Trick or Treat

Is that Yvonne Craig, Sally Field, and Lynda Carter? (I don’t think so!)

Philadelphia, PA – 1970s

That special time rolls around every Autumn. It’s not as great as Christmas, but it’s right up there.

Halloween!

There’s all the preparation leading up to the event. It’s almost too hard to believe. We get to dress up as cool characters for one night a year and collect candy from everybody in the neighborhood. Do you mean to tell me we just knock on doors and they give us free candy? How is this possible? We love candy!

Halloween in our neighborhood was especially good. You paint or carve pumpkins into Jack O Lanterns. Each kid in the family picked out their own pumpkin and created their own design. We’d sit them out in a descending line down the steps to show off our handiwork.

Watching Doctor Shock on channel 17. Mad Theater and Horror Theater. All the classic monster movies like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman were the best! Doctor Shock was the host and practically invented the genre long before Elvira and MST3K! He even brought his little daughter, Bubbles on the show.

Remember the real horror stories you heard as a kid? That bad kid from around the corner who’s going to be out with his minions to cut kids’ bags and steal their candy! (The mothers were ready with firearms!)

Not really.

It seemed like when you were a kid there were always horror stories. It’s as if they were all made up by adults as words of caution to children in general. There was no such thing as the boogeyman. But many were told of his existence. But it was to scare kids into not wandering off at night. Because in reality there were bad people out in the world who could hurt you. So they gave him a name.

Razor blades in apples? Did anyone ever get one? Of course not. But I think everyone would agree that if any kid ever got a piece of fruit in their trick or treat bag, that sucker went straight into the trash.

And what sort of person gives out fruit on Halloween? How have they not heard of the protocol? Did they not get the memo?

CANDY! WE ONLY WANT CANDY!

I want store-bought, name-brand candy ONLY. I want full-sized Snickers and Hershey bars. What’s with this new thing called “Fun Size?” There’s nothing fun about a tiny version of the real thing you want.

Image result for best candy bars

That’s what I’m talking about.

Image result for best candy bars

Yes, please!

Remember there was always that random neighbor who gave out little bags of loose candy? What sort of crap was that? Juju bees, hard candy, Dots, and candy corn? No one wants that loose candy that you’ve had your hands all over! Straight to the trash! 

We’d get so much candy, we’d have to stop home and dump it because our little orange buckets were brimming with treats. Once our bounty was secured, we’d head right back out again for more. Did we get tired? Hell no! Sugar kept us going, baby!

You wanted to eat it all at once! But your mom was always there with… “You can have ONE!”

Some people even gave us money! It was a bunch of pennies and nickels but hey, we prefer the candy but if you want to give us cash that’s okay too! (How about you toss a few bills in there, pops?)

Back then I remember people doing some decorating to their homes but not at the level at which people celebrate Halloween today. Halloween has become the most profitable holiday behind Christmas. You don’t even get a day off from work.

A few years ago, My friend Scott had come up to visit. I remember us walking into one of those seasonal Halloween stores that pop up around September each year. There was every terrifying nightmarish object imaginable in that store. The place looked like the prop department for Hammer Films!  My friend said, “I remember when Halloween was about getting dressed up, carving pumpkins, and trick or treating. Now it looks like Hell hath come to Earth!”

I found that very funny.

But I think I know as an adult why people love Halloween so much more now. For one night a year, you get to pretend to be someone else, party and drink, and you don’t have to spend time with your family!

But I digress…

When we were in grade school, you got to wear your costume to school on Halloween. That was so cool. You got to see what all of the other kids were wearing that year. The teachers would take us all outside in our costumes and walk us around the neighborhood near Lawndale School. We were like little celebrities in our Halloween parade. People would stop and say how cute we all looked.

Pictured: Melissa, & Deneen Hanley, Sandra Hoffer, Wayne Kacheleries, RJ McMeans, & my sister Jane

When you’re little your parents take you to the department store and you get to pick out your costume. They were all stacked on the shelves in boxes with the clear cellophane window on the lid so you could see the character’s mask. There was a great assortment of costumes for kids of all the things we liked. Most of all, the characters we wished we could be every day. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc.

The funny thing was, you thought you were getting this:

Image result for batman 60s

…and this.

Image result for superman

But you ended up with this:

Image result for 1970s batman halloween costume

Yea… Lame.

Girl: I wanna look like Lynda Carter in the show, Wonder Woman!

Yea… good luck with that. Not happening. WW doesn’t wear a polyethylene bag to fight crime.

Those cheap costumes looked more like pajamas than superhero outfits. But at least they were flame retardant. (It said so on every box) At least you knew the superpower you possessed dressed in one of these ridiculous costumes was you wouldn’t burn to death. Big deal.

Then there was that plastic mask with its razor-sharp edges.

Image result for 1970s batman halloween costume

I was always afraid I would cut my eye on one of the eyeholes in those kinds of masks. You’d be wearing it and the flimsy rubber band that was stapled to it would always come off. It would always somehow pull out of the sides. It never happened at home. It only gave way when you were blocks from your home.

