1950s theme would not work, they decided to redo it, and this was accepted as a pilot. This unsold pilot was filmed in late 1971 and titled New Family in Town. (snip) Paramount passed on making it into a weekly series, and the pilot was recycled with the title Love and the Television Set (later retitled Love and the Happy Days for syndication), for presentation on the television anthology series Love, American Style. Also in 1971, the musical Grease had a successful opening in Chicago, and by the following year became successful on Broadway. Also in 1972, George Lucas asked to view the pilot to determine if Ron Howard would be suitable to play a teenager in American Graffiti, then in pre-production. Lucas immediately cast Howard in the film, which became one of the top-grossing films of 1973.”

It was on September 20, 1977, however, when one Happy Days episode aired which has become a cultural catch phrase to describe a moment when a TV series, particularly, has passed its prime. That phrase is “jumping the shark.”

We can trace the moment back to a scene where Fonzie – arguably the most popular character from Happy Days – accepts a challenge from a character called ‘The California Kid’ to water ski over a tiger shark.

The ‘Kid’ chickens out but Fonzie, who feels he has something to prove, continues with the challenge, and is seen in his iconic leather jacket water skiing, successfully jumping the shark.

To be clear, Happy Days continued for seven additional seasons. It was only in 1985 when the phrase ‘jumping the shark’ was introduced.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The idiom ‘jumping the shark’ was coined in 1985 by Jon Hein in response to a 1977 episode from the fifth season of the American sitcom Happy Days, in which Fonzie (Henry Winkler) jumps over a shark while on water-skis. The phrase is pejorative and is used to argue that a creative work or outlet appears to be making a stunt in a seemingly exhaustive attempt to generate elevated attention or publicity to something that was once perceived as popular, but is no longer.”

I can’t recall when, exactly, I became familiar with the phrase. But for me the term has come to be representative of what I refer to as a cultural reference.

Henry Winkler, aka Fonzie, about to jump the shark

When my kids were about six and nine years old, I found myself using what I believed were common cultural references only to discover that my kids did NOT know them.

Thus I began a program of renting – actually I would check them out from the King County Public Library – movies which I felt they should see.

At first it was all the old musicals from the 1950’s and 1960’s which kept us entertained for a number of years. Then, when the kids were a bit older, I decided to introduce them to movies like Top Gun, Blazing Saddles, Animal House, and Risky Business.

There were more than a few awkward moments when my 13 year old daughter would hide her face behind a pillow when some inappropriate scene would appear on screen.

Note to parents out there: be sure to preview all movies before showing them to young teens.

Thinking that they needed to know about Monty Python, we gave our son the complete Monty Python DVD set one year for his birthday. Soon he was the one making cultural references and for years would quote famous lines from the show, my efforts successful.

I’ve always felt that I contributed significantly to my children’s general knowledge base.

That said, there were many times when I would comment on what I thought of as a common cultural reference only to discover my children staring at me, blank looks on their faces.

Inevitably that would lead to me trotting over to the computer and searching the internet to find the clip or explanation so they could learn it too.

There are times, nowadays, when my daughter, particularly, is on the receiving end of the blank stare. Yes, I am frequently the one who does not know a current cultural reference.

Rather than admitting I don’t know the reference, I often make a mental note to check it out later. FWIW, its how I’ve learned what the pervasive acronyms splattered throughout social media mean. (FWIW= For What It’s Worth).

After experiencing an unfamiliar cultural reference, I’ve often returned home to watch a movie or TV show which their generation all know and, in some cases, I can see the attraction. But not always.

But I do think making a sincere effort to understand another person’s cultural references is important. After all, I’m not quite ready to jump the shark. Not Yet. WBU?

A few links for your cultural reference education:

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

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

Alpha Phi

Celebrating 150 years of Sorority Life

September 13, 2022

The front of my Alpha Phi Pledge book and a photo of our house at the University of Puget Sound. 1977

The formation of Greek letter societies on college campuses can be traced back to 1776. The idea behind the first such group – Phi Beta Kappa – was to provide a place for like minded individuals in the pursuit of academic excellence. Phi Beta Kappa continues today as a prestigious academic honor society.

Over the next century Fraternities, as they came to be called, were social groups formed for men. It wasn’t until 1870 when the first actual Greek letter group for women was established. That honor goes to Kappa Alpha Theta which was formed in January 1870 at Indiana’s DePauw University; close on their heels was Kappa Kappa Gamma founded in October of the same year at Monmouth College in Illinois.*

Third on that list was Alpha Phi Fraternity, established on September 18, 1872 at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

The term Sorority had not yet been coined to represent the female version of a Fraternity which is why the first three such groups for women were formed as Fraternities.

