Tuesday, August 8, 2017

the Eclipse of July 1963

As a kid, I always listened to what I was told, especially on the radio and TV. I remember I heeded all the warnings and hid in the basement one Saturday in July of 1963. The story was if you so much as glimpsed at the sun during that fateful afternoon you would be blinded for life.

My father and older brother somehow missed the advice. They were working on a trellis in the front yard when they noticed the sun looking weird.

"Look up at the sky!" my brother yelled. My father looked up. Several of the neighbors looked up.

"Doesn't the sun look weird!" my father said. They came and told me after the eclipse was over. I hate to admit it but I was a little disappointed that I wasn't the only sighted one in the family after that. Rather, things went on normally.

Editor's note: Don't look up at the sky on the 21st without the right eye ware. Prudence is the better part of valor.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial day parade

Here is a post that describes Memorial Day in Hackensack.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Muhammad Ali vs. Brian London

Last week I heard about the Maryweather- Pacquiao fight after it was over, just like I discovered who Nirvana the band was after Kurt Curbain died. I'm not always up on major cultural events. I did, as a youth, follow heavyweight fights, and as a listener of Howard Cosel's radio minute, "Speaking of Sports" I was even a bit knowledgeable about the fighting world.

I first heard about Cassius Clay when he recited poetry on the Jack Paar Friday night show. Then I listened to the first Clay Liston fight on the radio with my father and brother. By that time most sports events were on tv but this was a throw-back to an earlier time because it was only on the radio unless you wanted to spend money at a theatre.

The 1967 Ali Brian London fight brought me a moment of glory in gym class. Probably the only moment of glory I ever had in that institution, as I sucked at all the activities (except maybe Jumping Jacks) that one partook of in such a place.

It was my knowledge of radio and dxing that brought me that moment of glory. It was the locker room after the showers and the young men were complaining about not being able to watch the fight the night before. I piped up, "I heard the fight on the radio!"

"It wasn't on the radio!" interjected Brave-heart.
"Yes it was, I picked it up from a station in Canada."
"Really?" Suddenly Willie Bassett, Buba Davis, and  Leroy Williams all looked at me and were impressed. My one moment of glory in gym class.

Monday, March 2, 2015

the Von Steuben House

New Jersey has plenty of places where George Washington slept and when I was in the Cub Scouts I had the priviledge of going to the Von Steuben House and seeing one of his haunts. Cub Scouts was a good introduction to the world of clubs that would occupy us baby boomers as we descended through life. I was part of Pack 19, affiliated with the Church on the Heights in Hackensack. My pack was led by Mrs. Fontanella. My mother had been a Pack mother earlier and she was tired of kids tearing up her house. It was better anyway, for me, to have a non relative as my leader.

Cub Scouts was okay. I can remember making lanyards. I was also cajoled into doing my Kennedy impersonation at one of the monthly pack meetings. I remember my one joke. "I lost my marbles. But I lost them with vim and vigor".

At any rate a group of maybe six of us made it to the Von Steuben House north of town. I remember there was an older woman who promised us that if we were good boys she would take us to the dungeon. I guess we were good because I remember we saw the jail and rack where they tortured prisoners. A colonial version of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Radio Shack

It's official. Radio Shack is now gone. All those swell Radio Shacks we grew up with are now history. If you want to be nostalgic, here is a 1961 catalog you can browse through. I remember as a kid buying a transistor radio there. They were also a good place to find cables and I remember buying RCA to transistor plug converter cables there, which I still have.

Mostly I remember going to the Radio Shack in Paramus with my big brother to help him test tubes. My brother was the electrician of the family and I remember going with him with all the tubes from the radios and the television set in the house in a brown paper bag. At Radio Shack we would test the  tubes, occasionally finding a bad one that needed replacing. I never remember them being out of any tube we needed.

Radio Shacks were inviting to a male teenager in a way most other stores weren't. The fluorescent lights were bright and the mostly young male crowd seemed intent and knowledgeable about radio, tape decks, ham decks and that sort of thing.  Hobbyists now buy most of their gear online, but it will never be quite the same.

Editor's note: I also remember going to Leonard Radio on Route 4.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


The other night I dreamt about clams. My father and a few of the men were in the basement of the Mills house gorging themselves on raw clams. Outside in the backyard the more refined people were eating steamed clams. Clams must have been lots cheaper in 1962 than they are today. I seem to remember my father and Mr. Mills going to a seafood place in Maywood and buying twenty gallons of clams.

The occasion for all this clam ingestion was the annual Labor Day party, peopled mostly by members of the local Democratic club. I remember there were lots of kids. We played horseshoes, played on the swings, and ate clams. The adults talked politics and drank beer, whiskey, Martini's and ate clams. Perhaps the clam thing was tied to the Kennedy's and their Hyannis Port vacations where they presumably ate shellfish. 

My father actually invented a clam knife with a wooden holder where the unfortunate live clam was placed before being shucked. He never patented it but it came in quite handy. Hot sauce went along with the clams on a half shell. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The family's first stereo

As a tot I remember playing a record player in the basement. I bought mainly singles but occasionally an album got played.Then suddenly my father decided to get a real stereo. I don't know if my father got a raise, my big brother got a scholarship, or the old man was ashamed when he realized his friends and neighbors had real stereos and color tv's. He went for quality too.  He had me go through the Consumer Reports and we picked out a Dual turntable, a Fisher amplifier and speakers. He bought them all in New York at a discount stereo store he had discovered. For the first six months the turntable was in the living room. Then it was moved to the basement. Apparently Mother did not want me sitting on her good furniture playing records.

The old man strung wires throughout the house, connecting the living room (the amplifier-tuner), a speaker in the kitchen, and the phonograph in the basement. He bought a second set of speakers for the basement (of lower quality than the ones in the living room), but not bad. When I wanted to play records I had to turn on the Fisher in the living room and then go dowstairs to the basement. If Mother was cooking in the kitchen she could flip off her switch so she didn't hear my rock and roll records. Later when I was finished, the radio went on (usually on WPAT-FM) and the switch in the kitchen was pulled.

In other words, my father was okay with buying one amplifier but wasn't about to spring for two. I guess he was an early progenitor of what is called networking.

One of the things about surviving your relatives is that stuff from your childhood comes back into your life. The turntable has returned to my life and will sit next to that ugly green tree lamp in my living room. It is of pretty good quality and you can fine tune the speed and play 78's. After a few beers the lamp sways to the music, just like when I was visiting home from school.

Editor's note: The turntable played singles and monophonic records well but after awhile I noticed the mixing on stereo recordings was off. I think it needs a new cartridge, since the plugs are lose. I also noticed that it skipped every time I walked by. Sad to say, the Technics is now back where it was and the Dual is now disconnected, another project I'll get to one day. Sometimes it's better to leave well enough alone.