Tuesday, January 31, 2017

From Dance Contest Winner to Dated Freestyler

I used to win prizes in dance contests in school, and at the American Legion Hall, Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, CA.  I knew all of the latest styles - the Jerk, Mashed Potato, Twist, Swim, Pony, the Shake, Watusi, the Hully-Gully, and the Funky Chicken...for starters.  I had energy and commitment, while looking like an escapee from an insane asylum, in my performances. 

There was also a group participation dance called: "The Continental", which involved numerous people dancing in step with each other, in a long line. That was fun, as there was a team of us dancing in a cool, way, not like the "Bunny Hop" of our parent's era.

In the 1960s, dancing partners were optional, which was a good thing for our pre-high school crowd, because the boys rarely participated.  They either sat in chairs that lined the wall, hung around the iced barrel of soft drinks, or played Ping-Pong, while the rest of us tore up the floor. 

The rest of us - girls, that is -  and one or two brave males - usually the best dancers in the school -  rocked the scene with movement.  In our school, the boys were Bill Keach and Alford Patrick.  Here is a picture of me with Alford (he's the dude in the center of the shot), and yes, we were dancing together -  but you can't tell that from the photo.  Truly, we were all really in our own worlds, grooving to the tunes. I'm the girl on the right, with my head turned around.  Who needed to look at our dancing partners, anyway?

Slow dances were an exception for some of the boys, who either liked a girl, or liked to feel up a girl, or both.  We didn't follow any specific rules. However, I was accused by several male partners that I was "leading", which was a no-no.  I'm still unclear on that concept.

Some of the dance contests were based upon style.  There were others which had nothing to do with dancing technique.  For instance, there was the "freeze" contest, where, when the music played, you froze instantly when the music was stopped.  A pre-pubescent teenage boy who wouldn't be on the dance floor in a million years enjoyed holding the phonograph arm, pulling it up to stop the music at various times, as we dancers became his puppets.
Prizes ranged from school supplies to games or candy, etc.  Once, I won a box of Raisinettes - my favorite candy - and I was THRILLED with the prize......

.................until I remembered that I had given up candy for Lent, so gave the box to a friend. 

Dancing for me was always informal - I could never get into square dancing or "Dancing with the Stars" kind of stuff.  It was just a way to express myself when hearing music.  Outdoor or indoor, every dance move I do screams my age.

At my step-daughter's wedding (see below), the moves are familiar.  That is my husband behind me...we didn't have to look at each other.  Same M.O. as in my teens.  I have not progressed in style, just years.

These days, more often than not, I am carrying a camera while dancing. Here I am with another lively soul, at a 4th-of-July event a few years ago(American Legion again - this one in HMB).

Of course, it helps to dance with someone who enjoys the art of the free-form dance, like Tom here. The ladies love this guy, and why not? He DANCES!

I guess the point is that, even though I lack style, referring back to ancient moves, I'm having fun re-living my youth and also my oldth, shaking more than I ever could have when young. Well........there's a lot more to shake these days!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Large Family Dynamic

Growing up in a large family can be challenging.  For instance, there were so many of us, that occasionally one would get lost.  One memorable instance was when we all went grocery shopping with my mom at the Super-X Market.  After we did our shopping, we loaded up the car, and came home.  As we were unloading the groceries, Mom asked: "Where's Ben?"  "I dunno....around here somewhere..." 

 We looked everywhere, and then Mom asked if anyone remembered if (2-yr-old) Ben was in the car coming home from the store?  None of us could recall Ben's presence in the car...., panic time!  Mom called the store, and they said that yes, Ben was there, and having quite a time.  The clerks had bought him ice cream, and were fussing over him, when Mom arrived to bring him home.  He hadn't even missed us. 

 I could see the wheels turning in our heads.  How to get lost ourselves next time, so we could score some ice cream?

Another thing about large familes is that you are noticeable when you are all together. You are part of your own army.  Every time we would go out, people would stare at us.  We became accustomed to being looked at, when we were out.  

When there were just 7 of us.

The advantages were that we always had someone to play with.  Some disadvantages were that we had to share - food, space, talk-time.  There was never enough food; if one of us was unwise enough to leave their plate for a second, someone else would consume the rest of our meal!  We all learned to eat fast.   

Speaking of food... There were times when there was nothing but vinegar and sugar in the house, so we made taffy. We had dogs, and if the dogs were hungry, I remember dipping old lettuce in the coffee can filled with bacon grease on our stove, and feeding it to them. 

