Tuesday, November 20, 2007

All Right, So Make it the Bronx

I’m not a big fan of blogging memes, because – let’s face it – they’re not really memes. Also, ever since I’ve started being hit with these things, I’ve been dying to use the pun title Meme Me in St. Louis. But the fact that I’ve never been to that city makes the gag seem inappropriate.

Still, I’ve been tagged by both OzAtheist and ordinary girl to take part in the “memory meme.” Since I put off my good friend OG the last time she tagged me, I’m not gonna snub her again. Ozatheist, a more recent acquaintance, gets a free ride on her coattails.

Anyway, The rules are:

1. Describe your earliest memory where this memory is clear, and where "clear" means you can depict at least three details;
2. Give an estimate of how old you were at this age; and
3. Tag five other bloggers with this meme.

I’m gonna tell you in advance that I won't be tagging anybody, so don’t go scrambling to find your name at the bottom of this post. If you haven’t been tagged already, and want to be, either consider yourself so, or send me an email and I’ll make the tag formal for the Atheosphere record books.

At my age, I sometimes have difficulty remembering what I did yesterday. So it’s almost impossible to sift through the mental clutter of my childhood, filled as it is with breakfast cereal jingles (all of which I can still sing on a dare), the tastes of sweets long ago taken off the market, and numerous instances of being told not to talk back. The child is father to the man, and I must admit that I still love to start the day with a bowl of crunchy goodness, stuff my face with cookies and candy and snack cakes, and talk back, not necessarily in that order.

I'm not able to pinpoint a specific incident that I can authoritatively say is my earliest memory. In general, though, I mostly remember watching a lot of TV. I mean a lot. This was back in the early 50s, and television was an amazing new toy. It was on constantly in my house.

When I was just four years old, in fact, I starred on my very own TV show. Hardly anyone knew about it except me. That was fine, though, because I was the only audience I cared about. From the time I woke up until the time I fell asleep, I kept up a running commentary for my sole viewer. "Notice the firemen on my pajamas this morning. Can we bring the camera in for a better look at them? Let's see if they've moved at all from where they were last night."

I was casual and personable, like Arthur Godfrey, who was ubiquitous on television and radio in the early '50s. Mom and I watched and listened to every one of his programs. Arthur Godfrey had a talent, rare in those days, of making housewives believe that he was talking directly to them. Mom sometimes answered questions that came over the airwaves. "I bet you like Lipton tea, doncha?" Arthur Godfrey would ask. "Not really," Mom would tell him, as she sipped her fifth cup of coffee.

I also asked questions during my continuous broadcast, and responded to them, too. "I bet you like chocolate milk, doncha?" "Oh, yeah, you can say that again."

Mom was entertained by this schizoid behavior. Occasionally, she allowed herself to appear on my show as what I called a "special guess."

"Let's ask Mom if she remembered to buy me Sugar Jets, shall we?"

"Well, Mr. Exterminator," she'd say, talking into the microphone that was my fist, "I think Sugar Jets are swell. But Rice Krinkles were on sale this week. I hope that's OK with the folks at home." Then she'd add, "Are you gonna sing something for us?"

Now and then, even Dad could be prevailed upon to make a cameo appearance. My father had aspirations, at one time, of being an opera singer. He had a wonderful tenor voice, but his dreams fell by the wayside when he had difficulty memorizing any aria other than "Vesti la Giubba" from Pagliacci. I liked hearing him sing that because there’s this “laugh, Clown, laugh” moment in it, where the grieving singer bursts into an ironic “Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha.” My father could really milk that sucker for all it was worth.

Anyway, he’d usually oblige me. When he was finished, he'd shout into my hand, "Did you like that, folks? Did you? Well why don't you give me my own damn show, f'cryinoutloud! All I need is a coupla cue cards and I could be a star!"

This always got me annoyed because I thought it was inappropriate to compete with me during my personal airtime.

"Just kidding, people," I'd say.

"Are you apologizing for your father?" Dad would ask, actually getting angry. "Y'know, when I was a kid, if I ever apologized for my father, he'd give me something to really feel sorry about!"

"Honey," Mom would explain, "it's not a real show."

"Do me something, Baby," Dad would yell, "but real isn't an issue here. You don't apologize for a father. Ever! Not just on TV. Ever!"

Mom and Dad weren't the only ones who got into the act. Whenever Nanny, my mother’s mother, visited, I'd introduce her to my viewers. "Well will you look who's sitting in our studio audience, ladies and gentlemen? It's Nanny. Why don't you stand up, Nanny, and take a bow?"