But before that even happened the mask would get all steamed up inside. Sure, there were nose and mouth holes but the whole mask would get wet inside. It was gross. Your face would be soaked as you walked around your neighborhood collecting candy.

The first costume I can ever remember wearing was The Green Hornet. I was just a little guy, maybe 5 or 6 years old. I put it on thinking it was cool, and my dad would laugh because he said I looked like an adult midget! (No offense to little people, but it was the 70s and my father was not politically correct)

Image result for 1970s green hornet halloween costume

Does that look like the Green Hornet to you? No. It looks like the Green Hornet’s jommies.

Almost as bad…

Yea, that’s me.

But we didn’t care. As long as you had something that resembled a costume, you were good to go. My friend RJ would go out as the same thing every year. He didn’t care. Put on some banged-up ragged clothes, burn a cork and rub the charcoaled end all over your face, and grab a pillowcase for candy and your good.

Me: What are you supposed to be?

RJ: A bum.

Me: Cool. Let’s go get loads of candy!

It was that simple.

Remember when you were all fired up in your costume and chomping at the bit to get out there and start trick or treating and your mom would say this?

“It’s cold out. Put on your jacket.”

“Really mom? Batman doesn’t wear a coat over his costume!”

I remember as I got older we went with more creative costumes. If we had store-bought costumes we’d grown out of, we’d simply give them to younger kids in the neighborhood.

One year, someone in the local government came up with the brilliant idea of making the kids go out in the late afternoon. We thought this was a terrible idea. Halloween was meant to be played out at night.

I had passed on one of my old kid’s costumes to this kid who lived up the corner named Douglas Miller. It was a store-bought astronaut costume.

Image result for 1970s astronaught halloween costume

I remember the only cool thing about it, was that they had built in a tiny light bulb in the mask that could be operated by a little battery pack you had to carry. I give the company points for creativity and making a costume that is more visible at night. But here comes Douglass with the costume on carrying his trick or treat bag in broad daylight. I think he was the only one out at 4 pm in the afternoon!

That rule was quickly abolished the next year. The costumes looked bad enough at night let alone in daylight!

But the costumes did get better as we got older. I remember going out as Dracula one year. A friend of my dad’s had made a really amazing cape that was red on the inside and black on the outside. I slicked my hair back, popped in some fake fangs, and became a vampire that night.

I was a cowboy one year, complete with a cool hat, vest, boots, and a pair of toy Rango guns on my belt. Being a hippie a year or so later was also good. I really didn’t look that much like a hippie though. More like a biker or Jerry Garcia.

My older sister was a pilgrim one year and the costume looked really authentic.

And of course… there’s my absolute favorite Halloween costume of all time.

Pictured: Chaz (Gene Simmons)– Steve Peoples (Peter Criss) – Jimmy Hunsinger (Ace Frehley) Jimmy did all of our makeup. Such a talented fellow.

But the absolute most creative Halloween costumes I ever saw were made by our neighbor, Mrs. Hanley. She was an expert seamstress, who could make anything out of fabric.

Although brilliant designs with expert craftsmanship, they weren’t always that functional. Case in point, one year her two daughters went out as Witch Hats. Not witches. Just hats.

Image result for giant witch hat as a costume

This is the only image I could find on the internet that even remotely resembled the costume. Just picture a giant black witch hat, with a wide brim and a hole cut out for the child’s face. I couldn’t find the costume online because they were custom-made and completely original designs created by Mrs. Hanley. Elegant in theory, but as I said. Not very functional. You can’t climb steps in it. You can’t clear a doorway either. So, sadly the Hanley girls had to stand down at the bottom of people’s steps, and whoever they were with would have to point to them and say to the neighbor. “Oh, and can you give me two more candy bars for the Witch Hats down there?”

But she made them better costumes the next year. A more functional model. Mrs. Hanley made her girls into Mice. They were really cute costumes and the girls looked adorable. Again, custom designs and fully handcrafted. Something like this, but better.

Image result for cute mouse costume

But here’s the thing…

The tails on the costumes were made of stiff wire. They even curled up at the end. So sadly, the girls’ little tails were getting hooked on everything! Doors, doorknobs, door frames, railings, street signs, fences, and other children.

Clever costumes, but be careful! They’ll put your eye out!

We were happy just to go from door to door with our little bags out and the neighbors would make a fuss and dump the treats into our bags. It was simple and efficient.

But there was always that one family…

We’d stop at the Hunsinger’s house at the corner of Fanshaw Street and Hasbrook Avenue. They had a super ferocious dog named Jason, so there’s that. But the worst part was, you couldn’t just stand on the porch with your bag out.

You had to go in the house. Say what your costume was, and tell a joke to EARN your treat. (Did they not get the memo either?) We’re not here to perform like chimps for your entertainment. We walk up. Bag open. Say Trick or Treat, and you turn over the goods to us and we thank you. Period!

