REMEMBER THE TIME… by Cheryl A. Paden

Drive-in theaters


Remember the last time you went to a drive-in movie theater? At least once each summer my Dad would take the family to the drive-in movie. I thought it was great.


The evening actually started at home as my two siblings and I put our pajamas on to get ready. Dad made a big pan of buttery popcorn and mom made a Kool-Aid/lemonade concoction to drink. We packed up bowls, napkins, and drink classes. With the food and suppliers packed down at our feet, off we drove to the theater. I saw some great flicks at the drive-in, like The Greatest Show on Earth, with Charlton Heston. I also remember seeing: Paul Newman, John Wayne and Kirk Douglas movies. All the greats.


After Mom and dad discussed the best parking place, we would stop in the agreed upon location. The fun began before the movie. This theater had playground equipment so you could swing while waiting for dark and the film to star. You could hear the hum of the projector as the cartoon started. My personal favorite part of the evening as I’m sure most 6 year olds would agree.


Once the feature film actually started it was dark and long past our bedtimes. We’d snuggle up with the blankets and pillows. The three of us would either lie in the back window, across the back seat, or on the floor of the car. We’d listen to the movie and struggle to keep our eyes open. Finally we drift off to sleep as gentle summer breezes wafted into the auto. You see, this all took place before cars were regularly air-conditioned.


I wanted to recreate this magical summer moment, so I convinced my husband to take me to the nearest drive-in theater. It happens to be in the next state.


Well, it seems there are a few things I’ve forgotten about drive-in theaters:


1. The silver gray speaker that hangs on your window has a little static. In fact, the actor’s voices are still a decibel quieter than the static, so you strained to hear the dialogue.


2. With the window down for the speaker, mosquitoes and bugs join you in the car.


3. Oh, the darling family in the car to stalls down-the kids got bored and cried, and the parents scolded, “Be quiet,” in voices even louder than the kids.


4. One car decided to leave early. He turned on its headlights at one end of the parking and caused a huge glare into our car as he exited at the other end of the a lot. I won’t bother to mention the cloud of dust he stirred up.


5. Summer nights are hot and sticky, but you can’t run your air-conditioning (which you do have now) because running the car would be rude. (Now that I think of it, I believe we also watched movies with windshield wipers going.)


Well between the static, the bugs, the crying and the fact I didn’t get to wear my pajamas or eat dad’s world famous popcorn, I did get to relive a piece of childhood. I still think drive in theatres are the best, don’t you?




New Crayons


Every kid loves a brand new box of Crayons. At first the box is solidly square with sharp corners and your Crayons (or colors as kids usually say) don’t fall out of the bottom. Then you open the lid with the dull “click” of the cardboard top. Each crayon is perfectly sharp and you can smell that new waxy crayon smell. You run your finger over all the points then slide the crayons out of their box. Each one perfect and, and an exact match of the next, except for the color. You choose a favorite and it is easy to color inside the lines with that perfect point.


They never stay that away very long though. Soon that famous gold and green box is smashed, then torn, and then the lid is gone. Crayons fall out the bottom. Now the crayons are everywhere. Some are half used up and some are half broken. The paper is torn off some. The tips are rounded, even flat. The lines you now draw our wide instead of narrow. You can’t tell if you are staying inside the lines. Somehow there is a distinctive, dusty, old crayons smell.


Have you walked into the crayon department of a store lately? Notice I said department. It is the only word that properly describes the wall of crayons you had to choose from. There were boxes with 8, 16, 24, 48, 64, even 96 and 120 crayons. There were retro-colors, glitter-colors, color slicks, fat crayons, large crayons, and washable crayons. The there’s your whole line of makers and colored pencils. I did not notice a couple of years ago colors that had smell with them, but they seemed to be gone this year.


My dad told me he had colors in the gold and green box when he went to grade school. I decided to do a little checking up on that fact. I dialed the telephone number off the box and talked to Nancy. She said the first box of crayons was sold in 1903, and they have always been in a gold and green box. She also said that box sold for five cents and had eight original colors. Today’s box of eight sells for about sixty-six cents a box.


I remember the boxes I got for school. I was only allowed a 24-crayon box at the most. Pretty basic. I dreamed of having the big box of 64 like my classmates had. That box had colors like gold, silver, and copper. Its best feature was it had a crayon sharpener, so you never had to color on the sides of your flat crayons.


