Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Northwest Ohio, 1972-73

My earliest memories trace an elliptical orbit around two places: Lima and Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

If you ask me where the first place is that I remember living, my mind goes to this house on North Main Street in Lima:

That picture’s from sometime in 1972-73. (Here’s what the house looked like in summer 2012.)

But I also have many memories of the farm and house in Upper Sandusky where my mom grew up, since we lived there while my dad was serving in Korea in 1971 and ’72. While I can remember several things about being there, I can’t say that I recall having a sense of home in those memories, the way I do about the house in Lima.

That’s me and my maternal grandfather, Reuben Schoenberger. Here’s another one:

The pieces I remember from the farm and the farmhouse are mostly sensory snapshots: The smell of dirt and wood and oil in the barn, and the pile of gravel behind it where I played; sitting on the metal cover to something in the yard (a well, maybe, or a cistern?); the place under the front porch where I crawled with the family dog, Alfie; the pattern on the kitchen floor; the yard and the long driveway tucked into the cornfields.

That’s me and my grandma Joan and Alfie. I can remember that tricycle seeming huge – it had a double-decker step on the back! and needing those block-and-band accessories to reach the pedals. (Those things had a long life: after I outgrew needing them on the tricycle, they went into the box of toy blocks that lasted through me and my brothers.)

Now let’s go back to Lima.

I seem to think this area was just off the kitchen, at the back of the house. I still remember exactly how that rug felt under my hands and knees, and beneath the wheels of my toys. The wooden toy box in the background? My grandpa made it, and I still have it. And I remember taking everything out of it and making a complete mess of the room so that I could sit in it.

This was my parents’ second car (according to the back of the picture). Again, I can remember the texture of the seats. At some point, the Bug developed a hole in the backseat floor, and I wasn’t allowed to ride there. I loved two things in particular about the car: riding with the top down, and pushing the button that made the windshield washers squirt. This latter activity was most fun when carried out unsupervised with my best friend, Alberto – he’s in the middle of the photo below:

Alberto and his family lived next door, and it seems like every interaction I remember between our families involved laughing. Also, I could eat his mom’s homemade tortillas by the dozen. Man, they were good.

Finally, a trio of seasonal pictures, starting with me and mom in winter:

Summer. (I don’t know who that guy is, but I loved that swinging pole thing, and I love the ’70s feel of this picture.)

And fall. Me and my trike and our dog, Punkin.

Punkin got lost for a couple days once. I think I remember dad saying he found her out in a field by some railroad tracks.

Larger versions of these pictures – and a couple others – are in this Flickr photoset.

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February 11, 2014 Posted by | 1970s, Family history, Ohio, photos | , , , , | 2 Comments

The 1970s: My first decade

From time to time, I’ve written about the 1980s. They mattered to me. As I wrote in 2008:

In practically every sense of the word, I grew up in the 1980s: I turned 10 the year they began, when the Empire struck back and Tom Hanks cross-dressed on television. In 1989 I saw Robin Williams make studying poetry rock, graduated from high school, started college, listened to the Cure disintegrate and turned 19. The popular culture of that decade is as addicting to me as a two-pound bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a two-liter of Coke Classic.

In my memories, the late 1970s – say, 1977-79 – mesh easily with the eighties, for the most part. Maybe because that’s when I started elementary school, and you begin having those shared experiences with your friends that eventually shape and define you collectively.

But over the past few years, I’ve found myself drawn repeatedly to pieces from the earlier part of that decade, which I recall with little specificity, large swaths of sensory impressions, and vague memories attached to large, blurry-edged chunks of time and place.

Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Me, sometime in 1971 or ’72. That blanket in the background now belongs to my daughter.

The early 1970s were the years when my mom and I lived in her childhood farmhouse in Upper Sandusky, while my dad was serving in the Air Force; when mom & dad & I lived in Lima, Ohio, and I made my first best friend, Albert.

Movies like Snoopy Come Home, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake take me back there in powerful, intangible ways. (Yes, I saw those last two in the theatre with my parents, and re-watched them within the last couple years for the first time in decades: Inferno totally holds up. Earthquake does not.) So do songs like Billy Don’t Be a Hero, Song Sung Blue, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, and Band on the Run (oh God, BAND ON THE RUN).

For a long time, my love for the ’80s made it easy for me to kind of file the early 1970s away in a lumped-together preschool haze of funky stripes and plaids, wavy hairstyles, and peanut butter sandwiches, without giving much thought to the lasting impressions and the things that mattered.

