Archives for posts with tag: nostalgia

Vintage-Ski-Styles

When I was growing up in northern New Jersey our town’s Rec Center used to hold ski trips. The kids would meet in front of the Rec Center, board a bus and head up to Vernon Valley for an afternoon of skiing. There were times where my mom and I, while running errands in town, would pass the Rec Center and I’d watch all the kids lined up with their bags and their skis waiting for the chartered bus to pick them up.

And I was so envious of them.

I grew up in a pretty wealthy town. We were not wealthy. We weren’t on skid row or anything, but there was no extra money to be spent on nonsense like lift tickets and ski rentals. So, Rec Center ski trips were out of the question for me. I acted like I didn’t care – like those kids were all assholes.

Some of them were. But a lot of them weren’t. They were kids I ate lunch with, or might walk part of the way home with. But they could afford to go on the Rec Center ski trips, and I couldn’t. So like any brooding teenager is apt to do, you viewed them with a cool loathing rather than blatant envy.

I did eventually ski though. While I might not have been able to go on the Rec Center trips, my Junior year in high school I became friends with this guy Paul whose parents had a house by Hunter Mountain. Ah Hunter… One of Upstate New York’s finest ski lodges.

For the next 6 years or so, Paul would call me on a random Thursday night and say, “We’re heading up to Hunter tomorrow…wanna come?” It wasn’t always winter either. Sometimes we went up in the summer and attended a festival at Hunter Mountain. Sometimes we just went up for some R & R. But if it was winter? We went skiing.

I was never a great skier, but I learned how to hold my own on the intermediate slopes. I only rode an actual ski lift a few times and dreaded/planned my departure from the chair the entire way up. My trip down would take my about 25 minutes as I would slowly shoosh my way down making a very wide, very horizontal path.

Susie Chapstick I was not.

I remember one weekend a whole bunch of us went up to Paul’s house. It had snowed gangbusters the night before so conditions were going to be phenomenal. The day turned out being a real keeper – temps hit the mid 50s; folks were skiing without coats. We went back to the house, put beach chairs in the snow and drank a case of beer.

It was AWESOME. I left Hunter in February with a sunburn.

My best ski trip ever though, was when I was in Austria. When I took my semester abroad, our school sent us on a ski trip to Semmering. Having not skied in a while, I decided to use the free ski instruction the lodge provided. Our teacher’s name was Norbert, which I found humorous…were his parents undecided between Norman and Burton?

Nobert? He turned out to be a real perv. While doing snowplow turns down the bunny slope, he would shoosh up behind me, wedge his skis between mine and push his pelvis against my ass in very firm, very suggestive manner. It wasn’t just me… he did it to all the girls. He got very drunk at the lodge party later that night and tried very hard to grind us a wee bit more on the dance floor.

But during that day, as I made my way down the slopes an hour south of Vienna, I thought about those kids that used to go on the Rec Center’s ski trips. I could never go, but here I was in Austria. AUSTRIA. On skis. Me.

Beats the hell out of Vernon Valley.

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45 art

I was introduced to a ton of music when I was a young child compliments of my Aunt Carol’s collection of 45 records. They were stored in boxes just like the ones shown above, and when we were in the mood to jam to some tunes, my sisters and I would pull the boxes out from the cabinet in the “stereo console,” find as many insert adapters as we could, and stack ’em up on the turntable.

david-bowie-space-oddity-picture-sleeve-45-original-1973-rca_8096841Her collection was impressive. She had a ton of Beatles singles, not only on the Capitol label but also on the Apple label. There was lots of Elvis, which my sister loved. Me, not so much. She had a lot of odd tunes; weird little ditties that had to have been one hit wonders. She also had a fair share of surfer music, which I still find odd. And as long as we’re talking odd, she had the 45 to David Bowie’s Space Oddity. That’s a record I can’t see her buying at all – that was a little far out for my Aunt Carol.

Part of the beauty of these records were the labels. Decca, Bell, Atlantic, RCA – many times it was the easiest way to find your favorite songs in the boxes and boxes of records. Those labes were so recognizable – if I wanted to find “Knock Three Times” by Tony Orland & Dawn, all I had to do was look for the silver Bell label. I might find the Partridge Family instead, but that was fine too.

mOg1os7DgpqHlW686dyIRhQMy favorite of all the 45s was one by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. It had not one but TWO songs on the same side – “This Diamond Ring” and “Little Miss Go Go.” Everyone knows This Diamond Ring, but the best was when you got to the little known song two. Little Miss Go Go is just a kick ass song.

In keeping with the surfer-style music, my sisters and I used to love “Surfer Joe” by the Surfaris because it was a story song – you know those…like “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” or “The Night Chicago Died.” You can’t beat a good story song.

