Betty's Attic
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Friday, April 21, 2017
There are lots of species of flamingos. The greater and lesser flamingos hail from South Africa. Three other types come from South America. The only North American native flamingo was once considered one of the greater birds from Africa, but now it's earned its wings as a discrete species.

My favorite flamingo species hails from Leominster, Massachusetts, the plastics Capital of the World. They can be identified by their plastic bodies and protruding lawn stakes. Sculptor Don Featherstone created the kitschy classics in 1957, giving us 60 years of front yard fun.

My mom thought they were adorable. She collected a whole flamboyance (yes, that's what you call a flock) of flamingos. She didn't just stick them in the ground all willy-nilly, either. She arranged them. She set up two of them to drink from the bird fountain. Three more standing on one leg looking toward the setting sun. Several smaller ones surrounded by their 'parents'.

At the time, I thought it was just like everything parents did: horrifically embarrassing. But I've grown to appreciate her artistic vision. So today I keep the memory of Mom's flamboyance of flamingos alive in my own way - with a welcoming flamingo doormat.

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, April 14, 2017
Superman made his first appearance in Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's in Action Comics #1, which was published on April 18, 1938 (with a June cover date). Superman wasn't the only superhero in the comic, but he became the most famous and enduring of DC's early characters.

Every kid in our neighborhood loved Superman. It didn't matter if you were a boy or a girl, you'd put on a cape fashioned out of a tablecloth or old bedsheet and pretend to run "faster than a speeding bullet" and "leap tall buildings in a single bound". We'd courageously take on the evil villain and we always won the day - just like the Man of Steel. The only thing that could stop us? Green agates we'd picked up at the beach and dubbed our Kryptonite!

Mom would have to chase us out of the house to keep us from knocking all the furniture over, but I think she was secretly glad of our superhero games. There were no arguments when it was time to crawl into bed - we didn't have it in us after a full day of crimefighting!

You can still pick up a copy of the original comic, if you've got a superhero bank account. It's considered the most valuable comic book in the world. The last time a copy sold (grade 9.0), it went for just over $3 million! That's a bit outside my budget, but I don't mind: I have the memories of being Superman when I was a kid and I've got a nice comfy Man of Steel robe for those mornings when I'm feeling "stronger than a locomotive".

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, April 7, 2017
Long, lazy summer afternoons. Screaming fans. Hot dogs. Souvenirs. The thrill of victory (or the agony of defeat). What does it all mean?

Baseball season is back in swing!

My love for baseball started with my dad. He started collecting baseball cards when he was a kid and never stopped. We used to sort through them at the kitchen table and Dad would quiz me on the player's and their team's stats. It was how we killed time between the World Series and Spring Training.

I passed on the tradition, not just to my kids, but to my siblings' kids. While my kids can be persuaded to participate, my youngest nephew took to baseball like a fish takes to water. I started taking him to games a couple of years ago and this year I helped him start his own trading card collection with a set of signed, unsearched Major League Baseball cards. The set was full of surprises and we had a great time sorting through them. And when it comes to memorizing the players' stats, well, he's almost as good as I was at his age.

As much as I enjoy collecting, the best thing about baseball is sitting in the stands on a warm summer day, smelling roasted peanuts and hot dogs, and hearing those famous first words: "Play Ball!"

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, March 31, 2017
99 years ago, the United States began daylight saving time (DST).  On Easter Sunday 1918, everyone was supposed to set  their clocks ahead by one hour. That meant more daylight after work to get things done, whip up a backyard cookout, or - as the false legend goes - to harvest crops. In reality, farmers lobbied against DST because they set their workdays by the sun, not by clocks.

Farmers weren't the only people not onboard with the idea and patchwork participation created a mess for the United States. For the first few decades cities and states chose their own dates for springing forward, creating what Time Magazine called "a chaos of clocks" across the country. In 1966 the Uniform Time Act cured the mayhem by standardizing the DST dates, though states could still choose to opt out of the practice.

I remember loving springing forward much better than falling back, even though we lost an hour in bed. The extra hours to play outside after school and the long, long summer days more than made up for sleepy mornings. I still love DST, though I must admit, it gets harder to overcome that lost hour with every passing year!

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, March 24, 2017
On Friday, December 20, 1957 Elvis Presley received his draft notice. He was ordered to report for duty on January, 20, but at the time, he'd just started filming King Creole. Elvis was already a big star, so if he'd asked to be excused from service, his request might have been granted.

But The King didn't use his film career to shirk his civic responsibilities, "It's a duty I've got to fill and I'm going to do it," he told the country. Elvis was granted a short deferment to finish filming King Creole and then he reported for duty - just like any good American would. He was officially inducted into the U.S. Army on March 24, 1958 - 59 years ago today.

Then Elvis The Soldier, serial number 53 310 761, had his famous locks shorn by an Army barber. It was a devastating moment for teenage girls everywhere.

Elvis' unit was stationed in Friedberg, Germany. He served in Company C, which was a scout platoon. Not surprisingly, he also entertained the troops with his music and the folks at home with news of his every move from enlistment to discharge.

My friends and I had never been so interested in the nightly news. If our parents thought our interest in current events meant that we were growing up, they would have been wrong. We were just keeping tabs on our beloved Teddy Bear.


Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, March 17, 2017
50 years ago The Beatles scored a number one hit with "Penny Lane". The song topped the charts from March 18-24 in 1967. I remember it well because my good friend Penny lived on Penny Street!

Here's another thing I remember about that song: we actually tried to get the city to change the name of the street to Penny Lane. Unfortunately for us the city council was full of boring adults who had zero idea how fabulous the Beatles were, so it's not too surprising that our little homegrown initiative failed.

No one was sadder than poor Penny of Penny Street.

However we did learn a priceless lesson in civics: when you go before a government body to ask for something, you need a stronger argument than "dreamy", "cool", and "popular" to win your case!

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, March 10, 2017
Remember the old party lines? Or the days when you actually had to be wired to a wall to talk to someone? When you couldn't "screen" your calls with an answering machine? And you actually had to be at home to talk on the phone?

On this day in 1876 Alexander Graham Bell spoke into his new invention, the telephone. “Mr. Watson," he said. "Come here. I want to see you.”  It worked. And what followed over the next 140-odd years would change the shape of human communication.

But did you know...
  • Bell applied for the patent just three days before the famous phone call took place?
  • His patent filing barely made it over the wire (pun intended), beating a claim by Elisha Gray by a mere two hours?
  • The Western Union Telegraph Company hired both Gray and rival inventor Thomas Edison to develop their own technology for a telephone?
Alexander Graham Bell sued Western Union in a rare patent case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. His claim was upheld and the Bell Company became American Telephone and Telegraph, which we know today as AT&T.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
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