There wasn't just competition for food, that extended to  "talk-time", as well.   Arlo would really become frustrated, because his thoughts were so many and so long,  that when he paused in the middle of one of his monologues, another of us would jump in to comment.  "Stop interrupting me!" Us:  "Stop interrupting my interruption!"  

Later, as the older sister, I had young siblings hanging onto me, trying to get their own words-in-edgewise.  Sometimes it felt like "Night of the Living Dead", with all the little hands reaching up.   But the need for talk-time was always there.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Brakeless in Pacifica

Our car accident in 1963 made all the newspapers even as far as Bakersfield!

I was 11 at the time, and my mom was driving us to church. We were at the top of steep Manor Drive, a 3-mile-winding road. The brakes went out on our 1951 Studebaker at the top of the hill, and my mom didn't know anything about the overdrive feature on the car, which rendered the gears useless. She told us that we were all going to die, and needed to say the "Act of Contrition" (the prayer that Catholics say to get into Heaven, if they think they are going to die soon).
Pretty terrifying!   Arlo was in the front seat of the car, facing Laurie and I in the back, screaming his head off, Laurie on the floor, me holding on to the back seat.   Miraculously, mom drove that car like a champion, and dodged everyone and everything in her path, as that car took on speed.

We hit the beach, flipping over the the dunes three times, and miraculously, we all survived that accident. Mom had a cut finger, I had glass in my legs, along with bruises, Laurie had to stay in the hospital for a few minor injuries, while Arlo didn't even have a scratch. Here are some of the news clippings (some are embellished for dramatic effect, but the basic story is there).


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Watts Happening!

Arlo loved to listen to late-night radio, long after the rest of us had gone to bed.  I would get up in the middle of the night, look downstairs, and see a light under his door.  He liked to listen to far-off stations, like XERB in Tijuana, Mexico, with Wolfman Jack.

 Arlo & I used to put together crystal set radios, mostly for the novelty of being able to produce our own radios.  They didn't pick up much signal, but they were fun, nonetheless, and magical, when we heard real stations broadcasting over our creations. Never mind that they sounded distant enough to be broadcasting from Mars!

Arlo enjoyed messing with electronics, in spite of numerous mishaps with electricity.   One memory that stands out is when he was about 11, and I asked him to test some Christmas lights for me.  When he plugged them in, a huge spray of sparks flew out of the socket, sending my brother reeling back with several loud shrieks.

On an unrelated note, sparks flew another time, when one of my brothers lit a Piccolo Pete on the kitchen stove, to bring back outside (we had run out of matches!), which went off prematurely on the kitchen floor.  There was a black hole in the tile from then on.

Arlo's interests in electronics and radio continued; as an adult, he was a licensed electrician, and radio host for KMUD radio in Humboldt County, California, which he started, and which continues to this day.  Arlo also hosted the "Environment Show", with current news about recycling, clean energy, and environmental issues.  He had his own music show, called Random Axxes, for many years.  It didn't hurt that my brother was also a musician, who interviewed many famous musicians and others through the years, on his show.
  Each show had a web page that Arlo built himself. 
 The name of his electrical repairs business website was "Watts Happening". He used Hunter S. Thompson's line: "Electricity is neutral. It doesn't want to kill you, but will, if you give it a chance" on his website and ads. 

Arlo built his own computers, what I called: "Franken-computers", back when most people didn't have them in their homes.  I often wonder what he would be doing today, as he was always ahead of the crowd.  His spark of interest as a child led to his vocations and passions.  I think he'd continue to be an advocate of alternative energy, and other ways to protect the planet....as well as continue to be the town electrician, and musician.  For more about Arlo, go here: http://arlohagler.blogspot.com/

Monday, December 26, 2016

Kiddie Shows

In late May of 1965, my brother Arlo sent a postcard to the Mayor Art Show, a popular local kiddie show of the time.  Mayor Art had a big drum that the postcards went into, and those whose postcards got picked from the drum got to be guests on the show. We were in shock when, two days later, we got a phone call that Arlo's postcard was picked for him to be a guest on the show the next day!  The next day also happened to be Arlo's 12th birthday!
Mayor Art, with fans

Mayor Art Finley, with two kids on his show.
  My mom took my brother Tom and myself, along with Arlo, to the studio. As we sat in the audience, one of the show's crewmen came out, and asked all of the kids in the audience to join the Mayor on the stage, as part of the City Council.  Arlo and Tom went up there, but I stayed behind - after all, I was 13 years old, certainly not a kid anymore! But the crewman didn't see me that way, and cajoled me into joining the kids on the stage. 

