Sunday, February 14, 2010

Yesterville's First Anniversary!

This blog is as much about reminiscing and honoring the past as it is about the toys themselves. Toys from childhood are the "hooks" to hang memories from to be revisited time and time again. So, I'm taking this opportunity with Yesterville's first anniversary to reminisce about something other than toys and give an update on an item from the past that was included in a photo from the very first official post on Yesterville.

This item works for today's post nicely in two ways. First, it was shown in Yesterville's first post. Second, today is Valentine's Day and this item was created as a school Valentine box.

I created this R2D2 Valentine box with my Dad in 1978. I'm not trying to turn this blog into "Things I Created with my Dad" but I thought this would be an appropriate item for today, anyway (There will be one more item I created with my Dad coming in the future...last one, I promise).

This little guy has survived all these years in a box in my parent's garage. He's a little beat up but is still in pretty great shape, all things considered.

A Quaker Oats container served as the base for R2's torso and foil covered paper mache served as his noggin.' Cut and shaped poster board became the legs. All the detail artwork was done by me (Give me a break... I was 10).

Vintage photo from 1978. You can see the R2D2 Valentine box in the back on the left.

Valentines went in through the slot on the front. If any Death Star Plans happened to find their way in, all the better.

This R2D2 Valentine box won first prize that year in Bench School's 5th Grade Valentines Box contest. That is the main reason it's been kept all these years... historians will someday want this for the Smithsonian when they do their "All-time greatest Valentines boxes from Bench Elementary" exhibit. Don't laugh, it could happen.

As a tie-in with the R2D2 box, just this weekend (on Saturday) I visited my elementary school for the first time in over 30 years. I hadn't stepped foot in the school since leaving after 6th grade in 1979 (Yes, I graduated from 6th grade). I have driven by several times over the years and have wanted to see the inside of the school again but didn't know how to do it without looking like some kind of deranged stalker.

Serendipitously, Bench Elementary School was having a Pancake Breakfast School fund raiser this weekend that would allow ANYONE access to the inside of the school!! Bench Elementary had become a sort of surreal place in my mind over the years. I spent four years "getting my school on" in that place but time had faded my memories and I couldn't remember exactly how everything looked... just somewhat, vague notions of everything. Would it all come rushing back to me? Would the pancakes be served from the same lunch window in the gym that I had stood in line for so many times before? Would anyone reading my blog care? ;)

So, on Saturday morning, I loaded up my two bravest sons and headed across town to Bench Elementary. I was so excited that I could hardly fall asleep the night before. My kids just wanted pancakes. My wife stayed at home, stunned that her dorky husband could be so excited about a pancake breakfast at an elementary school across town.

Seventies music blared across the car stereo speakers as we made our way across town (my kids were NOT amused). Unbeknownst to my kids, we left our house in 2010 but arrived at Bench School in 1975.

This sign wasn't here when I attended school here. I decided to let it stand.

When I walked through the front doors, everything was EXACTLY as it was. All sorts of memories came flooding back and my memories of the look of the school came flooding back, as well.

It's good to see that they can still display the American flag in public schools.

I have so many memories of this old gym. It was the place where we had gym class and it doubled as the school's cafeteria. This is the place where I was forced to dance "the Hustle" during gym. This was the place where I rehearsed for a school play (I was a fireman). This was the place I took first runner-up in the school spelling bee. This was the place where I envied all those cool metal lunchboxes that some of the other kids had. Of the ones I remember are Kung Fu (The tv show), Six Million Dollar Man, Star Wars, Happy Days, and the NFL.

For educational movies in the gym, these large curtains would be closed. Anyone remember Mulligan Stew with the notorious Flim Flam Man that was always trying to get kids to eat poorly and fill their bodies with poor nutrition?

In the upper right corner you can see my elementary days' nemesis... the rope. It's still there...laughing at me. We had evening Cub Scouts meetings in this gym and climbing the rope was part of the festivities. Stupid rope. You'd think after 30 years it would be gone or someplace else in the gym. Nope, right where I left it.

Ghosts of the past or just poor photography? You decide.

Here are my boys enjoying their scrumptious pancake breakfast sitting right where I sat many times as a kid. They really are happy, well-adjusted kids. I promise. I think they are just a bit overwhelmed with being in the 70s. Time travel can take it out of you.

This is a story I wrote for a 6th grade project. I think it's title is freakishly appropriate for this post. I came across a box of this kind of stuff in my folk's garage this past summer. The story is about some friends and I reuniting in the future. We remember our elementary school days and start a band called "Lasers." It's almost like I was nostalgic for the 70s before I even left the 70's. Strange. You know "Lasers" would have rocked, don't you?

Every one of my classrooms while at Bench Elementary was down this hallway. Unfortunately, I had to shoot this photo through a gate. I don't remember the hallway ever being any brighter than this.

The area between the two boys is exactly where I fell and fractured my shoulder playing "soccer hockey" on the ice with some friends. It was a sheet of ice then and I went down like a sack of potatoes. My shoulder became infected and I ended up spending a couple of weeks in the hospital. The good thing was, my Dad would bring me a new Star Wars action figure every day. How cool is that? All of the figures that my Dad brought to help me with my stay in the hospital are HERE.

