Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Calling Dr Casey

   I grew up in the age of black and white TV. We only had three channels, an unimaginable idea for any child nowadays. Even more unimaginable, we only had one television set in our home. My father was a strict warden and had rules about what we could watch. He was sure that certain programs would cause instant and irreparable damage to my brain. I shudder to think what he would say, if he saw me today, watching endless hours, back to back, of Real Housewives telecasts.

   The one television set was not in the living room, and oddly, not even in the den. It was in my parent's bedroom where viewing could be rigidly monitored. All TV viewing was done while in or on my parent's bed, occasionally the floor, and almost never while sitting on the silk arm chairs. Those chairs were strictly for show. We did not have TV tray tables to dine while watching. Food was never to leave the kitchen or dining room. Just one crumb in any room not specifically designated for dining, would most certainly have caused a rodent infestation and an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague.

    My parents slept in twin beds pushed one was welcome in my father's bed, so my mother, my sister and I would crowd on a twin bed in the evenings after dinner. My father would fall asleep instantly, snore loudly and was seemingly oblivious. But if a channel changed he would wake up as if he had been prodded with a hot poker and ask why were were switching the station.
All of the rules changed on days when i was sick.  I would start out propped up with pillows on my mother's bed, and from early in the morning until time to go to sleep I could watch TV. I would begin my morning with the "Today" show, then "Captain Kangaroo" and of course "Tom Terrific".  As we reached midday there would be reruns of everything from "The Rifleman" to "I love Lucy".

   We were by no means a wealthy family, but those were different times, so we had a maid who came in five days a week. She was a young Negro woman named Lula. People weren't "African American" yet. In the early 1960s they weren't "housekeepers", they were maids especially in the south.  She wore her street clothes to the house and changed into her uniform in the powder room. Lula was young and cool. I remember her dancing in the kitchen. She must have had a transistor radio that she listened to when ironing. A slide....a clap....a slide back and then a few strokes of the hot iron on the shirts....
   Lula loved her soap opera. She would plan cleaning my parent's room around it. If I was home sick, Lula would come in with a tray of hot tea with milk and buttered toast with a sprinkle of sugar. I would watch the soap with her. She would fluff the pillows around me and tuck in the blankets as if making the bed, even though i was in it. As soon as my tea and toast were done, she would bring in more. Lula made being sick a celebration! Who wouldn't want to be sick and stay in bed all day? The lure of my mother's bed was my Siren's call through out my school years. Any day that included a math or science test, you could almost always find me drinking tea under the blankets.

   I don't know what prompted this discussion, but one day, I remember very clearly being in my mother's bed and Lula was sitting on the edge. I was wearing my favorite flannel nightgown with "I'm a Little Angel" embroidered on front and crinoline wings sewn onto the back. Lula was wearing her starched white uniform and her black hair slicked back into a tight pony tail. She tried to explain to me about  Negroes not be  being treated properly. She told me about Martin Luther King.  Shortly after our heart to heart, Lula left us. She said she could not work as a servant in someone's home. I loved Lula and didn't understand why she would work on the other side of town at a car-wash instead of our house until many years later.

I lived on a perfect suburban street, with nice houses and manicured lawns. There were children of all ages to play with me. I was lucky to have girls on either side, next-door or one or two over from my house. My next-door neighbor (who we will once again call Sally for anonymity) had the sweetest mother. She was very southern with alabaster skin that never saw daylight, a big orange bouffant and bright orange lipstick. Her father was a big man. He seemed to always have a glass of bourbon in his hand as he stormed through the house. His voice was deep and always serious. Sally's father was somehow connected to the governor and wore his importance as if it were a sash across his chest....he also was an important man after work as well. I remember Sally sneaking me into her parent's bedroom one day and showing me his shiny green robe and pointy hat to match. I thought its was amazing! I went home and told my parents about it. I don't remember their reaction, but I suspect living next-door to a Grand Wizard was not something that made them happy.
These were Sally's parent's rules: Sally was never allowed to come over to our house. I was allowed to play there. After the "green gown incident" you might have thought my parents would have had similar rules, but i was their fourth child and their parenting had relaxed a lot by the time i came along. A peculiar unspoken rule at Sally's house was that i was never asked to eat there. If we were playing and it was time for lunch, i was seated in the family room and Sally would be served lunch at the kitchen table. I would sit on the plaid sofa and watch as she was served and waited patiently for her to finish. In retrospect, i suppose her parents thought i would get "Jew" all over the forks and knives. Once it's on the flatware, there's no telling where it may spread.

   My other playmate was Jewish, so we had no rules of conduct to worry about. (we will call this friend Betty to protect her innocence) Betty and i could have meals and sleepovers anytime. And we did. Betty was friends with a girl that lived on another street and sometimes, if i was with Betty, we would play with her as well. Her name was Lori (not really) and she had a bad reputation among the  elementary school set. She was naughty, she knew all of the bad words and lived a life with almost no supervision. Her father was an oral surgeon who loved dating. Lori's mother was young and beautiful. She looked like a TV mother in smart tight-waisted shirt dresses and always a lit cigarette with perfect red lipstick impressions on the filter. She even drove a convertible sports car.

  We would go from house to house and play for a while until we grew bored, then go to the next house. We were never allowed as a group to go to Sally's house. Perhaps bands of children was also on Sally's parents "no list".  

