GOING TO THE MOVIES WITH GRANDMA

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

By Steve Liddick

Saturdays were special in the 1940s. There was no school and it was the day I got my allowance. My 50-cents and I would get on a bus to the city to see a movie. The bus ride cost a dime. The movie ticket was a budget-busting 15-cents and a box of candy was a nickel. That left ten-cents for the bus ride home and one lonely dime for two comic books.

I would usually stop off at my grandmother’s apartment in the city on the way to the show to say hello, maybe get a snack, and ogle the pretty nurses from Grandma’s kitchen window as they went by on their way to the hospital next door.

Grandma was a pretty hip old lady who understood kids. She knew the young would always have oddball fashions and terminology all their own. She understood the need of the young to be the same as their peers in fashion and different from grownups in their language.

“Where are you going, boy?” she would say.

“To the movies, Grandma,” I’d say.

“Wait, I’ll get my purse and go with you,” she’d say.

“Uh . . . ”

Now, when I said I was going to the movies, I meant I was going to the theater Grandma would not have been caught dead in. The grungy Rio Theater showed a western and mystery double feature, 24 color cartoons, a Three Stooges short subject, a Superman or Rocketman serial and a live talent show on stage. We all got to holler and cheer and boo at what was on the screen, sit with our feet up on the orchestra pit railing, and be obnoxious where our parents couldn’t see us.

But, what my grandma meant by “wait I’ll get my purse and go with you” was, “we’ll go to Loews Regent Theater.”  Instead of watching Lash Larue whip the bad guys into line or Red Ryder and Little Beaver thunder across the silver screen, we would be watching Howard Keel sing to Jane Powell. Or maybe it would be Fred Astaire dancing alternately with Ginger Rogers, Vera Ellen, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller or Mitzi Gaynor. And you couldn’t holler and cheer or boo at what was on a classy screen like the one at Loews Regent Theater with its plush carpets and gilded decor. Certainly not with your grandma sitting right next to you. They didn’t even have an orchestra pit railing and even if they had it would probably be covered with velvet and you wouldn’t have been allowed to put your feet up on it.

But grandma paid for the tickets and the candy and I got to spend the time with her.

Many years later, long after Grandma had passed away, MGM came out with a video compilation of clips from their movies of the 40s and 50s.

Those Saturday mornings all came back to me in a warm wave as Howard and Mitzi and Cyd and Fred and all the rest sang and danced in glorious Technicolor.

But the best part of watching those videos was that for a couple of hours I got a chance to sit beside my grandmother one more time.

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CHICKEN CORN SOUP

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Every year, when the corn was at the eating stage, church women in my Perry County Pennsylvania home area would make chicken corn soup as a fundraiser. I don’t know if they still do. If so, a bowl of it probably wouldn’t cost a quarter anymore.

Whatever the price, it’s worth it because it was heaven in a paper bowl with a plastic spoon.

My personal recipe, which is a long-standing Perry County tradition, is very simple:

First you steal a chicken

Defeatherize and clean it, boil it down, debone it, toss the skin and bones. Cut the meat into smaller pieces. Save the water you boiled the chicken in.

Then you walk out to a farmer’s field and pick some corn. My dad always said to “Leave the money on the fence.” I would say, “What if there’s no fence,” and he’d say, “Now you have the idea, son.”

Okay, moving on:

You cut a lot of corn from the cob and add it to the chicken and broth.

Now here’s the good part:

In a bowl, you mix an egg and a pinch of water or melted butter in some flour and mix it around until you have a dry dough with tiny eggy-floury chunklets and you drop those—a few at a time—into the boiling soup. Those are called rivels (RIH-vuhls) and they add to the magic.

After it has boiled awhile, salt and pepper it to taste.

There you have it.

But I have to admit, the homemade version is nowhere near as good as those church ladies made.

Maybe it’s because everything tastes better when someone else does the cooking.

 

WHAT DO OUR CARS SAY ABOUT US?

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Ever notice how many different makes and styles of vehicles there are on our American roads and highways? If you go to Spain, you will see an ocean of Siat (SEE-at) model cars in subdued colors and not much else. Siat is the Spanish version of the Fiat. You may occasionally see a BMW or even an upscale American car. However, if anything but a Siat breaks down in Spain it is going to be a long wait to get the part to fix it.

