The Gift of the Magi – By O. Henry – Part 1

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling–something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practiced hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation–as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value–the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch, Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do–oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?”

 

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

Listen to Phicklephilly LIVE on Spotify!

Home for Christmas

I’m going to begin this piece with a few funny bits I remember from a couple of late-night TV hosts.

“I was driving through LA the other day and I saw an adult book store with a sign on the door. The sign read: Open all day, Christmas day.

“Does anybody ever wake up Christmas morning and say to themselves, ‘I’d love to look at some filthy magazines today. I wonder if anything’s open?” – Jay Leno

“Remember when you first got your Christmas tree home? Don’t put the screws on the stand into the tree too tight. Put a little sugar in the water, and keep it hydrated. Then… the day after Christmas… “Get that fire trap outta here!” – Jay Leno

Okay, last one.

“What does Christmas look like at my house? I’ll tell ya. I get up really early, I get really drunk, knock the tree over, and start a small electrical fire.” – David Letterman

I love those bits!

 

Philadelphia, PA – 1930s

The Christmas season was always a magical time growing up in our house. When my father was a kid he loved Christmas and this carried on throughout his life. He was the architect of the best Christmases any kid could imagine.

But when he was a kid I suspect his Christmases weren’t all that bright. His father was sort of disconnected from his family. Although an honorable man of principles, he was more interested in his work and hanging at the bar with his buddies. Not a drunk, but enjoyed drinking and adult fun instead of spending time with his wife and two sons.

At Christmas, he would hand his wife money and tell her to get the boys whatever they wanted. Not a lot of money, but enough to get maybe a couple of sets of toy trains and some other various trinkets. he just wasn’t that into family or Christmas.

His son on the other hand who would eventually become a father to me and my three sisters was determined to change all of that.

Philadelphia, PA – 1950s

My parents were married for 5 years before any of the kids appeared in their lives. They made a big deal about Christmas. (There is even a home movie somewhere that he shot of them preparing and celebrating Christmas together. We should probably have those videos converted to digital files so they can live online forever.) I remember in this one home movie he shot it was my mom pulling boxes of decorations and goodies out from under a bed.  He edited it so it looked like she was pulling an endless amount of stuff from under the bed. I liked how he didn’t simply document the Christmas season he made a fun little movie about it with his wife.

Philadelphia, PA – 1960s-Present

One of my earliest memories of Christmas was my sisters and I as little kids standing at the top of the steps in our pajamas. My mom would give the signal and we’d all slowly descend the steps carrying our stockings. What you couldn’t see was my father filming the whole thing in 8mm. He had a rack of really bright lights set up so he could get a quality shot. (All of the cameras and film were low lux back then)

Here we all come down the stairs squinting because the lights were so incredibly light. It was like something out of the film Close Encounters! We’d walk across the living room and try in earnest to get up on our tiptoes to hang our stockings over the fireplace on the mantle. We’d all smile and wave still squinting like mad. My mother would be holding my youngest sister in her arms and hang her little stocking for her.

This went on for years. My dad loved to document all the holidays with his trusty movie camera. I don’t think any of the other kids in the neighborhood have the massive catalog of films that my family has about family events.

(That’s me in 1966)

One of the main components of the Christmas season was putting the toy trains up. My father had a wooden platform in the basement with tracks nailed to it. He would gather some old orange crates out of the garage and set them up in the corner of the living room. The platform would sit upon it and then the Christmas tree would be placed on it in the corner.

Then he’d bring up a couple of his model trains and we’d play with them and run them around the platform. He had little houses, cars, and people to complete the village. It was great because you only got to play with these specific toys the month before Christmas. So it was a cool pre-holiday treat. My sisters and I would run the trains and play for hours with these little people in their town in the days leading up to the big day.

Christmas carols and holiday music would play throughout the house, relatives would visit and usually, my grandmom would come and stay for the week leading up to Christmas. They would give her my room and I’d sleep on a cot in my sister’s room. This was fine because this way the kids were all together as Christmas approached and we could all talk about it. What we had on our lists, stuff we hoped we’d get, and just vibe with the season.