  Betty, Lori and i loved playing doctor. One afternoon, the three of us were in Betty's bedroom with dark red plush shag carpeting. Our game of doctor was very sophisticated. We went for realism.
One of our exams included little Dixie cups from the bathroom and urine samples.We carefully collected and compared. After so carefully recovering specimens in the cups, Lori came up with a challenge. We had to stand legs apart and release just one droplet of pee onto Betty's red carpet. As if she had been practicing for this moment her entire life, Lori performed like a pro. Betty took the challenge and executed a perfect drop. Both of the girls pulled up their panties and now it was my turn, I dropped my drawers to the ground, but as i stood there i was consumed with laughter. Torrents of liquids flowed onto the carpet. This made the other girls squeal which unfortunately alerted Betty's mother to come in. She looked at me, with legs wide and panties around my ankles and an enormous wet spot on the new shag carpet. I was unceremoniously shown the door and a phone call to my mother was made. I don't remember the outcome, but it wasn't long before we were all playing again.

The "urine incident" kept us from playing at Betty's for a while,  and we were not welcome at Sally's, so off we went to Lori's house. The three of us were back to playing doctor in Lori's fancy house. It was sleek and modern just like her mother. I felt like i was in a Rock Hudson/Doris Day movie when i was there. It was nothing like my house. My parents were much older than Lori's. I had four older siblings and Lori was an only child. Other than being lax about letting me play at a KKK Grand Wizard's home, my parents had rules. Lori had none! We could do ANYTHING at her house because her mother was always too busy smoking and making phone calls (to private detectives who were following her husband) to be bothered with us.

Betty, Lori and I set up a hospital. Rows of sick and dying Betsy Wetsys, Chatty Kathys and Thumbelinas were being treated by our crack staff. We would take turns being the patient, the nurse and the doctor. At one point Lori felt Betty's forehead and then mine and ordered us both to bed. She assured us that we had raging fevers, but had to be sure. Ever committed to realism, Lori took two pencils, shook them as if they were thermometers and said she needed to take our temperatures....rectally

My mom always told me never to chew on pencils. She said you never know where they may have been....truer words never spoken.


Pink Lemonade Icebox Cake

6 oz fresh raspberries
7 T fresh lemon juice
4 C heavy whipping cream
12 oz softened cream cheese
1 1/4 C powdered sugar
2 T lemon zest
3 10 1/2 oz pkges of thin butter cookies...(or if you can find lemon Moravian cookies)

 combine raspberries, 1T lemon juice in food processor, pulse put aside
beat cream till soft peaks 
combine cream cheese and raspberry mixture with remaining lemon juice and sugar and beat for 3minutes then fold in whipped cream and lemon zest
arrange cookies in a 9" circle spread layer of cream then another layer of cookies...there should be 6 layers with a last layer of the creamy mixture on top
chill at least 4 hours


  1. Your stories are like mini movies. Great details.

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  3. Ruthie, beautifully told; I'd say 'crafted', but you'd say I was over-doing it, ye of modesty (Blaze!). I will one up the TV in the parents bedroom. Everyone in our hood for some reason had one TV (the some reason was no money) and they were ALL in the parents bedroom. Thing is, our parents' bedroom was not insulated. So when it was ten below zero outside, it was fifteen below zero in their bedroom. My best friend Steve, his sister Frannie (my sister's best friend) came over and the four of us had to watch some dumb TV show - so my parents made us put on winter coats (hoods up) before getting under the electric blanket on their bed. (No snow boots needed) I think we laughed more at the steam coming from our mouths than at the TV show! The sixties was a strange time, no?

  4. My brother just wrote something like this that was incredibly fascinating to me, but you have really set the bar high. My little girl friend next door wanted to play doctor long before we went to grade school. She had me take her clothes off and then proceeded to disrobe me, next, when her mother walked in unexpectedly, saw the scene of her in the nude and me in the process of removing my pants and assumed I was trying to seduce her daughter, never realizing that I was only a 4-5 year old boy who thought babies came in the doc's satchel. She must have quickly realized I wasn't that much of a prodigy at seduction or I would't be alive to tell it.

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  6. Thank you, Ruthie. This is is great! My parents had two separate beds pushed together under one headboard, too. On sick days, I always ended up in my father's side of the bed, watching reruns of I Love Lucy, which came on one after the other. (Today we'd call it binge-ing.) I hated the ones where they had moved to Connecticut. I was already a little sick critic.

  7. I love your fucking blog! Keep going!

  8. The TV set stowed away in the Maximum Security Outpost known as our parents bedrooms must have been a thing at the time. Ours was a 19 inch B/W on a metal rolling stand that was wheeled out for special events viewing. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan springs to mind. One of my first early friends after moving to NC had a color console with a rooftop auto-directional antenna operated by a box on top of the set that when initiated made this oh so authoritative "Just sit back and listen to me work" clunk, clunk, clunk like a sluggish time bomb, while it searched for the station that would bring us Get Smart, our mutual must see TV show. When I was banned from their house for being "a bad influence" I felt like I had been sent to the "Land of the Lost' (to name drop one of my little sisters favorite kid shows". Never could quite pin down the indiscretion that caused my banishment, and eventually my sentence lifted and I was allowed back into their house (although I always felt I was on probation) and the miracle of color TV re-entered my universe. No Clan garb in the closet thank goodness but his Mom had several wigs on styrofoam heads sitting on their bedroom dresser that gave me a jolt first time I peeked in there. Until that day it never occurred to me that women could loose their hair as well. I was stunned. Wondered for weeks if my Mom was going to go bald one day. And if she did would she have to moisturize her head like my uncle JW did. Really creeped me out for awhile until I fell off a skateboard and broke my arm turning all my attention back on me and how my arm itched and stank under that cast. Thanks for bringing all these memories back....You made my day!

  9. I remember people saying, "Don't sit too close to the b&w tv or you'll be damaged by it" !! I'm curious who Sally and Betty were... I probably knew them. LOL!

  10. Exactly why they are "Betty" and "Sally".....and "Lori"

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