Another favorite of ours was Dizzy by Tommy Roe. My sisters and I would spin round and round while the song played so we could be dizzy right along with Tommy.

We always had to play Tracy by the Cufflinks. While I’m glad I have a song named after me, I wish it wasn’t so über dorky. And speaking of dorky…that lead singer? Yikes.

When it came to name songs my sister Judy had “Hey Jude,” but my sister Wendy had nothing. So, she adopted another 45 favorite of ours, “Windy” by The Association, as her own. Then Springsteen came along and put her name in the best song every written. Sigh. And I’m stuck with the Cufflinks.

Typical.

There were some real oddball songs too. One was “Surfin’ Bird” by the Trashmen. I don’t know who had the idea to put that record on for the first time, but I do believe after hearing it, it was the first time my tiny little brain registered a thought along the lines of what the fuck.

That wasn’t the only song straight out of the WTF Files. An insanely bizarre 45 is “They’re Coming To Take Me Away (Ha-Haaa)” by Napoleon XIV. It’s hard to describe, but as a small child I always found it creepy as hell. His voice changes pitches and there’s a siren in the background and this stomping/clapping back beat throughout the whole song and his voice echos and it was just really, really sccaaary!

And I can still remember all the words. What was even more wacked out was the B-side; it’s the same song played backwards.

My sister Wendy thankfully still has all these wonderful 45s because she realizes the value of them…not just on the commercial market (although it would be fun to take them on Antiques Roadshow), but because they were a real part of our childhood.

One day I’ll have to blog about MY 45 collection…and how I don’t have it anymore. See, my husband isn’t quite so sentimental about old 45s.

Wishbook

When I was a kid there would come a time each fall when my mother would bring home the Sears Christmas Wish Book—600+ pages long and as thick as a phone book. The arrival of this book would trigger a month-long “it’s my turn!” between us four kids, because this book had a killer toy section.

I had all of these, by the way. Sigh…I wish I still did.

Page after page of Barbies, Fisher Price Little People playsets, doll houses, slot car sets, play kitchens, record players, puppets, and tons and tons of games. As a child you practically drooled as you turned each page, eager to see what “it” toy was going assault your “I want that!” senses next.

I think we had this too. If not I know we wanted it badly

I think we had this too. If not I know we wanted it badly

But you didn’t get to dawdle when you had the wishbook, not at first anyway. Once a sibling saw you with the book in your hot little hands, you were asked to hurry up, and sometimes not so politely. Of course, every so often when you took too long, the coveted book was simply ripped out of your hands, leaving you staring at the linoleum counter top as opposed to Malibu Barbie.

One of the creepier pages in the book - I don't think I'd be happy opening the Seance game on Christmas morning.

One of the creepier pages in the book – I don’t think I’d be happy opening the Seance game on Christmas morning.

But eventually there would come a time when the book was all yours. My brother and sisters had had their fill of rod hockey and Jerry Mahoney dummies, and I could take the Wishbook in my hands and do what I did best…pretend.

I would stare at each page that held a toy I wanted and imagine playing with it. I’d just look at the toy and actually pretend that I was opening little Barbie kitchen doors or bringing a plane in for a landing at the Fisher Price airport. I could spend hours in a pre-Christmas fantasy land. What a dork I must have looked like…sitting in a corner talking to a catalog.

bad fashionsAs time marched on and we got older the Wishbook was less alluring. We spent more time glancing at the front of the book which displayed “today’s hip fashions.” However, let it be known that I did not spend much time imagining myself wearing any of the clothes.

With the exception of a bathing suit when I was around 13. I loved that suit. It was my first maillot.

I highly recommend visiting the site wishbookweb.com. Pick a book and flip through the pages—you just might lose yourself remembering all those great toys you got one Christmas.

80s collageYesterday my youngest daughter made a comment about my youth, referring to it as “The 80’s, when there were all those hippies.”

After a playful head flick and a quick history lesson, I thought about my childhood and deducted that I did most of my living, hell, the best part of my living in the 80s. It truly was my decade.

My daughter was partially right; having been born in 1964 I did live a large portion of my earlier life in the hippie generation. My preteen years were mostly in the 70s, where bell bottom pants would swish down the hallways in school, and you listened to all of your pop music on a crackly AM radio or huddled in front of the family’s hi-fi stereo with gigantic headphones on. And disco? You either loved it or hated it.

(I loved it.)

When the 70s gave way to 1980 I was a sophomore in high school. By the time 1990 rolled around I had lived the best years of my life. The best. I had graduated from both high school and college, had traveled to Europe twice, had my best job ever, had my best car ever, had become engaged, and then, unengaged.

