Wishing you a Charlie Brown Christmas

By Caryl Clem

On the short list of my holiday movie favorites is Charlie Brown. The fact I have aged and he has not, I do not hold against him. I am an unswerving Charlie Brown Peanuts fan. Imagine my amazement when I discovered Charlie Brown at Christmas was almost canceled. The fact Charlie Brown has performed for over 50 years this time of year borders on a Christmas miracle.

Charlie Brown surfaced in the newspaper comics in October 1950. Charles Schultz his creator wove the trails of life seen by his young characters into Sunday morning remedy.  Ironically, Lucy’s advice for 5 cents echoed the new price increase for newspapers that year. Charlie faced wistful, nonreciprocal love: sports failures, academic challenges, and Lucy’s domineering force with gut wrenching persistence. He never gave up in spite of failure after failure. He sheltered Linus with his Security blanket understanding that feeling secure was a form of success.

In 1965, producer Lee Mendelson urged Schultz and Disney animator Melendez to consider expanding Charlie Brown’s audience to  a television 30 minute special sponsored by Coca Cola.  Mendelson confided CBS executives didn’t think it would work. Skeptics claimed it was slow moving, too religious, not lighthearted like the popular comic strip and diverted from what children expected to see. Determined to win approval, a week before the final deadline Mendelson submitted his final draft. In spite of the initial misgivings, CBS was aired the special on December 9, 1965.

The New York Times stated that 15 million watched the first A Charlie Brown animated cartoon.  As the story unfolded a young boy feeling frustrated by his inability to connect to the festive Christmas spirit; he discovered the magic of Christmas at the end. Every heart in the audience must have been touched by Charlie’s dilemma since an Emmy and the Peabody awards were given for outstanding children’s programming in 1966. A Charlie Brown Christmas is on PBS at 7:30 EST.

Charles Schultz used his genius to weave a story within the limits of reality. Charlie Brown animated cartoons were the first to children voices instead of adults.  Peter Robin’s was 8 ½ years old filling a tall order for a jubilant Christmas ready kid sounding depressed or weary when reading a Charlie Brown script. All the Peanut characters voices were done by kids, a crucial element that makes Charlie Brown so believable.

The holidays are a mix of stress and elation. Remember, Charlie Brown always bounced back, never gave up on hope in the future. I am Wishing Everyone A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Home alone and more of John Hughes

It had occurred to me to write about this Chicago based movie last year since in 2020 we would be celebrating its movie anniversary, produced in 1990 but the draft had been put on hold. Everybody was writing about the infamous movie’s anniversary. Then I talked to a student at school this month and he could not stop talking about his field trip from Downers Grove, Il to the northside. He wrote about it in his first grade journal. He saw the Home Alone house! The Home Alone house is located at 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois. and so I pulled some pictures online for him to verify. Oh my,,,,that was it though I had to be extremely careful. He knew the difference between older pictures of the home that did not have a fence around the house. The fence was fairly new to the property; keeping current onlookers at a distance.

My 30 + year old daughter and I have taken several field trips to the house too; some years ago with Starbucks in our hands. No fence! Home alone was and still is one of the favorite movies in our family. My daughter became a connoisseur of John Hughes films, especially produced in Chicago. Another family favorite was Sixteen Candles is a 1984 American coming-of-age comedy film starring Molly RingwaldMichael Schoeffling, and Anthony Michael Hall. It was written and directed by John Hughes in his directorial debut. In 1985, he produced the Breakfast Club. It stars Emilio EstevezAnthony Michael HallJudd NelsonMolly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy as teenagers from different high school cliques who spend a Saturday in detention with their authoritarian assistant principal. (Paul Gleason). Again, we traveled to Maine North High School in Des Plaines, Illinois, which had been closed in May 1981 and filming took place here for the Breakfast Club and Molly Ringwalds home in Sixteen Candles. Again, Sixteen Candles was mainly filmed in the north suburbs of Chicago. The Baker house is located at 3022 Payne Street in Evanston. The church (Glencoe Union Church – 263 Park Avenue) and parking lot where the final scenes take place are in Glencoe. Glencoe has become our favorite spot for a field trip to walk the beach.

