Reliving the 60’s

Anyone could spank or ear pull anyone else’s child, whip them and send them home to report to their own Mom what had happened and who tagged you! Of course, my Mom would get right on the phone and boy, would she thank that Mom

The early 60’s are replete with scores of memories that  today, most would think so stone-age! (no pun intended… that was a little later in the 60’s) – We got a second phone in the house… that was a big deal, we now had one in the living room and one on the wall in the kitchen. Rotary dial, of course. That doesn’t refer to how you get ahold of a businessman’s service organization in your town. Not only were they rotary dial, we were on a party line! That may sound exciting to someone from the 21st century because it sounds like a great time with friends! But that wasn’t our party line. All of our neighbors shared the same phone line. We had different numbers; but, you had to pick up the phone and make sure the neighbor wasn’t talking on it before you could make a call. Of course, anyone in the neighborhood could listen in as well.

Another big deal… we got a color television for the first time! It wasn’t anything like the color sets today that are so vibrant and real, its like you could walk into them. This was more like someone put the black and white picture on the TV and then used water color, with a LOT of shades of pink to kind of fill in where the color should be. You had a color adjust knob so you could try to get the color to match a real life color but it wasn’t very effective. Although, with the rabbit ear antenna for UHF, you could only get two channels and they were as fuzzy as the rabbit might have been. On ‘regular’ TV we had three channels, 3, 5 and 8 all out of Cleveland.

We did have a remote control, though for our TV. My dad would be sitting in his chair and he would say, ‘Son, get up there and turn to channel 8 for me.” Voila! Remote control! You couldn’t sneak out to the living room and watch TV at night for two reasons. One, the tuner knobs made such a loud click it would wake the neighbor’s dog. Second, all of the stations went off the air at about 1:00 a.m. so you would only be watching a ‘Test Pattern’ that was on the screen overnight. Also, for those of you who are following the Brown’s ‘prayer meeting fiascos’ it would interest you to know that when the TV stations signed off at 1:00 a.m. they played the National Anthem while a flag was shown.

Living through the sixties, the first time around was, to use an old phrase, ‘a hoot’. I could probably spend a dozen or more pages regaling you with stories like sitting on a red metal ‘step stool’ on the back porch in the summer while Dad took an electric hair trimmer that I think was last used to trim the tail of Man o’ War. It was like the commercial for the nose hair trimmer “It doesn’t trim your hair, it rips it out by the roots!” This was our summer ‘buzz’ cut. He took it down in May and we didn’t have hair growing until Christmas break! I only experienced one other haircut like that, it was one bright morning about 5 a.m. at a military induction center! I think the military had Dad on time to complete the cut but he won hands-down for depth of hair removed! My Dad had big strong, workman’s hands. He may have been able to bend steel. I do know he was able to replace a fleeing child back into a metal step stool chair in record time with one hand and never miss a stroke with the razor!

With four boys and Dad at work five or six days a week all day, Mom was eager in the summertime for us to ‘go play outside’. There could have been a tornado bearing down on our neighborhood with gale force winds but when she suggested we go play outside, we did. The rule was you came back for supper when Dad whistled (everyone in the neighborhood could hear Dad’s whistle and dogs came from two cities over looking for food!) and when playing out after supper, we came in when the street lights came on. My oldest brother is eleven years older than me, I think his rule was he had to come home when the lamplighter came down the street!

I was fortunate, (in retrospect… I didn’t think so at the time) to have eight different mothers. No, my father was not a polygamist, we lived in Ohio not Utah. Polygamy, I never understood. Who, in their right mind would want multiple mothers-in-law? Anyway, my eight mothers were all moms in the neighborhood. They had a coven between them. Anyone could spank or ear pull anyone else’s child, whip them and send them home to report to their own Mom what had happened and who tagged you! Of course, my Mom would get right on the phone and boy, would she thank that Mom! Then turn she would turn to whichever one of us boys had gotten it and say, ‘just wait until your father gets home!” WOW, that was a way to ruin an afternoon! Usually we’d try to catch Dad as he drove in the driveway so we could give him our side of the story first! If, by the time we were done with our story he was already unbuckling his belt, we knew we would be standing up for supper!

But our neighborhood was great, so was our small town. Many of us were together all the way through high school and not long ago we had a 40th anniversary reunion for our graduation. Golly, those others sure have gotten old looking!