Even if I try to forget the milestones of my life and just really look at that decade, I have to say I think the 80s were great. It was like the planet woke up from a long, dreary sleep and said “Rise & Shine! Let’s kick ass and take names!” Everything about the 80s seemed to go POW! Music, fashion, movies, TV; everything was brighter and better. Well, maybe not better, the 80s did give us Kirk Cameron.

The 80s brought us MTV. Hell, the 80s brought us cable TV and HBO, both of which were monumental to this young Jersey girl. Add to that the VCR, and I had a television trifecta. (Yes, I know the VCR & HBO came out in the 70s, but my family didn’t get either until the 80s)

cable remote

The old cable remote. I’m pretty sure MTV was channel 26 – first button, third click down.

Before cable there were 7, maybe 8 channels you could watch. After cable? It seemed like there were hundreds, but there were only 37 at first. Now I could watch stations out of Atlanta and Chicago – it was like the world was delivered to my television set. And HBO? If I wasn’t watching MTV, I was watching HBO. I’d watch the same movies over and over again. Except Eddie and the Cruisers – HBO played that one way too much.

Eddie and the Cruisers was another bad thing to come out of the 80s.

The 80s brought us the Walkman. Music was both portable and private. No more listening to music blaring from a tape deck. Alright, you still did it, but you didn’t need to anymore. I didn’t get a Walkman for quite a few years after they came out – they were too expensive. All the rich kids at my school had them, but I had to wait until they came down to a reasonable price. And the headphones? They were tiny compared to the giant cans we had used in the past.

albumsThe 80s brought us some great music. Ok, not all of it was great – I could go the rest of my life without hearing Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms” – but a lot of it was new and original. Madonna, Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode, Bananarama, Squeeze, Human League, Cyndi Lauper, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I could go on and on.

Certain songs catapult me right back to college, walking along the paths of U of D with my headphones on. Songs like  “Don’t You Forget About Me,” or “Eye in the Sky.” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and “Dance Hall Days.”

The 80s brought us some fucked up clothes, but I kind of liked it. Neon, graphic patterns like checkerboard and animal prints, slouched shirts with one shoulder bared. It was comfortable, I’ll give you that. It was also the last time I wore, or looked good in spandex.

playhouseHow about 80s television? Yeah, most of it sucked, I’ll give you that. Shows like Growing Pains, Punkie Brewster, Night Rider, Saved By The Bell, and Who’s The Boss polluted the airwaves. But it wasn’t all bad. The 80s also gave us Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Cheers, Family Ties and The Golden Girls. I have to admit to a few other shows I loved with some level of shame – The Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, and Rescue 911.

MoviesAnd 80s movies? Come on – there were TONS of good movies in the 80s. Back to the Future, Sixteen Candles, Tootsie, The Karate Kid, Mommie Dearest, Aliens, Scarface, Ghostbusters, The Princess Bride, Big, Die Hard, Caddyshack, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Poltergeist, and Raiders of the Lost Ark just to name a few. I must have consumed 4000 pounds of movie theater popcorn during those 10 years.

I know some of you out there will disagree with me – you probably think the 80s were mindless and vapid, filled with big haired bimbos and clueless dudes wearing headbands and pastel polo shirts. Yeah, they were all there.

But it was my time. I was young and things were new and exciting. There was stuff out there that my parents just couldn’t relate to, and I loved that. Things like MTV, Walkmans, and CD players were ours – innovations that had never been seen before and we were the target market. Yeah, I loved the 80s.

Like, fer sure.

I have only had short hair twice in my life.

The first was as a small child, when my mom got so sick and tired of having to de-tangle our long hair that she took us to a barber (yes, a BARBER) and had us all in pixies by dinnertime.

pixieThe other time in the 6th grade when I followed the national craze and got a Dorothy Hamill cut.

Other than that? Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair. My hair has been past my shoulders most of my life. My sisters also had long hair growing up. I think we were all scarred by those butch cuts we were given with the barber’s shears. Plus, it was the 70s – long hair went with the territory.

All that hair required a ton of hair care products. There were many different varieties used by the Bucek girls, few, if any of which, are still on the market. So come with me…let me take you on a stroll through my hair-care history.

BreckBreck. When we were really little, my mom used to use Breck Creme Rinse in our hair. I’m not sure if the directions called for her preparation of the product, or if she was just trying to stretch out the use of the bottle – there were three of us after all, and that’s a lot of creme rinse. Mom would squirt some creme rinse into a Skippy peanut butter jar. It was glass back then and was kept in our bathroom cabinet for the sole purpose of rinsing our hair. She’d add some water, and mix it all up with a fine toothed comb. It never really mixed thoroughly – you could always see bits of pink creme rinse swirling around in the tornado of newly-mixed conditioner. This would get dumped over our head, worked in, and rinsed out.

