I was thinking about my grandfather the other day and it brought back memories of the days I used to spend with him.
Of all the male figures in my life Gandy brings back my most fondest memories. He certainly had more of an influence on me as a human being and as a man, than any other male figure in my life.
I remember his stories of growing up around Louisville, KY and the Mississippi river. He was sort of my own private Huck Finn with all his stories and adventures.
So I started to think about my childhood and how things have changed since then. I remember as a kid having more than most, but not as much as others. I remember as kids we always had a rope swing close to home. I can't tell you the number of hours I have spent swinging in my life. I used to be the King of the swing. I could swing higher than most and I would jump out of the swing at the highest point on the arc and see how far I could fly til I hit the ground. It was amazing being a kid. I never broke any bones but I lived on the edge and did some pretty iffy things.
One of my earliest Christmas memories was around 3 or 4 years of age. I remember getting a train set very similar to the one on the left. If any of you remember these trains, they had a few safety issues that actually taught me some very valuable life lessons. It hurt like hell if put your hand on, or stepped barefooted on, the rails if it was plugged in.
It was most certainly a bad day when I was the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I was crushing cars and I peed on the train as it was coming through the town. Like I said, very valuable life lessons. Electric trains and pee equals loss of bowel and bladder control and it makes you dance really funny.
Some time around this same age I received my first of many toys to help me get in touch with my artistic side. The wood burning kit was the most popular gift for kids the year my parents gave it to me.
It was AWESOME. You could burn a hole through ANYTHING. The cords on them were about 1 to 2 feet long. The bad thing about that was all the electric sockets in the house were located near the windows, and along walls in the homes where you would normally have furniture for a lamp or something that needed electricity. Well my favorite spot to create my masterpieces was in my mom's bedroom beside her vanity. Back in the early 60's vanities looked like very similar to the one pictured below.
Now I have never believed in this ADD, or ADHD stuff as it was not around when I was a kid. I can tell you that as a kid I was often distracted and some times projects were started that were never finished. The bad thing about this particular behavior is that it can occur at any time. Well one day shortly after receiving my new wood burning kit somewhere around my 4th or 5th birthday it happened to me. I plugged in the Iron and low behold a neighborhood game of Cowboys and Indians kicked off and I of course had the fastest stick horse in the neighborhood so I was in like Flynn.
Within about 20 minutes I started hearing a siren. I wondered why something like that was in my neighborhood. So we all started running towards the sound and the next thing I knew they had come to a stop in front of my house. There was smoke pouring our of the front door and I was just standing there in shock. Well it wasn't long before the fireman came out of the house with a wood burning iron in his hand. I remember crying because a fire had burned up my new toy, not to mention the vanity in mom's room. After that my toys became a little less deadly.
This was a safe toy. It was cool as hell and I spent hours watching it spin. It took awhile before I trusted my parents after mom's vanity burned up my wood burning iron but after awhile I got over it. I convinced my parents that I needed the more advanced tops of the day.
It involved wrapping a string around this wooden toy shaped sort of like a bullet with a metal tip on the end of it. You then threw it out hard and jerked back on the string at the same time to make it spin.
Needless to say, it is not the kind of toy that you just pickup and use like a pro the first time out of the package. It takes practice to become proficient in the use of a throwing top. There were no classes for it nor was there anyone else around that knew how to do it any better. It just took practice.
I remember at 907 Candlewood Drive in Kinston, NC, we had a tile floor in the kitchen where tops could spin forever. The only problem was the throw. Practice was a never ending process. You wound the string, you threw the top. You wound the string, you threw the top. All day long. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Sometimes it came back and smacked you in the face. Other times it would fly across the room and smack someone else in the face.
One time, it even flew 20 feet across the living room and right through a 5' high by 5' wide plate glass window. I mean really, who would invent a toy for a kid that could shatter a frigging window while learning to play with it? It was a practice throw. It didn't even count.
I called for a "Mulligan," but my dad didn't think that was funny at all.
Needless to say the top days were a thing of the past. I soon found myself with a brand new toy that to this day is still one of my all time favorites. I love Lincoln Logs. I loved them so much but there was never enough of them. You would get half way through a fort project and run out. I knew it was my parents way of holding me and my talents back, preventing me from becoming a Master Builder.
