Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Toys and Activites Growing Up

I had a piano and was given piano lessons starting in first grade. I would spend hours at the piano. The other major item in my house was a TV which I watched for hours. I had books that I would read and my grandI had obtained a subscription to Sports Illustrated. I also read the newspaper.
My typical day was to wake up and watch educational TV, then go to school early so I could play football, basketball. Then go through the day and participate in sports during recess (Recess is a child’s favorite subject.)
In my younger days, I had a baby sitter.I was fortunate that there were children next door and across the street which I played with.
My game playing was not done at home, since there weren’t any toys at my mom’s house but I had friends. At Dave’s house we would have races of golf balls. We would line them up and run them down the hill and keep track of which one came in first. Titleist balls consistently won. Ring toss was also a good game. Another game I played with Dave and my friend Mike was we would wrinkle a sheet or blanket and then distribute marbles. One would push the marble toward another marble having to negotiate the undulations of the blanket. Typically, if a marble missed, it was easily hit by the next shot of the opponent. Dave and I spent a lot of time playing football. We were known to team up to move the ball down the street in decreasing amounts of time to “beat the clock.” My friend David whose family was from China, had a lot of games. He taught me how to play Go, Checkers, and Risk. We didn’t play much Chess because I could beat him in Chess and he did not like to lose. When my mother came home, I would have dinner. My mother would cook steaks that my grandfather would drop off before or during the week. Many times I would make my own dinners. My specialties were heating up frozen poor boy sandwiches in the oven (no microwave), mixing chili with Chinese Egg noodles (our Elementary School had taken a field trip to Seattle’s China town and I had acquired a taste for them.)
I would also forage for food, going the fridge to sample slices of beef, cottage cheese or slices of cheese. I used to also eat a lot of ice cream. (In High School, I would have a half gallon a day for desert after dinner.) And then I would read, watch TV or agonize over homework. (I used to agonize a lot since it was all up to me and there was no supervision or checking of my homework. I was motivated since I would get $5 if I got good grades.
Since I didn’t have “toys” I had some hobbies. I used to collect coins. I would go to the local coin shop and look at coins and I started to check my coins. Tony, the owner of a grocery store across the street (he was Italian) would give me a sack of coins to go through so that I go through them to try to find valuable coins. (somehow I have managed to hang onto some of these) I also collected stamps and still have a few of them. I also collected comic books but I gave them away before really knowing how valuable and worthwhile a hobby I had. I also collected base ball, football cards, etc. I also added mid elementary school a violin. I was in the orchestra. At one period of time, my grandfather was taking me to baseball games, there was boxing award banquet and I had a concert all on the same night. I was wondering how I would make a decision, but I didn’t’ have to worry, the music teacher said that I would go to the concert or I would flunk.
I received an allowance of $.25 a week. This allowed me to save up and buy a $1 model every four weeks. I put together a lot of airplanes, ships, and tanks. I remember the Arizona battleship since it was so historic.
