Throwback Thursday 44: Fireworks! #TBTMemory

So, today’s questions all center around fireworks. Think I’ll just talk for a while…

Me, 40 years and 200 lbs. ago

When I was about 5 or 6, there was a Chinese family that lived down the block from us who made their own fireworks. Every night during the summer, they’d shoot off a bottle rocket, and on the 4th of July, they’d shoot off half their inventory.

One 4th of July, we spent the day with my Uncle Jack and his family. I must have been 9 or 10, because Dad was still alive. The big attraction that day was a fireworks show that we could see from Jack’s back yard. I don’t remember the show, but I do remember that, every hour on the hour, they’d shoot off a bottle rocket. You’d see the trail of the rocket ascending, see a bright-white flash, then BOOM! Three o’clock.

The best place to see fireworks in Chicago was at Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox. After the 1959 World Series, owner Bill Veeck (which rhymes with "wreck") had the scoreboard modified, removing the ad for Chesterfied cigarettes ("They Satisfy!") and building tubes that would hold fireworks. When a White Sox player hit a home run, they’d throw a switch and the fireworks would shoot out of the tubes and explode over the Dan Ryan Expressway as the hitter rounded the bases. After I got married, we lived upstairs from my in-laws, about a mile from Comiskey Park. We didn’t have air conditioning for a while, so we’d leave the windows open on summer nights. Every once in a while, we’d hear the fireworks at Comiskey going off, and we’d switch the TV to channel 44 to see who hit the home run. Of course, by the time the sound reached us, the hitter had crossed home plate and was back in the dugout getting high fives from his teammates, but we could usually figure out who hit it. They also had regular fireworks shows at the ballpark on Friday nights, after the game, that were pretty spectacular.

Speaking of fireworks after the game… on the 4th of July in 1985, here in Atlanta, the Braves played the Mets, and the fans were promised a fireworks show after the game. The game lasted 19 innings and two rain delays, and ended finally at 4 AM. And they still had the fireworks show…

I’ve written about living in the South and the culture surrounding fireworks several times, including here, and here. Now, it’s fairly normal to have and shoot off fireworks on Independence Day (July 4th) and New Year’s at midnight, but here, they shoot them off on Memorial Day, Labor Day, and several other times during the year. Most of these are shot off by young people who fire them indiscriminately.

A friend of mine said that one time someone took an M-80, lit it, and flushed it down the toilet in one of the restrooms at my old high school. All the restrooms were in the same place on all the floors, so when it exploded, water shot out all of the toilets. He tried to tell me that there was a Jesuit on one of the toilets, but I’m not sure I should believe him on that.

Seriously, as far as nonprofessional use of fireworks, I live by the old adage "it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye (or a couple of fingers)." I’d like to think that it’d be okay under adult supervision, but then I think about some of the adults I know, and I question the wisdom of that. Still, I have a problem with a blanket ban on fireworks, because there seem to be too many bans on things that bring pleasure to people. Maybe, as it was many years ago, the adults need to take charge again…

Lauren brought you this week’s Thursday Throwback. Thanks, Lauren!

Tally-ho and away we go!
See you next week with a brand new show!

Throwback Thursday 43: Sensory Memories #TBTMemory

So Maggie came up with the questions this week, all having to do with sensory memories…

Memories can be so powerful, and we all experience certain things that trigger those memories. Sit back and be aware of your senses. Think about the songs, smells, tastes, or sounds that evoke strong memories.

This was a little hard for me, probably because I was trying to figure out how to fit the animations in, so if this is a little sparse in that area… TOO BAD!

Do certain smells bring back memories for you? Maybe a flower, or a perfume, or the smell of a certain food cooking? If so, can you share one such memory? Mom wore Joy perfume. Not every day (it’s over $100 an ounce), but when she and her husband went out. After she died, we were going through her things, and found her fur coat (no judgments, okay?), and it still smelled like her perfume. It was like she was in the room with us.

Have you ever sensed a strong smell that reminded you of someone only to realize the smell was not actually present? How do you explain that? Occasionally I’ll get the smell of cigarette smoke, even though it’s been years since I smoked. It’s really only happens since my stroke, so obviously when things were rerouted in my head, they were routed through that part of my brain.

What song immediately whisks you back to another place and time? Share a YouTube video, or name the song and tell us about the memory. I have a real clear memory of the days when White Sox games were broadcast on WCFL. One night, after listening to the ballgame, whoever was the DJ played this song…

Is there a taste that reminds you of a person, place or memory? Does that food happen to be one of your ‘comfort foods’? Not so much a food as a drink, specifically beer. I haven’t had a drink since I learned of my high blood pressure, but trust me, I drank plenty of beer before then…

Have you ever been somewhere new and immediately felt at home as if you have been there before? I always feel a vibe when I walk into a house where a member of my family lives. And the thing is, it extends to the homes of Mary’s family. I might never have been there before, but something about it makes me feel comfortable.

