Tag Archives: childhood

Birthday Cards From Neil Armstrong


Every year from age 5 to 9 I received a birthday card from Neil Armstrong the astronaut.

My grandmother forgot to send a card once, but Neil Armstrong always remembered.

I assumed he sent everyone in the world birthday greetings. Hey! if you can walk on the moon, sending billions of birthday cards is probably no big deal.

On my 10th birthday there was no card. I was sad.

My mother sympathetically explained that the birthday cards were actually sent by the family’s insurance agent Army Armstrong, or more likely his secretary.
We had changed policies and there would be no more cards.
I guess the old policy included a birthday card clause or something.

In hindsight, it was still nice to be remembered every year on my birthday by a complete stranger who didn’t really care about me.


note: Nowadays the Post Office sends me a card on New Year’s Day, but it’s just not the same thing.

double note: My grandmother sometimes forgot to send a card, but some years she sent two. Those things usually even out over enough birthdays.

triple note: the photo is of a “stone frog mailbox” I drive by occasionally. I’m still not sure if I think it’s cool or not. I guess it could be a “Postal Toad“.

quadruple note: I wouldn’t be writing any letters to these people on flypaper!



Battery Operated Toys



Do you remember your first battery operated toy?

Mine was a Billy Blastoff.

That’s when I knew for sure my parents loved me and were never going to let me run away and be raised by wolves like I threatened occasionally.

How could they give me something so amazing? Just give it to me; and it was mine!
Not my sister’s; although she had a Lite-Brite and seemed to be enjoying makin’ things with light. She was outtasite most of the time doing that, so my Billy Blastoff was safe.

It was all too incredible and the best part was it needed batteries.

If batteries hadn’t been invented yet, I would have been seriously crushed.

Batteries: small chunks of love! Almost better than chocolate!

note: Don’t stick that 9 volt on your tongue. Too late!

double note: I had the whole spacekit and never lost any of the pieces for Billy Blastoff or nothing! That TV was awesome!!!

triple note: Why do we have to grow out of toys, give them a way, and then want to grow back in to them again?



Wasn’t kindergarten great!

Finally out on your own and hanging out with other kids finally out on their own.

Lots of new things happening …..

Curriculum: coloring, singing, story-time, finger painting, and clay art. I made an ashtray! Don’t forget learning complicated dance routines which involved being physically and verbally pushed around by your teacher.

Equipment: lunchbox; crayons; paints, big brush, and painting smock. When was the last time you wore a painting smock? I bet you miss it. There was even playground equipment designed just for you too!

Field Trips: farms, zoos, aquariums, museums; bus, train, and best friend’s mom’s car for transport. Yes, part of the jet-set finally!

Special Stuff: puppet shows, yoyo exhibitions, and more birthday cake than you could shake a stick at. (if your motor skills were developed enough to shake sticks)

Productive Citizen: buddy system responsibilities, supplier of fridge art for your family, contributor to family dinner conversation – “Randy peed in his pants today.”, “Spot is good, but Clifford is gooder.”

Ahhh! To be 13 years old again!!

note: former fridge art.



Snake Wrangler

My older sister has always had a job. Always!

Collecting pop and beer bottles, shining our Dad’s shoes, picking blackberries, …

The most unique was catching and selling snakes at 10 years old.

Someone advertised for snakes in the local newspaper: 10 cents for small ones, 15 cents for big ones.

My sister enlisted her friends and myself; we looked in fields, flipped over plywood sheets in empty lots, and scoured the bushes. We found a few and deposited them in our plastic bucket. My sister had the great idea of looking in people’s backyards: compost piles were here goal. She knocked on neighbour’s doors, told them of our mission, and was never turned away.

We collected about 90 garter snakes over a weekend.

The people buying the snakes wanted them for a university lab. We were their only suppliers.

They were surprised to be doing business with a 10 and 7 year old.

We got about $11 for the snakes; pretty good money back in 1972

My sister put her share in the bank; I blew mine on candy.



I like fireworks.

I’ve seen some amazing 2-3 hour displays: non-stop boom, boom, boom.

They must scare the crap out of animals and mess up Google Earth photos.

My sister’s dog usually likes to go for walks, but from early October to mid November it’s a homebody. It hates Halloween; more specifically firecrackers, screechers, and roman candles.

