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Archive for the ‘Massachusetts’ Category

Best Cap Pistol in the World!

Like most of us, in the weeks before Christmas I used to sneak around trying to discover hidden presents from Mom and Dad before they were wrapped. Each year they were hidden in a different place. One year I found a small stash in an attic trunk. There, neatly tucked in a doll-covered corner, was a shiny Mattel Fanner-50 — simply the coolest cap gun in the whole wide world. And beside it, a blue plastic Wham-O boomerang.

Oh, boy, ohboyohboy!

Christmas Eve crept and crawled closer ever so slowly, but eventually it arrived — the night our family tradition dictated opening presents underneath the tree. I tore open present after present, and with each crinkling of wrapping paper, with each snipping of a Christmas-colored ribbon:

NO Fanner-50 cap pistol!

Who could Mom and Dad have given it to? Had I really seen it in the attic trunk after all? I pouted for the rest of the evening. Even snicker doodles and milk didn’t help.

Christmas Morning.

I rushed downstairs to see what Santa had brought, and — by golly — there was the Fanner-50 glinting under the tree, already loaded with caps and tucked inside a quick-draw leather holster, right beside the blue Wham-O boomerang!

But how could that be? Did Santa know about the attic, too?

That was the year I killed Santa, shot him dead with a Mattel Fanner-50. And unlike that boomerang, he would never return.

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The feeling is like a bad taste or an unpleasant odor in a confined space. A crowded elevator. A rancid memory, refusing to rise in order to purify itself, instead choosing to fester just below the blister of consciousness. Transparent, like a stealth weapon ninety-nine percent ghost. A vaporous déjà vu that will not leave me alone. This feeling I have is like all of that, this dread that will not go away. This thing called — Irene.

Hurricane Irene — whose name means “peaceful” (I bet some higher-up got a chuckle out of that) — plows a belligerent path northward toward a steamy rendezvous with inevitable landfall. A juggernaut on a mission: a collision with North Carolina and everywhere else.

No. Collision is not a good word to describe this terrible meeting of wind and land mass. The real word should be more subtle. Something akin to convergence or assimilation, or — confluence. Yes. A confluence with North Carolina. I like that. But I still have a very bad feeling about this Hurricane-Irene-whose-name-means-peaceful.

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My Card's closer! Is not. Is too!

When I was a kid life was easier: we used to “flip” baseball cards and chew bubble gum. The game rules of card flipping were simple: flip your selected baseball card with a snapping wrist action and sail it up against a wall from a predetermined distance. The card closest to the wall “won” the rest of the cards during that toss set.

Great card

I was reminded of this childhood game the other day while visiting a collector’s flea market, where rookie Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Ted Williams, Roger Maris, Jimmy Piersall, and other priceless baseball cards were displayed in locked and carefully guarded cases.  In the days of flipping baseball cards, “rookie” issues were expendable warriors, the first to be flipped in battle, as yet unproven at either the baseball park or the flipping wall.

Had a signed one!

The hermetically sealed baseball cards I saw in the flea market’s sterile cases were perfect, without circular scratches or deformities of any kind. Most of them lacked fingerprints and had never been flipped. I recalled those same rookie card faces (many of which are now worth thousands of dollars) fanning out from my stack of cards, spinning towards a brick wall, some with broken corners that slid up easily a few millimeters closer than competitor cards, or brand new hard ones that still smelled like fresh bubble gum and were great for knocking down “leaners”.

Swooner

Eventually, all my cards were stored in shoe-boxes packed full of battle-scarred faces, forgotten in some attic until one day they disappeared in the process of growing up.

Sure wish I’d saved a few of those rookie cards, though.

Here’s a photo link for you baseball lovers out there.

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The best toy I ever owned was a blue and white-striped plastic Wham-O boomerang. My dad gave me one when I was maybe ten years old, living inside the fortress walls of Watertown Arsenal, outside of Boston. For months every day, in-between the apple tree-lined parade grounds and the foundries where Honest John missiles were assembled (and where there was more than enough room for the boomerang to safely complete its one hundred-yard dizzying sweep), I practiced throwing the sleek toy weapon. One Sunday morning, while waiting to go to Sunday school and dressed in a plaid suit and tie, a group of pigeons flapped overhead. In an instant, without thinking, I whipped the boomerang in a deadly arc that eventually intersected the center mass of the flock.

Feathers flew, tiny bursts of fluttering pink and white clouds. Three pigeons plummeted in bits and pieces, bouncing when they hit the ground close enough for me to hear the soft poofing sounds the larger parts made on impact. The still-twirling boomerang landed nearby, an obedient beast whose leading edge was covered in blood. I was amazed, elated, horrified and ashamed all at the same moment, my heart racing with an explosive, intoxicating rhythm known only to primordial hunters.