My mother would bake these glorious butter cookies from a recipe she found in a magazine. To this day they are my favorite cookies on earth. Thankfully my middle sister has been able to replicate that recipe and make cookies that look and taste exactly like mom used to make. I love them. each year she gives me a Tupperware container full of them and it takes me three months to slowly consume them all.

I remember as we got a little older we’d help my mom make the cookies. I think my older sister would help my mother mix the batter, my middle sister would roll them out, I would cut them into shapes and my baby sister would decorate them with sprinkles. I know my youngest sister is going to read this but I’m going to say it anyway. Once when she was maybe 2 years old I remember her standing on the chair at the end of the table and decorating the cookies and she suddenly sneezed.

“Good job! You just decorated the cookies!”

“Ewww!”

Poor kid. She was just a baby and didn’t even know what she did! That story still circulates the table at annual holiday gatherings.

As usual, I was a disaster in school. So my dad had taken it upon himself to sort of home school me during the early 70s. I still went to school, but he would give me books and make me read them and then test me on the subjects. It was torture for me back then, but I learned so much about so many aspects of the world that many of my peers don’t know even to this day. He even would assign me poetry to memorize and recite to him after I’d learn it. You’d think verse would be a little easier for me to memorize word for word but try to read, and understand, The Tyger by William Blake!

One Christmas one of his assignments was for me to read and memorize “A Vist from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, and I did it! I memorized the whole thing and recited it word for word for him. Even though this felt like some sort of extended punishment from my everyday life, it wasn’t. He was exposing me to great literary works and building the neurons in my brain for better recall. He knew I had a good mind, he just didn’t want me to waste it.

Anyway, Christmas was always a magical time in our home each year. The anticipation was nearly unbearable. My middle sister and I would conspire to figure out ways to sneak downstairs early Christmas morning with a flashlight and take a look at what Santa had left for us. This was always met with inquiries from my other sister, “Well, what did you see down there?”

My father and sisters and I would trim the tree and my mom would sit in her chair and direct us as to where each ornament should go. My grandmom would be there giggling and sipping eggnog.

When some of us were old enough to realize the truth about Santa Claus we took it upon themselves to do something my father referred to as “rooting”. This was when one of the kids would look under the pool table or in a closet for potential future Christmas presents. My dad quickly caught on to this practice and make sure everything was gift-wrapped immediately upon acquisition of the gift.

Once he even stuck a little postcard between the door of a closet and the molding near the upper hinge of the door. If anyone opened the door, the card would fall and he would know some little elf was “rooting”. So he would simply move the presents to another secret location.

Watching all the great Christmas shows on TV only added to the excitement of the season. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is coming to town were all wonderful, just to name a few!

Christmas morning would finally arrive and we’d all head downstairs to see the bounty of gifts that old St. Nick had dropped off. Each child had a designated area for their presents around the living room. Each kid went to their spot and started to rip into the wrapping paper. My parents would sit back, sip their coffee, and just smile.

You had to take a break after the main presents and stop and eat breakfast before ripping into your stocking. There were more goodies in each one of those! Sometimes something wonderful, like a watch or a piece of jewelry for the girls.

What set my parents apart from many families is, they shopped for Christmas all year round. So they never had to stress about the hustle and bustle associated with any last-minute shopping issues. They were done and wrapped months before Christmas day ever arrived. They were so organized and such great planners.

Thanks to my mom and dad every Christmas was unique and incredible in its own right. There were always some special gifts that you really wanted and some unexpected delights that appeared each year. This family tradition continued on into our twenties down the shore in Wildwood, NJ when we moved there in 1979.

Christmas was bigger and better than ever. He had not one but two completely decorated trees in the house. One downstairs in the dining room and the other one upstairs in the front window of the house. The trees always had to be Fraser firs because they were the bushiest and smelliest trees money could buy. (No dropped needles on the floor!)