My parents, I realize now, were at an age I’d now grin at and shake my head, saying, “Ah, they’re still just kids.” And my grandparents still had many years ahead of them – they were only about 10 years older than I am now.

I’m going to try to regularly revisit those years through pictures and memories for awhile. Adam and I have talked about it occasionally, and recent conversations with my friend Mo about Walt Disney World got me looking for pieces from an early ’70s trip there with my parents.

The ’80s will still be there for me. But I’m looking forward to spending some time going further back.

January 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

Giant John

I’m pretty sure this is the first book I remember reading, or having read to me.

Giant John by Arnold Lobel

And yes, this is my actual copy, which I’m pretty sure I’ve had my entire life.

It goes back so far in memory that I have no specific recollections to connect to it – what it triggers in my brain are vague but encompassing sensations of times and places and the feeling of a particular era.

Giant John by Arnold Lobel  - castle

It’s the early 1970s, Lima, Ohio. My parents rent a house on North Main street, and we have a black-and-white Zenith TV in our front room, and a convertible VW bug in the driveway. The soundtrack of the time includes “Band on the Run” and “Billy Don’t Be A Hero.”

Though I’m sure both Mom and Dad read this book to me countless times, I still hear it in my grandma Joan’s voice. She has a slight Midwestern accent, and her librarian’s cadence and careful enunciation is mixed with a storytelling grandparent’s sweetness and tone of wonder that ends every sentence with the unasked question, “What do you think is going to happen next?”

I’ve written a lot about growing up in the 1980s, but over the past couple years, I’ve realized how much I absorbed from the early-to-mid 1970s, and how bits and pieces from those times are lodged in the back corners of my mind. I’ve been meaning to mine that territory a bit more, and Giant John has been there the whole time.

May 6, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, Books, Family history, Ohio | , , , , | 4 Comments

Seuss Zoo – Christmas 1971

So, in looking through the photo album where I found the old picture in yesterday’s post, I also found this shot of Christmas presents from Dec. 25, 1971:

Dr. Seuss Zoo toy

Click to superSeussinate.

WHAAAAAT?!? I had a DR. SEUSS ZOO See ‘n’ Say?!?! Damn: I  have no memory of it at all. I must’ve broken that thing quick.

January 23, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, Games, Ohio | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Most Important Person in the Whole Wide World

One of my favorite things about living in the future?

Our access to the past.

About three seconds of the opening theme to this Saturday morning PSA wandered through my head five minutes ago, and POOF! Here it is:

What’s funny to me is that of the cartoon segments, I only remembered the visuals, not the music and lyrics. But the opening theme and the live action shots and even the title font all bubbled up from the recesses of my brain as soon as I saw that striped cup at the birthday party. The closing animation with the birds and that little furry guy on the rope? Classic.

February 20, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, geek, Television | , , , , | 3 Comments

Thirty-four Christmases.

One of my favorite things about our family’s Christmas trees has always been the great collection of ornaments we put on them: There’s never been much order to it – sure, there were a few sets of the standard round glass bulbs over the years, and, when I was little, some strangely-shaped string-and-styrofoam things, but the best ones have always been the homemade kind, or the kitschy ones, or the ones made in school, or the personalized ones labeled with names and years.

The lack of a unified theme or appearance has always, to me, given the tree kind of a wonderland-to-explore kind of feel.

Kelsey & Jenn & I decorated our tree last night, and here, making its 34th annual appearance, is my Favorite. Ornament. Ever. :

I swear, it was green once.

I made this in preschool not long after my fifth birthday. It’s a holly leaf made of a sort of homemade Play-Doh stuff, and you can hardly tell that it was ever green, or that those misshapen nubs on the side were once a bit more pointy.

Every year, when I unwrap the newspaper we pack it in, I’m a little scared that I’ll find just this worn loop of red yarn and a pile of pale green powder and some three-decade-old glitter.

There’s also a tiny crack near the hole the yarn is threaded through that gives me a bit of worry, too.

It’s not the ornament to which I’m most sentimentally attached: There are others more meaningful to me.

And it’s not the oldest decoration to grace our tree, since both Jenn and I have a few antique glass pieces that go back a few generations and decades of Christmases.

But none of them strike the chords that this holly leaf does every December when I hang it on the tree and look at the traces of powder it leaves on my fingertips.

Nineteen seventy-five.

December 5, 2009 Posted by | Ohio | , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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