Your Moms are Watching

Your moms are watching.

College football is my favorite sport. Sure, it can bring out the good, the bad, and the ugly in people, but it is my very favorite sport. I look forward to football season every year. It’s fun, and it brings back lots of great memories of my childhood, my high school years, and especially my college years.

During college football season, we watch a lot of games at our house. Every Saturday, we somehow manage to get showers, have meals, and get some exercise before, between, or after games. But no matter what, during college football season, we find a way to watch football all day and night on Saturdays.

We love a good football game. And we love crowd shots. And most of the time, we get a good laugh at the antics we see on the television screen. Students at ESPN College Game Day, holding signs behind the commentators…trying to get on national TV. I always think most of them just want their mamas to see them. I can only imagine my own daughter at College Game Day, holding up a silly sign…and if she got on screen, she would likely call me to see if I spotted her. If we’d had cell phones when I was in college, I feel sure I would have done that.

During games, we see students with painted bodies, spelling out the names of their teams. Or maybe they have just painted their hair. Or maybe they are wearing some outlandish outfit, trying to get the attention of the camera operators. It’s almost always good-natured, and we laugh. I always hope their mamas see them and get a good laugh out of it too. When I was in college at the University of Alabama, I had a friend who told us that, during televised Alabama games, her dad would call her mom into the room any time there was a crowd shot, so they could look for their baby girl. He’d yell, “Vonnie! Vonnie! Crowd shot! Crowd shot!” I don’t know if they ever spotted their daughter in the crowd, but they tried!

But occasionally, things turn ugly. It turned ugly during the Tennessee/Ole Miss game in Knoxville yesterday. Anyone who knows anything about college football knows UT fans hate Lane Kiffin, the current head coach at Ole Miss. He was the head coach at UT for a hot minute in 2009 before taking a head coaching job at the University of Southern California unexpectedly and leaving UT in the lurch. He coached at USC for about three years before being fired in the middle of a season; the firing took place at the airport, immediately after the team had flown back to Los Angeles after losing to Arizona State. Kiffin didn’t even get a bus ride back to campus.

Subsequently, Coach Nick Saban, of the University of Alabama, took Kiffin in. Saban is known for what we refer to as the “Saban Coaching Rehab,” because he takes in coaches that might have trouble getting jobs after a failure somewhere. Kiffin became the Offensive Coordinator at Alabama and was quite successful with the offense, but his off-field actions and his mouth often got him in trouble with Saban. He eventually took a head coaching job at Florida Atlantic University for a few years before taking the job at Ole Miss.

All this is my long way of giving you the history behind why Kiffin was not welcomed warmly in Knoxville Saturday. And I get it. However, it’s one thing for a fan base to hate a coach, but it’s another for them to get out of hand…and they did. Late in the game, after a questionable call went Ole Miss’s way, incensed Tennessee fans began throwing debris onto the field…cans, mustard bottles (why did someone take mustard to a game?), water bottles, and even a golf ball. Some of the debris hit Ole Miss cheerleaders, and the golf ball hit Kiffin. Don’t get me wrong. I know all the Tennessee fans were not participating. ***My daughter and I visited the University of Tennessee several times over the past few months, and we found their students and employees to be gracious, lovely people.*** I’m sure there are lots of Tennessee fans who were embarrassed by the other fans’ behavior, but it seemed mob mentality took over.

Here’s the thing: don’t you think there were probably some moms who saw their kids behaving badly when the cameras panned over the crowd? Did those fans not consider that? No one wants to disappoint their mama, right? I can only imagine how angry I would have been if I’d seen my daughter throwing things onto the field! She would have received a phone call from me immediately. And she would have regretted it right away.

The general rule at our house is to think before you act. It’s the rule, but just like everyone else in the world, we don’t always follow the rule. Many times I have said to my daughter, “Before you do something, consider whether you’d want me to see you do it.” Considering throwing debris onto the field? Think about what Mama would say. Considering doing shots of Fireball with your friends? Think about what Mama would say if she walked in and saw you. (I never, ever approve of doing shots, because of the danger involved.)

