Saturday, March 29, 2014

Remembrance of Past

At 72 years old, I've lived a long time.  My brain is still good, I can remember a lot from my past.  One of my all time favorite memories is watching the "Jackie Gleason Show" on a warm summertime Saturday night in the Fifties.



Me (middle) with my friends and brother (far right) at 120 Washington Avenue, Downingtown, PA summer 1952

Our family lived on Washington Avenue in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.  We lived in a second floor of a cheap (poor white trash section of town) apartment building.  My father worked at Gindy Trailers outside the edge of town.  The owner of Gindy Trailers, Dave Ginsberg, let my father grow corn on a few acres of land adjoining the trailer manufacturing plant.  



My brothers John and Isaac at the Gindy Trailer Manufacturing plant in Downingtown - 1952
our "Playground"


My father grew a lot of corn, more than we could eat.  One of my fondest memories of my childhood was those warm and humid, lazy hazy days of the Eisenhower Dull Fifties was my brothers and I pulling weeds from our assigned rows of corn.  I used to hate that chore at that time because I wanted to play with my friends Chubby Shores and Pee Wee Mack.  But after we pulled the weeds, we were often treated to a Tastee Freeze ice cream of a Dixie Cup.  Then if we got home in time we would gather around out 14 inch black and white Philco TV and watch "The Honeymooners" on "The Jackie Gleason Show."  



Mom and "her boys" enjoying a Dixie Cup treat after pulling weeks for each of our assigned eight rows of corn - 1952







Now, every time I hear the haunting strains of "The Melancholy Serenade" which was the opening theme song to "The Honeymooners", I am transported back to that more innocent time.  


Mom with my brother Isaac, Jr. in front of our cornfield - 1952

We didn't have much (nothing really) but we did have family, security and love.  Sure, my father could have been more demonstrative with his love and we could have had air conditioning but I am so appreciative of the childhood I did have and the memories that will never leave me as long as I live.  


"Pop" with youngest son John (his favorite) in front of his cornfield 1952

Jackie Gleason is on my mind now because I'm reading a biography of him now.  Not only was he one of my favorite comedians he is also one of my favorite musicians, and indeed he was a musician even though he couldn't read one note of music. 





I have many more memories like this which I will share in future blog posts.  I get a great deal of comfort from these memories.  I hope I never lose them.


12 comments:

  1. I love this post, Ron. I could feel your love for your family and its rituals coming through. Very nice.

    Peace <3
    Jay

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  2. A wonderfully nostalgic post. Jackie Gleason was indeed a good musician. Didn't he write the "Melancholy Serenade"? My memory stretches back to when I was two or three and I can remember my parents watching "The Honeymooners" on Saturday night. I also remember Dixie cups with the little wooden spoons. Those were the days.......

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    1. Jon,
      We were poor (as you were also) but Jackie Gleason and his comedy was one of the bright spots of my childhood. Reading his biography now brings back all those memories. And yes, he did write "Melancholy Serenade" which is one of the most beautiful and sad melodies that I know.
      Ron

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  3. Ron,
    I have said many times to my nieces and nephews that growing up in the late forties and fifties were the best times to be a kid. I remember more of what we didn't have as kids compared to what kids today have. No 7-11, milk and bread delivered by the milkman and bread man. We didn't get our first tv until about 1953 or so. We too were poor but were fortunate to live in a house that was purchased by my parents through a friend of my father's who actually bought the house with his GI bill and then signed the house over. My dad didn't go to war, 2 kids and a job with the oil company. Most of the money made back then went to pay the mortgage and household bills. After those were taken care of food was purchased and if there was any money left over, which was rare, fun. I have often considered writing my own version of life back then, just to pass down to younger family members.
    Jack

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  4. Ron,
    PS, almost forgot what I wanted to say, Jackie Gleason was a must watch back then along with Uncle Miltie and Sid Ceaser and Imogene Coca. We had to come in from outside to watch Frontier Playhouse and Flash Gordon in the afternoon. Howdy Doody, Happy the Clown and Sally Starr, all Philly based local shows, well except for Howdy.
    Jack

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    1. Jack,
      I sure can tell you grew up in the Philadelphia area. Sally Starr, Uncle Pete, Willie the Worm, Frontier Playhouse, Flash Gordon (my first fantasy man - the blond Buster Crabbe and the vaguely S & M Ming the Emperor - every time he tied up Flash I got "stirrings" that I couldn't quite explain). I absolutely agree with you that growing up in the late Forties and Fifties as a kid was the best time. We didn't have much but it didn't seem to matter. Any treats were so appreciated. We also got out first TV around 1953 and it was a BIG DEAL. My father didn't go to war either because he had three children and a brain injury he had since birth. He was a long distance truck driver during the war, gone from home long periods of time. I too would like to write about my experience growing up in the late Forties and Fifties. I graduated from high school in 1959, right at the end of the Fifties. Then I hit the gay scene during the late Sixties and all of Seventies, in retrospect the best time. I tired of the nightlife in 1980 (again, good timing) and retired to the country. Then I got very domestic for the next twenty-five years. Now in my old age I'm experience something of a renaissance, which is much appreciated. Sort of like my last hurrah. I love it!
      Ron

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    2. Ron,
      I forgot about Willie the Worm. One of my favorite early TV shows was "I remember Mama" starring Peggy Wood and Dick Van Patten. Peggy Wood became Mother Superior in the Sound of Music and Dick Van Patten became the father of eight with a couple of really cute sons. Oh those were the days.
      Jack

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    3. Jack,
      I almost forgot too! "I Remember Mama" was the other show I used to watch without fail on Friday nights. Oh how I loved that show. LOVED Peggy Wood. Many years later when I saw "Lars" on "Eight Is Enough", it seemed like a sacrilege. "Oh no!" I thought, that can't be "Lars." By the way, do you remember that Saturday morning show at the Philadelphia Zoo? I loved that program too. And of course there was Roland. Oh how I felt betrayed when he left Philadelphia and went to New York. Did you know that John Zacherle ("Roland") is still alive? Amazing. Maybe he is the Undead.
      Ron

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    4. Ron,
      I think that Dick Van Patten was "Nels" but I might be mistaken. Didn't know that Roland was still alive, he might have been just a little older than we were but back then 20 seemed ancient when we weren't even 10 or so. I just Googled him and he is 95 so he would have been in his twenties (so old) when he was doing his show in Philly. He was born in Philly and left when WCAU was bought by CBS. Peggy Wood died in 1978 at age 86.

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  5. How sweet it is! And awayyyyyy we go...

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    1. Walt,

      LOVED Jackie Gleason. Always made me smile and laugh, no matter how many times I saw his same routines. And Audrey Meadows was the ONLY Alice Kramden. I felt that "The Honeymooners" went downhill when Jackie replaced her with another actress.
      Ron

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