A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.





Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What I Wanted and What I Had

Like most kids, I always felt like other people had more than I had.  And, of course, I spent a lot of time wishing I had the latest and greatest of whatever, usually to no avail.  If the technology that exists today was around back in the 1960s, it would have driven me crazy, I suppose.  There's no way we could have stayed up to date with the newest version of the iPhone or the iPad.  Heck, we had enough trouble keeping a working version of the iRon that Mama used.  Anyway, in homage to my overly materialistic view of the world, here's a self-indulgent view of my childhood in terms of what I wanted, and what I had...

What I Wanted


The Ultimate:  The 64 pack of crayolas, complete with the ingenious sharpener on the side of the box.  Imagine, a limitless supply of colors, all precisely sharpened.  The possibilities were endless...

What I Had


The Crayola 8-pack.  Purchased at Parsley's 5 Cents to 1 Dollar store.  Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, and black.  Precise coloring was possible for the first few uses, then you just did the best you could with the rounded crayon that you were left with.

What I Wanted


A Rock Tumbler from the Sears Catalog.  Every Christmas, I looked very long and hard at this item. I was amazed at the beautiful stones that could be created from the rocks in our driveway.

What I Had



A Woodburning set.  Fun for about 5 minutes.  The fun was always mitigated by an unnerving concern that you were going to be responsible for the house burning down. 

What I Wanted



A Road Grader.  Like the one my best friend Randy had, with the blade that swiveled and the little lever sticking out of the back window that actually turned the front wheels.  Perfect for the miles and miles of roads that Randy and I made every summer.

What I Had


A garden hoe.  You could still make roads, you just had to stand kind of far away to do it.

What I Wanted


A red wagon.  Again, just like the one Randy had.  We hauled all kinds of stuff in that wagon; I think we were still using it when it was just a rusted shell of it's original self.

What I Had


A stick horse.  With a vinyl head.  It was a lot of work riding the range with that rascal.

What I Wanted


One of the all-time great toys, heavily advertised on Saturday morning TV in the 60s.  A tense, fierce battle, ending with a horrible ratcheting sound and one of the kids on the commercial saying, "Hey, you knocked my block off."  It doesn't get much better than that.

What I Had


Mr. Potato Head.  Again, good for about 5 minutes of fun.  At least I had one of the later versions; when Mr. Potato Head first became available, you had to supply your own potato.

What I Wanted

Oh, the incredible things you could make with an erector set.  A toy that undoubtedly led to a high paying career later in life, like maybe an engineer or an architect. 

What I Had


A cardboard refrigerator box.  From Bud Rice's store downtown. Randy and I would each get one, drag them home behind our bikes, and attempt to stay out all night sleeping in them.  Of course, we had to cut a window so we could look up at the stars.  And the next day, we could cut down the length of one of the corners and make a slide on the bank in front of my house.  And you could take off your shoes and run and hit the cardboard in your sock feet and see if you could stay upright all the way down the slope.  And you could do that all afternoon and have an incredible amount of fun.  But an erector set...yeah...that would have been good too.

What I Wanted


A set of real Walky Talkies.

What I Had


Some sound-powered phones that Daddy brought back from the Navy at the end of World War II.  They were 20 years old when I played with them, but they still worked perfectly.  It was the way the crew of Daddy's PT Boat communicated with each other.  Without any other source of power, the energy created by the vibrations of your speech was transmitted over the wires to the person at the other end.  Randy and I even had enough wire to stretch them from my house to his.  And they didn't need a battery!  They were such fun.  Oh, but a walky talkie would have been fun too, I guess.  And maybe some extra batteries.

What I Wanted


Cable TV.  We got one channel, Channel 5 (KFSA) from Fort Smith.  They did offer shows from all three networks, but a little variety would have been nice.

What I Had


A homemade shortwave radio that Mama's cousin Omar Brigance let me borrow.  He had built it from a kit.  Our house had a length of wire outside the front window that had once been an antenna for a radio (back in the radio days), so I ran a wire from the shortwave and connected it to that outside wire and the results were pretty good.  I could pull in transmissions from far, far away in languages that I did not recognize.  Of course, I also got some broadcasts from England that I could understand.  Pretty amazing.  It made me realize how big the world was.  But I guess I could have been watching TV instead.  I guess.

What I Wanted


An awesome tree house.  High enough to see the whole neighborhood, maybe even as far away as Featherston Street...

What I Had


We called it the Smokehouse.  That's my older brother Gary standing in front of it, in costume for a school play.  Half of the building was a garage, and the other part was the Smokehouse.  Both were filled with what the casual observer might call junk, but to a kid it was treasures.  Daddy worked for the phone company, so there were all kinds of broken phones and obsolete telephone equipment.  He also was a handyman who liked to tinker with things, so there were lots and lots of appliances and things that no longer worked that he just couldn't bear to throw away.  You could even climb up on the garage side to the top of the Smokehouse ceiling, where there was even more stuff to play with.  And that space made a great clubhouse; you had to climb up the wall to get there.  There was so much fun stuff in that smokehouse to play with, and Daddy was always bringing in something new.  But a treehouse, I guess, would have been fun too.  Probably. 

Hmm.  Maybe some of the things I had were actually better than those things I saw on TV or in the Sears catalog.  Maybe I don't need an iPad afterall...


5 comments:

  1. What a fantastic post! I had one of the two things, in every category. In some, it was the fancier thing, and I guess I was blessed in that regard. Or, like you point out at the end, maybe not. Wow. Just a great trip down memory lane!

    Did you ever build a crystal set, a do-it-yourself radio kit? I thought that was one of the most fun things I ever did. It only got AM, of course, and not too much of that as I remember, but the knowledge that I could BUILD a radio that would receive ANYTHING was spectacular.

    I had the Mr. Potato Head that you used a real potato for. Now, see, I always thought that kids who got the later model, and didn't use a real potato, were getting the short end of it. Guess it all depends on your perspective.

    One last thing: Do you have any Crayola crayons now? If not, buy some. Just open the box and smell them. You will be instantly transported back to kindergarten or grade school. I have a box and once every year or so I just sniff them. Seriously. It's like a time machine goes off in your head :-)

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  2. Sound-powered phones brought back some memories.
    As a kid there was the white handset Pop had snagged (either from the Navy or found at the dump). Then as a young adult the Navy issued ones used in CIC. We always made sure to stash our own special set so we didn't end up with the ones someone got seasick on.

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  3. Oh, yeah ...and we still have Mr Potato Head around here

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  4. AnonymousJune 03, 2015

    That stick horse made me laugh like a hyena; I'd forgotten having one 'til seeing the picture! Mine was a 'red head'. I remember Wonder Horse because there were pictures taken with it in the background; it was made of wood vs. the pretty type today.

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