As a kid, Halloween fireworks meant a cheapie bag of pyrotechnics.

I’ve had more fun with a book of matches.

They always concluded with something called “The School House”. It was just a Little House on the Prairies‘ paper school house that burned down when lit.

I’ve done better with a cereal box in the fireplace.

Kids in South America are lucky: no age restrictions for buying fireworks, no regulations, no nothing.

Light them off anywhere, tie them to your back if you like, anything goes.

In Ecuador almost everynight there are fireworks going off in celebration of some Saint’s day or religious holy day.

I think that’s why so many people are religious in South America: it’s the fireworks!

Surfing with the Aliens


When I was 15 years old, a man in my hometown vanished.

When he disappeared, he left the following note for his parents:

“Dear Mother and Father. I have gone away to walk aboard an alien spaceship, as re-occurring dreams assured a 42-month interstellar voyage to explore the vast universe, then return. I am leaving behind all my possessions to you as I will no longer require the use of any. Please use the instructions in my will as a guide to help.
Love, Granger”

He was a mechanical genius: restored a steam engine, built a replica Kitty Hawk war plane, and fixed the unfixable.

He was also intrigued with UFOs and built a flying saucer shell on his parents’ property.

As far as I’ve heard, he was a friendly eccentric character.

I was fascinated with his disappearance.

42 months later, he didn’t return. I was really hoping he would come back with amazing stories to tell.

Years later some hiker’s found his remains behind one of the local mountains. He’d blown himself up in his truck trying to reach the stars. (dynamite is not good rocket fuel)

I still like to think he really did go away with the aliens, and he’s out there somewhere surfing with them now.

Some mysteries shouldn’t be solved.


note: for more info on his disappearance check out these links:



Time Tunnel


The local department store, where I live in Japan, has a car park. The 2 are connected by a 3rd floor walkway.

Once or twice a week I use this walkway.

They don’t play English music in the parkade or the department store, but there is always English music playing in this corridor.

Old 70’s music!

It’s my own personal time tunnel: Jim Croce’s “Operator” lives; so does Carole King’s “So Far Away”, and The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar”.

Out of the car, into Nazareth’s “Holiday” for 10 seconds, and then I pop-out into the department store.

It’s fun running the gauntlet; it reminds me of the local radio station I listened to as a kid. Same songs, but they were new or mildly dated then.

Maybe it’s channeling CKAY 1500 AM “Voice of the Cowichan Valley” ; but at least it’s not channeling the Birthday Line crap.

I never did win a birthday cake from that program.


When my sister was 8 years old, her school phoned and asked my mother to come and pick her up.

My mother was concerned, and hurried to the school.

She talked to the teacher and found out what the problem was:

The class had been talking about grandparents. At some time during the discussion my sister said her grandmother had died, and started crying uncontrollably.

My mother took my sister and left.

On the drive home my mother said, ” Gramma isn’t dead, you know that.”

My sister responded, ” Gramma Janes is”.

Our other grandmother had died 10 years before my sister was born!

My sister could have been an actor.

note: crying in class never got me a dayoff; just a schoolyard beating for being such a cry baby.

Electric Fences

I grew up in a dairy farming area on Vancouver Island: lots of electric fences to keep the cows from getting any thoughts in their heads about roaming the countryside sampling juicier grass.

Tagging along with my older sister and her friends, we encountered an electric fence.
“Let’s touch it”, someone said.
“Not me”, I declared.
“We will all hold hands and you can be on the end furthest away”, someone said.

It sounded good to me. I was only 8 years old. What did I know?
We all held hands. I was on the end thinking I would only get a little bit of the shock.
It had to go through so many people.
I was safe.
After getting the biggest jolt of my young life and pissing my pants, I learned the simple truth.

The person at the end gets it the worst!

Chicken Bones



When I was a little kid, my older brother had a friend with a very prominent lump in his throat.
I was fascinated with that big bump.
I asked him what it was.
He told me he had swallowed a chicken bone and it was stuck there.
Everytime he visited our house, I asked him about the chicken bone.
“Still the same” he always replied.

To this day, I don’t know how he got a chicken bone stuck in his Adam’s Apple.

He should’ve been more careful when eating chicken.