When I truly think back about those years, there were three things that stood out as most important was family, friends and faith; not necessarily in that order. Now, here I am about the live through the sixties a second time!

This time, it isn’t a decade among other decades like the 60’s of the 20th Century that I referred to here but it is my own decade of being in my 60’s. I have no idea what the next ten years hold, or even if I’ll be here at the other end of them. That’s just life. But I have a pretty good feeling at this point that these years will be centered on faith, family and friends and it will likely be in that order.




Less Red More Blue

In the real world, the world that matters… blue ink is for friends that last a lifetime.

Okay, hold it right there… this is NOT a political post! I am not suddenly espousing the increase in the number of Democrats in office and a reduction in the Republican numbers. I did read an article just the other day, though, about the need to really get a better handle on the titles we use for articles and such. That article claimed that some titles beg you NOT to read any further just by the way it is written. The author called it the “Cookie Sale Planned” type of titles versus the “Headless Body Found in Topless Bar” headline. The latter screams at you to read it (assuming a headless body can scream). The former, not so much. So, if my “Less Red More Blue” got your blood pumping then, good; it did that for which it was contrived.

When I actually do get around to explaining what the title means, I do not want you to think that I have gotten really hard pressed to find a topic upon which to spill some ink. The only thing that prevents me from spilling gallons of ink on articles, that may or may not ever be read, is the amount of time I have for writing undistracted. Right now, it is the wee hours of the morning; the house is quiet and I should be asleep; but my back, knees and hips have allied themselves with my brain in a conspiracy to keep me from ever falling asleep or sleeping for more than sixty minutes at one stretch. When the pain levels are high, my brain goes into overdrive. For example,  just now; while penning this article, I came to realize why they call it the “Wee Hours of the Morning”… because that is when people my age have to get up out of bed to… you know… go wee!  But, I digress.

All of my growing up years, each year around Thanksgiving I would see my Mom begin the ritual of preparing to send Christmas Cards. She had a small semi-formally bound ledge that carried the names of all those to whom she would be sending cards All of the names were carefully recorded in blue ink and there was a place for a series of checks, ‘card sent/card received’. It was a tit for tat ledger. A no card received one year could maybe not get a card sent the next; but, I don’t think my mother ever succumbed to the pettiness that would direct such a reprisal. The book was meticulously kept year after year and when the spaces for checking off sent and received was full, an identical ledger was purchased to continue the tradition for another half decade or so.

There was a second part to this strange tally keeping but, before I divulge it; it behooves me to advise the reader that, so enamored was the world of the 1960’s with such a tradition that. when I met and married my wife she was already indoctrinated in this ritual. She, however, grew up hundreds of miles from where I was in the rural Ohio-transplanted Appalachian world.  In point of fact, even as a product of the counter-culture of the 50’s and 60’s that found its niche in the suburban Washington D.C. area, which was then a solaced area for the intelligentsia, their ledger books were identical to ours in the heartland! Sadly, where my wife grew up is no longer the neighborhoods of the Cleavers or Fred McMurray and his three sons. Now it is all just one more blip on the hydra-snakes of the Washington Metro.

At this point, I must take a very quick sidestep, because I just re-read the first sentence of the last paragraph. I didn’t realize the bees had hooves… I’ll have to think about that one for a bit. (A bit?… no, I won’t go there, bees have enough trouble keeping the Queen happy, I won’t degrade them further by continuing to horse around with this idea.)

The small tan book that was such a focal point of the pre and post holiday season could arguably be considered the 1950’s and 1960’s version of FB ‘Likes’ or to use the 21st Century vernacular, also for those who are ‘Unfriended.’

Amazingly, I must report that my wife and I carried this tradition on in our own home until computers made the little book obsolete. Though I dare say it has probably been secretly kept up just because some things don’t ever end… Like a Lucille Ball/Desi Arnez rerun.