I get that they wanted to see us, take photos and engage us. It was all in the spirit of the holiday, but come on. I have 39 Reeses Cups in this bag. How about we make it an even 40 and I’ll be on my way. Okay? We’re on a tight schedule here. We got rounds to make tonight!

We’d have a whole route mapped out to maximize our return on Halloween. But the final destination and most glorious was Rising Sun Avenue. It was wall-to-wall stores for blocks. We’d start at the beginning and go in and out of every single store getting candy. And it was the good candy too. You know what I’m talking about. We’d work one side of the street down to about Levick Street and then cross over and come down the other side and hit every store over there too.

Funny thing was, there was a really nice candy store called Bauer’s on Rising Sun. You could go in that store any time of year and it smelled like what a child would imagine what Heaven smelled like. Just delicious chocolates and sweets of every kind imaginable. A nearly mythical place from fables and storybooks.

But… on Halloween, I remember getting a giant taffy from there. It looked like an oversized lollipop on a wooden stick. The business end was carefully wrapped in wax paper and it was gently placed into my bag for transport. But wouldn’t you know, the very next place I walked into, I was given a candy apple? The clerk would blast that thing into my bag like they were Steve Carlton and it would shatter my lolly from Bauers! Thanks, Lefty!

After a few exhausting hours of trudging around in our costumes to as many places as possible, we’d head home.

But that’s when the inventory and trading took place. We’d lay out all of our candy onto the carpet. Counting how many of certain brands we got that night, and exchanging them with our family and friends. It’s probably the only time in your childhood where you actually can possess a substantial amount of something you love, and it’s absolutely FREE!

Pictured: RJ McMeans, Jane, Chaz, Nancy & Gail

But what I remember most was the excitement on the street itself. Kids running up and down the sidewalk in their costumes. The crisp snap in the Autumn air. The smell of the Fall. The leaves crunched under your feet as you ran from door to door.

The night wasn’t filled with ghosts and goblins. It was full of happy children and the sound of laughter.

Have a Happy Halloween, everyone!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Breakfast Cereal – Part 2

Philadelphia, PA – 1960s-1970s

Frosted Flakes: These were great. Tony the Tiger as their spokesperson always yelling They’re GRRRReat! Can’t beat him as a pitchman.

Froot Loops: Those colored fruity Cheerios. (They all tasted the same to me)Toucan Sam telling us about how his Nose, Knows that this is a delicious cereal and we should eat it every day.

Apple Jacks: Just another variety of Fruit Loops. But didn’t these have some sort of crystalized dark bits on them or am I thinking of something else? I liked these just the same.

Rice Krispies: Three little chefs named Snap, Crackle, and Pop represent this brand. Remember how if you put your ear to the bowl to listen for that sound? Just little puffs absorbing the milk made that sound. It was more like a hissing sound to me.

Cocoa Krispies: Same thing except with a chocolatey taste added.

Lucky Charms: A sustaining classic. I had these once as a kid and liked them. But I think my dad put the kibosh on this cereal early on. Just more sugary crap! So we didn’t really eat this cereal as a kid. But I would never turn it down if ever offered this as a snack. But here’s the thing. Because the marshmallow stars, moon, hearts, and clovers were large, (The size of m&ms) the dish was very sugary. So if you ate the cereal by itself, it was sure plain and boring. (Like original Cheerios) But who didn’t love the little Leprechaun? Everybody was always trying to steal his Luck Charms to no avail.

Trix: This cereal began as these tiny hollow balls that were different colors like fruit loops. They eventually changed their shape in later years. Maybe the balls became too expensive to make anymore. But How can we forget that screwy rabbit that was always trying to get the cereal away from the kids in the commercial? “Silly Rabbit! Trix are for kids!”

Alpha-Bits: I liked these. A cereal takes on the alphabet soup theme. They tasted just like Honey Comb to me. I used to try to make bad words out of the letters in my cereal bowl. Nothing like starting your day with a nice bowl of Alpha-Bits where you see the word Sh*t floating in there. Kids!

Super Sugar Crisps: These were good but got soggy quickly. Wasn’t the mascot a bear in a striped sweater who acted cool all the time? Did he sing like Bing Crosby or something? Bizarre.

Sugar Smacks: I think this was similar to sugar crisps but were represented by a frog maybe?

Sugar Pops or Corn Pops: This is a good cereal that I like to eat to this day. But aren’t they the same?

Cap’n Crunch: This guy is the CEO of breakfast cereals. I loved these crunchy little squares. They didn’t get soggy, and I could eat bowls of this fine cereal. He was cool, because he had a crew, and there was even a bad pirate in the commercials I think. John La Foote? Lafite? Not sure. But a damn fine cereal and one of my all-time favorites.

King Vitamin: Just when you think they can’t make a cereal that’s better than Cap’n Crunch, they make this cereal. It was exactly the same product as CC, but they were in the shape of little crowns. (They looked more like little gears to me) But, they were crunchier and sweeter than CC. So this became my favorite cereal in the early 70s. I remember the song. “King Vitamin! Have breakfast with the king!”