In this country we have lots of choices of makes, models, colors, and configurations. It’s common to see a pickup truck with a noisy muffler and a body that is raised high above its oversized mud-grip tires. Most often the driver is male, in his mid-twenties to mid-thirties, has at least one tattoo, is a smoker, plays the radio loudly, and has rude and/or obscene bumper stickers on the back. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a large caliber weapon on board. Probably calls his wife “the old lady.”

I remember when one of those loud, extra large pickup trucks roared up next to me at a traffic light. I craned my neck and looked up at the driver to see that it was a geeky little guy with glasses who must surely have been sitting on a kiddy seat so he could see out over the steering wheel. When he was in that truck he was as big as any man.

Crude skyscraper pickup truck drivers are not the only ones making a statement with their vehicles. We all do to an extent. Fire engine red and school bus yellow cars surely are saying something, although I’m not clear what that is. I could speculate that vivid red car drivers have a serious “Look at me” need and yellow car drivers may be advertising superior intellect.

There are a few Humvees still around, despite the high cost of gasoline. I interpret that as a driver wanting to project a military image whether or not he has ever served in the armed forces. All he needs is a macho military-like vehicle that gets eight miles to the gallon. He can be a hero and never leave his driveway.

Some vehicles are designed to dominate. They’re the ones who come up dangerously close behind you on the freeway even though there is plenty of room to pass in another lane. They’ll follow for a couple of miles, then whip out around you, nearly clip the front end of your car getting back in the lane they just left and drive at the same speed in front of you they were driving when they were behind you.

Then there are the cars that scream, “I’m rich!” They’re the luxury car drivers who avoid the parking lot the rest of us have to use and park right in front of the supermarket to run inside for a few things. The privileged few. Their colors are rarely anything but black or grey, although they don’t call them that. Rather they are “Parisian Ebony” or “Arctic Charcoal.” I really shouldn’t make too much of that since I once owned a Prius whose color was advertised as “Driftwood Pearl.” We just called it “gold-ish” so people wouldn’t think we were putting on airs.

My personal preference in a vehicle is one that starts every time, requires little maintenance, gets decent gas mileage, and transports me reliably and uneventfully from one place to another. I care little about what it looks like and only a little more about what it sounds like because I truly believe that my right to drive a noisy car ends at your ears.

Now, having said all of that I have to confess that at one time or another in my life I have been one of everybody I complain about now, in my decrepitude. I had cars with loud mufflers, loud radios, loud colors, and believed with all my heart that offending people was my God-given right as a red-blooded American teenager.

Now that I’m old and perfect I complain about people who are just like I used to be.

Steve Liddick

A share would be appreciated

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

ADVENTURES FOR MEN ONLY

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

For a few years, while recovering from a back injury that made it impossible to work in my profession as a radio news anchor, I worked for the local school district. One day I looked around Cubicle City and said to my friends, Jerry and Mike, “there sure are a lot of women in this place.”

They looked around the big room and nodded in agreement.

“We ought to get out of here and do stuff that women wouldn’t even want to do,” I said.

We were the only three men in the entire department, not counting the big boss—and who would want to spend another day with that guy?

We three decided to start doing brazenly chauvinistic off-campus activities that excluded women. We would go to movies that had a lot of shooting and fights and loud explosions and car chases and actresses who were not overly concerned with how much of themselves were visible—wardrobe-wise. We would take day trips to places that forbade daintiness or anything painted pink, and maybe even say things you wouldn’t say in front of your mother or others of refined sensibilities. We would spit and cuss and do guy stuff. We would exchange stories of our misspent youths that we would never even tell our doctor, priest, attorney, psychiatrist or bartender—even though they were sworn to secrecy.

My immediate boss heard about the proposed adventures. She said, “It sounds like fun, can I go?”

We were appalled at the idea that a woman wanted to take part in something specifically designed sans la femme–what Mike suggested we call “Man Town.” I said, “We can’t call it Man Town if there are women involved.” She walked off in a snit.

Our test run involved a Saturday drive to Lake Tahoe where I lost my traditional twenty-dollar gambling limit to a hungry slot machine within mere minutes of our arrival. Then we drove around the area, taking in the awesome view of the lake and making manly comments about bikini-clad fauna on spring break.

