Early Pseuds


I was the star of a long-running, or at least constantly running, TV show at a tender age.

When I played on the 500 block of Laporte Avenue,  on the even side of the street, I had a screen name, a theme song, and a number of invisible cameras that broadcast my every move, my every pose, to a waiting world.

I’m not sure which came first. I remember standing next to the sidewalk there at 512, looking off to the distance, wearing cowboy garb and holding the little rifle that made a substantial click when you fired it (after cocking it), and I was Magic Man. So I guess I had a clue that super heroes were a thing, even if my notion of costuming was rudimentary, but certainly convenient.

Magic Man could basically do anything. Not that he did. He mainly struck poses. I may have gotten bored with Magic Man early on, though I yearned for a magic finger (something Kathryn spoke of), and when I got to throw a penny in a fountain at some eating place in Loveland with Grandma Mimi & Aunt Mary, I was angry at myself for wasting the wish on something that wasn’t a magic finger. When would I get another chance like that?

I think The No ran a bit longer, and must have had better ratings. There were no particular ground rules, no powers to keep track of, and if there was any cast apart from me and whoever was standing around, it would have been Jack, my invisible twin, and possibly Pooh. Pooh’s still around here, though Jack took off without leaving a note some time in my grade school years.

The No had a theme song, which ran through my head and probably out of my lips, either as an aimless half-singing sound or as open-mouthed humming. The tune seems to be based in part on “The Erie Canal” (not the E-Ri-E), which also furnished some lyrics:

The No
Is a comin’, comin, comin’
The No
Is a comin’ to your town.

You can always tell your neighbor
You can always tell your friend
That The No’s motion pictures
Are a-never gonna end.

This was my joke. “The No”: What kind of name is that? How I must have laughed, at least once, though I don’t recall it. I played it close to the vest.

(No relation to The Flashlight, which was a one-off drawing on a small chalkboard we had at 512. It was a simple line drawing of a regular two-cell flashlight with “The” written over it. I had bridged the worlds of words and pictures, and I was still young and teeming with potential.)

The Flashlight, by the bye, is also loosely associated with mental images of The Three Stooges in the one where Curly’s attempts at plumbing caused water to gush from a painting of Niagara Falls, and a dowager looked up just in time to catch a cake falling from the ceiling. These must have come from a time when the Packard-Bell TV still showed pictures. There’s also some mental linkage there to a dream I had of finding a door in the back of a closet at 512 that led into a room where people were having a party. Some of them were wearing bird masks. Perhaps “Listen to the Mocking Bird” was playing on the record player? Probably not, but it would have tied it all together nicely.


There was a picture of me looking aggressively, nizoidally cute in an Easter suit at 512. Can’t find it just now, so here’s a more recent shot of how it all ended up.


Four Slides

In the course of making 2018’s annual Williams calendar, I scanned some extra slides. One of the following was done for the calendar, and the rest just because. Looking through the central core box of slides (Mom’s slide case, complete with lighted viewer), I see fewer slides left that I haven’t either scanned or have decided not to scan. Hey, is any of the younger generation interested in stuff like that?

lucile- mary- june 40s.jpg

A TRIO OF BABBITTS: Lucile, Mary, and June, with no date. Aunt June is clearly unhappy with all the flying black specks. Aunt Mary is thinking about the flying black specks. Mom has clearly decided to make the best of the situation, specks or no.

A little bit of color adjustment was done for this, as for all four of these slides. I made it a point to make specks in faces (and sometimes hands, and even hair) go away, but have found that life is much longer if I don’t chase each and every bit of dust, ancient or modern, in every photo I scan. Sorry for the specks, ladies.

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SEAL BAY, 1954: (ID’d as such on the slide frame), with Dad and his two girls. Martha has a life jacket. Kathryn has a watering can and a hat. Dad has two girls and a boat.

martha givhan kathryn ~56.jpg

SOUTH BROADWAY, ca1956: There was a packing crate, and it was a sort of house thing. Martha says she was always creeped out by it, so she’s inside, holding a doll out the window. Kathryn says she was creeped out by tunnels under the yard across the street (not depicted). Givhan’s being a kid. I was probably closer to the camera than any of them, gestating.

kmgk- 512- easter 60.jpg

EASTER 1960 at 512 Laporte Ave: The image is square because I didn’t put the slide in at a 90° angle, so the top and bottom were cut off. It would have been taller. Reluctant to scan it again and throw out my work despecking faces and correcting colors. But if I see our house number on it, I’ll be tempted anyway.