Franken Berry, Count Chocula, and Boo Berry: Again… flavored Cheerios. Strawberry, Chocolate, and I’m assuming Blueberry. I loved Franken Berry cereal. It was another one of my all-time favorites. I wasn’t a fan of real strawberries but I liked this cereal. I consumed tons of it back in the 70s. One of my favorite things to do was have it as a snack too. My mom would pour it into a bowl and I would eat it dry. But there was a method to my madness. I would first consume all of the cereal and leave all of the tiny marshmallows at the bottom of the bowl. I would then gather them all up in my hands and form them into one big ball with my fingers. It would be a little bigger than a golf ball. I would then proceed to eat it. It was like a ball of candy at the end of your snack. A fitting, sugary dessert to top off your day. I remember the characters referring to the marshmallows in the cereal as “Sweeties” which I thought was weird because it was obvious what they were. They later referred to the sweeties as marshmallows. (Probably got a call from my dad)

I never had Count Cocula, but my friend Wayne used to eat it religiously. He said the only thing was, it turned the milk nearly black at the end and that just seemed gross. Boo Berry? he came late to the game and I never had that one either. Nobody cares about Boo Berry. He’s just a ghost.

Honey Comb: “Come to the Honey Comb hideout. Gonna eat and gonna play. Gonna live in the Honey Comb Hideout! Eatin’ Honey Comb every day!” That was the jingle from the commercial. It would be my dream in life to live in the Honeycomb hideout and eat honeycomb every day, sir. I like this cereal. It was big. Bigger than it probably is now. each bit was bigger than a quarter. It looked like a little beehive and those holes held the milk. Delicious. But that wasn’t the best part of this great cereal.

On the back of each box, they had somehow through the miracle of modern 70s technology managed to press a record on the back of the box. yes, my friends. When you were done eating all of the cereal, you could cut the record off the back of the box and it would actually play on your record player. The first ones were Archie songs but the later ones were by The Monkees! I played the song Mary, Mary by the Monkees so many times once my mother told me if she heard that song one more time she was going to strangle me.

The best part was, I never waited to finish the box of cereal. We would be home from the market and I would convince my mom to dump out the cereal into jars so I could get at that record on the back of the box TODAY!

Thanks for always letting me do that, Mom.

Freakies: This was actually a really tasty cereal. It was O-shaped and sort of tasted like a cross between Cap’n Crunch and Apple Jacks I think. I liked it and in each box, you got a different little Freaky character from the commercial. They were just little plastic figures that were like army men. Boss Moss was green. He was the leader obviously. Grumble was orange and always miserable like Oscar from Sesame Street. I think there was a girl freaky as well. They were cute little creatures and I liked the cereal. I remember we kept getting Grumbles over and over. At one point it was like… “Ahh… another Grumble. (Just pitches him into the trash)

Quisp and Quake: I love this one. I only ate Quisp as a kid. The cereal was shaped like little bowls. (flying saucers) Quisp was a little cartoon alien dude, and Quake was a burly man. In the commercials, they were always trying to prove who was the better cereal. It was a cute marketing campaign. Create a completion between the two brands. But here’s the thing we all knew even as kids. Quisp and Quake tasted exactly the same. They were just different shapes. Who were these clowns fooling? Not us kids!

I remember once they decided to have the two characters compete in a race from Long Island New York to Lompoc California. This was to settle who was the better cereal. I followed this competition very closely on TV commercials and the backs of the cereal boxes. Here’s the thing. Neither of them ever made it or completed the race. Quisp was left on the market and Quake disappeared from store shelves. It was bizarre.

Kix: I think I had this cereal once in the late 70s or early 80s. Just another cereal that tasted like puffed balls of Cap’n Crunch. They really only had a few recipes for cereal back then I guess. Just change the shape and the marketing campaign and you got yourself a brand new cereal. Bu the one thing that really stands out in my mind was the jingle on the commercials. I would be watching TV with my friend, and it would come on.  The little kid would start the song, “Kids like Kix for what Kix has got!” and then the mom would finish the line, “Mom’s like Kix for what Kix has not”. (this meant kids liked the taste, and moms liked that it was low in sugar) But when my vile little friends and I would hear this little diddy we’d always change the lyrics to something dirty. I won’t repeat it here, because Google Adsense will probably suspend the advertising on my site. But you get the idea. See what you can come up with…

Oh’s: My favorite cereal of the 80s. I loved this cereal. I should probably see if they still make it. Again. Cap’n Crunch-shaped O’s with some sort of sugary substance in the hole. Loved these crunchy morsels. Great cereal!

Fruity Pebbles: This is just fruit-flavored rice crispies.

Here are some links to some further reading on this subject:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_breakfast_cereals

https://clickamericana.com/topics/food-drink/40-favorite-breakfast-cereals-1967

https://www.metv.com/lists/lost-breakfast-cereals-of-the-1960s-and-1970s

https://delishably.com/breakfast/Breakfast-Cereal-Favorites-of-Yesteryear

The 50 Greatest  Breakfast Cereal Prizes of all time:

https://www.mrbreakfast.com/list.asp?id=6

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Breakfast Cereal – Part 1

Philadelphia, PA – 1960s-1970s

Growing up in the suburbs in Philly was great. We lived in a pleasant, quiet neighborhood. It looked like a snapshot from nostalgic America back then. All of the dads headed out in the morning in their cars to their jobs and the moms stayed home and took care of the house and kids.

Breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Sure, lunch usually consisted of a sandwich on white bread with some potato chips and a drink, and dinner was a protein, a vegetable, and a carb. You got a couple of cookies for dessert and a glass of milk.

All good, but breakfast was the most fun meal of the day. That’s because back then, we had so many cool cereals to pick from. Many of them tasted the same and were just manufactured into different shapes and brands. But they had such great personalities. No other food in your life as a kid had funny characters and mascots like breakfast cereals did. You also never got a prize in a bag of peas or a can of baked beans.

I used to love going to the supermarket with my mom. She would be off somewhere in the store pushing the cart and collecting items from the handwritten list she’d made at home. I would be standing in the cereal aisle for the entire hour. Time moves slowly when you’re a kid, and normally doing errands with your parents was boring. Unless there was the promise of some treat at the end of the trip for good behavior, it was a drag.

But looking at all of the cereals in the aisle made the trip worthwhile. So many cool cereals to choose from. Most of our moms worked on a pretty strict food budget. They had to think of the five people at home and how to make the food money go the farthest.

But as a kid, you have no concept of money because you simply don’t have any, nor the skills to earn any of it for yourself. (Unless you had a paper route, then you were an earner!)

I would stand in that aisle and read all of the boxes carefully. Never worry about any nutritional value or cost. The big questions in my mind were always the same. What kind of prize is the best out of all of these cereals? How many box tops do I need to send away to get an even better free prize?

Before I begin, remember Tang? That weird orange drink that the astronauts drank on the Apollo spacecraft? I tasted it as a kid, and it reminds me of the flavor of today’s Sunny D. We never had Tang as a kid. My mom would buy these rolls of frozen orange juice concentrate in bulk. I remember her mixing it up in the kitchen. Chopping through the slushy mess until it became orange juice. She was always nice enough to strain the pulp out of mine. I thought pulp was gross. It always felt weird in my mouth. Like I was drinking something that had some weird stuff in it that shouldn’t be there.

I write these nostalgic pieces and I really enjoy it, but sometimes I like the reader to come away from it having learned something.

Do you know why kids like candy and sugary cereal? Why do we crave sugar in any form as a kid? The reason goes back millions of years to the origins and development of our species.

What’s usually the first thing a baby does when you hand it something. Yep. Right in the mouth. Why? Because we’re predisposed to test objects we find as babies to see if they are a potential food source. That’s how we learn what we can and can’t eat to survive. Over thousands of years of evolution, babies developed a taste for sweets.

Why? Because most things that are sweet are not poisonous. That’s why little children like sweets. They won’t die if they put it in their mouth like everything else. So the next time you reach for that Kit Kat, you’re just doing what your ancestors knew was right.

Let’s talk healthy first. I remember my dad never agreed with us chowing down on bowls of sugary cereal every day. “It’s not good for your teeth!” “It’s a bunch of sugary crap that has no nutritional value!” “It’s junk!”

All the while he was chowing down on fried eggs, and greasy bacon every morning. Cholesterol and fat city, dad!

He once had the idea that we should all try cream of wheat instead of eating sugary cereals every day. We all tried it one morning on a weekend. It was horrible. We’ve already been eating the crunchy, sugary deliciousness of store-bought fun cereals. Why would we ever want to eat this swill? A big warm bowl of gruel? What sort of medieval torture is this? Gross! No, thank you.

I will say this. My mom was awesome. Every morning for 20 years I would roll downstairs and have a seat at the table. I ate a bowl of cereal while intently reading the back of the box. Next, 2 pieces of bacon, a slice of buttery toast, and a glass of orange juice.

remember waking up in your bed, and you could smell the bacon cooking downstairs? there’s nothing like that in the world. Why does bacon crackle and sizzle when you fry it in a pan? Yes, because it sounds like applause. Bacon has rightfully earned that ovation!

My daughter is Vegan, and I feel sad for her as I write these words.

i could have drunk more than the small 6oz glass of orange juice each morning but you simply don’t need that much juice to get your daily dose of vitamin C. “It’s full of sugar and citric acid! It’s going to irritate your stomach.” Yes… dad again.

But it was a balanced breakfast. Oats, protein, carbs, and vitamin C. Sounds good to me. I think that’s why I love breakfast so much even today. Did you ever go into a 24-hour diner and have breakfast for dinner? Brilliant!

Oh, and when my dad brought home some donuts from the bakery? Cream-filled powdered donuts? My favorite! Good bagels? yes, please! A well-made bagel doesn’t even need anything on it to be awesome.

But I digress…

Let’s talk about some of these breakfast cereals we had as kids.