On the way back we stopped in the California gold country town of Placerville for lunch and more rowdy fun.

Man Town turned out to be everything we imagined it would be.

Monday morning my boss came to me and said, “So, . . . how was your—Man Town? I thought there was a curl of the lip when she said the words.

“It was great,” I said.

After a long pause, waiting for details and getting none, she said, “So, . . . what did you guys do?”

“I probably shouldn’t tell you,” I said, “but we went to Tahoe and played the slots.”

“That’s it? Then what?”

“Now that I really shouldn’t tell you.”

I let her talk me into telling her.

“On the way back we stopped off at . . . “Sweetie Pies.”

She did a double take, then said, “What’s that, a strip joint?”

“I promised the other guys I wouldn’t tell.”

I let that hang there for awhile before I finally told her it was a Placerville restaurant that specialized in pies.

That was fifteen years ago. All three of us are long retired now and we still get together at least once a month. We still take in the occasional movie, but more often we just have lunch somewhere and insult each other in good fun. One recent adventure series  involved a quest for the world’s best hamburger. The search has taken us all around much of northern California, laughing all the way.

I don’t expect to ever find the ultimate burger. But that isn’t really the object, is it?

Please share with friends

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

 

TERROR ON ORE BANK HILL

My first car was a 1931 Model A Ford sedan. I don’t think Ford called it a sedan. Probably some snooty name like “touring car.”

It cost $50.00 and took me all summer working at a gas station to pay for it. I recently paid $75.00 just to fill up the gas tank on my Chevy pickup truck. For that kind of money I could have bought one-and-a-half Model A Fords. Unfortunately, it’s not 1953 anymore.

I loved that car. But, of course, everyone loves his first car. Having a four-wheeled escape pod meant there was now a whole reachable world out there to explore. Prior to that, I couldn’t get any farther away from home than my bicycle would take me.

As kindly as I felt toward that car, it was also the cause of one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

I was driving on a road that took me over Ore Bank Hill, on the curviest road in the county. Once you reached the top, it was a steep downhill run for several miles, with nasty switch-backs and curves not banked to accommodate speeding vehicles and centrifugal force.

As I chugged to the top of the hill and started down the other side, I came to the first curve. I was picking up more speed than I was comfortable with, so I slammed on the brake. Teenagers do that a lot. Nothing subtle about most anything they do. A gentle pressing of the brake is not in a teen’s playbook.

Well, the Model A had a rod that connected the foot pedal to the mechanical braking system under the car. The problem was, the rod was made of cast iron. Cast iron does not handle slamming very well and it snapped, leaving me in near free-fall. Those old cars had no compression to help hold the speed down and it was impossible to down-shift in those pre-synchromesh transmission days.

So there I was, on the scariest road imaginable, careening downhill in a top-heavy vehicle with no brakes. I was seventeen years old and certain I would never see eighteen, whipping this way and that, wrestling the non-power steering wheel, skinny 21-inch tires squealing at every curve, picking up speed for several hair-raising miles.

Finally, I got to the bottom of the hill and was able to coast to a stop. Thinking back to that experience I wonder once more how I managed to survive my youth.

Anyone who doesn’t believe in God has never ridden a Model A Ford with no brakes down Ore Bank Hill.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

HOW ACCURATE ARE OUR MEMORIES?

We think we have accurate memories of people and events, but do we really? One theory has it that we don’t actually remember those people, places and events. Rather, each time we think of something from the past the image changes a little . . . to the point where the thought is nothing like the original. It may explain why Uncle Fred remembers something that happened one way and Aunt Flo gets upset with him because she recalls it very differently. My new novel, “All That Time,” explores the question. Now available in paperback and ebook.

YOUR FIRST CAR

Remember your first car? It was more than a car, really. It was freedom. It expanded your world from the neighborhood you walked around in, the town you rode a bicycle in. Now you could go to the horizon and beyond. Well, you could go as far as your gas budget would take you and that little band of youthful friends. And the car came into your life just about the same time as you were getting more interested in the opposite gender. That was another world expander of a sort. Nothing like that first car. And no car since then has meant as much. Ever think about what happened to that first car?  Ever wonder what  happened to that band of pals? Ever think about that first gender opposite? Ever wonder what happened to all those years that went by so fast since that first car?