This concludes today’s presentation. I’d like to welcome my dear sis Kathryn for subscribing to this here blog. Because she is a subscriber, she receives notification of new blog posts, like this one, so she’ll know before anyone else. Wow! That’s something to think about.

1959. Colorado.

So there we were in northern Colorado, in the fall of 1959. I’m told that we were greeted by ‘Welcome Lady’ Phyllis Mattingly and that I played with her son David in a ditch while she told Mom about our new home town. We looked for housing, visiting at least one house that I used to wish like mad we lived in (NW corner of Mountain & Shields), and settled on good old 512.

Our friends, the Brookses, were already in town, and they helped us get set up. It couldn’t have been too long after that that X-L-Art (Brooks’s company) employee Ron Kerr became Dad’s best friend. Ronnie made us a blue neon house number that we switched on with pride at night. Who wouldn’t be proud? 512!! A small house with three modest bedrooms, in the middle of town where it was easy to walk a handful of short blocks and be right at Al’s NewsStand. And many other places, I guess.

Hanging out a lot was a way of life. I felt fairly free about my right to go walking down the sidewalk and all the way around the block. I used to roam around and explore. I think I once walked right into the Straubs’s house when they weren’t there, gazed this way and that, and perhaps realized I shouldn’t be there, though that may be giving me too much credit at that point. I not only wasn’t unusually aware, I may even have been unusually unaware, or at any rate, not paying attention to the right thing.

We had at least one visit from Uncle Don & family in the early 1960s, and took their photo on the same front porch where we photographed ourselves. Dad and Uncle Don being hikers, we all went hiking. Better still, they hiked while we played Magic Police Boys (for some reason, not superheroes yet) in the obliging forest whose trees provided us with scenery and props, up to and including horses (horizontal trunks).



Field work

I said if I got a more recent pic that was good, I’d share it here. She had a class assignment to photograph herself with the setting sun at four specific times of the year. Once the first one was finished, I asked her to smile for the relatives. See how nicely she smiles for you?

(Hover your cursor over the photo, and a larger version appears mysteriously. Ooo-OOO-ooo! Well, it does for me, anyway. Maybe you didn’t make the noise loud enough.)

A Very Good Place to Start

My earliest memory is undated, unlocated. I was in a bed, maybe my crib, looking at the room I was in. There was a door—a cabinet, or a closet—and I wondered what was behind it. I had some sense that the room door led to a corridor. That’s the whole thing.

Another early memory has a time and place, thanks to others in my family that I’ve told it to. We (no consciousness of who I was with) were walking along a gravel (I suppose) lane in a neighborhood. Someone said something about “along the beach,” or “Long Beach,” and I wonder where the beach is. We pass a house with a swingset in the yard, with a swing where the two seats face each other. I wanted to be on that swing, but didn’t try to go to it. Then we arrived at our destination, the back porch of a house (actually a cabin) where I see a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, possibly near a hot plate. I’m informed that this was Aunt Linda’s cabin in Long Beach, California, and it was most likely 1959.

I would occasionally dream of California in later years, but for the most part I was putting in names and places my family had talked about. I doubt that these have much of value as valid memories. My dream of driving toward Disneyland may have some accuracy—we were going through groves of orange trees. If I didn’t get that from someone else, it’s a bit of a real memory.

Stories are told of our California days. They used to have me on a leash and harness so I wouldn’t dash out into the road. The harness still hung on a nail on the wall of the outside back porch of our house on Horsetooth Road (2221 Horsetooth Road, aka Rt 1 box 276N, aka Rt 5, box 276N, aka 2221 W. Cty Rd 38—they changed the street name after we were gone). We visited the Russian River in California, and were wading in it, and I went out too far and was caught in the swift current and floated off, laughing, while everybody panicked and ran along the bank, until they fished me out somehow. Should have had me on a harness.

Photos exist of our California days. We visited the San Diego Zoo (“Go San Diego?”) and the Griffith Observatory and Apple Valley (where the girls were so cute eating pie they got their picture in the LA Times, and Givhan’s name was printed as Gixhaix, a nickname that stuck) and Roy Rogers’s ranch/museum in Victorville or Silverado, whatever.