Word had gotten out that it was Arlo's birthday, so Mayor Art let Arlo ride his big tricycle. Arlo had a bit of trouble handling the trike, and crashed it into one of the cameras.   Oops! For myself, I was just proud (and relieved) that when the microphone was put in my face, I remembered my name!

At the end of the show, as always, the Mayor looked into the television camera, and said: "We'll be seeing you...." and we all joined in: "SUBSEQUENTLY! 

 After the show, we all lined up to leave, and Mayor Art (Art Finley) gave us each a box of Capn' Crunch cereal (which was new at the time) and a colorful cellophane top hat.

 When we got home, we had to share the cereal with our other siblings, which was o.k., because we were minor celebrities when we went to school (all of our classmates had seen us on t.v.)

My father was friends with another local kiddie-show celeb, Marshal J. (Jay Alexander).  My sister Laurie and I went to visit Marshal J at his studio barn.  His dog Rowdy was nowhere to be found, but the barn set looked the same.

Click here for more information about Marshal J. 

 We also briefly met Captain Satellite (Bob March), another local kiddie host, who was giving out Milk Duds at the Westlake shopping center. 

 The Captain was a lot shorter than I had expected, and quite likeable.

   Many years later, my husband and I took our daughter to meet Captain Cosmic (Bob Wilkins), which was just as exciting for me as meeting Mayor Art.

Wilkins was pretty funny; every time he would announce prize winners, everyone would clap, and he would exclaim: "And the crowd is alive!" Captain Cosmic had a robot named 2T2, which Kelly loved so much. that she dressed up as a robot that Halloween.

Here we are with "Captain Cosmic", a.k.a.   Bob Wilkins

I should mention the local Kiddie Show hosts we didn't meet - Bob March, with his puppets "Charlie & Humphrey" on KTVU Channel 2,  and "Skipper Sedley", who later became "Sir Sedley", on KRON Channnel 4 TV.   Skipper Sedley showed Popeye cartoons every day, and for a long time, Popeye was my favorite.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Our Brother Mark

My brother Mark was born with autism, but that wasn't the diagnosis until years after his 1955 birth.  He was like any other baby.
Mom with Mark, December 1955.
Later, when diagnosed, some of the "symptoms" of autism were there: hypersensitivity to light and loud noises, too much stimulation, etc.  But other typical indications didn't jibe.  Mark was always very affectionate, and enjoyed hugs.  He was always responsive to us, and sociable, and has always had a phenomenal memory.
Mark, wearing our grandfather's hat, enjoyed their visits.

Mark is very aware of each and every person in his family, and later his caregivers and friends.  Here he is (white shirt), hugging our mom, with a few of his siblings (being themselves), for my Polaroid shot: 

In fact, there are times when Mark can be TOO affectionate, as it involves strangers (mostly ample-bodied ladies), and Mark has been taught not to go up and hug people without their consent. This is an ongoing challenge.  :)  
Mark lived with us until he was 6 years old, when my parents realized that they couldn't handle him at home.   As it was, he almost killed himself, twice.
Mark, dressed up for Church.
Mark's first hospital visit was when he was 3, after trying to swallow from a can of Drano that he had found under the kitchen sink. My mom rushed him to the hospital, where, luckily, it never passed his lips, which were permanently burned by the caustic Drano.

Mark's next trip to the hospital was more serious. He was 6 years old, frustrated and angry.  He smashed his arm through a window, cutting up the length of it, requiring stitches.  After that incident, he was moved to Napa State Hospital.  I'll never forget the first time my mother and I went to visit Mark at Napa State.  We found out that he had bitten off the top of his index finger, apparently because he couldn't feel it. Mom was freaked out.  The hospital's medical staff experimented with medications and therapies, to keep some of the behaviors under control.

Even though he lived at Napa State full-time, Mark did come home for week-long visits during Easter and  Christmas vacations.
Mark was the best escape artist of us all.  How he did it, I still don't know, because we tried our best to keep a watch on him.   Mark took off a lot, often winding up around Skyline Blvd., the police finding him, and bringing him back home. 

It was difficult keeping an eye on Mark all the time.  My sister and I were charged with his care (being the two eldest), but we ourselves were only a few years older than him.  Mark was also physically strong, so it took two of us to hold him down.  That wasn't always possible.  My father ruled with an iron hand, and tried to keep us all in line by having us keep our arms folded, when not in use.  That worked o.k., until our family expanded to nine children. 
Where there were only 5 of us. LtoR: Deb, Arlo, Tom, Mark & Laurie

Mark enjoyed turning off our neighbor's power at the outside switch-boxes on their homes; he was a genius at figuring out how to get into those locked switch-boxes!  You can imagine that this didn't make us very popular with the neighbors. 