The world may never know exactly how things got so out of hand at Saturday’s game, but I’m guessing the participants weren’t remembering that their mamas might be watching. If they had even thought, for one second, that their mamas might see them, I have a feeling they wouldn’t have thrown stuff onto the field…no matter how they felt about the call or how they felt about Kiffin. My guess is that there are some angry Tennessee mamas right now.

As for Lane Kiffin, I understand why folks don’t like him. Personally, I find him amusing and colorful, but I know everyone doesn’t. He has a sarcastic way about him, and he says some crazy stuff. Before the Alabama/Ole Miss game this year, he said to Jamie Erdahl in the pregame interview, “Get your popcorn ready.” That was it…his words of wisdom before a “mic drop,” which was actually a headset drop. Ole Miss ended up losing the game, and Kiffin became a meme. In the week that followed, lots of folks had various kinds of popcorn delivered to the athletic office at Ole Miss. Alabama fans aren’t perfect, but that is the way to handle Kiffin. Don’t throw stuff onto the field. Just beat him at his own game…on the field and off.

And do it in the right way…remember, your mama might be watching.

***I’m definitely not knocking the University of Tennessee. My daughter and I both have friends who are students there or are alumni…and they are all lovely people…some of the best people we know, in fact. This kind of debacle could happen at any sporting event in any city.***

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Saturday morning cartoons.

Ahhh…the good old days…when Saturday morning meant eating cereal in my pajamas while seated on the floor in front of the console TV. Saturday morning cartoons were the best. Everybody I knew who was a child in the 70s watched. For whatever reason, those cartoons made quite an impression on us…so much so, that I often find myself making references to them as a 53-year-old!

Just today, in fact, I caught myself making a reference to a Saturday morning cartoon. I got my shower and got dressed. Keep in mind that every November, I observe Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and since purple is the color for pancreatic cancer awareness, I try to wear it as much as possible. Sounds crazy, I know, and I don’t own as much purple clothing as I used to, but today, I put on some purple leggings with a cute, comfy tie-dye sweater. I then looked in the mirror and said aloud, “Grape Ape.”

When I was a kid in the 70s, The Great Grape Ape Show was one of the cartoons I loved. It featured a 40-foot tall purple ape who often uttered these words, “Grape Ape! Grape Ape!” My most vivid memory is of Grape Ape riding on the roof of his friend’s car after revving it up like a push toy. He was giant. He was purple. My leggings made me think of Grape Ape. You get the picture. You can see episodes of The Great Grape Ape Show on Amazon here.

During football games for my college team, I often can’t watch. My ego is apparently so healthy that I think my very presence actually has an influence on the outcome of the game. When someone asks why I don’t watch, I reply, “Because I’m Schleprock.” Lots of times, I get a puzzled look in return and have to explain that Schleprock was a character on The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, a spinoff of The Flintstones. Schleprock walked around in all gray clothing, often with a dark cloud (literally) over his head. He is known for having exceptionally bad luck, and when he is around, bad things tend to happen. So yes, if I think I am the catalyst of bad luck, I call myself “Schleprock.”

And since I’m talking about The Flintstones, I absolutely must mention “Yabba Dabba Doo!” Anyone who is familiar with the show knows those three words were used by Fred Flintstone when he was happy or excited…like when the whistle blew signaling the end of the work day at the quarry. I’ve used the exclamation many times over the years. First, every time I take a vitamin of any kind, I actually say, “Yabba Dabba Doo!” This is because, as a kid in the 70s, I took Flintstones vitamins, just like every other kid. In fact, when my brother was two or three, my mother and I were in one part of the house and heard him repeatedly saying, “Yabba Dabba Doo!” We ran to the kitchen to find him taking Flintstones vitamins and making the exclamation every time he took one. Good times! Fortunately, they contained no iron, so he was in no real danger. As an adult, I once noticed that an ice cream shop served Fruity Pebbles ice cream. I said to my then-10-yr-old daughter, “Yabba Dabba Doo!” She didn’t get it. Anyone who remembers The Flintstones knows they did the ads for Fruity Pebbles cereal. In fact, they’re still on the box. They’re also on the box for Cocoa Pebbles cereal.

