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 Madison", 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 families 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.  

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. The car was a used 1951 Studebaker. I was sitting in the back seat, behind my mom; my sister Laurie was next to me, and our brother Arlo was in the front seat. No seat belts, of course. This was before seat belts were installed in most cars. Also, before shatter-proof glass in the windows. 

Similar to the Studebaker we had.
 I was holding on to a small stuffed leopard that I named "Leopard QQ".  I brought him everywhere with me, my own pocket-sized "pet".  For whatever reason that I have never been able to fathom, I blurted out: "This is the first time I've ever ridden in this car....and the last!" My sister seemed to think that was funny. Not sure why I said it, but it turned out to be prophetic.

We were on our way to church, and had just passed the first crest of Manor Drive, a steep, 2-mile-winding road. At that point, my mother pumped the brakes, and got no response.  She tried the gears, also getting no response. My mom didn't know anything about the overdrive feature on the car, which rendered the gears useless. She then told us, as we were hurtling down the hill, that: "we are all going to die, we need to say the Act of Contrition" (the prayer that Catholics say to get into Heaven, if they think they are going to die soon)*.  I was so terrified, I couldn't remember the words. I hoped that God would understand my intent! 

Arlo was screaming his head off, looking towards the back.  He was expressing what we all were feeling! Laurie got on the floor, and I held on to the back seat.   Mom drove that car beautifully, dodging everyone and everything in her path, as that car took on speed.  Anyone who knows that road will understand what a challenge that was. On the way down, she hit not one thing...or person. 

We hit the beach, flipping over, twice. I remember counting the rotation of the car as it flipped over. The sand helped to slow us down, which was a good thing, as the edge of the cliff was only a few feet away.  I don't remember emerging from the car.  I didn't realize that Leopard QQ wasn't with me, until later.

Miraculously, we all survived that accident.  Some people came out to put blankets over us, and called an ambulance. The car was balanced on its roof, not crumpled-up, but intact.  Gas was leaking, and someone told everyone to keep a distance. 

Later, witness accounts were reported:  
"Mrs. Hagler shot through a green light at the traffic-congested Cabrillo highway. bounced through the shrubbery-along- the beach after which she' and the children were slammed around the inside of the car when it rolled over in the sand, and came to rest on a crushed top.  This was also the lucky day for two 14-year-old Sacramento girls, Marina Brumley and Linda Kline, who were missed by inches as it hit the sand.   Mrs. Hagler and son Arlo, 9, got out a window while the two girls, Debra, 11, and Laurie, 10, got out a door that had sprung, open. The car had lost a wheel, and gasoline was leaking.  All four were taken to Peninsula hospital where they were checked out, and released."

Mom had a cut finger, I had glass in my legs (still have the scars), along with bruises, and Laurie had to stay in the hospital for a few minor injuries. Arlo didn't even have a scratch. I guess his screaming helped!

Later, when the wrecking yard hauled the car away, they found Leopard QQ in the sand, and he was returned to me. I was comforted by their thoughtfulness.

We never did make it to church that day, but were told that Father Gluszek said a prayer for us. Someone mentioned that the "miracle" had already happened. We were in church the next week, however, giving thanks. 

Here is a picture of our mom, Marie Hagler, and our family in 1963, just before that accident (and before our brother George was born)

Two years later, Mom was driving a more reliable car, the TR3:

The last time I saw my mom was in 2008, to say goodbye.  She was in the hospital, and would pass away shortly afterwards. Among other things, I told her that she "drove like a champ" that day.  That put a smile on her face. 

Here are a few of the news clippings of our crash. Some news reporters embellished for dramatic, almost tabloid effect: "Dame Fortune rode with the 31-yr-old housewife."  (San Mateo Times). "A Cannonball ride in a car..." (Oakland Tribune) "Mrs. Marie Hagler inched her wheezing 1951 sedan...."

There were also details which were not true - or, I guess important, about what we kids were doing or where we were in the vehicle, etc. The San Francisco Examiner had the most accurate reportage, and a great visual to go with it (click on the photos for larger images):

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love.I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen."

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 was instrumental in helping save the Sinkyone Wilderness from massive clear-cutting and development. 

Arlo hosted 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/