When I pledged Alpha Phi at the University of Puget Sound in the fall of 1977, I knew little of the Greek organizations. Yes, my mother had been a member of Delta Delta Delta but had talked little of her time in the sorority.

I also knew that my grandmother had been a housemother for the Sigma Kappa sorority on the University of Washington campus in the early to mid-1960’s.

A few of my sorority sisters from the official composite of the members in 1977-78

Knowing this, and having stayed at the Sigma Kappa house a couple of times while my grandmother was there, I had long wished to join a sorority when I attended college. More on that in a bit.

First, the Infallible Wikipedia tells us this about Alpha Phi:

“At the time of the founding there were only 666 women attending Syracuse; ten of them eventually formed Alpha Phi to create an organization ‘on the principles of the promotion of growth in character; unity of feeling, sisterly affection, and social communion among the members.’ Although the actual founding date is September 18, 1872, Alpha Phi has been celebrating their Founders Day on October 10 since 1902, since many colleges and universities were not open for classes in mid-September at that time. Alpha Phi considers itself a women’s fraternity because its founding date predates the invention of the word ‘sorority.’ (snip)

Like many other women’s fraternities, Alpha Phi recognizes multiple types of symbols, with the Ivy Leaf as their primary symbol. The fraternity’s official colors are Bordeaux and silver. The colors were originally blue and gold; however, these colors were similar to those of Delta Upsilon Fraternity so they were changed. The official flowers are the Lily of the Valley and the Forget-me-not. Alpha Phi lists its ideals as ‘Sisterhood, Generosity, Innovation, and Character.’ Alpha Phi’s public motto is ‘union hand in hand’.”

My roomies from my first semester atop the bunk beds: Dee, Susie, and Connie.

All of these things I learned after becoming a pledge. A pledge is someone who commits to joining the organization once they have completed a probationary period. I successfully completed my probation and was initiated into Alpha Phi in January 1978.

The two years I was a member of Alpha Phi were, perhaps, the most influential and memorable times of my life. I loved everything about Sorority life. The Monday night chapter meetings; the Friday and Saturday night functions with the Fraternities; the crazy antics of my roomies; having roomies; living on Greek row.

Unlike most students, I was a junior when I arrived on the UPS campus. I had spent the previous two years at Yakima Valley College (YVC). I discovered, spring of my sophomore year at that institution, that I was a few credits short of what I needed for my AA degree. Having the AA was essential to avoid spending an extra year – and extra money – getting my BA degree.

With Roomies Cathy and Sheila at Sheila’s home in Sooke, B.C., summer of 1978

The summer before UPS, I took a Spanish class at YVC to get those credits and ended up meeting a gal name Toni. Unbeknownst to me, Toni was a member of Alpha Phi at UPS and, due to her own issues getting her degree from UPS, had signed up for the YVC class also. I so appreciate Toni as she took the time and effort to write a recommendation for me, paving the way for my membership in Alpha Phi.

I assumed I would join Delta Delta Delta (Tri-Delta) as both my mother and my aunt had been members. There were rules regarding how a ‘legacy’ – someone who had a mother, sister, or grandmother who belonged to a particular sorority – was processed through ‘Rush.’ (Rush was a multi-day process where the Rushees would go, in groups of 25 to 30, to each and every sorority on campus. There you would meet and talk to members of a particular house before being ushered out and then herded to the next house.) Later, I came to understand, the members of each house would meet and decide ‘who’ to invite back the next day as they were limited in the number of young women they could choose.

Not knowing how Rush worked, I found out too late that having letters of reference were essential to receiving an invitation to return. For the second day of Rush, I was asked back to three of the seven Sororities on campus: Tri Delta, Alpha Phi, and Chi Omega. I did not have the recommendations needed for the others.

Undaunted, I show up at the appointed time at each and I think it’s gone pretty well. But, when the dust settled, the Tri-Delts had not invited me back to day three. I learned later that, as a Legacy, you were guaranteed an invite back for day two, but if they invited you back after that they were required to issue you an invitation to join. Being that I was a junior meant I would only be in the sorority for two – rather than four – years. The Tri-Delts were, I think, looking only for freshmen.

