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HISTORY- CHASIN’ Lighting bugs BY JAMES F. LEINER

CHASIN’ LIGHTNING BUGS
BY JAMES F. LEINER

JUNE 2017


“Hey Pop,” one of my grandsons asked the other day, “What was your favorite thing on your summer vacations from school when you were growing up?”
“Chasin’ lighting bugs.” My parents and grandparents would sit on our front porch and mom would bring a small glass bottle with holes punched in the screw on top. “Here ya go, see if you can fill this up with lightning bugs,” she would smile. “We lived with my grandparents and they had a lovely front yard on the corner of Cedar Hill and Washington; plenty of room for a kid to roam in search of these little elusive black bugs. It was dark about 8:30 and you couldn’t see the bugs flying until they flashed the little lights in their rear end. I had to be quick to reach the area where they were flying and then patiently wait till they flashed again..

Grabbing them in my hand and letting them loose in the bottle and then screwing the top back on. It was kind of tricky getting more bugs in the jar when I unscrewed the cap to add more.”
“How many did you catch?”
“Oh, I guess a dozen or more. It was fun to set the jar full on the little table on the porch and watch them flash their lights off and on at different times.”
“Did you keep them?’
“I tried but they didn’t last very long in the jar, so I would take off the top and set the bottle on the front porch stair, by morning they would be gone.”
By this time the kid was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to suffer serious internal damage. “Seriously pop, you thought chasing bugs was fun. Didn’t you watch TV or something like that?”
Well, actually we didn’t have a Television till I was 11, and we only got one then because my dad wanted to watch the Yankees play Brooklyn in the World Series. It wasn’t much like you have. It was a black and white only set in a large cabinet with a small 13 inch screen and a huge antenna up on the roof. We only got 6 channels and a few of them were snowy.”
He was now looking at me with a stare in his eyes like I was an alien. “Wow,” was all he could say.
“Another thing we didn’t have was our own telephone. The only one was downstairs in my grandmother’s kitchen. It was a big wooden box on the wall with a hand crank on the side to call the operator, but I wasn’t allowed to touch it till I was probably 15 or so. Another thing for you to think about; I was 13 before I tasted my first pizza; it was called “pizza pie.” When I bit into it, I burned the roof of my mouth and the cheese slid off, swung down, plastered itself against my chin and burned that too. I still think it was the best pizza I ever had.”
“How did you live,” he smiled at me with still a blank look.
“Oh yes,” I decided to add. “Pizzas were not delivered to our house, but milk was. We also got deliveries of coal for the furnace, a man came to pick up rags and our food scraps for his pigs and the Dugan man brought us bread, pastries and pies. I can remember Mr. Dropkin bringing 3 huge 50 pound blocks of ice. One of my grandmother’s ice box, one for ours and the last one my Aunt Willie’s on the top floor.”
My grandson was speechless. I thought better about telling him any more about my childhood when he asked, “I guess your childhood was boring then?”
“Nope, in fact it was pretty cool. I had a bicycle that weight probably 50 pounds and only had one speed.

I could ride it all over town. I had a paper route delivering the local paper 6 days a week. I got to keep 2 cents a paper. Saturday’s I collected 42 cents from my customers. Some gave me 50 cents and I got to keep the change, others seemed always to be away on collection days. No, growing up the 1940’s and 50’s was pretty good.”
He was shaking his head as he walked away looking down at the little plastic gadget in his hands and playing Pokeman Go…whatever that is?
Ya, know maybe growing up isn’t what is used to be, is it”
I wonder how many of the following things you remember from your childhood.
Small soda bottles with stopper in the top with a bunch of holes to “sprinkle” clothes with water because we didn’t have steam irons.
Headlights on the cars worked with a dimmer switch on the floor.
Real wooden ice boxes
Pant leg clips for bicycle riding without chain guards
Soldering Irons you dad would heat on the stove
Using hand signals for cars without turn signals
Black Jack Chewing gum


Candy Cigarettes
Soda Pop machines with glass bottles
Coffee shops or diners with tableside juke boxes
Home milk delivery with glass bottles and cardboard stoppers. You and to shake the bottle to mix the cream and the milk. In the winter time the cream on top would freeze and the stopper would be pushed out of the bottle.
Telephone Party lines
Newsreels before the movies
P.F. Flyers
Butch Wax
Telephone numbers with a letter prefix. EL 8 5555
Peashooters
Howdy Doody
45 RPM records with the huge holes in the center
S&H green stamps at the Grand Union
Mickey Mouse Club
Large HiFi sets in the living room
Metal Ice cube trays with a lever to release the cubes
Blue Mimeograph papers in school
Blue Flash bulbs and cubes
Packard Autos
Roller Skate Keys
Eating the glue in Art Class
Cork Popguns
Drive-In Movies
Studebaker cars
Washtub wringers.
Let me know how many you remember and can you add to the list of things from your growing up years?

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