Throwback Thursday: 80’s-era Scouting handbooks.

If you were a Scout in the 1980’s, then I’m sure you remember these.  Yes, I was a Scout for a while too, and I fully realize that will amuse a lot of people who know me.

I’m pretty sure I aced that whole Cub Scout gig, as its only real requirement was being polite to adults, along with maybe doing good deeds every now and then.  I did just fine at the “Webelos” stage too.  Being a Boy Scout, however, had many more requirements — they included, among other things, not dying of exposure.  And here was where the expectations of scouting at last exceeded my natural aptitudes.

So I wasn’t exactly John Rambo out there.  If the Boy Scouts had voted on superlative awards, then I’m pretty sure I would have won “Most Likely to Die in the Wilderness,” or maybe “Most Likely to Perish in a Fire He Inadvertently Started,” or maybe even “Most Likely to Arrive at a Girl Scout Meeting by Mistake.”

Oh, well. I had fun with it.

The painting on the Bot Scout Handbook below, by the way, is “Come and Get It” by Norman Rockwell.  Here’s some trivia for you — if you’re ever surprised by the sheer volume of the man’s paintings, that’s because he completed more than 4,000 in his lifetime.

[Update: I see that I misspelled “Boy Scout” as “Bot Scout” above, but I’m leaving it there because it’s funny.]

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: “The Velveteen Rabbit,” by Margery Williams, 1922

Margery Williams’ “The Velveteen Rabbit” was another book that made a big impression on me when I was a young kid; I think I was given this when I was in kindergarten or the first grade.  It’s funny how memories can be bizarrely specific about some things, but silent about others — I know this was a birthday present, but I cannot remember from whom.

You can find the whole book online, complete with the original illustrations right here at the University of Pennsylvania Digital Library.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Just So Stories,” by Rudyard Kipling, 1902

Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories” was one of my favorite childhood books — a gem I found in my elementary school library.  (I seem to remember the nuns just sort of setting us loose there during reading class with the instructions to find something we liked.  It was the kind of unstructured activity that I don’t often remember from Catholic School.)

It’s basically a short collection of fables that Kipling concocted for his daughter about how certain animals got their key traits (“How the Elephant Got His Trunk,” “How the Leopard Got His Spots,” etc.).  This was one of two favorite books that were consistently a magnet for me in the tiny, tidy library beside the principal’s office.  The other was the collection of Arabian folktales, “One Thousand and One Nights.”

Growing up, I never realized that Kipling was the same author who wrote “Gunga Din” — both the 1890 poem and the eponymous 1939 war film with Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.  (That movie was beloved by my father and brother, and later by me.)  I just never made the connection.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “I’m Gonna Wash that Gray Right Outta My Hair”

These early 80’s Clairol ads, of all things, came up on Facebook — after I lamented the waves of gray that have flourished across my head with astonishing suddenness.  (I swear this seems like something that happened overnight.  I honestly thought that there something wrong with my eyes, or maybe the bathroom light.)

I remember this little jingle quite well — it’s catchy, and there were a few variations of the 1980 TV spot that you see below.  I never knew that it was a send-up of a number from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” — “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa My Hair.”  For some reason, my friends thought that was really funny.

 

Throwback Thursday: the “Galaxy 1” children’s science fiction books

Harriette Sheffer Abels’ “Galaxy 1” books appear to be fully consigned to obscurity — I don’t have a single friend who remembers them.  They were published by Crestwood House in 1979; I certainly loved the ones I found in my elementary school library in the 1980’s.  And that says a lot, because I was a kid who loved the fantasy genre far more than science fiction.  (I had an older brother who played “Dungeons & Dragons,” and Ralph Bakshi’s animated take on “The Lord of the Rings” had captured a lot of kids’ imaginations since 1978.)  I remember how pleased I was to discover anthology-style books that featured the same cast of characters on different space-based adventures.

I’m pretty sure that “Mystery on Mars,” “Medical Emergency,” and “Silent Invaders” were among those that I read.  My favorite, however, was “Green Invasion,” which featured alien vines that grew uncontrollably and crushed anything they could ensnare and tangle.  Lord knows that was a scenario I re-created with my G.I. Joes at home.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “The Singing Cave,” by Eilis Dillon

Eilis Dillon’s “The Singing Cave” was another favorite childhood book of mine for the obvious reasons — a young boy explores a seaside cave and discovers a Viking skeleton, complete with a sword and armor.  That pretty much hit all the right notes for me when I was in early gradeschool in the 1980’s.  (Some sort of age-appropriate young-adult mystery unfolded after the skeleton disappeared, possibly involving the townspeople, but I don’t even remember that very well.  What thrilled me and stayed with me was the kid finding a armored Viking skeleton in a cave.)

The book was published first in 1959 in the United Kingdom by Faber & Faber; Dillon was Irish and the story was set in Ireland.  It was released here in America the following year by the now defunct Funk & Wagnalls — the same company that produced those huge reference books that Gen X’ers remember lugging around before the arrival of CD-Roms.  (Funk & Wagnalls is a name I haven’t heard in a very long time.  It turns out they quite bein’ a thing in 1997.)

I went through one hell of a Viking Phase when I was a kid.  (I suppose it wasn’t too different from other kids wanting to be pirates.)  I was thrilled with stories about Leif Erikson, and I was pretty happy that his last name sounded like my first.  It would be years later when my parents told me that I was actually named after another Viking, Erik the Red, albeit very indirectly.  (My parents like the name featured in the “Erik” cigars television commercial.)

I might have talked about this at the blog before, but I even constructed my own “Viking ship” with the kid next door when I was very young.  It probably wasn’t seaworthy; it was really just a wooden pallet with some two-by-fours nailed together as a mast, and a white sheet for a sail.  (Where had we gotten that sheet?  It seems to me that if I’d stolen it from the laundry, I’d have gotten into some trouble for that with my Mom.)  Bizarrely, my friend and I etched a bright red Spanish Cross on the sail  — even though that emblem had nothing to do with the Vikings.  You kinda can’t excuse our stupidity because we were kids … we’d seen plenty of pictures of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria in school.

My Dad also cautioned me and my buddy that our Viking ship might not float.  (The hindsight of adulthood assures me that it definitely wouldn’t have floated, but my Dad didn’t want to dash our hopes too abruptly.)  He explained to us patiently in the backyard that in order for something to float, it had to “displace its own weight in water.”  And … I actually understood that, surprisingly enough.  It’s probably the only physics lesson I’ve understood in my life.

In fact … I don’t think we even had a plan in place for moving that boat from the backyard to the water.  We were so enamored with the concept of shipbuilding that we kinda didn’t think things through very far at all.

 

 

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So I smack-talked Donny Osmond in a recent “Throwback Thursday” post.

(I was talking about ABC’s “Donny & Marie” show from the late 70’s, which I really enjoyed as a tot.)  At the time I suggested they the Osmond siblings were immortal vampires because they are still performing in Las Vegas.

I take it all back.  I was just reminded that Osmond is the unnamed dancing man in the 2008 “first take” video for “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “White & Nerdy.”  Have you seen the way this guy mugs and dances for three minutes straight?  He’s hilarious.  And he’s a goddam force of nature.  He’s like Spider-Man 2099.  He’s cooler in that three minutes of video than I will ever be.

Besides, I’m old too.  I feel certain I was told at some point years ago that the guy was Osmond, yet I completely forgot about that when I discussed the show.  I also don’t know if “throwing shade” has fully replaced “smack-talking” in the vernacular, or even if the term should be hyphenated.