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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Last Innocent Age. Saturdays...continued

Saturday mornings were like a holiday when I was a kid. There was something wonderful about Saturday morning. It felt different. Breakfast tasted different. It even smelled different. It was our day. No school, no homework, at least until we got older, no worries. It was the day we got to do what we'd talked about doing all week. Saturday was the day for adventure. Saturday was the day for doing that thing that your friend double-dog-dared you to do at lunch on Tuesday.  Saturday was for baseball in the warm months and football in the cool months and hockey on those rare occasions when we had ice on the creek. It was for bike rides and cutting Mr. Smith's grass and earning the enormous sum of $5. It was trips to Wassam's 5 and 10 to buy waterguns and then hours-long watergun wars in and around our back yards. It was bike trips to Battery Park to try our luck fishing in the Delaware River. It was the day you waited for all week and you filled it with adventure and fun until the seams burst.
Friday nights were a close second to Saturdays for sheer childhood fun. On Fridays in the summer, Mrs. Messick would cram about 12 of us into her enormous Chevy Impala station wagon, (This is a REAL Impala...not the thing they passed off as an Impala a few years ago.) and we'd go to the drive-in movies. A mid 60's Impala wagon is about 37 feet long. You get in and walk to your seat. It has optional lifeboats. To say we "crammed" 12 kids into it isn't exactly true. We each had enough space for a small vegetable garden in case times got tough. The drive-in charged a dollar per person. My mom would give me $2 and I'd be set. You got in for a buck and for the other dollar you actually got a hot dog, popcorn, ice cream, and a drink. We watched classic Disney movies on the giant screen. Movies like "The Biscuit Eater" (which made me want a bird dog) The "Herbie the Lovebug" trilogy and classic scary movies like the original "Willard" and the endless parade of movies with the "Night of the..." tag. It was a trend in the 70's to make a horror movie and title it "Night of the...". I guess it began with "Night of the Living Dead". By the time I was a kid going to the drive-in, we actually endured something called "Night of the Lepus" about genetically altered gigantic rabbits. Rabbits! They had been the victims of some experiment gone amok and they were now the size of Volkswagons. Somewhere along the way, they decided that celery and clover weren't appetizing anymore and they developed a taste for flesh. They ate their way through town, chomping at the front doors and devouring the unwitting inhabitants. This was in a time before CG animation and they used real bunnies and small model houses for the panoramic shots. It was pathetic, but we were there in the drive-in with our friends and to be honest...the movie was second to the fun we were having just being there. We'd pile out of the enormous land-yacht and parade to the snack shop. Mrs. Messick hung the speaker in the window and told us to buy a couple of those curly mosquito repellant things. They looked like the coiled up burner on an electric range and you would light one end and it smoked and kept the mosquitoes away. We would spray "Off" on ourselves and plop down in a lawn chair to goof around and watch the movie. Somewhere during the second movie, (they always did double features) we'd all sneak off in the darkness to wreak havoc and annoy the other movie-goers. Then we'd hurry back to the car before Mrs. Messick knew we were gone.
In the winter, when the drive in was closed, I would sometimes find myself at the Messick's again. The youngest son, Kevin was my age and we were best friends. Kevin's mom was one of the funniest people I ever met. Kevin and I would make a run to The Doghouse on our bikes and get pizza for the gang and we'd watch a movie. Fridays were like that. Movies and decompressing from the week.
Saturday was the day you waited for. Saturday was like Christmas morning, 52 times a year. I have always been an early riser and I was generally up first in my house. Something about being awake before even the adults were...getting breakfast for myself. (Sugar Pops were my cereal of choice) Listening to the house come to life. Thinking about the day's adventure. It wouldn't be long before the day began. And it always began with a tradition...Tommy Riccio would come to my front door and he always did the same thing...he had his own "secret" knock. Five taps and one "ding-dong" it went like this..."Knock-knock-knockknock-knock...Ding Dong" (think of the tune for "Shave and a Haircut...two bits). That was Tommy. I think if I still lived on that street, he'd still come over and knock on my door that way.
...there's a big part of me that longs for exactly that.

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