Ready for the alumni open house Fall 1978

Although disappointed, I crossed my fingers that the Alpha Phi’s would keep me to the end. While Toni had opened the first door, I was also helped along by Alpha Phi member I knew through the Rainbow Girls. I have no doubt that her influence was a deciding factor in the sorority inviting me to join. Thus I became a proud pledge of Alpha Phi, excited to have the sorority experience.

Alpha Phi’s dressed and ready for a cowboy function with one of the Fraternities

There’s little doubt in my mind that I probably would have been a more serious student had I NOT joined the sorority. But I also believe that one’s lessons in life come in many different forms. For me Alpha Phi was the perfect vehicle for transition from teenager to adult. It became my family. True it was a family of all sisters, but we looked out for each other; we were there to listen to tales of woe in regards to guys. We were there to give each other hugs of encouragement and dry the occasional tears. We had someone to walk to class with and there was always someone to eat a meal with. There were the after lunch TV sessions to watch All My Children and the weekend late night gatherings for Saturday Night Live. There were the runs to the “Pig” – aka Piggly Wiggly grocery store – for snacks; and the occasional pizza outings to Shakey’s. There were dances and social events with the Fraternities.

In the spring of 1979, with graduation looming, some of my sisters would say they couldn’t wait to be done. But not me. I knew I would miss everything about Sorority life and Alpha Phi.

But it wasn’t over; not really. The experiences live on in my memory and, perhaps, one or a dozen of those experiences may have become part of the book series I’m currently prepping for publication.

I owe it all to my sisters and the two magical years I spent with them as a member of the Gamma Zeta chapter of Alpha Phi at the University of Puget Sound.

A few links:

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraternities_and_sororities#Establishment_and_early_history

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

*Although both Pi Beta Phi (Pi Phi) and Alpha Delta Phi (ADPi) can claim earlier formation dates than the three listed, neither adopted Greek letter names when created. Pi Phi – originally called I.C. Sorosis – switched to a Greek letter name in 1888, and ADPi – originally the Adelphean Society – in 1905.

Class Reunion

A snapshot in time

August 16, 2022

It occurred to me, after attending a class reunion this weekend, that somehow I’m pretty certain I’ve managed to attend all of the ones for my high school class.

A reunion book was produced for both our 10 and 20 year reunions

I suppose that’s not really a surprise, after all I was Editor of our yearbook my Senior year and have always had a keen interest in people’s stories. Attending a reunion is simply a continuation of those stories; an opportunity to get a snapshot every few years of those who were a part of the early years of our lives.

Before I go much further, however, I know all my regular readers will be glad to learn that the Infallible Wikipedia has a page for the topic ‘class reunion’ as follows:

“A class reunion is a meeting of former classmates, often organized at or near their former high school or college by one or more class members. It is scheduled near an anniversary of their graduation, e.g. every 5 or 10 years. Their teachers and administrators may also be invited. Those attending reminisce about their student days and bring one another up to date on what has happened since they last met.”

But I don’t think the Infallible Wikipedia’s description does the topic justice. So I started thinking about my Eisenhower High School reunions through the years. At our ten year reunion – the first one we had – there were easily a couple hundred who attended. Our venue was one of the buildings at the Central Washington State Fair Grounds and, besides a dinner and dancing, included a photographer who was taking photos which could be purchased.

At the time, the hubby and I were DINKY’s (back in the 1980’s a DINKY stood for Double Income No Kids Yet). The snapshot of that night was one of people in their late 20’s, still trying to figure out their place in the world. Some had children and, although I did not, I can still see the look of complete exhaustion on the faces of those women. But I didn’t yet understand what that was like, as careers were everything in my world that reunion. At ten years, there was a weird game of one-upmanship still in play.

Truly, few of us had yet experienced some of life’s harder lessons. Perhaps the most sobering aspect of the 10 year reunion was the short list of those with whom we had graduated but who had already left this earth.

Fast forward five years, and the organizers (we have been blessed to have a team of, primarily, women who have made all of these happen!) planned a half decade reunion. This one, held in the early fall, included attending a home football game on Friday night and a picnic on Saturday.

Now, as a mother with an 8 month old baby, I left my son with the most reliable babysitters in the universe, his grandparents, and headed out to the stadium. Partway through the game, I look down from the bleachers only to see my Dad standing below motioning at me. My night out was over!

The next day, my not yet walking son and I attended the picnic and enjoyed the more casual setting and smaller numbers, getting advice from experienced moms and meeting many of their children also.