I buried the greatest toy I ever owned on that bright, sunny church morning alongside the three pigeons I had killed, changed forever in some way, but neither for the better or worst; and like that boomerang, the Honest John missiles soon became obsolete.

+ + + + +

Tim says: I suppose nowadays “toy weapon” is somewhat of an oxymoron, but — back in the 50s — there were many of them. Wham-O eventually went on to produce the ever-popular Frisbee, Super-Ball, and Hula Hoop, as well as a slew of other toys that bore the children of today in the same way their toys will bore the children of tomorrow.

By the way, the ancient Greeks used wooden hoops (conspicuously similar to the modern Hula Hoop) for — exercise. Some things are never boring enough.

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Sometime around 1955, Watertown, Massachusetts suffered an incredible blizzard. Within Watertown Army Arsenal’s fortress-like walls and elsewhere, snow piled up in banks ten feet high. Most of the Watertown Arsenal’s foundries had sub ground-level loading docks, which filled up even more with soft drifts up to fifteen feet deep.

My friend, Jimmy and I — being true Arctic explorers — happened across a particularly appealing loading dock snow crevice. One dare led to another, and soon I gave way to peer group pressure. I dove, head first and unthinking, into the inviting loading dock snow drift, my outstretched arms striking solid pavement with my feet sticking straight up at least five feet from the surface. A small vertical tunnel marked my wintry passage.

Jimmy laughed at my sudden disappearance. “Boy, that was REALLY stupid!” he shouted, and for once in his life he was right. An hour or so later I was rescued by an equally entertained Watertown Arsenal Fire Department.

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“Watertown Arsenal, building -71 (Watertown, MA)” by Jack E. Boucher

“Watertown Arsenal, building -71 (Watertown, MA)” by Jack E. Boucher

I lived in the Watertown Army Arsenal — just outside Boston, Massachusetts — during the mid fifties. The arsenal employed thousands of civilian workers who fabricated Honest John missiles. Every day at 5 o’clock a shift change whistle shrieked from the tops of the foundries. A few minutes later the sidewalks swarmed with an assortment of folks heading for one of the several gates that led to the worker parking lots, and… home.

Most of these sidewalks were steam-vented, lined with a vast network of mature hedges containing secret forts and passageways known only to us kids. I remember hiding in the bushes beside the apple-tree-orchard parade ground, watching the adults rushing by. As they passed, I made up stories about the secret lives they led outside the arsenal gates. The short man smoking a cigar is a first base umpire for the Boston Red Sox. The guy scurrying like a weasel behind him is a jockey. The fat man with the shiny lunch box plays the cello for the Boston Symphony. The guy mopping his brow with a handkerchief sells hot dogs at the hockey rink. The woman in the red scarf teaches ballet lessons at night.

You get the idea.

Nowhere in my make-believe world did I realize the guy with the cigar is worried about how to pay for his son’s second semester college tuition due in a week; that the rushing weasel is a Boy Scout leader who needs to get across town in less than an hour; that the cello player’s mother is dying in a hospital he can’t afford; that the hot dog man is about to get fired; that the woman in red just had the car she’s heading for repossessed: that ALL of these scurrying people are just trying to GET BY as best they can.

After the sidewalks cleared, I would crawl from the security of the hedge rows and forget about the stories I had just made up. Instead, I dusted off my clothes and headed for my house at the top of the hill, knowing that Mom was cooking something great for dinner, and that Ozzie and Harriet would be on TV later that night, showing us that all problems everywhere could be solved at a dinner table piled high with mashed potatoes and roast beef.

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Like most of us, I used to sneak around in the weeks before Christmas trying to discover presents from Mom and Dad before they were wrapped. Each year they were hidden in a different place. One year I found a small stash in an attic trunk. There, neatly tucked in a doll-covered corner, was a shiny Mattel Fanner-50 — simply the coolest cap gun in the whole wide world. And beside it, a blue plastic Wham-O boomerang.

Oh, boy, ohboyohboy!

Christmas Eve crept and crawled closer ever so slowly, but eventually it arrived — the night our family tradition dictated opening presents underneath the tree. I tore open present after present, and with each uncrinkling of wrapping paper, with each snipping of a Christmas-colored ribbon: NO Fanner-50 cap pistol!

Who could Mom and Dad have given it to? Had I really seen it in the attic trunk after all? I pouted for the rest of the evening. Even snicker doodles and milk didn’t help.

Christmas Morning.

I rushed downstairs to see what Santa had brought, and — by golly — there was the Fanner-50 glinting under the tree, already loaded with caps and tucked inside a quick-draw leather holster, right beside the blue Wham-O boomerang!

But how could that be? Did Santa know about the attic, too?

That was the year I killed Santa, shot him dead with a Mattel Fanner-50. And unlike that boomerang, he would never return.

(originally published and copyrighted© 1998-2010 by Simply Tim in the Recipe du Jour news letter.)

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