Idylls of Iowa II

or What We Did Before the Interwebs

Books, radio, TV. The lines of communication – of story-telling – from Homer to The Walking Dead. All of which have been referenced, at one time or another, in the pixilated pages of The beginning of which is to be found in the good old days in idyllic Iowa.

I attended kindergarten and first grade in the same two-room schoolhouse my grandmother had attended, a couple of blocks down the street from the Corner Store, in Badger, Iowa. I wonder if anyone ever beat my record of most books read in kindergarten.

Radio was where it was at in media. My parents listened to Don McNeil's Breakfast Club, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. The Shadow, of course. Not exactly children’s fare, but if I was chased from the room, I surely snuck back in to listen. I remember the scream of the woman who discovered her husband burned to a blackened crisp, and picture his face resembling a burnt marshmallow. I still like my marshmallows burnt, but I'm still getting over my horror of cremation. Just in time, I suppose. Volcanoes were popular lairs for the evil minded, probably because the bubbling sound effects of someone falling into them were deliciously horrible. Not unlike the bubble and pop of a thickening cream sauce.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there was Cinnamon Bear. No fires, no lava. Just lovely, lovely fantasy that still brings imagination pictures back to me. An ex-boyfriend of mine remembers them vividly and somewhere around here is a set of tapes that he gave me a while back. Saving them for when the dotage gets serious.

I am having one major memory glitch. I have a very distinct memory from the Badger apartment above the Corner Store, of a head scarf my mother had. It was black, with a cap shape for her head and two longer flaps to tie around her ears and under her chin. I used to steal it so I could pretend I had long black hair, and imagine myself the “Evil Queen,” Ming the Merciless’s consort on Flash Gordon. Which I think I remember from radio or TV. But all of my research does not reveal Flash Gordon on radio or TV in the late 40’s. The radio show ended in 1936 and the TV version didn't begin until 1954. This is how memory becomes myth? Or did I just myth it up?

My dad may have invented the sports bar. He was a tee-totaler so it wasn’t really a bar, and I have no memory of sports on TV, although the interwebs tell me that the 1947 World’s Series was televised. What he actually did was buy the first television in town (300 Norwegian farmers, remember?), put it in the basement of the Corner Store, and stock a lot of soft drinks and ice. I don’t know how much he cut into the business of the actual bar, kitty-corner across the street, but I remember a bunch of guys down there hanging out on stools drinking cokes. It only just occurs to me that maybe they brought flasks.

My dad put in a jukebox, too, and I could play it all I wanted. My favorite song was “Around Her Neck She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” by The Andrews Sisters (although for some reason I always thought it was Patti Page). I probably danced like nobody was watching.

The Lone Ranger started in 1949. I was 6. Tonto was my first true love, if you don’t count The Lone Ranger’s horse, Silver. Nothing could beat Silver. When I could climb to the tops of any tree I could get a foothold on, the place that had the highest, thinnest branches that would hold my negligible weight I called Silver. I climbed with a book shoved into my pants and I would settle into a comfortable crook while I read myself into another adventure. Sometimes, when the wind blew, we galloped, Silver and I.

When we moved to Illinois, the tree was a mulberry, and I read and rocked in the wind covered in mulberry juice from the berries I ate on the way up to Silver.