Year twenty the reunion was held in a big outdoor tent at a country club. At the ten and the 20 year reunions, A “tell us about your life” booklet had been produced and by year 20, the cliques and the labels of high school had started to blur.

The crowd at the 20 year reunion. Definitely a ‘Where’s Waldo’ sort of exercise to find myself in the photo.

One of my favorite snapshot moments was when I was talking to another girl when one of the guys from our class came over to talk to her. Still standing there and feeling a bit like a third wheel, there was suddenly a lull in the conversation and I blurted out to the guy, who we will call Adam, “I had the worst crush on you in Junior High.” I seem to recall he choked on his drink and nearly spit it out.

With my BFF’s from high school on our way to the 40 year reunion in 2015

Onward the years have marched. Our group celebrated with a 35 and also a 40 and then, in 2020, a planned 45 year reunion was sidetracked.

Two years passed but our fearless organizers pressed on and proclaimed that 2022 would be our “Medicare Reunion.”

Suddenly, all those 17 and 18 year old kids I attended high school with were starting to retire. Most everyone had lost one or both parents; more names have been added to the dreaded ‘list’; there have been triumphs and disappointments; incredible joy and devastating sorrow; the loss of siblings; the loss of spouses; the loss of children. The cliques and labels have disappeared and what’s left are people who can simply enjoy a few hours of telling their stories and hearing other’s stories.

It’s the context which matters. These are the people who shared beginnings either in elementary school, junior high, or high school. When we look at each other we can remember the person and how they looked then. We can see past the wrinkles and gray hair. Their essence is still very much the same but is, I think, tempered by the experiences of life. We are kinder and more forgiving.

One of my classmates – who traveled from California for the event – said it best. My apologies for the paraphrase: It’s about the people and making connections with each other. And it’s important.

Our 2022 ‘Medicare’ reunion

Time – and Covid – have taught us all these things and can be summed up in my favorite Latin phrase: Carpe Diem.

So the next time your high school or college, sorority or fraternity, or any other group you’ve belonged to, plans a reunion, Go. Go and connect with the people who knew you ‘when.’ Laugh. Cry. Enjoy. Hug. And be sure to tell them how much you appreciate them having been a part of your life.

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

Dominoes

An ancient game still popular today

August 9, 2022

From the time I was a wee tyke, this game was part and parcel of my life. There was something fascinating about these little black tiles with white dots on them. No doubt they helped me learn to count and add.

A typical set up for a game of traditional dominoes.

Additionally, they were often employed as bricks for tiny doll houses and set up in rows only to be knocked down.

The domino was first mentioned over 700 years ago. It is, no doubt, one of the oldest games known to man.

Yes, the Infallible Wikipedia has a page devoted to it:

The cover of a domino box which we discovered among my parents’ things. The inside box cover (below) is signed and has a date of 1910 in it.

“The earliest mention of dominoes is from Song dynasty China found in the text Former Events in Wulin by Zhou Mi (1232–1298). Modern dominoes first appeared in Italy during the 18th century, but they differ from Chinese dominoes in a number of respects, and there is no confirmed link between the two. European dominoes may have developed independently, or Italian missionaries in China may have brought the game to Europe.

The name ‘domino’ is probably derived from the resemblance to a kind of carnival costume worn during the Venetian Carnival, often consisting of a black-hooded robe and a white mask. Despite the coinage of the word ‘polyomino’ as a generalization, there is no connection between the word ‘domino’ and the number 2 in any language. The most commonly played domino games are Domino Whist, Matador, and Muggins (All Fives). Other popular forms include Texas 42, Chicken Foot, Concentration, Double Fives, and Mexican Train.”

Now, on the minute chance there are readers who are not familiar with dominos, the most common configuration features a set of 28 tiles. Each tile has two faces featuring from zero to six ‘spots’ on either face. The lowest denomination is double zero (blank on both faces), while the greatest is a double six (a six at either end). In between is every single combination of numbers such as one-five, three-four, two-six, etc.

The traditional game I learned was that each participant drew seven tiles and the one with the highest double would start the game by laying down their tile face up. The person to their left would either play a domino which matched their number (For example, if they played a double five, then the second player had to also play a tile with a five at one end) or draw if they did not have a play.

The game continued until one person was able to play all of their tiles before anyone else.

I have a distinct childhood memory of playing dominoes with my mother and grandmother at the family cabin. My grandmother was a keen game player and, it seemed to me, that she always won. But I’m certain my mother won her fair share also. As a kid, I never stood a chance against them!

