It Was The 50s and I Was A Kid, What Did I Know…

Front Porch (1)

It was the 50s, life was good. But I was a kid, what did I know…

I remember my mother waiting until supper was finished before contentedly sitting down herself, to enjoy a cup of tea and bite to eat. I grew up naively thinking that all mothers had the same routine; set, serve, clear, then eat. It was the 50s, and I was a kid, what did I know…

We never took a family vacation. However,  we were active as a family, bonding with simple, valuable, family activities: evening rides in our spacious Chevy station wagon for ice cream and hot dogs or to check out the wonderful countryside, fishing at local ponds, watching family television shows, playing games around the kitchen table, even venturing 40 miles to Boston for a baseball game.

We were part of a ‘blue collar’ community and’ living the dream’, it seemed. It was the 50s and I was a kid, what did I know…

june-n-stephen-1957

I watched ‘Three Stooges’ reruns and my father would scoff, “you’ll grow up stupid, watching that stuff”.  We watched Friday Night Fights together on a black ‘n white picture screen and listened on the radio when a Swede knocked out Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight crown.  I didn’t grow up ‘stupid’, nor did I become a tough guy.  The Stooges taught me how great laughter is and I learned nothing from boxing, except the cigar commercials caught my attention.  I would be tempted.  It was the 50’s and tobacco was still king. What did I know…

Annette Funicello, the prettiest Mouseketeer, surely saw me in the crowd at her K-Mart autograph appearance.  I had a crush on her, every boy did, I’m sure she winked at me.  But she never answered my fan letter.  Maybe it got lost.  It was the 50s, I felt heartbreak for the first time.

Big malls didn’t exist in the 50s. Neither did video games, but we had imaginations, enthusiasm and bicycles to take us places; museums, play fields, or downtown for stuff. Several of us went together for moral support when it came time to buy our first jockstraps for school sports.  It was the 50s, we were all kids, navigating our way…

The 50s was an exciting time for new fads, new music and new dangers.  Hula hoops became an instant craze and Elvis became an instant hit.  Parents worried about rock ‘n roll and morals while the government worried about a dictator named Castro. I worried about pimples.

mother-1951            dad-1957

Sitting on our front porch in the 50s, I would calculate my age by the year 2000.  Wow, that seemed old, I thought.  But that was a long road to travel and would take forever to get there.  With certainty, it came and went. I was so young when it did. At least, looking back now, it seemed I was.

The 50s were relatively calm and peaceful. The 60s were just around the corner. What possibly could change…

…but then, what do I know?

A Hat Story…🎩 

“I collect hats. That’s what you do when you’re bald.”
James Taylor, Singer/Songwriter

I’m not a hat collector, but I am bald, on the top. Heat escapes through that unguarded space like smoke up a chimney.  Hence, I need a hat.

I find hats difficult to buy; so many styles, so many shapes.  A hat literally changes the way you look, for better or worse, often hiding the irregular shapes that a hairless head reveals. It’s important to find the ‘perfect’ hat.

Trying on hats in front of a big department store mirror is awkward, too. I use the dressing room for privacy where I can channel my ‘inner hat looks’ and zone in on the perfect one that fits those ‘looks’ as well as my head. I’m thinking something iconic, like this guy…

brando

I’ve worn a variety of hats over the years: team hats with logos, winter hats with side flaps. fishing hats, those grubby hats that smelled and got tossed around and stored with gear until the next outing. One smell of that fishing hat helped you recall the story of the ‘one that got away’.

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The Army gave me a ‘Smokey Bear’ hat. Actually, the Army doesn’t ‘give’ anything, I earned it. An odd shape, the Drill Sergeant hat was good for standing close to a trainee and pecking him on the forehead with the hard brim to make a point. I know, harassment,right?

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When I was six or seven, my parents dressed me for a brother-sister picture. Of all things, they found a soft hat my size that made me look like a little old man escorting a young and much taller lady to the local Moose Club for a night of  jitterbugging. Surely, it embarrassed my sister to pose next to me. I wore it just the one time.

Now, I am an old man and need a hat with a bit more style than my lifeless, faded Red Sox hat. It’s a classic but it’s ready to become a fishing hat.

red-sox-hat

Style, comfort and warmth, the three criteria for a new hat. I found one on a recent solo shopping expedition. It’s the Gatsby or ‘newsboy’ style. My wife is not a fan, says it makes me look old. I think she means ‘old-er’. I like it. It keeps the heat in and that’s good enough for me.

What do you think?

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Yes, hats can add style to your image, a little pizzazz to your ‘get up and go’. But thinking about the different hats I’ve worn, this one is probably the one I treasure most…

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Steve

Srbottch.Com

Today, I Touched My Father’s Hand

1951 Dad at Ptown

My father lived an active life of 76 years. There are days when I think of him deeply and feel as though I’ve ‘touched’ him.

His life can be seen in a collection of pictures in a box: a young, single man sporting a shotgun; a stern looking father standing behind his children; a rugged outdoorsman proudly displaying a day’s catch; an adored husband; an aging, pensive man, appearing to be planning his next project or adventure. I shuffle through these pictures and for a moment, ‘touch my father’s hand’.

I’m surrounded by reminders of my father, keeping alive my memory of him and the times we shared. At my workbench, I hold the tools he left behind and sense the touch of his strong, calloused hand, a hand toughened on the instruments of his trade and his handyman skills: a hammer and hand crafted wooden box, still full of his selection of nails; old hand saws in need of sharpening; chisels and broad knives; a duster that outlived its usefulness as a pure bristle paintbrush.

In a storage room, a wallpaper board he gave me warps with age. Always the teacher, I’m sure he was hoping that I was watching and learning some of his decorating skills.  I was. I move my hand slowly across its paste stained surface and ‘touch my father’s hand’.

Under my desk lies his rifle that we sighted at the range each year in preparation for hunting season. I never saw him shoot a deer. Unlucky, a poor shot, or just a man who enjoyed the woods without the gaming, Now, I feel the cold steel of the tarnished barrel, the etched wood of the worn stock, and the smooth, shiny finish of the trigger, and I ‘touch my father’s hand’.

A once classic set of golf clubs stands alone in the corner. We woke early on Saturdays to meet my brothers for a morning of serious, but fun, golf. Good shots were applauded, poor shots were cursed, and loose change went to the winners. Once again, the time together presented him with great teaching moments about golf, life and friendship. Today, I pull a club from the worn golf bag that has stiffened with age, grip it and give it a waggle. Almost seems like Saturday morning.

An array of fishing rods lay against the cellar wall. Old reels, pitted by ocean salt, collect dust and spider webs while looking down at me from an overhead shelf. Homemade lures hang by their treble hooks on a nail. I brush away the webs and give one of the reels a crank or two. For a fleeting moment, I see him casting in the foamy, white surf along a sandy Massachusetts beach or rocky Rhode Island shore, places where we fished, side by side. I feel the stiff wire leader run between my fingers, as I close my eyes to a carefree time, a ‘once upon a time’.

l have many wonderful memories of my father. I have things of his that depict him and his life. Yet, I don’t have him, anymore. It’s the natural progression of life, isn’t it?  But today, when I reached out and held those things that once were his, I ‘touched my father’s hand’…..and it was wonderful, again.

Mother & Dad

srbottch

Dedicated to my father,

November 13, 1905 – November 5, 1981