Mostly what I remember about crayons is picking them up. I never remember throwing any of them away. Instead, we tossed them all together into the bottom half of an old wicker purse of my mother’s. We didn’t throw away old broken purses anymore than we threw away old broken crayons. It was hard to talk you parents into new crayons when you have a purse full of old ones to “use up.”


Shopping with my son for school supplies, he wanted the big box with the sharpener and plastic carrying case. Definitely the Rolls Royce of crayon boxes. I couldn’t resist as I reminisced about my own desire for a special box of crayons. Happily he carried his new crayons to school. That afternoon he came home and announced, “Mom, they call me ‘The King of Crayons’”. I was so proud.




School Supplies


Like most parents, I have to start thinking about buying school supplies. Since July, stores have had gigantic back to school displays. How could anyone not be thinking about it? It isn’t the night before yet, so I have plenty of time.


My kids have a long list of needs. You have your standard school equipment, paper, pens, pencils and erasers. They you have all those other supplies. This list includes. Specialized items: scientific calculators, dry erase markers (I’m never quite sure what those are for), folders, and compass. Once I even had to come up with a 35mm film canister with pennies in it.


Picking out folders usually turns in to a time consuming visit to several stores. You see, folders come with different pictures on them. It’s very important to your social development whether you have plain folders or those with Garfield, Lion King or Hulk Hogan. A wrong move here could affect the rest of you life. My kids groan when I innocently ask ‘can’t we use the one left over from last year? Can it matter that they are a little crumpled?”


Why does my grade-schooler need a calculator? I was in high school before I even had a slide rule. Does anyone use those anymore? In grade school, I definitely didn’t need a calculator. I had my fingers (which served me well, even today). If a student never learns how to add on his fingers he will be totally dependent on a calculator for the rest of his life. Just wait and see if he isn’t a sorry soul when the batteries go dead.


Each fall when my parents took me to pick out school supplies it seemed to me I got a pencil box and a red Big Chief tablet. The pencil box had a 6-inch plastic ruler, and eraser, a protractor, and some pencils, of course. Each item had a special compartment in the well-organized cardboard box. The better pencil boxes even had a little drawer.


Dad said he took about the same things I did to school. Except when he got into the upper grades, he got a fountain pen (history of). There were no ballpoints back then. It had a lever on the side, which slurped ink from a bottle into the barrel of the pen. It was very messy. The ink smeared on everything. It left blotches on your paper if you pressed too hard on the fragile tip. Then you had to be careful to let it dry. But if you’ve ever seen a paper or letter written with a fountain pen, it is fascinating with its wide and narrow lines.


I suppose what people remember best about their school supplies is their lunch box. Most of us had a tin box with a favorite cartoon character on it. Kids today get fancy foam insulated, vinyl lined, zippered lunch totes with Velcro straps. I saw some that came in shapes, like Barbie Doll houses and Pooh Bear houses.


My grandmother, on the other hand, remembers carrying her lunch in an old syrup pail. After the family had eaten all the maple syrup, the metal can became a lunch pail. Perhaps that is where the name lunch pail could have come from. It would be the same principle, I suppose, as me giving my kids their lunch in an empty five-quart ice cream container. Hey! What a great recycling idea. If everyone did it, this idea could become a very trendy thing to do. Think it will catch on?




Disposable Cameras


I sent my boys off to summer camp this week. I forgot to send a camera with them, though they don’t seem to notice. I imagine the preferred camera to send with kids today is the disposable camera. They are easy to use and if they get lost (a camera not the child), you are not out as much money as if you’d sent a good camera with them.


I think my sister learned that firsthand when her son lost his camera in Europe. When he called with the news he reported that he was able to replace it for only 60 pounds. Sixty pounds didn’t sound so bad, but how much is that in American money?


There are lots of decisions to make when choosing a disposable camera. They come in outdoor use only or with a flash. Some are waterproof that can be used underwater, if you hold your breath. I think I’ve even seen some with panoramic views. The best part is, unlike disposable diapers, they don’t take up space in the landfill. After the cameras are mailed in for developing, they can be refilled with film and sold again. Back in the ‘60s when I went to camp, taking a camera was a big deal to me. I remember my parent’s instructions, “Don’t just take pictures of people you aren’t going to ever remember who they are someday.” It’s advice I didn’t heed too well. Somewhere in my parents house, I believe, is an old box of glossy black and white photos of people I don’t know who they are.