I’m just going to cruise over the boring adult cereals and get to the fun stuff, but they’re worth mentioning.

  1. Cream of Wheat – Awful
  2. Wheaties – Popular with the athletic sports set
  3. Shredded Wheat – Parent breakfast food. I’m assuming dad needs a bit more fiber
  4. Spoon-Sized Shredded Wheat – Let’s make the same thing smaller so they can shovel more of our product into their gaping maws.
  5. Rice Chex & Wheat Chex – Looked like something you dumped into at a party to snack on. (But I always wondered how they made those little ventilated squares)
  6. Corn Flakes – No taste. Gets instantly soggy, and is really Frosted Flakes that have been stripped of their sugary deliciousness. So sad.
  7. Special K. – Also crap. No, thank you. As bad as Corn Flakes. There’s a reason we called that one girl, Special K  who rode the short bus to that ‘other school’.
  8. Product 19 – Did anybody even buy this cereal that sounds like a failed experiment?
  9. Rainin Bran – What’s Bran? No, mom, I don’t want to eat raisins as a snack and especially not in my cereal. Just chewy grossness.
  10. Life – Is this boring cereal what adult life will eventually become for me? Probably. But, no.
  11. Grape-Nuts– No one believes anything Wilfred Brimley is saying about this cereal. As Seinfeld says, No Grapes. No Nuts. What’s the deal?
  12. Total – I don’t know or care. Totally boring, okay?
  13. Cheerios – Okay… these are good and I still eat them when I get the munchies if you get what I mean.

Remember those variety packs of cereal they used to make? I think they still make them today. But back then they looked cool because they were tiny replicas of the real cereal boxes. I once asked my mom what these little boxes had an I-shaped perforation along the face of each box. She told me, that if you opened it that way and tore open the bag inside, you could pour milk in there and the box would serve as an on-the-go bowl of cereal. I never did that but thought it was an innovative idea. But I thought, what if I went through all of that and then realized I had forgotten to bring a spoon with me?

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2. We’ll talk about the fun cereals!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Do You Love An Addict? If So, Here Are 10 Things You Need To Know

Here’s another great post that was shared with me by one of my followers. 

The word “addict” has become a commonplace word in today’s society, and almost all families have been affected one way or another. Even games like Fortnite took a blow, with at least one lawsuit alleging its popularity among teens was as addictive as cocaine.

But as commonplace as drug addiction has become in this modern-day, it is still widely misunderstood. There are many conflicting viewpoints regarding the causes and nature of addiction, however, one thing is for certain: it takes lives and destroys families.

In my experience as both an addict — now an author, speaker, and counselor to families of addicts — I have dealt with a lot of pain and heartache. I have seen both tears of frustration and of guilt and regret. While, there is no sure way to change an addict from the outside (they must want the change, and initiate the change themselves), there are ways to encourage them to heal while also protecting themselves.

Too many times I’ve seen families and loved ones of those caught in the grips of addiction struggle with some of the hardest decisions of their lives, and inadvertently end up pushing that person further into their addiction when they were actually trying to save them from it.

I have compiled a very important list of ten basic tenets that we should follow when dealing with a loved one who is an addict. Some of these may seem obvious, and some may even seem counterintuitive, but after decades spent on both sides of the addiction fence, I guarantee you that these are things that are necessary.

1). Do not give them money. This may seem like an obvious suggestion, however, addicts are master manipulators. They will use any excuse to get money, and will more than likely use threats and ultimatums as techniques to get it. No matter what, it is not your job as a family member or loved one to support their drug habit or their lifestyle. No one should be buying cigarettes, gas, clothing, or anything else for a using addict who is currently destroying themselves. Stand firm, do not let them guilt you into it.

2). Make their life as uncomfortable as possible. A using addict will continue to use until they are unbearably uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it takes an immense amount of pain and misery to motivate a person to stop using their drug of choice. Families will often follow their loving instincts and provide comforts for the addict, but when you are letting an unproductive adult live in your household, and sleep whenever they want, and not contribute or work, you are sending a message to them of encouragement.

I was tossed out in the streets when I turned eighteen because I was an addict and being cut off from my family, and my stream of resources, forced me to hit my pain threshold much faster than if my family had supported and enabled me through my addiction. Had I been given a roof over my head, money, and basic necessities I may still have been using today, or even dead.

3). Be supportive when they are reaching out for genuine help. As important as it is that we don’t enable someone in active addiction, it is equally important that we are there for them when they want to stop. In our active addiction, there are times where we want to continue using, and then there are times (usually when we’re under the comfortable influence of the drug) when we realize that we have a serious problem and we want to seek a better life. The next morning when the drug wears off, these feelings of a desire for change fall to the wayside, and the desire to get the drug and feel “normal” again usually take over.

The best thing that a loved one can do is to support the addict when they show a genuine interest in changing. Research available forms of treatment, and centers that are available and be ready to present them to the addict when they are seeking help. Be available to offer rides or other services to the addict who is currently active and successful in recovery. It’s important that we express zero support for their use of drugs and alcohol, and yet show as much support as possible for their recovery. This is the best and only time that you should be willing to help if you want to see maximum results.