I know it may not seem like it, at this juncture; but, this article does have a point to it that is somewhat serious. The second part of the tradition that my mother and my wife have kept, as well as my wife’s mother and countless others; was to put a red line through those who had deceased. Now, I must go back and correct a misconception I may have given you. Only the name of the person was ever in blue ink; because people were moving regularly in past decades and by writing the address in pencil you could maintain a neat and orderly appearing ledger. For those reading this who were born after 9-11, a pencil is a slender wooden device that has at its core an even more slender piece of lead which is visible through one end of the instrument where the wood has been whittled or shaved down to a point; often homes and certainly classrooms would have a hand cranked device for shaving these pencils down to a point so they were useful for writing. Later, electrical sharpeners became popular which ate pencils at an alarming rate. The opposite end of the device had a small piece of a rubbery, gummy type substance that when rubbed with sufficient pressure against the word or letters written in pencil it would make them invisible. Think of it as a manual ‘delete’ button. However, caution was necessary, for too rapid a rubbing or too strong the pressure used to delete the writing would actually tear a hole in the paper. More than one of my math worksheets looked like Swiss cheese more than like a homework paper. In their earlier form these devices were almost always yellow and had a No. 2 emblazoned on the side. When the world had circumnavigated the sun enough times that school children were now taking tests by shading in small little circles; it was so highly sophisticated that the directions were very specific, “Only a No. 2 Pencil Could be Used.” But, now, allow us to return to our part blue ink, part lead pencil and occasionally a part red ink ledger.

I began to notice that my parents’ ledger was gaining much more red and rather rapidly it seemed. That was not truly the troubling part, because, certainly they were aging and it was expected that many of their compatriots were also aging and eventually dying. What I found troubling was that there was almost no blue entries being added any more. In fact, it seemed that a plateau had somehow been reached and there was no longer any interest, by my parents, for seeking out new blues. It was as if they had filled their blue quota and so, they stopped. Maybe, once in a great while someone would join their church or a new neighbor that actually would reach out and talk to them over the garden wall; even though we did not have a garden nor a wall would be added to the book. Still, there was a barrier there and new neighbors dare not cross. Why was there an aversion to new blues? Certainly, old friends are to be cherished but aren’t new friends an opportunity for growth and life? I’m not advocating for a city block hug-fest or becoming close enough to share one another’s socks; but maybe to get to know someone well enough to send them a Christmas card once a year. (I found that sending Christmas cards twice a year was off-putting to some folks, so I’m looking for a summer holiday that involves snowmen, candy canes and a Jolly Old Elf. I haven’t found one just yet and I have a LOT of cards already made up ready to send!

I don’t know what, in the cyber-world will replace the little tan ledger book with the blue and red ink (and the penciled in addresses); likely it will be some form that auto-fills in all the spaces and immediately corrects to a new address because there is a hyper link to the U.S. Postal Service to update the addresses whenever you click on the name. It may have an automated e-send for a holiday greeting of your choice so you don’t even have to sign the card, lick all those envelopes and put on those stamps with the snowmen and candy canes and elves. It will probably also include an instant family photo update from the year previous! Perhaps, too , with a link to the U.S. Census database, it can auto-redline for you all those that you didn’t even realize had died that year because you never saw them in a text message or an FB post. But, one thing it cannot do, no matter what… regardless of the number of LIKES you get on FB, is add in the real blue inked names. In the FB world, I suppose even the names would be in pencil because they can be written off with the click of a mouse. But in the real world, the world that matters…. blue ink is for friends that last a lifetime.


No matter what else I am designed to do as I shoot across the horizon of my lifetime, the most important job I could ever have is to reflect the Light of the Son.

It was another one of those nights. Winter had been a little longer than necessary, even though it was still only February, a month that should be cold; it was as if this February had gone on for about six weeks too many. I could not remember the last time I had enjoyed a full night of sleep, but then again, after spending most of my law enforcement career working the midnight shift, I still feel pretty comfortable among the wee hours of the morning. There is something about the stillness of those hours that can cause one to truly appreciate some of the finer things in life. Often, on long nights like these, if I am not sequestered in my study working on a writing project or reading something I have been wanting to catch the gist of, I would sit in my overstuffed leather chair that reclines and swivels and is made for a king. We have a matching set, one for the king and one for his queen. Sitting in the king chair in the middle of the night, one of the few sounds I can hear is my queen in the master bedroom gently sawing the kindling for tomorrow’s fire! It is then when melancholy can set in if you let it; but this night it was a feeling of great appreciation for the queen whose throne is next to mine. I hope that we can be like friends of ours and quietly pass the 90 year mark together; if our health holds out to be not too much more debilitated from where we are today!