Dad's hat//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

There’s one of Dad and me, possibly in Colorado. It’s dated 1958, so it would most likely be in the hills of California, which sometimes can pass for the ones in Colorado.

In the Fall of 1959, we moved from California to Colorado. I was mostly oblivious to what was going on, but the Streamliner that Mom and I were on was memorable. While Dad was driving the girls cross country (Martha or Givhan had a nightmare once that they were driving through the desert and an arrow came out of nowhere and hit Dad in the head.), we were following the track, including the famed Georgetown Loop, through the Rockies. I was impressed by the green glass domes on the observation car, though all I remember doing up there was playing on the carpet for a few moments. Then Mom said we had to give someone else a chance to enjoy it (a real Momism) and I didn’t see it again. I was probably wasting my chance to look outside, playing on the thick carpet.

The really memorable thing about the train was the bathroom. A metal stool, integral with the tread-metal flooring, and the pedal on the floor made the bottom drop right out of it, and EVERYTHING JUST WENT OUT THE BOTTOM OF THE TRAIN AND ONTO THE TRACKS. How could I not be impressed by that? By the time I was in sixth grade, I had discounted the memory as a child’s fabulation, but I learned later that I had remembered it exactly right.

We arrived at Denver’s Grand Central Terminal and were met by Grandma Mimi and Aunt Mary. Walking out of the station, we passed a display of flip-flop blocks, flipping and flopping automatically on a motorized display. Of course, I wanted those too. I eventually got some at a thrift shop a few years later, which fell apart after a while. And for a time, I had a wallet that worked on the same principle. I think if you flexed it just right, all your bills fell right out, though I don’t think I really possessed any bills to test that theory.

If any other California memories pop up, I’ll add them.

family words and catch phrases

Stoopoo icky-ock-ock [a generalized term of distaste]

Gunk, gunk, grizzly bear! [somebody just wanted to say gunk]

Doddle [infantile term for milk: compare to ‘bottle’]

Yong-ee-tong egg yong [all purpose fake Asian]

Smud; also Smudbone; also Crudbone [Dad expressions, sometimes after yawning]

C’n I shum pie? [somebody wants pie]

Petey Petey George [still waiting for an explanation]

“C’mon, Baby Doll…” [Mom would give other drivers names, sometimes based on their license plates]

“…It’s not going to get any greener.” [when you’re second in line at the traffic light]

“What do you want me to do? BOW you across?” [Mom, to a too-slow pedestrian]

“You’ll take what you get and be happy with it!” [I’ll try this on my daughter some day, just for the novelty.]

“GO AHEAD. EAT EVERYTHING IN THE HOUSE!” [Backstory: I would ask Mom if I could have something to eat, like one of the expired Twinkies we bought at the bakery thrift shop. No answer. I’d ask again, and there would still be no sign that she heard. If I started to ask a third time, I’d get that response.]

Teeny Tiny Little Records

kid with record

At some point, we got a piece of junk mail with a little gimmick — to answer “yes” or “no” to whatever magazine subscription (or whatever) come-on it was, you were supposed to detach a little tiny plastic toy of a phonograph record and enclose it. Or something. One record said YES, and the other said NO. My parents, to whom it was addressed, looked at it for three or four seconds and threw it away.

I fixated upon it.

How old was I? Four? Five? Less than four? I was aware of the outside world and some things on television. Our TV worked sometimes, and sometimes I went and hung around at someone else’s TV. At any rate, internal evidence indicates I knew the characters in the Rocky and Bullwinkle universe, specifically Boris Badenov and the Moon Men, all of whom appeared in dreams that were at least somewhat memorable. I believe Cloyd and Gidney (the Moon Men) were in a dream first, where maybe I saw them in a grocery store or something. There was even a faint flavor of California in the dream, like it was from early on in the Colorado years, when I still dreamed of the old place some of the time.

At any rate, the more elaborate dream concerned Boris Badenov, and he had an elaborate and unwieldy contraption (My dreaming predilection for unconvincing visuals: could it be a legacy of these cartoons that I watched so much? Like the ‘squalid’ dreams seem to echo the poverty-stricken backdrops of Fleischer and Columbia cartoons they showed on TV when I was a kid.) that was capable of playing those little YES and NO records.

(Later, Kathryn or Martha asked me what the record played. I said I didn’t know, and they theorized that they were just the one word on the label, repeated over and over. No doubt this was correct.)