4). Get educated about addiction and recovery. It is very important that you learn as much as you can regarding the addiction that your loved one is battling. The more that you begin to understand addiction and the inner turmoil that an addict faces, the more you will be equipped against their lies and manipulation tactics. It is very important to yourself and to them that you are guarded against their schemes. An addict lies to themselves, just as much as they lie to others. The more that you learn, the more that you can see clearly from the outside looking in.  There are too many families and partners of addicts that “turn on” their ignorance in order to avoid the scary truth that their son, daughter, partner, is addicted to drugs or alcohol. By trying to maintain a “blissful ignorance” then we are doing the addict themselves a disservice.

5). Do not become co-addicted, put yourself first always. The most important person in your life is you. Your child, husband, wife, parents, or whoever else simply cannot come before you. You must always protect yourself, your property, sanity, and overall well-being before trying to help someone else. Too many people out here become codependent on their loved one’s addiction and end up reaping worse consequences than the addicts themselves. There have been many people that I have met that have become so codependent on a family member’s addiction that they’ve neglected their other children, spouses, etc all to focus on one person’s issues. In this case, no one ends up being helped, and everyone falls apart.

6). Get Narcan training and keep two on hand. Naloxone is an opioid overdose antidote that is almost only exclusively available now under the brand name Narcan. As of 2019, there are some generic versions of Naloxone pending, however for now Narcan is the most widely available. It is now available in not only an injection form but in a nasal spray as well. The drug acts as an immediate opiate blocker which will bring a person instantly out of an opiate overdose and directly into the withdrawal stages. For the stronger opiates like Fentanyl, it is not uncommon to need a couple of doses of Naloxone in order to bring the user back to life, which is why I suggest keeping at least two on hand.

7). Seek outside help from professionals. Do not try to do it all alone. Professionals are there for a reason. Reach out to and speak to recovering addicts, doctors, mental health professionals, peer recovery specialists, or anyone else that you can find in the mental health area. Every case of addiction is an individualized case, and the drugs and alcohol are just a symptom of a deeper-lying issue. Do not try to diagnose and treat these things without professional help or they may flare up worse or even backfire.  When they do, you will be left with a tremendous load of guilt, so please contact someone who deals in this area of expertise every day.

8). Join a support group. The stigma of addiction isn’t what it used to be. Do not try to cover it up or keep it a secret, and do not isolate it. Always welcome outside help and support, get second opinions, reach out to friends and family. Share what is happening so that those who care about you who aren’t clouded with emotion can speak clearly to your circumstances. For the best results, you must have a network of people that you can trust that can walk along the outside of this struggle with you. There are Nar-anon meetings and Al-anon meetings for the loved ones of addicts and alcoholics. These meetings are a wealth of information and support for people who are dealing with addiction in the family, or home. Not only will you actively learn about addiction, and how to cope with an addict but you can also meet a great support group of people who are in the same boat as you are.

9). Give them ultimatums. Addicts and alcoholics generally begin using due to pain and fear and usually stop using for the same reasons. Ultimatums will generate a sense of fear that could possibly push an addict towards change. They also give a softer option than completely cutting the person off. Giving them choice makes them feel more in control and generates a sense of responsibility for what happens to them. Because most addicts and alcoholics are stuck in a cycle of self-obsession, cutting them off due to their own misdeeds will still perpetuate a victimhood cycle in their minds. For example; “My mother threw me out, she doesn’t care about me.” versus “My mother told me I had to either go to rehab or leave the house. I chose to be homeless.”

When giving these kinds of ultimatums, it is important that there is a solution involved. For instance, telling an addict to “stop getting high, or stop drinking or else” is setting them up for failure. Chances are if they were able to just flick a switch and stop the misery they are bringing upon themselves and you, they would. Instead, there must be a solution at the end of the ultimatum, such as go to treatment, counseling, recovery housing, etc.

Lastly, stand firm in your ultimatum. If they fail to live up to their end of the bargain then you must follow through with your deal. If you don’t then you expose a weakness, and they will exploit it every time. Do not give an ultimatum that you aren’t ready to follow through with. Don’t threaten to leave them, divorce, or throw them out of the house unless you are willing to stand firm on that.

10). Know that you are doing your best. As a recovering addict myself, I can attest that I literally disappointed myself thousands of times over, let alone the people that cared about me. That is the nature of addiction. Some people get recovery right on the first time, some take dozens of times, and unfortunately, some die trying. There is no one else responsible for an addict’s drug use other than the addict. If you follow these suggestions, you have absolutely done your best. Even if you don’t or didn’t and you followed your heart, you still did your best.