My father would have mini lights running along the ceiling down the hallway just to keep the Christmas vibe going throughout the house.

It would be a couple of days before Christmas and he’d suddenly make this statement each year. “You know what today is?”

“What?”

“It’s the eve… of Christmas Eve.”

This became part of our mythology through the years and someone would always say, about a week before Christmas… “You know what today is?”

“What?”

“It’s the eve, of the eve, of the eve, of the eve, of the eve, of the eve of Christmas Eve!”

Yea…we’re a Christmas crazy family.

We would exchange gifts between the kids and my parents on Christmas eve. I don’t remember when this started, but it added to the holiday energy because you got that extra night of opening presents even before the main Christmas day event! We would stack them on a card table in the living room and sometimes one of the kids would be sniffing around them wondering what was in them.

My mom put up a sign and rested a whiffle ball bat against the table. The sign stated that if you were caught touching the presents on the table you’d get “the bat”. (This was all in fun, but we had that thing there every year)

Even though by then my dad was into his 60s, he’d be sitting on the sofa next to me with his finger under the wrapping paper on one of his gifts. “Is it my turn yet?” he’d exclaim. He loved Christmas so much!

My first sister picked up the torch of the Christmas spirit in the 90s. She still hosts a holiday party every December at her house and it’s wonderful! The food is great and the company is always amazing. I remember going to her house back in the 90s and my parents were still alive and there could be a few uncles and aunts there, and the rest of us. They were the oldest people in the room. The senior members of our tribe. But as time has passed, I looked around the room and saw my daughter and all the nephews and nieces, and now my sisters and I are the old people in the room!

Time slips away so fast.

This is another one of those instances where it’s difficult to put into words what our Christmases were really like. It was more of a feeling.

You just had to be there.

My mother and father have been gone for many years, but Christmas continues to live on in the hearts of my sisters and me. My first sister has continued to have her annual holiday party every year for decades and we are all so grateful for her.

Here we all are now!

Merry Christmas, 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

13 Halloween Candy Facts To Pig Out On

If there is one event that took place in the second half of the 19th century that split America down moral and ethical lines, it’s definitely the invention of candy corn. Here’s the story, plus 12 others:

262 Fun-Sized candy bars will kill you. An average American weighing 180lbs would need to consume 5.4lbs of sugar in one sitting for it to be a lethal dose, which would be the amount in 262 fun-sized candy bars (9.3 grams of sugar each). CRACKED.COM

Candy corn was invented 140 years ago and called Chicken Feed. During the 1880's, many confectioners made sugary treats based on the agricultural industry, in the shape of pumpkins, chestnuts, and turnips. CRACKED.COM

Fun-Size was made specially for Halloween trick-or-treaters. NIE Twix FUN SIZE S WICKERS size The Mars company came out with Fun Size in the 1960's as a slightly larger treat than their junior size, targeted towards Halloween consumers. Other companies followed suit and began using the term, although Mars holds the trademark. CRACKED.COM

Salt Water Taffy gets its name from a smart-ass comment. Ocean flooding had ruined several candy shops on the Atlantic City boardwalk in New Jersey after an 1883 storm, so when a young customer asked a candy shop owner what she could buy his response was to joke that salt water taffy was all that was left. CRACKED.COM

Smarties were made with the same machines that produced bullets during WWI. Machines that compressed gunpowder into pellets for use in ammunition were repurposed to make the candy after swapping out some ingredients. CRACKED.COM

Nestle set off a 132lb chocolate firework. Launched in Switzerland in 2002, the largest chocolate firework (and somehow not the only chocolate firework) was made by Nestle and was 9.8 feet tall. It was likely made using the child labor and modern-day slaves they've been caught with on their cocoa plantations as recently as 2019. CRACKED.COM

Snickers is named after the inventor's favorite horse. After the success of the Milky Way bar, owners Frank and Ethel Mars purchased a 3,000 acre horse farm in Tennessee. They were about to release a new peanut candy bar when Ethel's favorite horse Snickers died, and SO they named the new product in it's honor. CRACKED.COM