I can clearly remember the camera. My dad called it a “box camera,” and that it is exactly what it looked like plain, black, 5 by 6 by 4 inch box. It had an eye on one side with the shutter, covered lens. A tiny silver lever on the side, that when clicked, caused the spring-loaded shutter to snap opened and closed. Period. That’s it. No flash, so all your pictures had to be taken outdoors. No auto focus, wide angle, or zoom lens, so you always stood about eight feet from your subject. No auto wind or auto stop film winding. You turned the black knob on the side and watched the number in the little window advanced to the next number. If you forgot, well too bad, you had to pictures exposed on one piece of film.


The only decision you had to make was to hold the camera vertically we take pictures of tall people or horizontally to take pictures of fat people. The photographer had to keep his back to the sun for proper film exposure therefore all people, tall or fat, squinted as faced into the sun. Even so I believe it was the best way to learn the basics of photography.


My photographic (but not photogenic) ability took an “instant” leap when I got a Kodak Instamatic camera for Christmas. Did anyone not have an Instamatic? I used that camera all the way through college and until the birth of my first son. The cameras were small, handy and easy to use. Just opened, drop in the film, and shoot. The best feature was the flashcube. You could click four pictures and the magic cube rotated to a new flashbulb four times.


You cannot buy a new Instamatic camera today. Therefore it is a good thing I still have mine, with its bright yellow vinyl carrying case, stored away somewhere. I wonder where I can buy 110 film?






Summer is here and all the kids are out of school. Where do they go? They are in my refrigerator. One noticeable difference, with everyone being home, is the amount of food and drinks we are gobbling up. Especially drinks. With our refrigerator door constantly opening, I have decided to replace it with a dairy case. That way the kids can look through the glass door to pick a cold drink or snack just like a convenience store.


If I do shop for a new refrigerator, there will be lots of options. There are refrigerators with freezers on top, bottom, or side. There are ones with ice and water dispensers, juice dispensers, and small doors in big doors, so you don’t have to open the whole door each time. That feature tells me, kids’ opening the door too often is a common problem. The only choices in color are white and beige. I never did like the gold or avocado green ones.


I like what I have now and it will be hard to replace. It is all refrigerator and no freezer. It was the largest amount refrigerator space we could find. It does not keep a lot cold, but still hear complaining, “I’m hungry and there’s nothing to eat.”


Keeping food cold, before the ease and convenient refrigeration we have today, must have been a challenge for families. I imagine that food did not keep as long, and people did not insist on ice-cold milk. My Grandma Vicki once told me that you drink all the milk each day because it only stayed good for about one day or less before it soured. That would be no problem for us, we drink a gallon every day and never gets old.


Before refrigeration people used iceboxes. They are beautiful antiques today. I have seen some that have had the outside wood refinish and are a lovely oak. The icebox on display at our local museum has an outside that is ornately carved wood. This icebox could have belonged to a wealthy family, since it was so fancy.


The iceboxes required daily maintenance. As the ice melted, it kept the food cold, but the melted ice water dripped into a pan. My grandmother hated her job of emptying the pan before it ran over onto the floor.


My great aunt explained to me how the iceman would come every day to bring ice. The kids would follow the ice truck yelling, “got any chips, got any chips?” If they were lucky, the iceman would give them pieces of ice to suck on.


Ice had to be harvested in the winter. “I clearly remember,” grandma, explains, “it was kept underground, covered with straw and then a house erected over it.”


I keep a lot of leftovers in my refrigerator. I keep them for a long time, a very long time. When I ask how long leftovers could be kept in an icebox, one woman explained to me that you just didn’t have any leftovers. You couldn’t afford them. On the farm, meat and milk were commodities that could be sold and the money used to buy necessities or pay taxes.


The outside of my refrigerator is covered with magnets holding pictures and artwork that belongs to my kids. When I think about the woman with the ornate carved icebox, I think she was probably very proud of her of it. I am very proud of the outside of mine too but for a different reason.