She'd cover my little hand/mike with her palm so nobody else could hear. "Do me a favor, and tell them: I hadda stand on the subway the whole ride here, my feet are killing me, I'm not that big a celebrity they need to make such a fuss. I'll just sit and wave."

"Nanny, everyone!" I'd cheer.

Mom would applaud. Dad would shake his head and mutter, "That's some pffffffff program you got there. " By “pfffffff” he meant “fucking,” but I didn’t figure that out until much later, long after the network of imagination had cancelled my show.


tina FCD said...

I love it! Take a bow!

Anonymous said...

I think I would have enjoyed watching your show.

PhillyChief said...


I was a tv junkie as well, but I never thought about about having my own show. I just wanted to be the hero from everything. Lone Ranger, Tarzan, Superman, you name it.

Sounds like you had a fun show.

John Evo said...

I got tagged and was going to say I remember my dog Shorty and spinning in circles until I tossed. But nevermind.

Unknown said...

Really? You take dares? Why don't you record yourself singing breakfast cereal jingles and post it? I dare you!

The Exterminator said...

I'm not gonna take your dare because I don't do recordings on my blog, and even if I did, I wouldn't want to alienate all my readers by exposing them to my singing.

I'll write here, though, the words to one of my favorite jingles. I guess I liked it so much because, if you sang it fast enough, it was a great tongue-twister:

Pick a pack o' Cheerios,
Pick a pack o' Kix,
Pick a pack o' Jets,
Pick a pack o' Trix,
Or Wheaties, too,
The choice is up to you
With the Betty Crocker Pick-a-pack package.

In case you're wondering -- and why would you be? -- I always picked Jets.

John Evo said...

Start your day
the right way
the O way
the get-up-and-go way
Gotta get a bowl of them O's.

Gonna get good, good
powerful fe-fe-feeling
with Cher-cher-Cherrios!
Good Mornin'
The BEST to you
each mornin'

K E double L
O double Good
Kellogs, Best to you!
Hey, We got Color TV
RCA Victor Color TV
I know what I've
been missin' now -
We got Color TV

And I will HAPPILY alienate every one of you by recording those jingles and linking them to the blog body, so you have to listen the whole time you're there!

The Exterminator said...

Well, I look forward to hearing you croon those jingles. In the meantime:

Sugarcornpops [knock knock]
Sugar Pops are tops.
Well, the pops are sweeter
And the taste is new.
'Cause they're shot with sugar
Through and through.
Keh ...
Sugarcornpops [knock knock]
Sugar Pops are tops.

And each week, Roy and Dale told us, in rhyme without music:
For breakfast they're dandy;
For snacks they're so handy;
Or eat 'em like candy!
Sugar Crisp!

And in the non-cereal category:
Once upon a time there was an engineer:
Choo-choo Charlie was his name we hear.
He had an engine and he sure had fun.
He used Good & Plenty candy to make his train run.

Bit-O'-Honey goes a long, long way.
If I had one head, it would last all day!

Ute said...

I can truly picture it...
Well, I grew up a little later, but I very well remember our first TV. It was in the late 70s, and it was a black and white TV with 6 buttons. Only three channels worked, and only one had any kind of kid shows. The earliest thing I watched was the German version of Sesame Street. We didn't get a color TV until the early 80s... and then I watched Tom and Jerry. Cereal commercials? Not in Germany. First of all there was next to no cereal available in Germany... second the TV stations were public and didn't show any commercials until later. Yep.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad we asked, I got quite a laugh out of that. Particularly liked how nanny put her hand over the mike so no one could hear. I can just imagine a nan doing that.

John Evo said...

Exterminator sadi" And in the non-cereal category:
Once upon a time there was an engineer:
Choo-choo Charlie was his name we hear.
He had an engine and he sure had fun.
He used Good & Plenty candy to make his train run.

(if I may continue)?

Charlie said:
Love my Good N Plenty
Charlie Said:
Really rings the bell
Charlie Said:
Love my Good N Plenty
Don't know any other candy
That I love so well!

Unknown said...

You do that, John. I'll listen.

The Exterminator said...

I'm with OG. Record it and they will come.

Just to give you a few more ideas, pal:

I'd fly to the moon
For a Lorna Doone!

There's a brand new peanut-butter:
Jif. Terrif!
Jif tastes really great.
You're gonna jump for Jif.

[Note: I'm not sure about "really great;" those three syllables might have been something else.]
I love Bosco.
It's rich and choc'late-y.
Choc'late-flavored Bosco
Is mighty good for me.
Mommy puts it in my milk
For extra energy.
Bosco gives me iron, and sunshine vitamin D.
Oh, I love Bosco.
That's the drink for me.