Going from the prehistoric Flintstone family to modern times, everyone I know is aware of my fascination with midcentury modern architecture. Better yet, they know I love what’s referred to as Googie architecture, which was popular in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s futuristic and space age architecture…like The Jetsons cartoon. I used to have some dinnerware that had a space-age looking pattern on it, and I called that dinnerware my “Jetsons dishes.” Many times over the years, I’ve referred to building as Jetsons buildings. Come on…who hasn’t looked at the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport and thought about The Jetsons? Want to watch The Jetsons? You can rent episodes on Amazon here.

Anybody remember Hong Kong Phooey besides me? Sure, the name of that cartoon about a dog who is a private investigator is totally politically incorrect now, but back in the 70s, no one paid attention. The lead character was voiced by Scatman Crothers…what a great voice he had! The bumbling PI jumped into a filing cabinet to change from mere mortal into Hong Kong Phooey. Can I walk past a filing cabinet without thinking of the theme song? Hong Kong Phooey, number one super guy. Hong Kong Phooey, quicker than the human eye. He’s got style, a groovy style, and a car that just won’t stop. When the going gets rough, he’s super tough, with a Hong Kong Phooey chop! (Hi-ya!) Like I said, it’s not exactly politically correct. But mention the words “private eye” to me, and all I can think about is Hong Kong Phooey.

But by far, the Saturday morning cartoon I reference the most is Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Everybody loved Scooby Doo. It is one cartoon that truly stands the test of time. My now-17-yr-old daughter loved it so much as a kid that we used it as a measure of time. When she was four, if she asked me how long it would take to get somewhere, and it was an hour away, I would answer, “About three Scooby Doos,” because each episode, without commercials (on DVD) was about 22 minutes. When my daughter was little, if she said she was hungry, I would offer her a “Scooby snack.” Many times, I’ve referred to my daughter and her friends as “meddling kids,” a Scooby reference, for sure. And I’ve even said, “Jinkies!” and “Zoinks!” as exclamations of surprise. But what have I used the most from the show? Scooby Doo’s own, “Ruh-roh,” when I’ve hit a snag. Wanna see some Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Check it out on Amazon here.

So yes, Saturday mornings are still influencing my daily lexicon, and I love it. There were some awesome live-action shows on Saturday mornings too, many made by Sid and Marty Krofft, but that’s a story for another day. It’s fun to feel like a kid again every now and then!

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes.

Earlier, I had to run to Walgreens to pick up one thing…some bottled water. Of course, like so many other people, I can’t walk out of Walgreen’s with just one thing. I have to “browse” the aisles. By the time I checked out, my cart contained hand sanitizer, cheap lipstick, Halloween candy I promptly hid when I got home, and Hostess Cupcakes. Yes, Hostess Cupcakes…the ones that come two to a pack. The creme-filled chocolate ones that have the white swirls across the top. The ones that I loved as a kid in the 1970s.

When I was a little girl, Daddy took us to Murphy’s store on Highway 31 in Brewton on Saturday mornings after he gave us our $5 allowance. It was our opportunity to get whatever we wanted, and back then, $5 would buy a lot of treats. Murphy’s was a little locally-owned convenience store. We always referred to it as “Murphy’s,” except Saturdays, when we referred to it as “the candy store.” Mr. and Mrs. Murphy actually ran it themselves. I’m sure they laughed when they saw us coming, because they knew we were going straight for the candy. By the time I left the store, I usually had an Icee or a Grape Fanta and a little brown bag full of different treats. My personal favorites? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I remember when the price increased from 15 cents to 20 cents), Pixy Stix, Marathon Bar, Grape Now & Laters, Spree Candy, M&Ms, Candy Cigarettes (it was the 70s, after all), and yes, those glorious Hostess Cupcakes. I thought those swirls across the top were beautiful. I guess I always had homemade birthday cakes, so those Hostess swirls looked like some special handiwork. Here’s a secret, though: I rarely ate the cupcakes. I usually just ate the frosting off the top…and that swirl? I saved that till the end.