Have you ever experienced déjà vu? If so, how do you explain it? I have, and I have no explanation for it.

Are there sounds that remind you of another place and time? (Something like a clock ticking, a train whistle, a horse galloping, gentle rain, etc.) I can’t think of any….

Do certain textures or colors trigger memories? I’m drawing a blank on that, too…

Do certain stories, books, or poems remind you of someone from your past? The one I can think of is Max and Moritz, about two mischievous boys who eventually get theirs. My aunt Jill, who is still very much alive, gave it to me, and I still have it…

What sensory stimuli surrounding you and your present environment do you think might evoke memories of you for your family or friends? Beats me…

Guess I didn’t do badly fitting in the animations after all…

Throwback Thursday No. 41: First Crush #TBTMemory

Maggie chose today’s prompt: First Crush, and gave us these prompts:

  1. Who was your first crush? First names only!
  2. Was this a celebrity or someone you knew ?
  3. How old were you?
  4. How old was your crush?
  5. Did you let your crush know you liked them? If so, how?
  6. Did your crush like you, too? How did you know?
  7. Did you get teased by your family for having a boyfriend or girlfriend?
  8. Did you feel like you were in love or did you think it was simply a fleeting crush?
  9. Was this just a temporary crush or your first heartbreak?
  10. When you think of that person today, do you have fond memories of them?

Turns out I already did this a while ago, so I’m just going to reprint it here…


Julie lived at the other end of Glenwood Avenue from me. She was a classmate, so we normally saw each other all day. (Those were the days that they separated us, not by sex, but by whether you were "smart" or "not smart." Which, by the way, was a real crappy way to do it.) I thought she was kind of pretty: she had long, light brown hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones, a couple of crooked teeth, a little on the heavy side, walked funny because she had some sort of hip dysplasia. She and I both played guitar and played for the school Masses, so we spent time together doing that, too.

I’d see her a lot after school as well, usually when she was walking her dog, Lassie (who, as you might imagine, was a collie) through the alley between Glenwood and Wayne, where it seemed like everyone would hang out if they lived on the west side of Wayne or east side of Glenwood. Sometimes I’d be out on my bike and detour past her house, just to see if she was there, and if she was, would hang out there for a while. She was fun to talk to, smiled a lot, had an obnoxious little brother and sister who were more like comic relief.

Julie and I, 50 years and 200 lb. ago

Julie sat in front of me in math in 7th grade, and the two of us would have a lively "conversation": she’d lean over and write in my notebook, and I’d reply underneath or beside and tap her on the shoulder while Sister Anna Marie was teaching us the finer points of calculating square roots. (This was the 1960’s, before we had even heard of calculators or seen slide rules.) I’m surprised we never got caught, but anyway…

Julie was my first slow dance with a girl, my first kiss, and my first sort-of date: the guy who had directed the Christmas pageant in eighth grade was in a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and the whole class attended; I walked here to the theater and back and sat with her during the performance, which made absolutely no sense, but I didn’t care.

I could go on and on, but I won’t…

I saw Julie a couple more times after I moved out of the neighborhood. Once was at her prom: I was dating a classmate of hers, and when we arrived she and her date were sitting there, looking uncomfortable, and we got a chance to catch up a little.

The last time I saw her was really strange. Mary and I were in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I had played in a Highland Games with my band. They had a ceilidh that evening (ceilidh is the Gaelic word for "party") and our band, still dressed in Highland drag, arrived. There was a fairly large ensemble playing on the stage, and I swear, she was there. "Mary, I know their guitar player! She was my girlfriend in grammar school!" "Are you sure?" Mary said. And I thought for a second, and I couldn’t say that I was.

Until the group took a break and I saw her walking. Remember I said she had hip dysplasia?

Mary was kind and understanding and let me go and see her. I walked up to her and said "Julie?"

She looked at me funny. "Yes?"

"John Holton."

She looked shocked. "Oh my God!" and started to laugh. We chatted for a couple of minutes until Mary came over, and I introduced them. Julie had to get back on stage by that time, so we said our goodbyes, and that was that.

Julie was a really good friend, and I realize that was all she ever was or wanted to be, and I felt the same way. I hope she’s well. We had some good times.

Throwback Thursday No. 40: Birthday Blasts #TBTmemory

A happy belated birthday to Lauren, who celebrated hers last week. Appropriately, her topic for TBT is "Birthday Blasts."

What’s your earliest birthday memory? Earliest would be my 11th birthday, which was the one after Dad died. I got a clock radio, and a friend of mine gave me the single of Herman’s Hermits’ "There’s A Kind Of Hush"/"No Milk Today."