We did have Breck shampoo from time to time, but I never liked it. The smell was harsh with cleaning agents to match. It always left my hair really dry.

Picture 2Prell. Everyone past a certain age category remembers Prell. The emerald green shampoo in a tube…I can still remember the commercial where the model would only have to dab a dot the size of a dime into their hand, because Prell was concentrated! It was a novelty to me because all the other shampoos came in a bottle, but Prell was in a tube like toothpaste, and it was super-thick – more like a jelly than a shampoo. But you had to be careful with Prell. That green color? It could stick with you. I remember a girl in my grade named Cathy. She had bleached blonde hair that had a tinge of green in it for weeks after she used Prell immediately following her most recent dye job.

7032424323_d2036028e3_oHerbal Essence. This was the shampoo that tried to appeal to the nature lover. Unlike the brand on the shelves today that has umpteen varieties for every hair type, I can only recall one kind of Herbal Essence shampoo. The commercials, like the above print ads, touted a shampoo that was as natural as bathing in a clear, mountain pool. It did smell good, though. I remember buying a bottle when I was living in Vienna because it was the only name I recognized at the store. That smell stuck with me. Every now and then the air will smell just like Herbal Essence and I am immediately transported back to Vienna and Czechoslovakia, the two places I used it.

839792813_1ba4ae613e_zFaberge Organics. Yes, even in the 70s there was an organics movement. This shampoo was supposedly filled with all natural, organic ingredients. Right up my dad’s alley. My dad? He used to sneak wheat germ into everything we ate from Cream of Wheat to pancakes. So, it’s no wonder this shampoo found it’s way into our bathroom. I think it stayed on the shelf for a very long time, only used out of sheer desperation when there was nothing else left.

188531_600Wella Balsam. This was yet another shampoo that made an appearance in my bathroom. I think the main reason why we had it was it was relatively inexpensive. I don’t recall it working all that well despite Farrah’s perfectly coiffed locks.

geeyourhairGee, Your Hair Smells Terrific. I’m not sure if we actually ever bought this shampoo, but it was all the rage for a while. Maybe it was because of the annoyingly long name…sort of like “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.” Or maybe it was popular because girls desperately wanted hair that smelled great. The commercials would show a guy running his fingers (and his nose) through a girls hair and then sighing the words, “gee, your hair smells terrific!”

In my neck of the woods if a guy was running his fingers and nose through your hair his next comment was usually “are you on the pill?”

LemonUp3-1Lemon Up. Another fad shampoo that we didn’t buy, probably because the bottle design made it less cost effective than other shampoos. It’s cap was a lemon! How cool was that! Although my hair was never washed in it’s lemony loveliness, I have a distinct memory of this shampoo that I am compelled to share with you.

I was at the Leonia pool hanging out with a group of my fellow 8th graders. This guy Dave was sitting in a pool chair when Lisa (who had a crush on him) drizzled a cap-full of her Lemon Up onto his curly, black hair totally unbeknownst to him. Shortly thereafter, we all went into the pool. Well, you know how teenage boys are in the water…the rough-housing and head-dunking ensued almost immediately. Before long, Dave – whose head had been palmed several times by now – had a full lather in his hair. Bubbles and suds floated in a circle around him on the water’s surface. The lifeguard’s whistle began to blow and he got 30 minutes on the pool deck as punishment.

450

Flex. Ah, Flex – the shampoo and conditioner we loved the most. It was affordable, and the smell? This was the most pungent smelling shampoo of it’s time. The scent was perfumy rather than floral, and would stay in your hair for hours and hours and hours, especially if you had your hair in a ponytail. Somehow a ponytail holds in the smell of shampoo, and once you pulled out that Goody elastic and let your hair cascade around your shoulders, the patented Flex aroma would fill the air. That’s when I would hear dudes murmur “gee, your hair smells terrific.”

For a while Flex had a promotion where they would hide diamonds in the shampoo bottle. Funny thing, they filled all their losing bottles with little fake plastic diamonds. I found that funny, because the bottle is clear, so you can easily see if your bottle is a winner or not just by holding it up and looking inside prior to buying it. I must have had 35 of those white plastic diamonds. I should’ve made a white trash tennis bracelet out of them.

Picture 6Sun In. This product was a household staple when I was a teenager. Three girls with mousy-brown hair needed all the help they could get, so I sprayed this stuff in my hair before every blow-dry, and anytime I was at the pool or the beach. It worked for me. My hair would turn a golden blonde…yeah, it was dry and somewhat brittle, but I just used a little more Flex conditioner to compensate for it.