Home Alone premiered on November 10, 1990, in Chicago, and entered wide release in the United States on November 16, 1990. With a total gross of $476.7 million, it was the highest-grossing live-action comedy until 2011. An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. Home Alone has won one award after another and is considered one of the best Christmas films of all time. A sequel, Home Alone 2, Lost in New York was released in 1992. According to NBC Chicago, this year you can actually book a one night stay at the Home Alone house this holiday season. This can be found on Airbnb’s website for only 25 dollars, but you must pay for travel expenses to Chicago.

Quija Boards

When I was a pre-teen playing with my first board on the dining room table with friends, I would ask if I would marry and it always said yes. How right the board was! Would I have children, yes…true again. How many….I can remember four and I only have two. Trying to spell out what spirit was talking to us was always a difficult mess. We would get a letter or two but we were not quite bright enough to make a spiritual match from heaven. Would I be wealthy or rich? The planchett placed beneath our fingers would never say yes or no but sometimes good bye. Money in the bank today, I could claim,just enough, but for many, I am in rich in love, family, job and friends.

Sometimes, when the planchett was really moving across the board, we would get either scared and stopped playing or blame each other for pushing it in a desired direction. In some households, the game was not allowed because some religions felt it was demonic. My parents did not like the board…not sure how I had one…..friends may have brought their own game to play. It seemed to be used only for fun around Halloween or a sleep over. My own children were allowed to use a board during the Halloween season or a sleep over, but again, their group of friends got out of hand when it came to the movement of the planchett.

In 1886, the New York Daily Tribune reported on a new talking board being used in Ohio. It was 18 by 20 inches and featured the alphabet, numbers, and the words yes, no, good evening, and goodnight; the only other necessary object was a “little table three or four inches high … with four legs” that the spirits could use to identify letters. This table was called an Idometer and caused muscle movement or reflexes to move an object not a spirit visiting the household but the later thought took off in popularity.

In 1966, the Ouija boards were sold to Parker Brothers, which manufactured the modern boards as we know them today. In 1991, Parker Brothers was sold to Hasbro, which now holds all the Ouija rights and patents. Today, according to the Museum of Talking Boards  there is truly aa renaissance afoot. Hasbro, who currently owns Parker Brothers upped their game in 2008 by introducing a controversial pink version aimed at teen girls. Then in 2013, they stunned everyone by breaking tradition completely with a redesigned, much darker themed Ouija board equipped with a light up planchette that automatically illuminates hidden messages on the board.

Hollywood has jumped on the use of the board in movies and television. Ouija is a 2014 American supernatural horror film that was a huge success where young girls try to burn the board but it comes back to life.  Ouija: Origin of Evil came out in 2016; another American supernatural horror film. The film is a prequel to the 2014 film,grossing over $81 million.

Many talking board enthusiasts are creating public shows and events. While experts claim that there is nothing evil about the mystic board; many have assured customers  that it is just a game. I am, yet, to be convinced.

 

Getting chicken pox, measles or mumps during the 1960’s

Now, when you look up information about chicken pox, the first word that pops up is rare. The chicken pox vaccine was added to the immunization schedule in 1995.  My eyes followed more information about chicken pox gravitating on the disease description of shingles, the same virus as chicken pox’s. Shingles is not so rare for me and those over 60. Studies suggest over 95 percent of people age 40 and older have had chicken pox and it is advised to get the vaccine for shingles that originated a few years ago.

For me, it was in 1963, I  was annihilated with the pox’s. Everywhere I looked, I was marked for life. To this day, I still see one on my nose. And they itched. Nothing much took care of that back in my day….calamine lotion maybe and I was out of school for almost two weeks. I remember sitting in the den, mittens on my hands since my parents had to stop the scratching somehow.  Dad and I watched the Real McCoys on Saturday night TV in Chicago.  I remember going back to school at Kate Stugis Buckingham the first day and my teacher, Mrs Lannon, as well as classmates, were so concerned about my illness, offering me special breaks throughout the first week.  And two years later, I experienced a mild case of the mumps but not with the same kind of attention.

The recommended vaccines were developed early in the 20th century. These included vaccines that protect against pertussis (1914), diphtheria (1926), and tetanus (1938). These three vaccines were combined in 1948 and given as the DTP vaccine. Smallpox,Diphtheria,Tetanus, Pertussis, which I remember as well as the famous polio vaccine. When the polio vaccine was licensed in 1955, the country celebrated and Jonas Salk, its inventor, became an overnight hero.