I'm still on a sugar-high left over from my childhood. It's noteworthy how many cereals had the word "sugar" in their names back then:
Sugar Jets
Sugar Crisp
Sugar Rice Krinkles
Sugar Corn Pops
Sugar Frosted Flakes

Oddly enough, though, the TV ad I remember most fondly from my youth, because I was a horndog even back then, was a very, very sexy Julie London in front of a fireplace, breathily singing:
You get a lot to like with a Marlboro:
Filter, flavor, pack or box.

I would have happily shoved anything in my mouth that she asked me to.

EnoNomi said...

I love the Lil' Exterminator Show! We'll need to tag you with more "meme"s

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Whoa!! I go away for a few days, and come back for a trip down memory lane. Funny how we, the first TV generation, seem to have all of our memories revolve around commercials. What about the TV shows themselves? Especially Saturday mornings.

First, a few westerns (Roy and Dale, The Cisco Kid, later the Lone Ranger and his trusted indian friend). Then some Kukla Fran and Ollie. Did you have Romper Room? Or was that a local thing? How about Sharrie Lewis and Lamb Chop?

Then of course, the endless cartoons. Popeye, Tom and Jerry, all the Warner Bros/Mel Blanc cartoons (Eh. What's up doc?)

OK, I gotta write my own post for the meme.

BTW, Extermy is older than me. Who'da thought?

PhillyChief said...

I watched most of those, SI, of course by the time they got to me they were already old. I'm a child of the 70s, so that means Schoolhouse Rock, Electric Company, Super Friends and Kroft Superstars. Ah, Dyna Girl... :)~

The Exterminator said...

Dyna Girl is every boy’s dream date, although Electra Woman is yummy, too. Hard to decide which one I’d rather have save me.

I got news for you, Pops. If you’re old enough to remember Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, you ain’t that much younger than me.

We had every one of those programs in the New York kiddie market. I was about two years too old for Romper Room when it first came on, but I did have Ding-Dong School when I was really little, hosted by the insipid Miss Frances. At the end of every show, she’d tell us kids that she wanted to “speak to our mothers.” I suppose she’d explain exactly what educational value there was in our making believe we were riding on a cloud. Every morning, I’d dutifully holler into the other room, “Ma, Miss Frances wants to talk to you.” And Mom would always shout back, “Tell her I’ll call her later.”

We also had a late afternoon show hosted by grizzled old Gabby Hayes. The half-hour was mostly taken up by massacred clips from old cowboy movies. But about halfway through, Gabby would do a commercial, always the same. He was “brought to” us by Quaker Puffed Rice and Quaker Puffed Wheat, the slogan for both of which was “shot from guns!” So the old coot would stand behind a cannon, pull a string, and Wow! Cereal would come blasting out, heading right toward us. I always thought that Gabby’s real job was working in some factory, shooting off those cannons to produce the products he pitched. I knew it was a tremendous waste of his time, though, because Sugar Jets were obviously so much better.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Sugar Jets? Were those the ones that tasted like Alpha-Bits and, later, Honeycomb? But looked like little jets?

The Exterminator said...

Well, it's been a long, long time since I've eaten Sugar Jets. But as I remember them, they were kind of like Kix, only coated -- and I mean coated -- with sugar. They were like little crunchy balls of pure hyperactivity. I was a pretty literal kid, and I'm surprised, looking back now, that the name-shape discrepancy didn't bother me. I suppose I didn't mind what the cereal looked like because the box always had a rocket pictured on the front. It might just be my imagination, but I believe that at one point, the picture showed the rocket zooming toward planets -- shaped, oddly enough, just like the nuggets in my bowl.

As far as taste, I think the closest thing to Sugar Jets available today, at least if you measure on the crispysweet-o-meter, is Cap'n Crunch.

Babs Gladhand said...

I absolutely love The Exterminator Show, and I hate that it was canceled. Maybe once in awhile we could see a rerun or two?

I don't know most of the jingles you guys are reminiscing over. Like PC, I am a child of the 70s. But my television watching was heavily monitored by the parents. I couldn't even watch Sesame Street. I'm sure it was because somehow in my mother's mind, Big Bird was the devil incarnate.

Remember kids, only Satan can make a giant, yellow bird.

The Exterminator said...

Yeah, and Oscar was grouchy because he hadn't found Jesus.

Maria said...

I'm not gonna take your dare because I don't do recordings on my blog, and even if I did, I wouldn't want to alienate all my readers by exposing them to my singing.
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