Some folks had trouble with Sun In. My friend John used some on his hair one summer and it turned orange. But then again, he had hair that was dark brown – almost black. I’ve read where lots of folks had the orange hair syndrome thanks to a few sprays of Sun in, but not me. I loved the stuff when I was a girl. Hell, I had a bottle just a few years ago.

Slightly off topic, I’d like to know what nimrod designed the above ad. You can’t read half the type. Ever hear of a drop shadow? I hope he/she got fired.

Flash forward to the present time…what do I use now? Lots and lots of Suave products. It’s affordable, and with three heads of long hair to wash and condition, I have to watch every penny. I’ll buy other brands when they are on sale, and caution the girls to use as little as possible to make it last, but they squirt on globs and globs of it anyway…the bottles rarely last more than a week.

What was/is your favorite shampoo?

Modern electronics have all but obliterated a part of my childhood school days that I think back on fondly.

There are no more filmstrips.

Filmstrips was this great time where the teacher turned off lights, lowered the shades and turned on the projector. The classroom would then be treated to a glimpse inside a variety of subjects – we’d learn about everything from manners to mammals.

In case you’re not familiar with this archaic instructional tool, a filmstrip was a series of still pictures that were strung together to tell a story. There was a soundtrack that would accompany the film, which would not only narrate the story, but give you a cue as to when to change the picture – usually a beep or a tone.

The best part of the filmstrip viewing experience was if YOU were chosen by the teacher to turn the knob on the projector. What a sense of pride it was to be given this role of distinction! It was your responsibility to keep the story moving!

The narrators were of your typical variety – dry actors who would describe in perfect pitch and tone why Susie should brush her teeth after meals. Then would come the “ding!” and the picture would change.

Yes, it was totally lame, but it was way better than listening to your teacher drone on about punctuation or long division! Plus, they could be very entertaining, but not always in the manner intended. Sometimes the kids and people in the filmstrips were so dorky it was impossible not to goof on them.

For example:

But another caption would be way more fun. One like “Steve’s mother sympathized with Mrs. Logan for having a hang over after drinking one Old Fashioned too many.”

Or how about this Rockwell-esque scene? The deviant mind would notice the rather lascivious look on dad’s face. Look’s like he’s excited to see fresh meat at the table, and he ain’t talking about the baloney sandwiches.

Steve won’t share and little Billy is left to play pocket pool. Who’s having the real fun?

Some captions needed no embellishment. They were just too fucking funny as they were.

I’ll be the first one to admit that filmstrips sorta sucked. They were a glorified Viewmaster outfitted for the classroom. But there’s a timeless beauty to them as well…it was an era where it was still considered ok to shove morality down our throats…where free thinking was evil and a sin.

It was hard not to giggle during those 20 minutes in the warm darkness of the afternoon classroom. The stray giggle or titter rarely elicited a warning from the teacher. Many of these films were outdated even in the 70’s and were so hokey it was a wonder any teacher found them to be acceptable educational tools.

Who knows – after a long day of trying to teach us knuckleheads our 3 R’s – maybe our teacher needed a laugh too.

When I was 12 I saw a commercial for a new movie that was coming out, and it looked really bad.

It was for Star Wars.

If you’ve ever seen the original trailer/commercial for the movie, you might know where I’m coming from. It looked BORING. You can view the trailer here if you’ve never seen it. So with no plan to spend my allowance on that movie I put Star Wars behind me. But it wouldn’t be for long.

When I was a kid, I was pretty good friends with Andrew Shalit, son of NBC’s film critic Gene Shalit. While having a dad with connections must be a grand thing, having a friend with a dad with connections is nothing to sneeze at either.

Andrew invited me and roughly 6 other friends to come into New York City to see a private showing of, what else? Star Wars.
While I was not thrilled about the film we were going to see, I was pretty excited to hang out in the city with my friends. I was not going to miss this just because the movie looked a little dull.

We took a van into mid-town Manhattan and were let off at a large office building. Hmmmm. I was expecting a theater. We took the elevators to an unknown floor/office where we were then ushered into a little tiny theater.

It had a big screen, but only 4 rows of seats, and maybe 6-8 chairs in each row. This alone was worth the trip to see the boring movie. I’d never been in a private screening room. I’m not sure if I even knew they existed.

Before long the lights went down and the movie began. 121 minutes later I emerged from that little theater in love with Luke Skywalker and wanting to be exactly like Princess Leia.

Except for the hair.

We were each given a T-shirt that had the Star Wars logo or the phrase “May the force be with you.” I chose the one with the Star Wars logo. What a great bonus to an already awesome day.

When we were dropped off back in our home town, my friends and I played jedis vs. stormtroopers on the walk home, using sticks for light sabers and rolling/running over people’s lawns and across streets. I don’t think the movie had even hit the theaters yet, and I was already hooked.