In 1963 the measles vaccine was developed, and by the late 1960s, vaccines were also available to protect against mumps (1967) and rubella (1969). These three vaccines were combined into the MMR vaccine in 1971.

Now, we are protected by vaccines that include Hepatitis A and B, Pneumococcal, Influenza Rotavirus, HPV. The pneumonia vaccine is recommended for people over 65. Just last month I had the flu after taking the flu shot and experienced pneumonia at the same time and still under the age of 65. And, once again, I was off of school for over a week. I missed Valentine’s day but the kindergartners did not forget me; bringing chocolate for the holiday and making handmade headbands when I returned.

Though I was with family, not hospitalized, in my favorite bed and so grateful for classroom gifts, there is nothing like being sick with your Dad in front of vintage TV. My Dad passed away right after my attack with the mumps. Though Facebook and Twitter can be fun with the opportunity of immediate sharing one’s thought,there is nothing like returning to school without social media giving everyone a heads up. Eyes wide that you didn’t die. And big smiles on your best friends faces. Yes, there was the phone but it was just different.

Thankfully, today, I am finished with medications and x-rays. I feel great and I am not going to get shingles but after all these years, I still miss my Dad.

 

 

 

 

 

Tribute to Soap Opera Moms

“What are you watching?” I asked. It was lunch time in the small cafeteria for a company I had visited and I chose a seat near the TV.

“The Young and the Restless”, she said in a whisper as if anyone around would think her crazy for a 40+ year old woman watching soap operas.

Even though the Young and the Restless had not been one of my own personal standbys, one character graced the screen from One Life to Live; remembering him with less gray hair when I had watched him years before. He looked like me without the hair dye. I guess one serial comes to an end and the actors trade places on another just like the soap operas of life that frivolously continue on.

Ah, yes now the memories begin. We grow together regardless of the channel or year.

As I ate and watched, the quiet of home long ago and Mom when I was a child became my first thought. I clearly remembered the time I was home from school, ordered to bed sick but Mom would stroll in with the portable TV and we would watch As the World Turns, Guiding Light, Secret Storm  and The Edge of Night to name just a few.

During those early years of the 1960’s, Mom was a stay at home and sometimes would switch commitments that included soap opera, Search for Tomorrow but most of the time she never varied from her serial, Love of Life which opened in 1951. It was a time to bond, get to know my Mom by the comments and reactions to messy relationships, illness, drinking, and even murder of Another World……that too.

And the clips in my mind are filled with Tide, Ivory Soap, Camay commercials and a dish washing liquid that you could soak your fingers in for beautiful hands. If Madge said so, Palmolive it was for all to wash dishes, before dishwashers, and soften their hands.

And as far as my soap opera guests, they always looked untouched through the greatest drama, their homes fashionable, their nurses uniforms crisp and spotless even in black and white.

And then one day, I became a Mom at home and I switched TV addictions, a difficult journey to re-route. But for my family beginnings, I chose All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital. And I didn’t have to change networks either. And I didn’t have to change my college friends since they were talking about the same characters and we all shared phone calls of the drama abound as our little ones napped.

Here was Erika who always got her way in AMC and Brooke who I actually grew with  from a snotty teenager to a sophisticated editor, the tragic death of Megan in OLTL, who chose Dancing in the Streets as her funeral music and message to live on, Vickie and multiple Vickies and of course, the wedding of all time, Luke and Laura in General Hospital. We laughed, we predicted on Fridays what Mondays would bring, we cried when we lost our favorites. Even now, as I smile, they are still with us; the moments of sharing. Even working Moms could tape their reasons for escape.

I visited this company another time and the lunch room was empty. The TV silent as I found the remote. I sat down and tuned into the Young and the Restless; mesmerized that Robert Scorpio had showed up on this one who had entertained me in the past on General Hospital.

Another lady sat at the table and commented. “Wow, that reminds me of me and Mom; home from school and watching the soaps together.” A slight tear in her eye as she glanced again at the projection on the TV.

Thanks for the memories, Mom. Thanks to all of you who can wait to watch you favorite soaps. I never realized how melodramatic episodes that span decades can offer such peace . Once noted, daytime television was coined by Time magazine as TV’s richest market.

They had no idea!