So, after I got home from Walgreen’s and ate those Hostess cupcakes, I posted on my personal Facebook page about them, and the reaction was great! So many of my friends remembered those cupcakes from childhood. But the great thing was the memories they shared about their own experiences. One friend commented that her dad would take her to the deli on Saturdays, and while he picked out lunch stuff, the kids could get treats…including Tastykakes…a Mid-Atlantic treat. Others could remember the mom-and-pop shops where they got their weekend treats, and one friend frequented the 7-11 with her dad, buying comic books and candy.

One of my favorite comments was simply, “Nyolator.” It was a comment from a kindergarten friend in Brewton. I’m guessing not just anyone would understand it, but I knew exactly what it meant immediately. In South Alabama, when I was a kid, I didn’t call Now&Later candies by their real name. I called them “Nyolators,” and I now know I wasn’t the only one! We weren’t being funny. Since I never bothered to read the package, I just pronounced them the way I heard it,”Nyolator.” I guess that’s the way my kindergarten friend heard it too! So if someone had asked me what candy I liked at the time, I likely would have answered, “Grape Nyolators.” Later, when I bothered to read the package, I was amused to learn I had been calling them by the wrong name my whole life…I was probably a preteen by the time I realized it, but dang!

So now, I’m thinking those Hostess Cupcakes aren’t just cupcakes. They’re symbols of my childhood…memories of going to Murphy’s store with my daddy. Pixy Stix can have the same effect for me. I loved Pixy Stix then, and I still love them now. Again, grape Pixy Stix are my preferred flavor. I don’t know why I love artificial grape flavoring, but I do.

Grape sodas, which taste nothing like real grapes, also make me think of visiting my Granddaddy. I’ve talked with my cousin, Patti, in recent years about how Granddaddy would give us a quarter, and we would walk down to the little store down the street from his house. I don’t know what the store was called, but I know I could always get a grape soda or an RC Cola there.

And you know why all those items…the candy, the cupcakes, the sodas…remind us of our childhood? Because they represent happy times. We tend to lock things into our longterm memory if they are attached to an emotion, and I guess that emotion, for me, on a Saturday morning, with $5 to spend at a mom-and-pop convenience store…well, that emotion was pure joy! No doubt!

I was big on making my little brown bag candy stash last a while. I could drag out eating some M&Ms by peeling them. I never got Peanut M&Ms. Back then, I only got original milk chocolate ones. And I actually peeled them. Sounds crazy right? I would bite each one just lightly enough to crack the outer shell, and then I would carefully peel off the shell, eating it little bit by little bit. And that’s when there were still red M&Ms with cancer-causing coloring, and there were two different brown colors of M&M…one was tan. Remember that? Long before blue M&Ms. I remember hearing the slogan for M&Ms many times, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”

And while I was peeling my M&Ms and hoarding my candy/cupcake stash, I was likely playing records on my record player…maybe Ricky Nelson singing Garden Party, which takes me back every time. That and Otis Redding singing Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. But I’m not even going to get into how music takes me back…that’s for another day.

For now, I’m going to sneak back into the kitchen and eat some of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from the bag of Halloween candy I purchased at Walgreen’s. I hid it from everyone else in my family, but I know exactly where it is!

Alabama Theatre and Faye Dunaway

My daddy had a great sense of humor. He also loved wordplay. He was a great storyteller. He had vivid memories of his childhood, and we loved hearing his stories.

When I was a teenager, something came up in a family conversation about Faye Dunaway, the Academy Award-winning actress. Daddy said, “Faye Dunaway went to my school.” I must have looked at him like he had fourteen eyes, because he reiterated that she had gone to his elementary school in Florida.

Because he was a jokester, I thought, “Oh, I get it. He went to school with someone named Faye Dunaway, but not the real Faye Dunaway.” For YEARS, I thought it was a joke. I don’t remember talking about it a lot…just that once or maybe twice.