After my mother’s dementia had taken over her brain, dominoes was the last game she was capable of playing and my sister would often get out the dominoes set which had been acquired just for Mom and engage her in the activity.

The set of dominoes acquired for Mom after her dementia diagnosis.

More recently, my sister, niece, and the niece’s hubby, introduced me to a domino game which I would describe as being on steroids. The game: Mexican Train.

Mexican Train, however, uses dominoes with up to twelve dots on each face, so there are 91 tiles. We turn to the Infallible Wikipedia once again to learn how the game is played:

“With a standard double-twelve set the double twelve is placed in the station. In each successive round the next lower double is used until all doubles are used. The double-blank is the final round.

Play continues to the left. Each person lays one legally placed domino per turn, or two if the player’s first domino is a double. If they are unable to, they must draw a domino from the boneyard. If they are able to lay that domino, they must do so immediately. Otherwise, their turn is over and play continues to the left, each player trying to place all their dominoes by playing matching dominoes one at a time, end to end.

A train can be as long as the players can make it; it ends only when all dominoes that could match its endpoint have already been played. As a result, trains can become quite long, especially with an extended domino set. It is acceptable to ‘bend’ the train 90° or 180° to keep the train on the playing surface, as long as it does not interfere with the endpoints of other trains.

All trains begin the game as ‘public’, and all players may play on them. When a player plays a domino on their train it then becomes ‘private.’ When a player draws a domino and is unable to play it, they must mark their train as ‘public’ by placing a marker on their train.

The Mexican train is an additional train that anyone may play on during their turn. They can start the train by playing a domino matching the engine (i.e. the double played at the beginning of the round) or add to the train.”

I must admit I was curious about how it became known as Mexican train. One last blurb from the Infallible Wikipedia:

The new Mexican Train dominos set up and ready for customers

“‘Mexican Train’ is a name typically used only in the United States. It is believed Mexican Train Dominoes is a variation on a Chinese game called Pai gow, which means ‘make nine’. Chinese laborers brought the game to Latin America once they began working in sugar fields in the mid to late 1800s. Cubans and other Latin American players adopted the game to use dominoes and called it ‘Domino Cubano’. It later arrived in the United States around the 1860s once Cuban laborers began working on U.S. railroads. Americans began referring to the game as ‘Mexican Train Dominoes’ because of its growing popularity among Cuban, Mexican, and other Latin American laborers brought to the United States.”

Playing the game with my sister and her gang has become one of my favorite things to do when we get together. This is in spite of the fact that the final score of the first round of 13 I ever played resulted in me taking high score honors. Oh, did I mention that you are trying to earn the ‘least’ amount of points? Exactly.  

My high score – which was somewhere in the high 600’s – has not, to my knowledge, been eclipsed by anyone else in our quartet. My niece tried hard to get there last week when the four of us spent a few days at the beach. I have yet to check with her to see if, from the past score sheets which are kept, if she is the new high score champ.

In years past, she has brought the Mexican train set she owns with her on the annual trip. But this year it was accidentally left behind. As fate would have it, the first day we were there was my birthday and, after a stop at Fred Meyer, there appeared a shiny new metal tin full of dominos as a gift.

Now one might think that since it was my birthday week, they would at least let me win the game. One would be wrong. Despite my best efforts, it was my sister who came out on top for this two day round of Mexican Train, followed by her son-in-law, then me, and then my niece.

Since I started playing with them, however, I would say each one of us has been the victor at least once.

Ultimately, however, I always come away from the game feeling as though I’m the winner, regardless of the score. For me being able to experience the joy of simply playing games with family and friends is the real win.

As for the new set of tiles, I opted to leave them in the owner’s closet at the family condo for all the to enjoy when at the beach.

The links:

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

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

If you have a few minutes take a look at this YouTube video of dominoes set up and then getting knocked down. I don’t possess the patience to do something like this.

Candy Crush

A tasty treat to play!

April 12, 2022

One of the dangers of devices like the iPhone, Androids, and computers, is that there are, literally, thousands of games and other time-wasting applications just waiting to suck you in.

Tiffi (pictured here) is the main character in Candy Crush. Also pictured are some of the bright colored candies as well as striped, candies, color bombs, and coconut wheels

Such is the case for the game Candy Crush – one of the most popular games ever – which debuted on April 12, 2012.