The neighbors across the street, the Millers, were particularly critical that such a large family could even exist (I constantly heard the neighbors criticize my mom for having so many kids).  The Millers had a beautifully-kept home, so probably were worried that their property values would go down, being situated so close to the Hagler "Animal House" across the street.  

Mark was regularly compelled to visit our neighbor's homes and use their water hoses, spraying those around.   
Mark and the hose

On one momentous day, the Millers were having a party, all of their guests dressed up.  Somehow, Mark left the house without our realizing it. We heard a shriek from across the street, and saw Mark holding a hose, turned on full blast, right at the Miller's picture window. The Millers and their guests were peeking out that picture window, horrified.  That was one of the occasions when Mrs. Miller would march over to our house, and have a yelling match with my mom.  I remember them out in the middle of Inverness Drive, screaming at each other, embarrassing my sister Laurie and I. 

Some of the neighbors looked out, to see what was going on.  
(Busybody neighbor photo for re-enactment purposes only)
I still don't know why Mrs. Miller would object to Mark's washing her windows.  

Mark also liked to throw things over the fence.  A lot of stuff wound up in our neighbor's yard.  We used this to our advantage, when my father told us to go find a stick in the yard, for him to beat us with.  We'd look around, then give each stick to Mark. Over the fence it went! 

Of course, that didn't help in the long run, since our father always found something to beat us with.

Our yard had naturally-growing sweet peas and strawberries, which we scavenged for, as there was never enough food. But Mark was a meat-eater.  He ate snails, and threw away the shells.  If it grosses you out to read that, just imagine watching this happen. "Mark! leave that poor snail alone!"  I'm wondering if Mark just took after our French ancestors.  

After a disastrous experiment in community placement after his years at Napa State Hospital (part of then-Governor Ronald Reagan's releasing of mental patients to save the state money), Mark broke into houses, and almost killed a little girl (he hit her over the head with a 2x4 piece of wood).   The girl's parents threatened to sue the state, if Mark wasn't locked up again, so he was brought back to live at Napa State Hospital. 

During that time, he participated in Special Olympics, and won ribbons for running. He was great at running (and escaping; during one event, he gave my sister Sue and I the slip, when he went to use the restroom, and we had to chase him down).  Here he is before he took off:

In 1986, Mark was moved to live at the Sonoma Developmental Center, where he lives today. For years, our brother Arlo visited Mark there, sometimes with our mom.  
Mom, Mark and Arlo

 The family joined in on many occasions, as well. 

 Mark never lost the urge to try to run off.   Here, he has that look of chagrin at being "caught". 

Just before Mom died, she asked that we continue to visit Mark, and to look after him.  We promised that we would.  I became Mark's Conservator, with two sibling "back up" conservators,  Susan and Tom.    

Mark's concept of death is partly based upon the absence our father, who stopped seeing him, after awhile.  When Mark would ask us: "Where's your friend Dad?" we would tell him that his father  couldn't be there, that he was "...in Washington".    When the inevitable passings occurred, and Mark asked, we'd say that they couldn't be there, and Mark would conclude that they were also "...in Washington." 

When we visit Mark, we all take him out to the Black Bear Diner, in Sonoma. This is part of the annual tradition.

 Mark loves chocolate milkshakes - in fact, he always orders two...and finishes them!  
Then we go on a "candy run" at CVS Pharmacy, before we attend the annual meetings with his caregivers. Mark is very particular about the candy he buys. We must surround him at all times, because he does like to escape. 
Mark has his own "Secret Service" crew, when shopping.

 We also have our gifts for him, since his birthday (and Christmas) coincides with the meetings.

On my 60th birthday: LtoR: Georgia, Tom, Jenel, me, Ben, Sue, Mark, Kelly, George & Joe.

Once we return to SDC, the candy is stored away, and rationed out through the year, to Mark and his friends.  He always attends the meetings, and provides input about his care. He has progressed a great deal with the care that he has gotten at SDC.  He has learned to write his name - a huge accomplishment.  

I receive cards signed by him, for special occasions, even on Father's Day

We are facing a challenge right now, in that the Sonoma Developmental Center will be closing, and all of the residents will be transferred to special homes and Regional Centers. I received a call last week from Mark's social worker, who said that there may be a secure home for Mark to move to, place where he and his two roommates could share a room.  It looks promising, so we will all be following up on it. Wish us luck!