Well I soon found out that other kids had them too and every time I went to their house I just brought a few of theirs home with me. I eventually had enough Lincoln Logs to build a decent fort that I could actually crawl into.
My other favorite toy at the time was Tinker Toys. With Tinker toys I could build anything. The only thing I disliked about them was they were not strong enough to hold your weight. They were however pretty cool for what they did. I never made anything with the tinker toys that could hurt someone which I guess for me was a plus. That is probably
what kind of made their novelty wear off pretty quick. However, even today I can sit with a child, play with Tinker Toys and have a good time.
Between Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys, they were what I called comfort toys. They were just plain, simple, mundane, toys that let you use your imagination to create anything you wanted to. I also had an erector set, but I could never get into them as much.
As I grew a little larger I started to build my own toys, from bicycles to push carts and eventually go carts.
You haven't lived until you get at the top of a hill, like Glascock St. in Raleigh, NC in one of these. Glascock was THE best street for speed. The hill on Glascock was three blocks long and it ended with a block of straight road before it came to a stop light.
You could get in this homemade go cart and honestly beat a car down the hill. As you can see, this was the economy model. Brakes were only installed on the luxury models, and as we all know, only sissies drove the luxury models.
This baby could reach speeds that could burn paint off the sides in a couple of trips down that hill. Once you committed to the slope of the hill, there was no holding back.
You put your feet on the board to help steer. You grabbed onto the rope, clenched you ass cheeks together real tight and flew like the wind.
I think it is safe to say very few kids today would even know what this is or how to build them. This toy was second best only to the Radio Flyer which was even faster on that hill.
Like I said I was thinking about my Gandy the other day and the stories he used to share with me as a kid. I used to sit in awe listening about the adventures he would take rafting down the Mississippi river, and I think some of my stories and adventures could be just as interesting to him if I could talk to him again.
I have seven grandchildren but I am not a Gandy to any of them. I have a lot of stories but kids today are not interested in the things from our past. When our kids come to visit they stay online or on the phone texting almost their entire visit.
It is really sad in a way because there are so many awesome things they could learn to share with their children some day if they just took the time to stop, look and listen to the people around them.
Can you imagine the stories the kids today will tell their grandchildren about their life while growing up? "Yeah, I remember my granddad, my mother, my father, they used to sit around watching TV, while I played games on my phone or texted my sister who was across the room from me on her phone."
From one old man, to the current generation of parents: You owe it yourself and your children to tell them about their grandparents, to get them involved in their lives. Tell them about yourself, and your life as a child. Take the time to interact and make them engage in your life. Give them reasons to love their family, their ancestors, and their heritage.
I promise there will come a day in each of our lives, when our Gandy's will have all died. When important member of your family will no longer be there to answer a phone, rush to your aid, or comfort you in times of loss, need, or depression.
No one that grows up into adulthood, will escape the pains and horrors of life and one day you'll wake up and realize that there is no one to turn to anymore.
Death is certain, and one day the Gandys will all be gone.
While it is still possible, use your Gammy, your Nana, your Gandy and your parents now, before the time to do so is too little, or too late.
This was my Nana and Gandy. Never were they to busy to spend time with me. Between them, they taught me They taught me things that no Website, or any other person for that matter could ever teach me.
Together, they taught me that the Multiplication Table was the most important thing in Math I would ever learn and that I would use it everyday of my life. That learning to cook, clean, sew (both by hand, and on a sewing machine) was a necessary skill for everyone to learn. That treating not just people in general, but more especially women and elderly people, with respect was a cherished character, and a priority as a man. I was taught how to plant and care for a garden; how to rebuild a car engine by reading a book and following instructions; how to cut firewood, build a fire and how to safely hunt and fish. They taught me things I would need to make it in this world alone if ever a time came when it would be necessary. Their knowledge was invaluable.
The most important thing I learned from it all was, they did it all with and through love, so that it made a lasting impression on my life and I would and could cherish it enough to someday share it with my kids and grandkids.
Though I have taught many things to the kids and grandkids that have been in my life, I have never been a Gandy to one of them. Things have changed and sadly for me, I believe all the Gandys have died.