What was your favorite birthday and why? Mom’s birthday was the day after mine and we would celebrate them together. The year I turned 38, she turned 62, which made it our joint 100th birthday. Mary suggested we fly in to Chicago and celebrate it, so we did.

What’s the best birthday present you have ever received? Mary gave me a guitar for my 21st birthday. I still have it, too.

Did you ever get money as a birthday gift? Pretty much always.

What did you like to do on your birthday as a kid? Eat cake. What do you like to do now? Eat cake. Some things never change…

Did you have birthday parties with friends or family parties? With family…

Did you get to pick the food for your birthday? Sometimes. Did you prefer to eat a home cooked meal or to eat out at a restaurant on your birthday? Go to a restaurant.

Did your family have any fun birthday traditions? Not really, other than dinner. Since I don’t have any kids, obviously I didn’t pass them on.

Did you ever get to take the day off school on your birthday? Only when it was on a weekend. As an adult did/do you take the day off? I’m retired, so now they’re all days off.

Love that song… Bruce was the lead singer of Starbuck.

Have you ever had a surprise birthday party? No, sorry!

Bonus Question: If you had a million dollars to spend only on your next birthday, what would you do? Invest the million and buy a cake. It’s my birthday, I can do whatever I want, right?

See you next week!

Tally-ho and away we go!
See you next week with a brand new show!

#TBTMemory No. 39: Reading And Books

Maggie chose this week’s prompts on the subject Reading Culture And Books.

Who were the readers in your family? To an extent, all of us were. Dad read a lot, mostly mysteries like the Nero Wolfe books and the Inspector Maigret ones. Grandma Holton, Dad’s mother, read quite a bit. She an her sister Florence walked to the Rogers Park Branch of the Chicago Public Library, which was kind of a hike, I think at least a half mile. She liked to read mystery novels and also historical biographies. I’ve talked a lot about Mom and how she believed that, if you could read, you could do just about anything. She wasn’t that much of a fiction reader, though. She read the newspaper and Time magazine (in the days when it was actually worth reading) and magazines like Better Homes & Gardens and Good Housekeeping, and would read popular novels like The Thorn Birds and Airport, mostly when she was on vacation. My stepather liked thrillers like the Ken Follett and John LeCarré novels. My brothers and I did a lot of reading for school. I can only speak for myself: in high school, I read MAD magazine and a few music magazines like Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, and Circus, and Sports Illustrated, an annual gift from my Aunt Florence. I was also the kind of music fan who would put an album on and read the album jacketgetting as much information as I could from it, things like the composers of the songs. the name of the publishing company, personnel on each track, name of the producer, recording engineer, remix engineer, cover designer etc. Why? I dunno…

Were there some people who did not like to read or could not read? I didn’t know any.

Did your family subscribe to the newspaper? We subscribed to the Chicago Daily News when I was in high school, then to the Chicago Tribune when the Daily News folded. Mary and I subscribed to the Chicago Sun-Times for a while, and to the Atlanta Constitution and Marietta Daily Journal when we moved to Atlanta.

If you did get the paper, was your Sunday newspaper considered special? What part did you enjoy? We would buy the Sunday papers (Tribune, Sun-Times, and Chicago Today) on Saturday night and read then for the rest of the weekend. I enjoyed the "funny papers," the Sports section, the Entertainment section, the magazine, and the TV books. By Sunday night, usually out of sheer boredom, I’d read the rest of it.

Did you frequent the library at school? Only when I had to.

How about the local community library? Did you have a library card? We didn’t go to the neighborhood library much in Chicago, and Northfield really didn’t have a library. Winnetka did, but I didn’t know where it was.

What was the first book you remember reading? A Golden Book starring Howdy Doody.

Did you have a collection of books (Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Happy Hollisters, etc?) The Hardy Boys (the pre-politically coorect ones) and a lot of books by Leo Edwards that had belonged to Dad and his brothers in the 1940’s (Jerry Todd, Poppy Ott, Tuffy Beans etc.).

Did you read comic books? If so, what titles? Yes: Superman, Batman, Dennis the Menace, Archie, and a few others. (When we were sick, Mom would get some comic books, usually a Superman or Batman and a couple of Archie comics.) And MAD, if you consider that a comic book.

Did you end up a bookworm, a casual reader, or someone who read only when required? A little of all three…

Is there a book from your childhood you would like to read again? If so, what book? There was a book called Alvin’s Secret Code by Clifford B. Hicks that I took out of the St. Ignatius School library every year. I have a Kindle copy of it and read it from time to time.

What book or books have been extremely meaningful or influential in your life? The Golden Age Of Chicago Children’s Television, by Ted Okuda and Jack Mulqueen. I grew up in Chicago during the Golden Age, and reading through it puts me back in touch with myself.

Sorry no GIF’s this week. I had a tiring day at the dentist’s…

Tally-ho and away we go!
See you next week with a brand new show!