Memories – Kid Shows and Poker with Grandma.

By Don Taylor

I’ll admit it. I grew up with television.  Every morning it was TV time.  During the summer, and other times when there
wasn’t school, it was TV for lunch (“Lunch with Casey” comes to mind), too. And, of course, after school was filled
with more kid programs.  It was the golden age
of television and kid programs of early 1960s were wonderful. 

House at 8316 Monroe still stands (Modern Picture)
Photo by Don Taylor
Probably my fondest memories of television were when we
lived in Spring Lake Park (A suburb of Minneapolis), Minnesota.  It was a tiny little one-bedroom house, about
780 square feet.  I didn’t have a bedroom;
rather, my bedroom was the “breezeway” between the house and the garage. In the
summer, it was glorious, but in the winter, the unheated room, without
insulation, which had louvered windows was a bit chilly. So, when I’d get up in
the morning it was quick into the main part of the house to warm up.
I was 11 or 12 years old – fifth and sixth grades – when we
lived there. I was an early riser.  Most
of the year, I’d have cold cereal, but in the winter my grandmother (Donna)
would make hot Purina or Cream of Wheat for me. Thinking about, it we were
pretty much a Ralston Purina household. 
We ate Chex, for the most part, when it wasn’t hot cereal. However,
mostly morning was getting ready for school, watching cartoons, and playing poker.
I was usually up by 6:30AM when “Siegfried and his Flying
Saucer” came on WCCO. Siegfried wasn’t really a cartoon; he was a drawing that
was put on screen.  No animation, just a
drawing. My memory is a bit fuzzy about if he even had a voice but his drawing
was better than the test pattern that was there before the show began. On Siegfried’s
there was also “Wallace the Weather Bear.” Wallace was also nothing but a
drawing on the screen, but he provided the expected high and low temperatures
for the day.  I think there were rain and
snow stickers they added to the drawing of Wallace when appropriate.
At 7AM came “Clancy the Cop.”  John Gallos was the host of the show and was just a nice guy.  I recall he was originally a Keystone Cop but metamorphed into “Clancy the Space Cop” and got a more up-to-date uniform. Fitting for the show that followed Siegfried.  In those days, cops were nice and were there to help people much more than to “protect” as they do now-a-days.  Anyway, he had help on the show from a nurse, Carmen the Nurse.
This early morning time was when my grandmother, Donna,
taught me poker.  We had a couple jars of
pennies, one for her and one for me and played penny poker every morning.  She taught me five-card stud, seven-card
stud, and five-card draw.  I think five’
stud was our favorite game. Years later
I was talking with my mother about my learning poker from “Grams” and she didn’t
recall it.  Maybe we didn’t begin until
after she left for work.  I don’t think
it was a secret, I think that it was just the way the morning were and poker
didn’t occur until I was ready to catch the bus to school.

School was a five-mile bus ride to the Twin Cities Army Ammunition
Plant (TCAAP), also known as the Twin Cities Arsenal.  Spring Lake Park didn’t have enough schools to
support the ballooning boomer generation. Rather than building new schools,
they rented some facilities and the Arsenal was one such place.  It was an odd place, even for its time.  I’m sure they couldn’t use such a place today
as, I recall, it still had bars on many of the windows left over from its World
War II factory days. Interestingly enough, I returned twenty-some years later
when I got a government job with the Defense Contract Administration Services
(DCAS) and inspected the Area Denial Anti-personnel Mine (ADAM) bomblets made
there.  Occasionally, I needed to go to
another building at the facility which was same building I went to for
elementary school twenty years earlier. They had taken the bars off the windows
by then.

Life in Spring Lake Park was great. Kid shows morning, noon,
and evening. Axel and his Dog broadcasting from his “tree house” on “Magic
Island” was the highlight of the afternoon. I think my sense of humor from his
closing poems which, continuing in the Robert Louis Stevenson tradition, always
began with:
“Birdie with a yellow bill, hopped upon my window sill,
cocked a shining eye and said:”
and finished with Axle’s punny endings such as:
“What is that in the road – A Head?”   
“What did you do in Saint Louis – Park?
“What did you do with the light bulb, socket? 
It was a memorable time with many pleasant memories.  Nevertheless, I think the fondest
recollection I have of the Spring Lake Park years was learning poker from “Grams.”


————- DISCLAIMER ————-

A favorite childhood memory – The steam car

The Steam Car – Motley, MN, circa 1962

A Childhood Memory

I recently received a very nice story from a friend regarding her childhood. After reading it, I thanked her for sharing it because it was a really nice story.  Then she asked me, “What are some of [my] favorite memories of childhood?”  Wow, good question.   Certainly, some of my fondest memories relate to visiting my grandfather, Richard Earl Brown, up in Motley, Minnesota. One of my favorite memories was the first time I drove a “car” by myself.

Me sitting on the steam car ready for a drive
Motley, MN  circa 1962
(The red barrel on board contained the water.)

I had this crazy uncle.  I’m not sure he was actually an uncle, he may have just been some distant relative they called “uncle,” or maybe just a neighbor that they called “uncle.”  Anyway, this uncle was into steam power.  In the early 1960’s he believed that steam would make a comeback. He had built several large steam powered “tractors” that were in various stages of operability.  He also built a much smaller “car.”  This was a real contraption: a steam engine, with space behind the driver for wood, a tank for water, and open belts and pulleys on an old truck chassis with car tires.

One day “Uncle Steam Engine” fired started a fire in the box of the small steam car and had me load it up with wood to get a good head of steam going. Once it had a good head, and he showed me how to operate the contraption he let me go and take it around the block.  At that time it was all dirt roads around his place but it was amazing.  It probably only went about 25 or 30 miles per hour and you had to slow down a lot to corner the bald tires around the soft sand but it was amazing.  No horn but it did have a funny low pitched whistle which kind of sound like a “Dooo.” I was about 12 at the time and found this experience to be one of the most exciting experiences of my life.

I would love to hear from anyone who remembers who it was in Motley that had the steam engines.  As I recall he lived south and east of the Hanson Bait Shop and only a few blocks from the old Brown house (Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown and her son, Richard Earl Brown) in the early 1960s.

Thanks Lee Ann for asking and helping me remember an interesting and exciting experience from my youth.