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…


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?

Good Movies Make Good Memories: I Saw Elvis

Movies 1

My dad was a Sinatra fan, said he could sing anything. Then, along came Elvis Presley, a different kind of performer who ‘rocked’ the country and attracted fans of all ages, including my dad.

It’s an understatement to say Elvis was unique.  From his slick black hair and long, wide sideburns to his trademark hip swinging, Rock ‘n Roll singing genre of music,  Elvis was the new king of entertainment.

When Elvis hit the silver screen with his first film, ‘Love Me Tender’, my dad took us to see it, my first movie experience with him.  We blended with a crowd of young and old at the Park Ave theatre in Worcester to see this ‘all American boy’ who had the girls screaming with every gyration and lip curling lyric that accompanied his guitar strumming.  I enjoyed the movie, but the priceless memory for me was catching a glimpse of my dad, generally a serious man, surrounded by excited youngsters and enjoying the Elvis experience along with them.

We’ve had fun at the movies with our two children, making our special memories. My son didn’t notice the tear I shed when we saw ‘ET’, he was 5.  We saw the first ‘Star Wars’ in 1980 at 6, and came away thrilled. We saw the newest episode, accompanied  by his wife this time, 35 years later, and got goosebumps, again
Movie Tickets

My daughter and I saw ‘Titanic’, a tragic love story with a beautiful score, and ‘Jurassic Park’, a fantasy adventure with life-like dinosaurs that kept us on the edge of our seats. She laughed when I jumped during a scary moment, then we both laughed. And today, we’d laugh again when remembering it.

Together, the family saw the hilarious comedy Beetlejuice while vacationing in New York’s Adirondack region.   Not only were we entertained, but the memories of going together are enduring and we still say, ‘remember that scene in …..!’

The movie theatre is one of the early entertainment experiences for kids. It’s an opportunity to introduce them to a simple cultural event while teaching them to become discriminating consumers, understanding good product from bad. And the bonus, it’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours bonding, watching the event and critiquing it later, together.

I recall my own childhood and rememberances not of ‘things’ I got, but of what we did together as family: ballgames, fishing, rides to the country, stopping for ice cream, and going to an occassional movie.

Times are different, life is faster, people are easily distracted, all the more reason to get together and do something to enjoy each other’s company. Go to a movie!  You won’t see Elvis, but you just may discover something better, each other.

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


Dedicated to my father,

November 13, 1905 – November 5, 1981

“My Front Porch”

Front Porch (1)

Forty miles west of Boston, in central Massachusetts, between the Berkshire Mountains and Cape Cod, is Worcester. It was good place to be a kid.  We owned a three family house there, a ‘3 decker’, a style exclusive to New England blue collar neighborhoods.

The big house had some fascinating features: a slate roof, windowed side porches, utility sheds on the back with access to outside turning clothes lines.           Front Porch (Clothesline)On wash day, everything from underwear to pillow cases hung from the backside of the house, drying to a fresh air finish in the feint summer breezes.

To me, the deep, wrap-around front porch with spindled railings, round columns and a narrow board floor was the best part of the house, a place in the hot summer months, where I could escape to relax, reflect and reenergize.

Front porches were common in New England, as gathering places for family and friends.  In summer, my porch collected morning dew that gave way to evening sunsets.  Daytime found the porch abuzz with children playing and adults relaxing with idle chatter over cups of hot tea, unknowingly making memories.

Overgrown forsythia and fragrant lilac bushes served as a wall of privacy, like a moat to a castle.  A pull-down shade kept us cool and dry from summer sun and rain.

Imaginations came alive as friends gathered on the porch to play or plan games. My body found a way to adjust to the stiff aluminum chaise lounge where I often settled in, to read on lazy summer days.  There, I muddled through ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ got lost in ‘Lord of The Flies’, with my own sea conch by my side, and hid ‘Catcher in the Rye’. Comic books were a favorite staple and napping was allowed.

The front porch of our home was a launching pad to juvenile adventures, where a kid could feel brave and safe.  But all good things end, as this did when my dad announced that he was ripping off the porch because it was in disrepair. I was devastated.

I knew, then, an idyllic chapter in my life had ended, as I pulled nails from the splintered boards that once made my porch.  I felt like an executioner.

But the memory of that porch and those times remains vivid.  And, I wonder, did you have a ‘front porch ‘ in your life?