I bought a few movie stills to hang in my room and spent that summer falling in and out of lust for both Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford. I think I saw the movie a few more times in the theater as well. But, that’s where the love ended. I saw Empire Strikes Back along with the rest of the world, but hated the ending. How dare they cliff hang me with at least a year to wait for the outcome.

Return of the Jedi was good, but neither that or Empire Strikes Back grabbed me in the same way Star Wars did. I also did not like any of the prequels. Jar Jar Binks was fucking annoying as hell, and the story didn’t interest me in the least.

I never jumped on the Star Wars saga bandwagon. You’ll won’t find me at Comicon dressed as Darth Nihilus (Stern fans may giggle at that), and I don’t collect the figurines. But if that wonderful, original, innovated film from 1977 is on television, I’ll grab my kids, pop some corn and plop on the couch to escape in to space for 121 minutes.

Over the weekend I was working on a project which involved watching a lot of old home movies. My dad’s wife is heading to Slovakia to visit her/our family, and we have a bunch of old footage that I think they might enjoy. So, I am attempting to put together a DVD of all the gatherings, weddings and enormous parties from my family’s past.

My relatives? They knew how to party. I’m talking about my dad’s side. The Slovaks.

My grandparents had a modest house in my hometown of Leonia, NJ – the kicker was they also owned the lot adjacent to it. This was their yard; a wonderland filled with trees, gladiolas, hydrangeas and grape vines. They even had a fake wishing well, which to us kids was magical addition to this suburban oasis.

Nana by the Well

My true grandmother, shown above with some unknown friend or relative, died before I was born. All of my 47 years I’ve  heard what an absolute brick she was – the best of the best – nobody finer in the state of Caroliner. She’d have to be to throw some of the bashes depicted in these movies.

Every late summer/early fall my grandparents would host the Hody – a dance/party meant to celebrate the harvest.

My dad would tell me stories of the Hodys back in Czechoslovakia. They were celebrations that the entire village would partake in and they would last for days. Moving to the USA did not stop my grandparents from continuing this tradition. Plus, half the village of Gajary had moved to northern New Jersey by this point, so their guest list was always a long one.

The gangs all here or getting more beer.

As I watched the movies from a few of the parties held in that wonderful yard, I yearned to be there. I saw the dancing women, and the men stripped down to their undershirts holding a label-less bottle up in a toast. Platters of food were passed around, and everyone was laughing and drinking and enjoying the day.

I especially loved watching my grandfather. As a child Pop-Pop could be a formidable figure – he was large, and dark, and rarely smiled. His accent was thick and he had a no-nonsense attitude. I can remember sweeping the front walk once as a small child. He had come over to visit, and upon walking up the path saw the small, tentative strokes I was making with my broom. He grabbed the broom from me, said “Tracinka, look!” and made large, broad strokes with the broom as he quickly walked up the path. The entire front walk was spotless in seconds. He said, “Next time, you do!” and walked into the house.

I didn’t know whether I was given advice or a good scolding. It felt the same either way.

But to see my Pop-Pop in these movies was like seeing a different man. He danced his way through the crowd with a smile and a pitcher of wine. He was swinging on a hammock with Nana, and when the hammock turned over and they both fell to the ground, they both got up and laughed it off. And he would bring out his accordion, and the old songs would be sung with arms draped over shoulders and classes clinking with a “Na zdravie!”

Damn! Right there and then I wanted to hop into a Delorean, punch it to 88 and McFly my ass back to 1950 to attend one of these parties. I want to sit in the painted wooden adirondack chairs I used to have on my porch until I moved from Jersey in 1995. I want to drink some of Pop-Pop’s wine and hear him play a tune on that Slovak squeezebox. I want to try all that wonderful Bohemian-style food. I want to meet my Nana to see if she’s as wonderful as everyone tells me she was. And I want to sink my feet into the plush grass of that magical yard.

After my Pop-Pop died in the late 70’s, my father sold that side lot to help finance 3 college educations and take us on a trip to see his hometown in Slovakia and to meet the family we still had living there. It had to be a hard decision for him to make – so many memories were attached to that piece of land. The house that was built there was a new fangled monstrosity; it lacked any charm and stood out sorely from the other homes on the block. But, land in my hometown could bring a bunch of pretty pennies, and Dad had a family to think of.

At least we have the movies. I don’t know half the people in them, but I can point out the ones I do know to my kids and tell them the role they played in my life. Perhaps they might watch these movies years from now, and get a kick out of their mommy’s crazy family that knew how to party hearty.