Cotton Candy was invented by a dentist. At the end of the 19th century, dentist William Morrison partnered with a confectioner to make a machine that would use centrifugal force to spin sugar into cottony strands. The first name for the concoction was Fairy Floss. CRACKED.COM

Bubblegum is only pink because of what food coloring happened to be on hand. The light pink that became SO synonymous with bubblegum that it took on its name just happened to BE the one food coloring that was around when Walter E. Diemer invented the chewy treat in 1928. CRACKED.COM

Reese's Pieces almost didn't appear in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Steven Spielberg was deciding between M&M's and Hershey's Kisses for the movie when the Hershey Company offered $1,000,000 to use Reese's Pieces, which launched just a few years earlier, instead. CRACKED.COM

Caramel apples were first made with Halloween leftovers. Kraft Foods had a lot of leftover caramel candies from the holiday in the 1950's, so a crafty employee experimented by melting them down and adding apples. This is very similar to the invention of candy apples in 1908, but for some reason it took people 40 years to think of using caramel. CRACKED.COM

Skittles are the most popular Halloween candy in the U.S. According to sales data from CandyStore.com, Americans purchase 3.3 million pounds of Skittles every Halloween. They also top the list in the most populous state, California. CRACKED.COM

 

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

Friday Night Dinner

Philadelphia, PA – Early 1970s

When I was a kid, several people in the neighborhoods had what they called cookouts. You could smell it in the air when it was happening. I always loved that smell, but my family never did it, nor did we ever attend a cookout. Now it’s called grilling or barbecuing.

I always knew when my friend Michael’s family had a barbecue because it was all over his shirt after dinner.

I always loved that smell of a cookout, but would never even try anything like that until my early twenties. Just that aroma of burgers and chicken sizzling over the fire, slathered in barbecue sauce, smelled amazing. But It just wasn’t something we did as a family back then.

We rarely ever went out to a restaurant as a family when we were kids. I remember my mother telling me that when we were really little if they took us to a restaurant and somebody started fussing, it was over. My parents were very proud and respectable people. They never wanted their kids to be the ones disrupting other people’s dining experience, so we simply stayed home for dinner. Plus, I was a fussy eater, and going out to a restaurant even back then was expensive for a family of six, so it was too much.

But as we got a little older, sometimes on a Friday night my dad would come home from work and we’d all pile in the car and he’d take the family to a place called Burger Chef up on Cottman Avenue.

We loved it. The food was good and it was a fun night out as a family. My mom hated cooking so I’m sure it was nice for her to have a night off. Can you imagine hating to do something, and you had to do it every night for six people for over 25 years? She always told me she’d rather do all of the dishes than have to cook. But my mom was a good soldier and did what was needed for her husband and kids back then.

Years later, some of my fondest memories of my mom was when I was a teenager. She’d wash, and I’d dry the dishes for her. It was a time after dinner for us to bond, chat, and listen to the radio together. I’d tell her who all of the artists were and why they were so good. My mom always loved music, so we always had that in common. Sometimes we’d even sing along together.

Anyway, here’s a link about this remarkable predecessor to Macdonald’s.

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

I would get a kid’s sized hamburger and we’d all share the french fries. We never had fries like that at home, so I loved them!

We’d all be on our best behavior for obvious reasons. We were all taught early on how important good manners were and how to behave in public. My sisters and I were so well-behaved in public that my mother once told me that people would come up to her and tell her how lovely her children were. What those strangers didn’t know, was the unbridled wrath we would be shown if we ever acted rude or disrespectable in public. We were raised correctly. Sadly, much of that is lacking today. Good manners don’t cost a thing and everyone should practice them every day. If you’re raised properly as a child it will carry you forth through your whole life. But you’ll always have to navigate your way through all of the animals on this planet. But I digress…

We were good kids on our best behavior happily munching our burgers and sipping our delicious milkshakes. You really can’t find a good milkshake anymore in any fast food restaurant. You actually have to go to an old diner where they make it with real milk and ice cream. When you can find a good milkshake it’s a thing of beauty.