For the game’s developers, it’s been a dream come true which has, no doubt, made them rich beyond their wildest dreams. For those who get sucked into the game, it’s a way to spend way too much time matching colorful digital ‘candy’, earning ‘rewards’, and – what the developers really want – spending money to purchase in-game boosters.

If you’ve never seen or played Candy Crush, no fear, the Infallible Wikipedia does – of course – have an informative article:

“In the game, players complete levels by swapping colored pieces of candy on a game board to make a match of three or more of the same color, eliminating those candies from the board and replacing them with new ones, which could potentially create further matches. Matches of four or more candies create unique candies that act as power-ups with larger board-clearing abilities. Boards have various goals that must be completed within a fixed number of moves or limited amount of time, such as a certain score or collecting a specific number of a type of candy.

Candy Crush Saga is considered one of the first and most successful uses of a freemium model; while the game can be played completely through without spending money, players can buy special actions to help clear more difficult boards, from which King makes its revenues—at its peak the company was reportedly earning almost $1 million per day.

A screen shot of level 15… it seems so easy and innocuous at this juncture.

Around 2014, over 93 million people were playing Candy Crush Saga, while revenue over a three-month period as reported by King was over $493 million. Five years after its release on mobile, the Candy Crush Saga series has received over 2.7 billion downloads, and the game has been one of the highest-grossing and most-played mobile apps in that time frame.”

I’m positive that pretty much everyone who has a computer or a phone has, at one time or another played a digital game. Whether your thing is a fighting game, solitaire, word games, or Candy Crush, the human animal seems to be hard wired to solve challenges.

Finishing first for an episode – 15 games – earns you 25 gold bars. Which are handy when you encounter a difficult level and need a boost. My longest streak of ‘wins’ is now 25.

Which the creators of Candy Crush figured out in spades, so to speak. The game is a visual feast of rewards. When you match three candies (the color palette of the game is bright shades of blue, purple, green, red, orange, and yellow) they sort of explode. And, when you match FIVE candies at once, special candies are created: striped, wrapped, and – best of all – color bombs. These candies, when activated, literally explode and will clear large swaths of candy from the board. It’s this ‘reward’ feature that all games have in common and that keeps players coming back to play again.

I will warn everyone, if you have not ever played Candy Crush AND if you are trying to avoid getting hooked, DO NOT go check out the game. It was in May 2014 when I made that mistake.

At the end of April that year I got my first Android phone. The main reason was to have a decent phone when driving with my son to Tennessee a couple weeks later. Having an Android became important for things like weather reports and communications with the hubby and daughter. (Be sure to read all about the day we outran the tornado here)

My son – who was moving there – had his truck loaded and I was going along to help with the driving, etc. Mostly I ended up riding shotgun and finding roads, motels, and places to eat on the new phone.

Then it happened. We are tooling along and I’m a little bored with nothing really to do and for those who have driven across Wyoming and the Dakotas, you know what I mean. I am still getting to know the phone and the words of one of my Facebook friends echos in my brain: “I’m surprised you don’t play Candy Crush. It seems like you would really like it.” To which I had replied “I don’t want to try it because I don’t need to waste more time.”

But like a dealer tempting me with his wares, I decide to check it out and play a few games just to pass the time. Big mistake.

Next thing I knew, I had played 15 games and had passed the first level. Then it was 30. Then 45. Soon I had ‘won’ 100 games and had started counting how ‘many’ of my Facebook friends were at a higher level than I was.

My friend Elizabeth was soon sending me extra ‘lives’ since – once you lost five times – your playing was over unless someone sent you them or you purchased them with real money.

Level 1476 is a good level to play when you need to collect certain colored candies or color bombs

I also discovered that every day there were bonuses I could earn that randomly gave me striped, wrapped, and color bomb candies. There were things called coconut wheels which when activated, turned regular candies into striped candies that cleared whole rows. There are little UFO’s which fly around and blow up candy and, best of all, a piñata which explodes and clears the entire board. All of these things can be purchased OR you can use your earned coins to get them. Of course you do have to be prudent in what you ‘purchase’ with your coins.

I would say I have become a Candy Crush expert in the past 8 years. I recently passed level 10,000. As of their 10th anniversary today, there are 11,511 levels in the game. Based on my current level that’s only 945 to go! Time to get back to playing…

As always a couple of links:

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

For those who wish to start playing it…

https://www.facebook.com/candycrushsaga

And if you go to your app store on your phone and type in ‘Candy Crush’, then you – like the over 1 BILLION who have downloaded it – can get addicted too.