Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Way Back Machine


Time: 1956
Place: Bellwood, Illinois

This is probably the most enduring image in my memory of Grandpa Louie.

There was not a single holiday when he didn't have his movie camera and gigantic light bar in hand. We hated it. We absolutely hated that light bar. Look at those bulbs. We'd leave the party with a 1950's equivalent of a fake-and-bake tan. And he'd follow us everywhere, hoping to capture all the action. My uncle still has the films and I'm positive it shows a bunch of kids running like mad in the opposite direction.

I absolutely sure this was taken at my aunt's house because my mother would never, ever in a hundred years hang that teeny tiny picture in the middle of that wall! She did have some similar drapes and I'm surprised that the site of fabric, like scents or sounds, can trigger such memories.

We totally loved Grandpa Louie in any other situation than a big family gathering. He was one of those interesting characters of my childhood. His family didn't suffer alot during the depression because he had a job - he was the Postmaster for Maywood, Illinois.

When he retired he bought a one-room schoolhouse in northern Wisconsin and converted it to a two bedroom home. How exciting was that for a kid? We rang the school bell until he begged for mercy. He was a big fisherman and in the basement he had great tanks of live minnows swimming endlessly.

He only had two grandsons and they weren't much interested in learning how to fish so he recruited the girls to accompany him on his expeditions. We'd nearly be carried away by mosquitos the size of dragonflies, but we were good students.

Many years later I accompanied the farmer on a business junket to a posh resort in Durango, Colorado. One of the activities that all the executives and their wives were encouraged to participate in was a fishing trip up into the mountains. We rode horseback for over an hour to a beautiful mountain lake. The fishing tackle was stored in a small shed and we grabbed our gear and headed down to the lake.

It was immediately apparent to me that none of these folks knew how to fish. Not one of them had a Grandpa Louie, that's for sure. They trudged down to the closest spot and stood in a big clump, attempting to cast the line. It's a wonder no one got snagged with a hook. I walked the shore to the opposite side, looking for a likely spot for fish.

All the guys asked the farmer, "What's she doing?", to which he replied, "I sure don't know."

Pretty soon I was hauling them in.....good size fish, one after another. Everyone on the other side of the lake was looking at me like I was from Mars. Nah....just did time in the northern Wisconsin woods.

The guide bagged up my catch and off we rode back to the lodge. The bounty was whisked off to the kitchen where the staff cleaned and fried up the fish as an appetizer for our evening dinner party.

It was all quite exciting for me, and I was oh so glad that I'd paid attention to my Grandpa Louie.

Tomorrow we're going to tie up a few loose ends. Come back!


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

What a delight! Had me roaring! (I'm afraid that I've become my grandchildren's "Grandpa Louie" as they seem to run in the opposite direction. LOL!) It seems that you all got your revenge with the schoolbell...hahahaha...

When all your dh's coworkers realized that you were single-handedly responsible for their lunch, perhaps you got the proper respect!

Bax said...

Oh that is so funny! My father used to chase us around with his 8mm movie camera that was accompanied by the brightest light you can imagine! I can't believe Grandpa Louie had that entire light bar! *lol*
I used to accompany my dad fishing back in central Illinois many years ago and can remember the mosquitos, but most importanly the quiet time with my dad. So much fun and a great memory!


Amongst The Oaks said...

My dad used to do that too! We'd be squinting away, waving like fools and he'd be filming it all. So goofy. But today I treasure those old films. He put them all on CDs for us. My dad took us fishing too. He used to tell us we couldn't talk because the fish would hear us and swim away. I realize now he did that just to get us to shut up! Aren't dads and grandpas a treasure?

Cote de Texas said...

I'm hysterical!! This could be my father. He took all the home movies of my extended family and was totally into being the family historian. We have tons of boxes of home movies. In my childhood home he even had a little movie theatre!! There was this closet that was set up for the slide machine and the movie machine - with little doors that opened into the den through which the film was projected. Under the cornice was a movie screen that came down with the flick of a switch. Imagine? He loved his movies so much. A while ago he took a few years worth of home movies and made VCRs out of them (must have been longer than a few years I guess, maybe 10 years). he passed those tapes out to all my cousins. Actually, there's such a sense of sadness watching the old home movies - some are 50 and 60 years old now. So many people have died, we've all grown up and aged. Ah, life marches on. Wonderful, wonderful post.

Suzanne said...

It's amazing to me, but I guess it shouldn't be, that so many of us had the same experiences as children. When grandpa fired up that light bar, everyone went scattering. It was so bright you'd have thought an alien space craft had landed in the living room.

My mom and my aunts were frightened to death that the jello molds would literally melt under the camera's eye, and that potato salad would be turned into a seething mass of botulism!

Oh, the memories. It is sad to remember all the times and people long passed.