Tomato Soup, Felix, and the Beach
While I was growing up, the elementary school that I attended was located approximately four blocks from our apartment, so I’d walk to school every day. And it didn’t matter whether it was raining, sleeting, snowing, or whether it was sweltering hot or freezing cold – I walked, no matter what. After all, we were living in Minnesota, and we were used to all kinds of weather. We simply dressed accordingly and adjusted our attitudes as well.
My elementary school did not serve hot lunches, either, nor did we eat lunch at our school. As a matter of fact, all the students lived within walking distance of the school; therefore, at lunch time, we all returned to our homes for lunch and then came back to school following lunch for the afternoon school session.
As I said, it didn’t matter if the weather was inclement; we walked no matter what the circumstances. And my mother would serve just the right lunch, too. For instance, if it was a blustery winter day, I knew that when I came home for lunch, she would have a piping hot lunch waiting for me. And my favorite hot lunch was tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. Whenever I ate my mom’s hot tomato soup, it always made me feel so warm inside, and the grilled cheese sandwich was always the perfect complement to the soup.
I loved going home for lunch. It meant that I could watch my favorite television program called “Lunch with Casey Jones.” This was a kids’ program that aired at noon in the Twin Cities during the 1960’s which featured a railroad engineer called Casey Jones played by Roger Awsumb, the host of the program. The show consisted mostly of cartoons, skits, special guests like animal handlers from the zoo, birthday greetings, and the occasional musical segment.
As I think back to these long ago school days, memories of these cartoons flash through my mind. I can see the images of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester Cat, Tweety Bird, Elmer Fudd, Roadrunner, and Pepe Le Pew as they looked to me when I was only six years old. Then there was Lulu, Tom and Jerry, Porky Pig, Speedy Gonzales, Yogi Bear, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Baby Huey, Wile E. Coyote, and Yosemite Sam.
And even though I loved all these cartoons, my favorite of them all was Felix the Cat. I absolutely adored Felix the Cat. There was just something about him that I really liked. I loved the way he looked, the way he acted, even his high, squeaky voice. And no matter what impossible situation he found himself in, he always, always managed to get himself out of. For some reason, I identified with him, and I’m not even sure why.
At the end of every episode, Casey Jones would read the birthday list for the day. Parents would send in the names of their children whose birthdays it was for that day and then their name would appear on the birthday caboose as Casey Jones read them on the air. After he read the names on the birthday list, he would sing the birthday song: Happy, happy birthday to every girl and boy; We hope this very special day brings you lots of joy. We hope the birthday presents you get from Mom and Dad; Makes this very special day the best you ever had! Each year, I could hardly wait for my birthday and to see my name on that caboose and to hear my name as Casey Jones read it on television. It was one of the highlights of my birthday.
And then, when lunch was over, my mother would make sure I was bundled up in my snow pants, winter jacket, scarf, hat, mittens, and boots, and I would wave goodbye as I trudged off to school again for the afternoon session. I was content, having watched my favorite television show and being full after having eaten my favorite lunch. But… with the cold Minnesota winter wind blowing in my face, in the back of my mind, I’d be thinking, I can hardly wait for summer. Then I can walk up to McCarron’s Lake with my best friend, Laurie and we’ll go swimming or maybe we’ll just lie on the beach, side by side, each on our own favorite beach towel. Let’s see…how many more months will that be?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.” ~ Tom Stoppard