Remember, relapses can and do happen often to people in recovery. Do not give up or get disheartened, be there for your loved ones when they are ready to brush themselves off and get back on the right path towards recovery.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Hunt’s Pier – Epilogue

Philadelphia, PA – 2021

The reason I’ve struggled with writing this story is that it can’t really be written. It has to be felt. To be lived.  It was just a summer job on the boardwalk in wildwood. But it was something else. We did the same job over and over every night. It was us on the ride, and the people lined up and boarded the ride and we sent them up. That’s it. Over and over again. A sea of faces. Thousands of happy smiling faces night after night. Non-stop. We keep loading them in and they keep coming back for more. They’re on vacation. We’re there to serve them entertainment. Welcome to the show, I’m Chaz and I’ll be your host. It’s a circus. A carnival. A place where the freaks run the rides and you enjoy the show.

But it’s more than that. We sell happiness. Joy. Excitement. Thrills. Anticipation. The list goes on and on. What job have you ever had in your life where you can deliver that to your clients every single day? That’s the only product we make and our customers can’t live without it.

I’ve never ever had a job like that again. I can name every job I’ve ever had and none of them will be any of the things I just mentioned. That’s why many of the people who work there never leave.

There are worse vocations in this world.

It’s as if we worked in a place that existed in another world. A sea of joy and happy faces. Of children giggling and laughing and having the time of their lives. we’re the hosts bringing them fond memories. The type of memories they carry with them forever. The old memories. The ancient senses developed in our species millions of years ago. 

The excitement in the air crackles around you with your every move along that boardwalk. The music that fills the air whether it’s something on the radio or the crashing symphony of the calliope from the merry-go-round. That merry-go-round that you only get to ride once in this world.

One time around. Maybe you catch the brass ring, maybe you don’t. Maybe you rode all the way home on that mighty steed or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you fell off the horse a few times but you had a good time doing it. You get one ride in this life and we all have to make it. Make yours count. Maybe not for yourself but for someone else in this life.

 

Can you smell it? Is that Curly fries, or is it the sweet fragrance of a fresh funnel cake? When you bite that soft pretzel and the mustard drips on your polo shirt, and your wife pulls out a tissue to clean you up. She and the kids are so happy you’ve got a job where they can take a vacation for a week at the seashore. To play with the kids on the beach and swim in the sea, and see things you never imagined come to life. The stroll on that boardwalk, where you stuff your head with delicious pizza from Sam’s or Mack’s. 

I’m here to help. I will facilitate your joy, sir. We all will. And we’ll deliver you a show you won’t soon forget every night. That game you played. That teddy bear you won. We’re here to deliver.

But all the while we’re loving our very existence. Really living. The sun shines above our young heads. Our skin browns in the sun and our hair turns a lovely flaxen color. We feel it too. You’re here for a week or two. But we’re here every day. We get to live this life for two months every summer.

And when the shadows grow long in the autumn twilight, you’ll remember us. Because we’ll always be with you in your memories. A place that can’t be seen or touched, but you can feel it. You can smell and taste the memory. That first bite from your favorite burger spot. That first kiss of that person you just met on the beach today or this very boardwalk. The possibilities that can happen. It’s all yours. But only for a week. I get to do this every day.

It’s my life.

For now.

But one day I will join you in your world. But, we’ll all be able to look inward and feel that bit of magic in our hearts that came to life when we were young. That place that you loved that you can never revisit. 

Only in your dreams and memories.

Other people have written about Wildwood. I’ve read what they’ve written and it’s been simple documentation of what the place was like. But not how it felt. That’s what I’ve tried to describe here.

You don’t know it if you didn’t really live it. My sisters and I really lived it.

Every summer in Wildwood was different. The weather was the same and some of the things stayed the same but that was the beautiful constant.

It was always Summer there. Eternal. I only felt its dark side when I spent my first winter there. That was when the spell was broken. But only for a while. Every summer we spent there we changed. Because we were growing up. It’s not like now when another year goes by and you’re feeling the same as last year. We were growing. We were growing up. From little children to teenagers to adults. You spent your winters in Philly and went to school in the cold and waited for the bus. But in the summer you returned to a magical paradise with days filled with sunshine and joy. Only joy. You can never get that back. Those formative years are fleeting, and once they’re gone… they’re gone forever. 

I finished writing this series after a long time. I covered everything but I knew something was missing. I scheduled it and put the finishing touches on my work because it was done. I would only return to it in a month to do final edits.

But one night I was sitting in my room watching my show, and it kept gnawing at me. Something was missing from the long series. That’s when I stopped watching TV and opened a new doc and started pounding out these words. This may not even be enough. But maybe it’ll be enough for now.

The carnival. The amusement park. The sweet sea air as it blows in warm from the beach onto the crowd as they laugh and sing through the night.

The more I wrote the more I realized it’s almost something that can’t be written about. It can’t be documented. It’s a feeling. You can write what you saw and what you did, but it’s not the same.

You have to remember the feeling. 

A dear friend once told me, “It’s not what you said or what you did. It’s how you made them feel.” 

Thanks to everyone that follows my blog and also to everybody who dug it from Facebook and Instagram. I reconnected with some old friends from these posts, so it was totally worth it.

A book about my youth in Wildwood entitled, Down the Shore will publish in 2023.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1