According to Google, today is the 79th anniversary of the Drive-In Theater. I have very fond memories of summer nights spent at the drive-in; nights that span most of my 47 years. Most drive-in theaters are kaput, and have been for quite some time. However, I am lucky enough to have a fully operational, good old-fashioned drive-in theater in the next town over.

But more on that later. First, let’s go back in time…

My first drive-in experiences were at The Hackensack Drive-in in Little Ferry, NJ, a short drive down Rt. 46 from my hometown. It was located right next to a bridge, and even if we weren’t going to the movies, it was always cool to watch what was playing on the big screen as we drove by. My parents took us to this theater often, but not to see the latest Disney offering.

They would cover the back of the station wagon with blankets and pillows, and take us to see the movies they wanted to see. We were just thrilled to get out of the house and play in the rusty playground right under the screen. Once we were tired, and filled with popcorn and soda, we’d crash in the rear of the wagon, and mom and dad had the night to themselves.

Some of the movies we were dragged to were priceless – movies that no kid would have the slightest interest in seeing – movies like “A Man Called Horse,” “Walkabout” and “Bang the Drum Slowly.” I don’t mean to infer that these are bad movies, but to a 7 year old? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

When I got older, I’d go to this very same theater with my friends John & Joe. We saw “Moonraker” in the pouring rain, and a plethora of bad horror films like “Don’t Look in the Basement” and “Last House on the Left.” Sadly, the Hackensack Drive-in was torn down in the 80’s and replaced by apartment buildings. Boo. However, there was another theater to take it’s place.

Enter the Paramus Drive-in.

My lord did I have fun at that place. It had always been there, but with the Hackensack theater so close to us, we never went to the Paramus Drive-in. But once John and I discovered that place, we were there most weekends in the summer. One of the pluses to this theater was that the sound came in over the radio. No more scratchy window speakers that let out the AC and let in the mosquitoes.

At first they charged admission by the person. That’s when we’d park outside the entrance and put 3 or 4 people in the trunk of my Pontiac Catalina. The driver and shotgun passenger would pay for themselves and once in and parked (far from the ticket taker and snack stand) we’d open the trunk and let out our fellow movie goers. I think we got caught once and had to pay for our stow-aways, but we got away with it most of the time. Then they changed their admission to one price per carload, which while a bit more convenient, took some of the fun out of the evening.

Paramus had quite a few movie theaters – it was sort of the place to go if you wanted to see the latest blockbuster. Therefore, the drive-in, not being able to compete with the big mega-plexes, showed movies that were off the radar. And those kinds of movies were right up our alley. My best friend John and I loved bizarre, crusty movies, and they would play 2 or 3 of these in a row. From dusk to 1 am we would bust on some of the worst movies to ever come out of Hollywood, and usually drink lots of beer – another good feature of the drive-in.

Uff Da!

I can remember there being a Russ Meyer weekend, and John and I sat through “Super Vixens” and “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens.” What a pair, and I’m not just talking about the movies! Boobs, boobs and more boobs! What was the plot? I don’t remember!

Saturday nights at the Paramus Drive-in also introduced me to gems like “The Warriors,” “Piranha,” (were talking the original 1978 version), and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Seeing Leatherface stalk that group of unsuspecting teens in a drive in was scary enough, but the cut our theater got was really rough, and it made the movie seem like a snuff film. It was super creepy.

The Paramus Drive-In followed in the path of many drive-ins and closed in the late 80’s. I had gone years and years with only memories of my drive in experiences until we moved to Virginia. After setting up residence in our Lake Community, I saw a flyer at a gas station promoting the upcoming movie schedule at the Fork Union Drive in.

What? A drive-in? Really? A few weeks later, we drove in to see Clockstoppers & Ice Age. My youngest daughter was just an infant at the time, but my oldest was 7 and adored it. I have to confess, we don’t go that often – usually because my youngest was always such a handful as a child it was easier to just avoid the movies all together other than renting DVDs.

The Fork Union Drive-In: Small, Cheesy and Utterly Wonderful

But last year my oldest wanted to go to meet a bunch of kids from school, and we all went, and it was really fun. My kids got to run around with friends while my husband and I spent the entire first movie trying to figure out how to keep our hatchback open without the dome light coming on. After that I fell asleep.

Wait, didn’t I do that as a child too?

I’m just glad that we have one of these cinematic gems nearby. Thanks to our lousy HOA, my kids don’t get to live the thrill of chasing the ice cream truck – but dammit, they know the joy of watching a bad double feature under the stars.

I would like my MTV back for just a little while. Please?

Ok, I know I’m a little late with the MTV retrospective. The anniversary came and went a few days ago, but I was traveling home from vacation, and then had missing kitties, and then had to watch episodes of Real Housewives of New Jersey that I missed while I was gone. This is the first chance I’ve had to reminisce about my experiences with the inception of MTV.