I have so many memories of this playground, too. This is the door we would line up at everyday to come in from recess. Also, just to the left of the door is where they would post new class rosters at the end of each summer. We used to ride our bikes down and see which of our buddies would end up in our class. This playground also reminds me of things like Grape Bubble Yum, Pop Rocks, Wacky Packs stickers, and Make-A-Shakes (chocolate milk that you would shake in the carton and it would get a shake). We often walked through this playground after school toward the Kwik Way convenience store a half-block away to buy a goodie or two before walking on home.

So many memories. This is where we stood with our backs to the sun to watch the eclipse as it shone through a hole in one piece of cardboard to project an image on the one underneath. This is where we played countless games of basketball, tetherball, and four square. This is where my Little League baseball team practiced after school. This is where girls walked around with Bonne Bell Lip Smackers on ropes around their necks and mini-Farrah hairstyles a few inches higher. This is where we would chew on toothpicks that had been soaked overnight in cinammon oil because candy was not allowed in school. This is where we couldn't be the days after Mt. St. Helens blew its top and covered our town with ashes...from three states away. This is where a friend shouted to me from a window during my recess that my Star Wars drawing had been chosen to be in the national Weekly Reader. I had never wanted to come in from recess as quickly as I did that particular day.

Too bad they didn't have a "Lamest" category. I would have taken first, no doubt.

These basketball hoops are the exact same ones that were there over 30 years ago. They were happy to see me.

The two silver playground structures in the foreground were there, as well, over 30 years ago. If memory serves, they were the ONLY playground structures we had at the time.

I remember spending countless recesses climbing this dangerous looking structure with friends and arguing about things like whether Darth Vader survived after spinning off into space at the end of the first Star Wars (there would be more movies but we didn't know it). I also remember talking with a friend about Gene Simmons of KISS's recent appearance in People magazine with Cher. He wasn't wearing makeup and had a napkin covering his face. It was like finding out about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. That's Gene?!!

I hope you enjoyed this somewhat self-indulgent trip down memory lane. I had a lot of fun visiting my old school and basking in good memories. It was particularly fun to walk around the old playground after so long. It was like having a hazy jumble of memories come to vivid life in an instant.

Of course, if I ever truly forget, I'll have ol' Artoo here to remind me and keep the memories fresh.


  1. That is awesome - moreso that it survived so many years! My elementart school burned to the ground (I didn't do it,nobody saw me do it!) so I am envious that you can go reminisce like that. I also did an award winning Valentine box one year, but mine was Gumby and it probably didn't survive until that March - let alone thrity plus years later!

  2. I don't really know you and I don't know your old school. Heck, I don't even live in the same country! But I really enjoyed your trip back to the 70s. My school from then is long gone now along with the giant silver foil UFO (complete with interior cockpit) I made, the working, cardboard box, haunted house that my friends created and I coveted for ages and the rack of How and Why Wonder Books. I still have some class photos but I can't go back :(
    My own 6 year old son, however, has plenty of pics and videos of his room, toys and stuff. Maybe when he's a nostalgic 40-something he'll appreciate all those times I yelled 'no Cam, don't break that Lego and Magnetx robot up yet - let me get the camera!'

  3. Hey, I remember 'Mulligan Stew' and the Flim-Flam Man! Love the blog; I always look forward to finding a new post.

  4. What an awesome post! I was able to go back to my elementary school when my much younger brother attended. Crazy how unchanged it was!
    You were featured in the Weekly Reader - seriously? How cool is that! I LOVED the Weekly Reader.
    My greatest elementary accomplishment - I was runner up in the Hoop Shoot Contest!
    Elaine (Brian B.'s better half.)

  5. Awesome post!

    Glad to see the rope is still hanging around to taunt you.
    I also like how the time travel aspect affected the photography. I theorized that might happen or maybe it is ghosts.

    I wonder if I read the Weekly Reader with your drawing in it? We all looked forward to the day when the Weekly Readers came.

    My Valetine's Day box was usually a grocery sack cut in half and taped to the end of my desk. After making that,I remember pouring through the Valentines my parents bought me trying to pick the blandest cards possible to give to the girls in the class. We had to give a Valentine to everybody in the class but we guys would agonize over the ones we had to give the girls. I remember my freind Todd cutting out words or scribbling out an offending "Be Mine". Girls took them so seriously.

  6. What a great post, happy anniversary. I'm sure I said it before, but that Valentines box is the best I have ever seen. Also that photo from 78 is just plain full of win!

  7. Thanks, everyone! I really appreciate you taking the time to read the post and comment. That was a fun Saturday morning.

  8. -fantastic Article on the Starwars 12 inch line and Wow! your Dad brought SW figures to you in the hospital? I think my Dad threw my xwing fighter upside the wall a few times when he stepped upon it drunk. Sounds like you turned into a good Dad and a great artist. Keep up the great blogging. Best regards, Justin Zaharczuk