Years later, when I was in my late 20s, I was reading People Magazine one evening after work, and there was an article about Faye Dunaway. I started reading it, and there, in the second paragraph, it said she went to school in Bascom, Florida. That’s where Daddy went to elementary school! I picked up the phone and called him.

I said to him, “I’m reading an article about Faye Dunaway, and she really did go to school in Bascom!” He responded, “I’ve been saying that for years.” “Well, I know, Daddy, but I always thought you were kidding, saying someone NAMED Faye Dunaway went to your school.” We shared a good laugh at the confusion.

By the same token, I had some confusion with something Mother said for years too.

Mother grew up in the Birmingham, Alabama, area. When I was a little girl, she told me she used to go to the Alabama Theatre in downtown Birmingham for the Mickey Mouse Club on Saturdays. She made a big deal in telling me about the giant organ that would rise up out of the floor of the theatre.

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Interior of Alabama Theatre. Photo from Alabamatheatre.com. The theatre was home to the country’s largest Saturday morning Mickey Mouse Club at one time. It was also the first air-conditioned public building in Birmingham.

I didn’t tell Mother at the time, but when she said that about the organ rising from the floor, I thought she must have been mistaken. I honestly thought her memory must have been playing tricks on her, because who ever heard of an organ rising up out of the floor?

It just didn’t make sense to me, but I didn’t argue with her. I just thought her little girl brain had been tricked into thinking the organ came out of the floor…some sort of optical illusion or something.

Then, in my late 20s, I read Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe. Well, since Fannie Flagg is from Alabama, I’m guessing she must have visited the Alabama Theatre, because in the book, she mentions the organ. She mentions how the organ rises up from the floor!

So Mother’s memory wasn’t playing tricks on her, after all! I promptly called her to tell her what I’d read. She said, “I’ve been telling you about that organ for years!” I confessed, “Well, I know, Mother, but I thought your memory was playing tricks on you!” We had a good laugh over it.

wurlitzer-2

Photo of Big Bertha, The Mighty Wurlitzer, from Alabamatheatre.com

To see more about the Alabama Theatre and the organ they call Big Bertha, The Mighty Wurlitzer, click here. The theatre has an interesting history, and the organ was one of only 25 of its type ever built.

It makes me wonder what I’ve told my daughter that she questions. Maybe she keeps it to herself that she thinks I’m talking out of my mind when I talk about a childhood memory.

Let’s take, for example, the time I caught a really big catfish in the neighborhood lake. When I was a little girl, we would go cane-pole fishing down at the lake at the bottom of the hill in our neighborhood. Sometimes we would catch catfish and take them home for Mother to clean them and fry them up, and sometimes, we had no luck at all. One time, I caught the record catfish…a record for us, anyway. It might have been five pounds. As soon as I caught it, we took it home. My brother and I had catfish for dinner that night.

Maybe my daughter thinks I was confused about how big that fish was.

Maybe she thinks I’m crazy when I tell her otters lived in that neighborhood pond. They did. I saw them from the school bus window one morning. Everybody had been talking about them for weeks, and finally, I saw them surface.

Maybe my daughter thinks I saw a dog swimming through the pond and thought it was an otter.

I didn’t go to school with anybody famous. None of my friends have become famous (yet), so I don’t have any stories to tell my child about “I knew him when.” I don’t remember anything like The Mighty Wurlitzer from my childhood, so all I have is the pond with the catfish and the otter.

I haven’t even been to see The Mighty Wurlitzer rise up out of the floor at the Alabama Theater. But in December, I plan to make a trip to Birmingham. Every year, the Alabama Theater shows classic holiday movies on the big screen. I’ll go, and when I see The Mighty Wurlitzer come up out of the floor, I’ll think of my mother and laugh about how I thought she was confused…just like I think of my daddy every time I think of that famous photo of Faye Dunaway (click here to see the iconic photo taken the morning after she won the Academy Award) at the Beverly Hills Hotel.