My first MTV video was not “Video Killed The Radio Star.” When I was channel surfing our Vision Cable lineup in August of 1981, I stumbled across Rod Stewart singing “Tonight’s the Night” and thought, “well, what’s this all about?” Another video followed. I want to believe it was Leo Sayer singing “How Much Love” but I could be horribly wrong. All I know is the videos went on, and on, and on, and on.

My sisters got involved and very interested. We were glued to the TV. Even when MTV played filler segments – usually footage of space launches and building demolitions accompanied by rock and roll instrumentals – we were riveted. We loved Martha Quinn, were jealous of Nina Blackwood, and tolerated the male VJ’s (hearing the phrase “triple J” got annoying quickly). It was all so new – not just the concept of a video, but bands I had never heard of before; The Pretenders, Madness, Ultravox, The Silencers, Human League.

It wasn’t long before my mother was pulling her hair out by the roots screaming “I hate my MTV!” We monopolized the main living room tv at all hours. Doritos and diet Pepsi on hand, we watched that channel 24/7. And while many people talk about the greatest videos to appear on MTV, I tend to remember the oddest/clever/crazy videos – the one’s that made you say “what. the. fuck.” Here is are a few of the videos (that I can’t think of right now) that made the early days of MTV truly classic:

Fish Heads – Barnes & Barnes
If you choose to watch the link, forward to about 2:15 – the stuff before is mindless filler, but just further illustrates the nutsy cuckoo mindset behind this video and song.

Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush
Early, unimaginative video at its best. Had she filmed this a few years later, I can see a professional video shot with castles and mist-covered moors. Instead, we have strange Kate dancing around in a white dress.

Remote Control/Illegal – The Silencers
Skip past the Peter Gunn theme to :55 to get to the crux of the video they used to play on MTV. We LOVED this video. The dude in the white tux – the broad with the straps criss crossed over her ample bosom, Eye patch guy, and a chick getting whiplash courtesy of her boyfriend in the concert crowd.

She Blinded Me With Science – Thomas Dolby
Really, who doesn’t love this song? The weird old guy screaming “science!” – the mental ward – And Miss Sakimoto who you could pluck a mean bass on…what’s not to love?

Looking for Clues – Robert Palmer
Little tiny Robert Palmer wandering around a set with giant telephones, alphabet blocks, and a dancing plastic skeleton. A true Early MTV Mother F-ing classic.

Little Susie’s on the Up – Ph.D.
Most folks might remember Ph.D’s other hit “I won’t let you down,” which is also very list-worthy – but this is their little known other MTV offering. It’s such a bizarre little video; chick readies herself for the local dance contest while people around her eat little white balls of who the hell knows what.

Living In The Plastic Age – The Buggles
Ok, everyone knows the original video – but how many of you saw their other MTV classic? Love the yellow rubber gloves, and black painted gals doubling as keyboards. The heart police capture a young lad clad in nothing but safety goggles and blue & red cellophane – I’m sure that kid dies of embarrassment whenever this video is shown.

Backfired – Debbie Harry
What was she thinking. One of the worst MTV videos made on purpose. I mean, I can understand some really bad videos made before MTV was invented – they didn’t know what they were doing, so they have an excuse. And the song isn’t that bad – but that dude in the mask and barry manilow wig? fuggedaboutit.

Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello
I knew Elvis Costello existed through commercials I used to see for a record store during “The Uncle Floyd Show,” but I think this video was my first real exposure to his music. When he is playing guitar on the beach in a black suit and pink socks and then runs away rather spazmodically my sisters and I would absolutely lose it. And that gap between his front teeth is so fucking cool!

Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) – Haircut 100
I challenge anyone to not at least tap your feet to this song. The video, shot in a bowling alley with folks wearing socks on their hands? Come on – join the party and sing Why-eye-eye-eye-eye-eye-eye-eye-eye-eye-eye-eye-eye Feel the floor, sweets for my way.

Ant Music – Adam & The Ants
I thank MTV for introducing me to Adam Ant. The white stripe across the face, the swashbuckling boots, the stick with which to tap out the beat, the feathers, braids and clear lip gloss – I credit this video for my best Halloween costume EVER during my sophomore year at U of D. Dirk wears white socks.

I miss old MTV. I mean, I have loved The Real World, and Made, and Road Rules and several other MTV shows that sort of nudged out the old video format. But I wish they would commit one day a week – for just a few hours – to the old format of original, bad, clever, annoying, 80’s style videos.

And as a footnote, my kids stared at me with horror-like awe as I belted out the lyrics to every song mentioned above. Except Fish heads. That one isn’t too much fun to sing.