Playing the records was, of course, part of some scheme he had. I think he may have even explained it to me, or maybe he just bragged about his complicated device. (Was Natasha there? I like to think I would have remembered her.)

By my middle years in grade school, I knew that the record hadn’t been a real record. It wasn’t the only time I dreamed of a tiny phono record that could be played. One dream I had was apparently set in “The Time Way Back When Cracker Jack Prizes Were The Real Things.” Thus, even though the disk was the size of a dime, and not a perfect circle (see? unconvincing visuals!), it was understood that it really played something on some sort of player. This being a nostalgic era, the tune was some sentimental song, perhaps involving violets or lilacs.

At some point, Linder’s got in a display of a toy record player for kids that played real, actual little disks of music recorded by kids, judging from the few offerings I saw. I lusted after one of those, even with the rather idiosyncratic software you could buy for it. Needless to say, it was unaffordable, and the cheap things were soon gone from all stores, remaining behind only as unrequited product lust in my youthful soul.

Once, in third grade, I proudly brought my Spike Jones LP, Omnibust, to class, along with a portable record player slightly smaller than I was. I don’t remember asking permission or anything, just playing it to the amusement of my classmates, particularly the clownish ones who often harassed me. I don’t suppose I got a chance to play more than a track or so before getting on with the important work of third graders, but I think the incident may have given me a mental image of myself with a not-too-huge record player on which I could listen to whatever I wanted, whenever I chose. How many records should I be able to carry with it? Three? Six? No. NO! It should be a great big number, like a hundred. Yes! I should be able to have a hundred records to listen to. Maybe those weirdo little tiny ones like I never got to have.

In sixth grade, Tim Corley brought in his little tape recorder. It played reels that were only about an inch in diameter — noticeably smaller than the three-inch reels I’d seen. I wanted one of those, and was able to focus enough to save up and get a more reasonable piece of hardware on lay-away at Penney’s, which had three-inch reels and two entire speeds. I lugged it around, and as many tapes as I could shlep. After three years or so, I decided cassettes weren’t so bad after all and got a little Panasonic recorder at a department store in Kerrville when we were down there at Christmas.

After a while, I got a better Panasonic recorder. Then I got a Sony boom box (stereo!), and another Sony box later on. When the second Sony let me down, I got a much smaller Sanyo that remains my favorite such deck to this day (shortwave!). In 1984, I got a personal cassette player that was the first of a sustained series of such units, many of them free replacements under extended warranties, which really paid off with these quirky and temperamental little machines.

At the same time, I was carrying differing numbers of cassettes with me. When I carried them in a black plastic Amway case, there was room for 78 tapes. The case seemed like overkill when I started using a Walkman-type unit all the time, so I got smaller containers that were made of nylon fabric. Each one held a score or so of tapes.

It occurred to me one day that I finally had my teeny tiny record player, complete with little bitty records. Yes, they were a different shape and mechanism, but close enough! It felt like the realization of an inane childhood dream, and it would have been perfect if I could have just carried a few more titles in maybe less space.

So when it got to where you could record CDs full of mp3s and listen to them on a personal CD player, I had realized my dream even more than before. With just a single hardshell CD case and the player, I had more stuff than I could have carried on cassettes. Mission Even More Accomplished!

Now I have, literally, thousands of hours of audio on my mp3 player. I don’t think my grade-school self would have even ventured to guess at such a bounty of music. It really makes me want to go back in time and lord it over Edison. “Hey, Edison! Look at this! And listen to that great sound! Really makes your phonograph records seem shabby, huh?” Then after that, if I still had the time machine, I’d go show it to Johann Sebastian Bach.

Why Smudbone?

Dad reclines

Because Dad used to sometimes come into a room, clear his throat, stand straight, raise an index finger, and portentiously announce, “Smudbone.”

And now I’m a dad, so sometimes I just have to come in and say it. Smudbone.

No photo is known to exist of Dad saying “smudbone.” Here he is resting his eyes on that exercise thing we used to have, with the foam pad on top of it. The marble top table is on Audience Left, below the window, which reveals a stage in the life of what are now towering trees. I might have that Muriel Cigar box. The chair it’s sitting on is in my garage, awaiting refinishing and new cushions. Shhh. He might be dreaming that he’s saying smudbone.