Later, about 6th grade, I got a weight set even including a bench which I used to stay in shape. Regularly, my mother would take us to the “avenue”. This was University Way in the University (University of Washington, my alma mater) District. We would go to Lung Ting, a Chinese restaurant where the greeter would always say, “how are you young man?” and we would go to Pizza Haven,
They had great pizza but they were bought out by Pietro’s till they went bankrupt.I think that my grandfather would have passed muster for toys. When I would visit my grandparents most every weekend, vacations, and summer vacations, I went to a house that had many toys. In my room, there was a nightstand that had drawers filled with books that had stories about Babar the elephant, Christmas stories like the night before Christmas. There were shelves with many books some of which I came in possession of after my grandparents passed away. There were plastic bowling pins which I spent hours knocking over with a softball. I had a train set that even would blow smoke. (I liked the red caboose) I had my own TV which I watched for hours and hours. At my grandparent’s house we could receive Canadian stations. It was educational and I acquired a love for the game of hockey. I Seattle we used to play floor hockey. It is hockey without skates, we run around in athletic shoes. I had a mechanical helicopter, it was a facsimile of the CH-47 Chinook which is known as the egg beater because it has two rotor blades. I had a basketball and there was a hoop outside in the car port. It was low (but late in life it was fun to stuff the basketball) but my cousin and other friends and I had some good games. I also had football, so I could practice throwing and kicking. My grandfather had about an acre in the back yard. So there was room for throwing, kicking, and tree climbing and running. The football came in handy because when I was 10, my grandfather took me to the competition of the Ford, Pass, Punt, and Kick Contest which I won and won a jacket. One of my best moments was I had a car that one could move by pedaling. I had outgrown the pedaling, but my cousin and I took turns riding it high speed down a backyard path until it disintegrated by the vibrations. When I would climb trees, I would get some cherries. We also like to pick raspberries and salmon berries. My grandfather put some sawdust down and a couple pools and put a cross bar up and I would practice high jumping (came in handy, in 7th grade, I had the highest jump, 4 foot, 6 inches) At my grandparent’s house, there was a grand piano. The key action was a bit slow, but it had fine tone. I used to play for hours and my grandmother loved to sit and listen to me play. It was a bonding experience for the two of us. I also had a set up in my mother’s apartment in my room. I ran a rubber band chain between two points and I would high jump over it onto my bed. Every Saturday, My grandfather would take me to the Washington Athletic Club. This was a great place. There was gym class where we would do various activities such as dodge ball, gymnastics, etc. I learned how to swim there. I was captain of a bowling team. I won many boxing matches and even got an award for a draw since it was considered the best fight. During football season, my grandfather and I left from the club to football game, the University of Washington. These were great days. On Sundays, from a young age, my grandfather would take me bowling on Sundays. I usually would bowl eight games. Of course, my grandfather bought me my own bowling ball and shoes. Occasionally, we would also go ice skating. I had a sled, so when it snowed I could go sledding. I first started making forts by covering chairs with blankets. Another activity was to dig holes that I would cover with shingles thereby creating a fort. I also had a bike. I used to ride circles in the driveway until I was old enough to ride on the street. I have a cousin who is only 3 months older than I and I was taken to his house. My cousin had a lot of friends who liked to play football, so we had a lot of. My cousin had a tree house we also used to hang out in. The park was close by and we used to go the playground there. We also used to get in some pretty good baseball games. I used to beat my cousin good games. We played and also touch when we were small and young enough to survive the contact in virtually any game we would play. It could be checkers, football, baseball whatever, but there was one game that he could beat me virtually every time. The Hockey game
My cousin had even had more toys than I had. Unfortunately, his father had a best friend who had two children who were very destructive and they would break many of his toys. (I confess that I broke a few of the toys, I was pretty rough.)His initial instrument was the accordion but later he had a drum set and we used to play music together, me on the guitar and he on the drums. Summers were pleasant because my grandmother would take me to the zoo where she would let me run around and see the animals. My grandparents took me to the park and playgrounds often and I would “free play” by running around. My grandparents did buy me games such as checkers and chess. I grandmother would play checkers with me, but she wasn’t much completion. I had an interest in chess from a very young age. Every Sunday, I would look up the chess column in the newspaper and I would replay the games on my chess set. Later I got a book that taught chess. The most powerful book I got was Modern Chess Openings. I remember reading a sample first 10 moves in the book which a recreated in a High School chess match to win the game in 10 moves. Starting in elementary school, the ground became a major “toy”. I challenged myself to run non-stop from my friend’s house a mile away. In eighth grade, I was on the track team. I remember coming in last in a half mile race. I was so angry that I began a life-long fitness program. That Saturday, I ran 6 miles (there were a couple stops of course the first time.) I had a lot of success in High School, I lettered all three years in Cross Country and Track. I won many races and became the Seattle Southern Division Champion in Cross Country and twice the 2 mile champion. I came in 6th in Metropolitan Championships for Cross Country and came in 6th and 2nd respectively in the 2 mile. I was the Washington state champion in the Track and field federation High School 2 mile. I also competed in the State Cross Country meet. I was voted the most inspirational runner for the Cross Country team and the Track team.
Another big toy I had was a car starting my junior year of high school. This was the biggest toy I played with until I flew helicopters in the Army – my first flight was July 27, 1980.

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