anne_mikolay_120I don’t know why, but this time of year always stirs up memories for me. Must be something in the autumn air!

When I was a child, my Dad used a rake, not a leaf blower, to gather the autumn leaves. He cut the grass with a hand mower; there was no such thing as a rider mower unless you lived in Hooterville. We drank coke from glass bottles and bought pretzel sticks three for a penny at the candy store. My sister and I saved our allowances to buy the latest issue of Sixteen Magazine, or to buy the latest single records in the record section of the department store. It was a big deal when the first Burger King opened nearby. After school, my friends and I often purchased a hamburger, fries, and a soda for a dollar and change. If we were feeling lazy, we went to the drive-in instead, and had our meal carried to us on a little tray that hooked onto the car windows. We had metal lunch boxes and thermoses lined with glass. Can’t count how many times I dropped my thermos and heard the rattle of glass inside!

My Mom collected S&H Green Stamps, and I helped her lick the stamps and put them in the books. As my reward, she let me flip through the S&H Green Stamp catalog and look at all the toys. That’s where my very first stuffed animal, a white bull dog, came from. I have fond memories of finding the dog in the catalog and excitedly waiting for the day that Mommy said we could go and get it.

Sometimes, my Dad let me stay up late to watch Topo Gigio on the Ed Sullivan Show. I loved that little mouse! If you remember Topo Gigio, then you probably remember jiffy-pop popcorn, Choo Choo Charlie, Fudge Town Cookies, double Popsicles with two sticks, aluminum Christmas trees, midnight “bug fights” on the television when the stations signed off, movie theaters showing only one movie on one screen, black and white television, TV tube-testers at the drug store, and Hostess cupcakes two in a package for five cents.

Back in the day, we rode our bicycles (mine was a pink stingray!) without helmets, trick-or-treated without curfew, played with a metal slinky, and had never heard of E. Coli.  Guys wore pants at their waists and appropriately concealed their underwear, and it was indecent for a girl to show her navel anywhere other than the beach. Disney made movies that were truly for general audiences, and the Osmonds and the Jackson-Five proved performers did not need to be exhibitionists to execute choreography. Social networking meant dialing a telephone that hung on the wall, copying a document meant using the mimeograph machine (remember the wet ink and the funky smell?), and having friends meant you knew them face-to-face; no status was required.


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I suppose middle age is confirmed when you begin fondly reminiscing on days gone by. No doubt, our kids will do the same. What one appreciates is relative to one’s time and place, of course, but when the wind begins to blow, and the trees burst forth in vibrant color, my heart always slips backward to a simpler time when I ran, carefree, through the leaves as my Dad raked and my Mom cooked Thanksgiving turkey in the kitchen.

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Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...