From my throne, I can look out the French doors which are sided on each end by matching panels, all of glass to allow for the greatest amount of view possible. On this night I could look out across the snow-covered deck and have a great view of the night sky. That is when I saw it… one single very bright light, similar to a star but much brighter. It was moving rapidly across the horizon. Obviously a satellite in high orbit moving NE to SW and quite quickly. I sat there and thought about the night-time sky. It was still enough into the middle of the night that there wasn’t any glimpse of  dawn starting to break. The sun was still far beyond the horizon. I considered the satellite, its bright light shining through the night sky. My grandmother would say that I ‘sat and studied on it for awhile.’ Then I remembered something I had learned, I have no idea when. Satellites do not have lights on them to emit light down to the earth. It is not like someone on the space station left the porch light on. Satellites are covered in a very highly polished metal, as if covered in the shiniest aluminum foil ever. That bright light that I was watching was just like the stars that I see or the light of the moon at night, it was not its own. They have no light source of their own making but simply  reflect the sun; a sun that was a very long way away and on the other side of the globe from my perspective. The satellite was obviously high enough in the heavens to have a direct line of sight back to the sun – incredible. I sat there watching that satellite flash across the sky doing whatever else it was designed to do but at that moment, for me, it was principally reflecting the bright light of the sun.

As the satellite was almost out of my view, the analogy hit me dead on. No matter what else I am designed to do as I shoot across the horizon of my lifetime, the most important job I could ever have is to reflect the Light of the Son. In order for the satellite to reflect like it did several things had to be right. First, it had to be in its proper place. If it were out of its orbit, too low  in its orbit so that it was below the horizon, the earth would have blocked the sun. It had to be where its maker had designed for it to be. The same is true for me and my position. I have to be right where my designer set for me to be in order to be lined up and reflecting His Son’s Light. Second, the satellite had to be covered in that bright aluminum or whatever metal that an earth orbiting hunk of electronics is supposed to be made. I cannot be covered in the filthy rags of my sinful nature and reflect Christ. Paul talked about putting off the old and putting on the new nature and it is the new nature that will allow us to reflect Christ’s love and His nature to those around us. Not for our glory but for His. We need to be where we should be and appropriately clothed in His righteousness in order to reflect Christ’s light in a dark world. I realized that night that as starry as the sky had been earlier, when I noticed the satellite, many of the stars had already made their way across the sky and around the satellite the sky was very dark, which made its reflecting light appear even brighter. As dark as this old world is, Christ’s light can shine  brightly reflected by our actions, our words, our thoughts, the kindness we show others, and the heart we have for the lost or the hurting.


God has designed us for His special purposes. He has placed us where He would have us to be. Just as the satellite had no power source of its own to put out a bright light, neither do we have such a power. Our role is a reflective one. Christ supplies the bright light of His love and holiness. My prayer is that there will be nothing in my life that would prevent that light from shining its brightest and that I would always stay in God’s will so that I am right where I am supposed to be to catch as much of Christ’s light and do what the old campfire song said, ‘pass it on.’


“…it made me wonder how many shadows I have left behind.”

Recently I had the opportunity to do something very different…. it caused me to think about something that I don’t believe I’ve ever considered before. How many shadows have I left behind after I have moved on? What made me ask such a question was a photo I took of my son Daniel’s shadow on the beach the other day. There it was, plainly visible on the sand and I snapped a photo of it and then we started to walk on but as we did, I looked at the photo and the shadow was still clearly there, on the sand. No, it hadn’t really stayed behind, only the image on my camera but it made me wonder how many shadows I have left behind.

We talk about the impact that someone has had on our life, usually for the good, sometimes not. We say how they influenced us or made our day brighter. What about those who cast a shadow across your life – not really there, not making a bold presence known or a physical reality of their time in your life but those who are just a shadow passing by? Shadow  In the Bible there are times when those who wre sick and injured just waited for the disciples to pass by so that if Peter’s shadow would fall across them they could be healed. It was just his shadow, nothing more except that the Holy Spirit was empowering his shadow to bring the healing to others.

In Acts 5 we read: ” And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly.  And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”

Shadows are often connected to darkness… lurking in the shadows, the shadow of death, while people were residing in the shadows…  Yet, shadows cannot exist without light and the brighter the light, the darker the shadow. Although an oxymoron perhaps, it seems that normally when light increases, dark decreases but not when it comes to the shadows.

How often have we allowed our shadows to cross one another’s paths without notice, without real contact and an unawareness of the brightness of the light that has brought those shadows together?

Think on your shadow. How many shadows have you left behind? How dark is the shadow you leave because of the brightness of the light within you?

Just something to ponder.

The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 5:12–16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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