We eventually switched from Burger King to MacDonald’s but it was all the same to me. I was just happy to be out munching on delicious fast food!

Look how cheap everything was back then!

Vintage Fast Food Menus That Look Way Better Than Today's

We were just chilling at the table and chatting with our folks, just being our little unit among the other diners. But my sisters and I had bigger hopes for the evening beyond delicious fire-grilled burgers and golden buttery fries. There was something else. Something unspoken between us kids. We quietly prayed that after dinner something else might possibly happen. And if it did… it would be a glorious event.

Because up the road was a magical place.

Even as my father pulled the vehicle out of the parking lot of the restaurant, we would all look out the windows knowing if we were headed home, or if we were headed in a different direction. We would know, and the anticipation would begin to build.

As long as dinner came off without a hitch, we’d be rewarded with a little trip to a second location. A place beyond a child’s imagination. A place rivaled only by what we imagined that the warehouse behind Santa’s workshop at the North Pole looked like.

We would make our pilgrimage to this oasis of sheer joy.

Yes… Kiddie City!

Remembering LIONEL Playworld & Kiddie City stores on Twitter: "EXCLUSIVE: Remembering LIONEL Kiddie City in Rochester New York! 🥰 FOLLOW us on Twitter JOIN us on FACEBOOK @ Remembering Lionel Playworld &

Here’s a couple of actual shots of the place in the 70s.

Kiddie City. Castor Avenue--we got t go here and pick out one reasonably-priced toy each birthday. | Favorite city, Toy store, Childhood memories

Kiddie City | bluesmavin | Flickr

There was a 5 & 10 in our neighborhood. There may have been little toy shops on Rising Sun Avenue near our house in Lawndale. There was even another toy store nearby, called Baby Town. But this place…. this was a gigantic store. A destination. A brilliant building filled with every toy a child could possibly ever want in life. I mean… everything!

Walking into that store and seeing aisle after aisle of every toy you could possibly ever imagine was an amazing occurrence. I think I would never have that level of excitement until Christmas morning. This place was so exciting to kids, but Christmas was pure euphoria.

We’d all wander around the store looking at all of the toys. Our parents were always close by and making mental notes for our Christmas lists. Unlike most families, my parents never got caught up in Black Friday or any of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas shopping crush that most people experience each holiday season. Unbeknownst to us, my folks shopped for toys for us All Year Round.

Do you know anyone who did that? I don’t. They bought for us all year round. They would hide them all in the basement in the back of closets and under tarps in boxes under the pool table. Probably in their own bedroom closets or even at my father’s office. No one was the wiser and my parents were like elves doing Santa’s work on a monthly basis. Which not only was easier on their finances and budget but resulted in the collection of an absolute bounty of toys for us kids.

My father had kind of a crap childhood, and his father, although a great earner at an insurance company, showed little interest in his two sons. He’d rather be at the bar tossing back a few with his buddies.

He’d simply toss a few bucks to his wife and tell her to pick up some toy trains and some other stuff. My father in turn did not repeat his father’s lack of performance. My dad went the other way. He loved Christmas and every aspect of the holiday. He went crazy at Christmas and I’ll cover that in a future post. But let’s just say, I’m surprised my father didn’t have a direct line to the North Pole to the big man himself. (I’m kidding… My dad WAS Santa Claus!)

We’d look at all of the goodies and drool over all the stuff we wanted to get. And… if… IF… we were good, we might even walk away from the night with a little something. Maybe a little doll or a car, but better yet… possibly a book.

We didn’t get many toys throughout the year. I don’t know what other kids got, but in my neighborhood, I’d know if a kid got anything new. But at Christmas, that’s when you got all of the things you wanted the entire year.

So, I’ve always associated fast food with good times with my family. It was a rare occurrence, but when it happened it was magic!

 

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

%d bloggers like this: