Electric Football

Electric Football Super Bowl IV

Electric Football Super Bowl IV

With yet another Super Bowl approaching, I would like to pause to remember Super Bowl IV. In early 1970, the Kansas City Chiefs, representatives of the upstart American Football League upset the Minnesota Vikings, representatives of the National Football League, 23-7 in New Orleans.

Many of us still remember the cast of characters from that game as some are now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Vikings defensive line was nicknamed the “Purple People Eaters” and anchored by Carl Eller and Alan Page. The Chiefs were under the leadership of quarterback, Len Dawson, dubbed the “Ugly Duckling.” Bud Grant coached the Vikings and Hank Stram coached the Chiefs. During the Super Bowl, Coach Stram was miked for sound. This was the first time viewers had a chance to really see and hear what was happening on the sidelines.

On East Broadway in North Baltimore, Super Bowl IV must have made a big impact because later that fall when the JCPenney Christmas catalog arrived at our house, my brother, Gary, wanted an electric football game. He had the opportunity to choose any two teams in the NFL but he picked the combatants from Super Bowl IV. He must have been on Santa’s “nice” list that year because Santa brought exactly what Gary wanted.

From a parent’s perspective, electric football had to be one of the most annoying games invented. Due to its maddening sound, we mostly played it upstairs in a bedroom. The playing field was made of metal, the players were tiny plastic figures painted like the Chiefs and Vikings, and the football was a piece of felt. Between each snap, each player rearranged his team. Once the football teams were lined up, we flipped the switch and the metal field vibrated LOUDLY and the jiggling moved the players around the field. When the ball carrier was tackled (touched by a defender), we turned the game off and lined up for the next play.

In hindsight, the electric football game was annoying from a kid’s perspective too. As we watched Saturday morning cartoons, there were many television commercials promoting electric football. These advertisements touted the quarterback as a triple threat that could run, kick, or pass, but, in reality, he was never much good at passing. Mostly he just served as the ball carrier, but on rare occasions, the quarterback could kick the little ball of felt through the uprights. Also, the television commercials led us to believe that we would be creating elaborate plays, but the only successful strategy was putting all of one’s players in a big clump. Even though the electric football game didn’t quite live up to its billing, we still enjoyed it and played it often.

Soon, the JCPenney Christmas catalog arrived for 1972 and my brother selected another football game for a gift: Mattel Talking Football. This game involved 13 plastic disks. The player on offense chose a disk and secretly placed it in the game while the player on defense did the same. Based on the selections, an announcer broadcasted the resulting play. “Sweep left. The defensive end gets to him eight yards back!” “Fullback drives through a big hole up the middle. Drug down after a gain of seven yards!” But, even the best plays could be nullified when the announcer shouted “fumble” or “penalty.”

When the situation seemed especially desperate, the offensive player could choose a disk called “trick plays.” The best outcome would be a flea flicker resulting in a touchdown, but more often than not it might end in an interception.

Mattel Talking Football convinced us that we were football strategists. We played that game so much that we had all of the announcer’s words memorized. When I grew up and married my husband, I learned that he had similar happy recollections of playing Mattel Talking Football with his brother.

It’s funny how I can barely remember the nearly forty Super Bowls since Super Bowl IV and I only remember that 1970 Super Bowl because of an electric football game, but here’s hoping that Super Bowl XLVIII will be one for the ages. And if it isn’t a good game, here’s to a great party with good friends and yummy food.


Hail Hail the Gang’s all Here!

As the high school basketball season begins to wind down, my mind returns to the most exciting sporting events of any NBHS school year during the late 1970s: the boys’ basketball tournaments. Just when it seemed like winter would never end, the tournament draw was announced and excitement began to build.

Soon the game day arrived and the hallways of the high school buzzed with planning conversations. “Did you buy your tickets?” “Can you give me a ride?” “How late are you allowed to stay out after the game?” On tournament days, the school day ended with a pep rally involving the basketball team, cheerleaders, and pep band. We hurried home from school amped up for the game.

By early evening, it seemed as if most of North Baltimore arrived at the appointed tournament site, usually Findlay High School, clad in orange and black and ready to cheer on the Tigers. Younger students rode with their parents. Older students were proud to be able to drive unsupervised to the game and arrived by the carload.

As tip-off approached, the NB section at the game was packed shoulder to shoulder. When the Tigers finally took the court under the leadership of head coach Jim Dennis, wearing his signature crew cut, the NB fans rose as one. That was the moment when we cheered the loudest and when we felt the most NB Tiger pride. It seems as if the loud cheering lasted from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer. I must have done my part because I can clearly remember losing my voice cheering at the tournament games.

Soon the game was over. If we won, the excitement intensified as we began to plan for another game in only a couple days. If we lost, we felt sad as we loaded into the car to grab a pizza in Findlay on the way home. Eating in a Findlay restaurant with one’s friends was still a rare treat in that era. If there was still enough parental curfew time available, the car might make a couple rounds of the circuit in Findlay before heading home to North Baltimore. And if there was still a little curfew time available, the car might make a few swings up and down Main Street in NB to see what was happening.

In hindsight, the exhilaration that I still recall from the tournament games wasn’t about winning or losing the game. The basketball tournaments of my memories were special because many North Baltimore residents, both young and old, were unified in cheering on the Tigers.

Since then, I’ve been to many basketball games. And I would happily trade in the NCAA Final Four and NBA games just to relive one of the NB Tiger tournament games of the late 1970s.

Snowed In: 2014 Style

Winter 2014

Winter 2014

Last week, prior to the polar vortex, I wrote a column recalling my family’s experiences of being housebound during the major snowstorms of 1977 and 1978. Little did I know that within 48 hours of finishing that article, I would find myself snowed in again. Luckily, this time we were snowed in 2014 style.

Being stuck indoors isn’t much fun regardless of the era, but I would contend that the 2014 version is far easier than 1978. Instead of three television stations showing soap operas, this time we were blessed not only with cable television but also Netflix. How exciting to have the inclement weather enforce a television viewing marathon upon us! The only problem was deciding which program to watch. We focused most of our viewing on HouseHunters International.

Since the polar vortex happened in early January, many of us hadn’t even had time to fully break our New Year’s resolutions yet. Since mine was to exercise every day, I was able to jump on our elliptical without interrupting my television viewing marathon. In 1978, few of us had any way to exercise at home during the blizzard, let alone exercise without ceasing our television viewing.

No matter how tempting a day of watching mindless television sounds, it still gets boring pretty quickly. Then it is time to break out the books and read a bit. In 1978, I remember re-reading books that we had in our house to pass time. In 2014, a new book is only seconds away courtesy of e-readers. With just a few clicks, my Kindle had the newest bestseller awaiting me.

For me, the best part of the polar vortex 2014 was the ability to correspond with my friends via text or Facebook. During the snowstorms of my teenage years, not being able to chat with my friends was the worst part of being homebound. This time the conversations went on for hours. Lots of good laughs were shared as no one was too busy to chat.

Oddly, the access to technology helped us find two low-tech ways to enjoy the weather. Even though I am 53 years old, and have lived through a few snowstorms, these were snowy day activities that I had never experienced. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

As the temperatures reached -9 degrees, one of my friends posted a video of his kids conducting a science experiment. Intrigued by the video, I encouraged my husband and son to boil a cup of water and throw it out the back door. It exploded into a fine powdery snow in the air. The first time it happened, I laughed harder than I had laughed in a long, long time. We repeated the experiment several times throughout the day and I laughed uncontrollably every time.

Next, I began to see Facebook posts about Snow Ice Cream. What a fun snowy day activity to make homemade ice cream from freshly fallen snow, sugar, vanilla and milk. All you need is ten minutes and some excited kids to enjoy this activity! Word to the wise: if you have a pet, choose your snow carefully though.

But, the very best thing about being snowed in 2014 is access to the internet, specifically travel sites for warm weather getaways. I spent several hours researching a late winter trip on TripAdvisor. And before the Level 3 snow advisory was lifted, I had succumbed and booked a trip that involves sun, sand, and cocktails with little umbrellas in them. Even though our house was cool, my soul was warm dreaming about a tropical getaway.

So, here’s to hoping we don’t have any more major snowstorms this winter, but just in case stay prepared with coats, hats, mittens, boots, shovels, and alternative heating sources. And more importantly, keep your laptop charged and Netflix account current!

Be warm.

Snowed In

great blizzard 78

As I write this, our front yard looks like a winter wonderland with green bushes decorated in white holiday lights ablaze beneath a perfect coating of snow.  Unfortunately, the roads are covered in ice created by the arctic cold and howling wind.  Once I made it home from work, there are no errands important enough to take me outdoors again tonight.  As I relax by the fireplace, my mind wanders back to the two times that my family was snowed in during my childhood.

In January 1977, North Baltimore was on the receiving end of a massive winter storm.  School was cancelled for nearly a week.  At first, there was the usual excitement that accompanies school cancellations.  But soon, I remember boredom taking hold.  We weren’t blessed with hundreds of cable channels or internet to keep us busy. 

We did have an exceptional stroke of luck that week: the premiere of a new mini-series.  Roots originally aired on ABC for eight consecutive nights from January 23 to January 30, 1977, right during the middle of the Ohio snowstorm.  I remember watching Roots with the Reynolds family each night.  The days were boring but I was anxious to watch the next installment of the mini-series that evening.

The plotline of Roots followed a black family from Gambia in the 1700s through slavery to the current day.  Roots received 37 Emmy nominations.  The final episode is still the third-highest rated US television program according to Nielsen.  Apparently, North Baltimore wasn’t the only part of America snowed in and glued to its television sets that week!

Finally, the spring of 1977 arrived and life proceeded like it always does.  We thought we had survived the snowstorm to end all snowstorms until exactly one year later when the Great Blizzard of ’78 shut down North Baltimore again.  After the snow and hurricane level winds subsided, fifty-one Ohioans had died as a result of that storm.  Cars and homes were buried in snow.  Over 5,000 members of the National Guard were dispatched to help northwest Ohio dig out after the storm. 

In North Baltimore, we were stranded again.  We missed nearly two weeks of school due to the Great Blizzard.  We weren’t lucky enough to have another blockbuster mini-series to watch during the Blizzard, but my brother and I found endless hours of entertainment listening to a CB (citizen’s band) radio.  After the snow ended, many Good Samaritans on snowmobiles were delivering food and other necessities to families stranded by the storm.  The deliveries were coordinated over the CB radio.  Usually, the requests involved a family needing a few basics such as milk, bread, and diapers.  When the family in need added a case of beer and cigarettes to the urgent need list, we always wondered if the request for food was just a ruse to get the beer delivered.

Once we returned to school after the Blizzard, it seemed like NBHS Physics teacher, Vern Bame, spent most of the rest of the year teaching us about the sheer force of the Great Blizzard.  He talked often of the barometer reaching the lowest recorded level in a non-tropical event in the US and it had dropped a remarkable 40 millibars in 24 hours.  Many years later, I realized that Mr. Bame was describing the makings of a Perfect Storm that later became a best-selling novel and movie.

So far, it seems like this winter has been worse than usual.  Let’s hope that we don’t face any big snowstorms like those in 1977 or 1978.  But just in case, I’d make sure you have a few good books on hand and your Netflix account paid in full by late January.  And maybe you should load up on food, diapers and other not-so-necessary necessities just in case.

Stay warm.




Winter Gift: Snowy Day

Beecher Street Gang circa 1968

Beecher Street Gang circa 1968

Winter is my least favorite season, but as a child, there was one precious gift that winter sometime delivered:  a snow day.  It was so exciting to hear the WFIN announcer share that “North Baltimore Schools have been closed.”  And, it was magical thinking about what the unplanned day had in store for us, especially if there was a good covering of snow on the ground. 

 After some initial television watching and eating breakfast at a more relaxed pace than a normal school day, it wasn’t long before we were piling into boots, hats, gloves, and snow pants to begin our great outdoor escapade.  As soon as one family from the Beecher Street gang started playing outdoors, it was only a matter of moments before kids from other families joined us.  And then the fun began!

 Based on the amount and packing quality of the snow, we initially had to determine if it was a snowball day, a snowman day, or best of all, a snow fort building day.   As soon as we agreed upon our creation, we started to work:  making snowballs for ammunition or rolling big snowballs in the yard to construct a snowman or a snow fort.  

 On the best packing days, we could roll huge snowballs, but we sometimes forgot to plan how we would lift the completed project onto the second or third level of the snowman.   Together we tried to lift them; sometimes we succeeded but often we did not. 

 Snowmen always created another complication near the end of the project.  Once we had three nice snowballs stacked on one another, there came the inevitable discussion about how we would dress the snowman.  Would he have a hat and scarf?  Who had a long carrot at home for the nose?  What could we use as eyes?

 After hours and hours of playing in the snow, we would finally get so cold that we needed to go home to warm up and dry our clothes before we headed out for more winter adventures.  As I recall the best snow days of my childhood, I can still remember those cold red marks around the top of my boots and above my gloves.  And I can still remember that huge pile of boots, coats, hats and mittens strewn about the laundry room when we came in to warm up.  (I later learned that snow days aren’t quite as much fun for moms as the kids.)

 I do have one regret about childhood winters in North Baltimore; even though our childhood snow days seem magical, I realize in hindsight that we were deprived of a snow treat that most children take for granted:  easy access to a sledding hill.  This is definitely one disadvantage to growing up in a region that is one of the flattest places in America.  As we got older, we did drag our sleds to the water treatment plant near the city park and sometimes, our parents drove us to other sledding opportunities at Van Buren State Park, but we never really experienced an action-packed exhilarating day of sledding.

 So, the next snowy day when you’re grumbling under your breath as you are scraping your car and dreading a slippery morning commute, remember that there is likely a long list of local school closures being announced on the radio and lucky schoolchildren are awakening to one of winter’s most exciting surprise gifts:  an unplanned day of snowy adventure.

The Game

Regardless of where your college football loyalties lie, the rivalry week of the OSU-Michigan game is always one of the most fun weeks of the year in northwest Ohio, especially in North Baltimore which is located nearly equidistant between the two rival colleges.

 My high school years at NBHS were the last of the famous Woody Hayes/Bo Schembechler “Ten Year War,” likely the most fiercely contested decade ever in the legendary border battle.  In fact, there are still unresolved issues about this era as evidenced by a new television documentary called “TieBreaker” about the 1973 OSU-Michigan game.  After the game ended in a tie on the field, only a secret vote by the Big Ten Athletic Directors could determine which team would compete in the Rose Bowl.  In North Baltimore, I can still remember the excitement in our home when we learned that OSU had surprisingly been chosen to play in the Rose Bowl on the following afternoon.

 The following season (1974), there was a student-organized spirit day at NBHS on the Friday before “The Game.”  NB students wore t-shirts and jerseys supporting their favorite team.  On game day, my family was invited to watch “The Game” on the other side of East Broadway with the Reynolds family.  I clearly remember that exciting battle.  OSU won 12-10 on four field goals by Tom Klaban.  Michigan had a chance to win the game on a 33-yard field goal with 18 seconds left and it just barely sailed outside the left goal post.

 The following season, my dad took me to Ohio Stadium for the first time to see the Buckeyes play Minnesota.  I was hooked and couldn’t wait to go to college at the Ohio State University so I could go to all of the Buckeye home games.  I arrived on campus the same year (1978) as highly-acclaimed quarterback, Art Schlichter, but that season was a disaster as it started with a resounding home loss and ended with Coach Hayes punching a Clemson player in the bowl game and being forced to resign.

 My sophomore year at OSU was Coach Earle Bruce’s first season.  As the Buckeyes started clicking off win after win, one of my roommates suggested that we try to get one of the few student tickets available for the upcoming OSU-Michigan game at Ann Arbor.  On a chilly evening, we sat outside all night on the granite steps of the Ohio Union for a chance to buy tickets.  Even though it was extremely uncomfortable, it proved to be a great investment as the 1979 OSU-Michigan game was a classic.  The #2 ranked Buckeyes blocked a punt for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to earn an 18-15 victory and a trip to the Rose Bowl.  My roommates and I even followed the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl that season, a memory I still treasure.

 I’ve gone to many OSU-Michigan games since then, but two stick out in my memory.  I’m still laughing about the 1992 game at Columbus.  The Buckeyes, in the midst of a four game losing slump to the “Team Up North,” scored with 4 minutes left in the game to pull within a point of the #5 ranked Wolverines.  Coach John Cooper elected to kick an extra point and settle for the tie.  OSU President E. Gordon Gee proudly proclaimed the 13-13 tie as “one of our greatest wins ever.”  Can you believe that the OSU Board of Trustees rehired that guy a second time?

 The best OSU-Michigan game I attended was the 2006 game at Columbus when the Buckeyes and Wolverines were ranked #1 and #2 in the BCS poll.  To add further drama to the game, former Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler had delivered an inspirational speech to the Wolverines after practice earlier in the week and then died two days before “The Game.”  The stakes couldn’t have been higher for the 2006 Border Battle as the Wolverines took the field planning to win one for Bo.

 At the beginning of the game, I remember feeling frustrated because some of the Buckeye fans sitting near us were exceptionally annoying.  But, by the time the Buckeyes secured a 42-39 victory, I no longer cared how irritating those fans were because we were all hugging each other.  The Buckeyes were heading for a national championship game!

 Anyone who is a fan of Big Ten football knows that records go out the window for the OSU-Michigan game because anything can, and often does, happen.  The OSU-Michigan game gives friends and co-workers an opportunity to participate in friendly banter and wagering during the week preceding the game.  And best of all, “The Game” is a great opportunity for us to slow down during this busy season to gather to watch a football game and to determine bragging rights for another year.  O–H!



November 22, 1963: Fifty Years Later

Julie in 1963

Julie in 1963

Unlike most Americans who were alive on November 22, 1963, I do not remember exactly where I was when those fateful shots rang out in Dallas because I was too young.  As a three year-old living on North Third Street, I was busy anticipating the arrival of a baby brother and working on my list for Santa.  I do have three vivid memories about the assassination: the famous John-John salute, likely because he was the same age as me; my mother seeming especially sad; and a personal concern about why the news was on rather than Captain Kangaroo in the mornings.

As the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination approaches, we will pause to reflect as a nation.  It has also forced me to pause and reflect on the decade of the 1960s, the first decade of my life.  Usually, I use this column to celebrate the idyllic childhood I had in North Baltimore, surrounded by loving family and neighbors with freedom to explore our safe little town. But, the political climate of the 1960s did create a dissonant backdrop to the Mayberry-esque daily life I was experiencing.

I was born in 1960.  Here is a chronology of national events before my tenth birthday:

  • Age three:  President Kennedy assassinated
  • Age four: Congress authorizes the use of military force in southeast Asia
  • Age eight:  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated
  • Age eight:  Senator Robert Kennedy assassinated

It must have been complicated for my parents to explain these tragic events to such a young child since they happened during a period while I still thought the Daniel Boone television show was historically accurate, that Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke was a real person, and that the Disney animal “documentaries” were unstaged.  Obviously, my immature psyche wasn’t ready to comprehend wars and assassinations.

In hindsight, I think the Vietnam War was more integrated into my daily childhood life than the assassinations that grabbed the nation’s media attention for a period but then faded away. I clearly remember my elementary school classmates who had older brothers worrying about whether they would be drafted.  And I also remember Walter Cronkite starting the CBS Evening News with the daily body count throughout the war.  Without a doubt, the 1960s were complex times to be a young child.

On the other hand, the 1960s were also a time of positive social change for our country.  Here is a different chronology of events that happened before my tenth birthday:

  • Age three:  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech
  • Age four:  The Civil Rights Act was signed into law
  • Age six: The term “women’s liberation” first appeared in print

So as I reflect back on the 1960s through a lens of fifty years, those are the movements that still influence me on a daily basis: from the mundane (the peace sticker on my bumper to the protest rock playlist on my iTunes) to the topics I read about (currently I’m engrossed by the true Native American history they didn’t teach us in history class) to the career path I have chosen (nonprofit work focused on vulnerable populations).  I feel blessed that these important social movements were a backdrop to my childhood.

And even though the 1960s, the first ten years of my life, were full of political turbulence, they also gave me an important roadmap for life when Dr. King said in his “I Have a Dream” speech: “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Same Story, Different High School


Lifelong friendships with our school friends are rare gifts.  They are built on a foundation of shared context and nurtured through common experiences and similar acquaintances.  Stories are so much easier to tell among school friends because there is no need to explain the cast of characters or how they are connected.   Unfortunately, the common context that makes these relationships so strong also makes them exclusive.   Rarely, do we let others enter our high school cliques later in life.

Recently, I was invited to a Halloween party in Findlay with an invitation list that predominantly consisted of ladies who graduated from Findlay High School in 1977 and 1978.  Like many groups of high school friends, these ladies have stayed quite close and have traveled through life’s entire journey together:  marriage and divorce, children and grandchildren, careers, vacations, sickness and celebrations.  I know most of the ladies as individuals but had never experienced their group dynamic.

Clad in my witch’s hat for the Halloween party, I arrived anxious to partake in good food and good cheer.  Soon after arriving, I realized that I had been given a front row seat to watch an amazing group of friends who went to a different high school but are the same age as me.   I was getting to peek behind the curtain and watch the group dynamics of a lifelong group of friends.

At first glance, the Findlay High School and North Baltimore High School classes of the late 1970s seemed to bear little resemblance to one another, especially since Findlay’s graduating classes of that era were ten times larger than NBHS:  660 for FHS and 65 for NBHS.

As the high school stories began to unfold, I realized that our experiences were quite similar as the conversation followed common themes.  There were lots of stories tied to dating and dances and proms.  There was discussion about who dated whom and in what order.  Many conversations recalled the cars we drove in high school.  It’s funny how 35 years later everyone still remembers who drove the yellow Pinto.  Many laughs surrounded high school parties and the accompanying teenage shenanigans.  They talked about extracurricular activities.  At 54 years old, we still self-identify by who was in the band, who was a cheerleader, and who was in the high school musical.

Since we were all the same age, many of the laughs focused on life in the late 1970s:  the clothes of the disco era, the gas guzzling cars, and the rock music.   I learned that it didn’t matter if one grew up in Findlay or North Baltimore; we were having fun doing the same things.   Those 1970s pictures with flipped back hairstyles might make us look silly now but we were sure having a lot of fun.

I feel extremely honored that the ladies from FHS 77/78 allowed me to laugh about their high school stories with them at the Halloween party.  The way they continue to support each other through good times and bad is a great roadmap for lifelong friendships.

On the other hand, it made me miss my NBHS ‘78 friends and our funny stories where I know the entire cast of characters.    Ladies, I think it is time to reconvene again for an evening of laughs and to nurture our precious lifelong friendships.  See you soon!

And for the rest of you, find your school friends.  Reconnect!  Share some laughs!

Marching Band Memories


As I shivered in Ohio Stadium last Saturday watching TBDBITL doing a Michael Jackson halftime show replete with an actual moonwalk marching routine, my mind returned to my NBHS band days in the mid-1970s.  No, not because that NBHS band had stellar musical qualities or marching talents like TBDBITL, but because we had so much fun.

For me, all of the NBHS football home games were spent in the north end of the bleachers with my marching band buddies.  After we marched to the football field from the high school and proudly performed the pregame Tiger fight song and the National Anthem, we sat together in the bleachers.  I can’t remember the outcome of one game or one marching band halftime routine during that era, but I do remember lots of bleacher antics like thrown buckeyes, food in the stands, and chatting with non-band friends who stood below and yelled up into the bleachers.  Sitting and laughing together was the highlight of every school week.

At halftime, we performed one of the shows we had been practicing since band camp.  One of the funniest memories from a halftime show was one band member’s band pants falling off while marching.  Luckily, we wore shorts beneath the wool band pants.

Of course, the best quarter of every football game was the third quarter after our halftime performance.  We were dismissed to wander freely around the football field.  As hungry teenagers, our first stop was always the concession stand.  Then we could chat with our non-band friends on the sidelines before reassembling in the bleachers at the start of the fourth quarter.

Far better than a NBHS home game was an away game because bus rides were involved.  Instruments were piled on one bus with a few open seats reserved behind them for the seniors.  Underclassmen always wondered what the seniors did on the bus and I can’t answer that because I quit band after my junior year.  I’m sure there were some band romances on the bus.  In the words of Sargeant Shultz on Hogan’s Heroes, “I know nothing.”

I do know that the band underclassmen spent the long bus ride singing songs and telling jokes.  And many of those bus rides were very long during that era because NBHS had Danbury Lakeside High School in its conference and we also played many distant teams such as Antwerp, Hilltop, and Ayersville.  (Apparently, gas was cheaper in those days!)  The biggest highlight of any band trip was a stop at a fast food restaurant.   Even McDonald’s was exciting because we didn’t have one in North Baltimore yet.

Nearly 40 years after my first NBHS Marching Band performance, I am amazed at how many of my adult friends were my marching band friends.  Sure, we weren’t a very good band, but yes, that group consisted of many great people and those Friday night lights bonded us for a lifetime of friendship.

Chicken Pox 1969….Sorry

May 1967 Powell School


I loved fourth grade at Powell School.  This was the first school year when the fifth graders moved to Hammansburg School leaving us (NB ’78) the unexpected elder statesmen of the Powell School building.  We were the big kids on the playground and in the lunchroom, always an enviable position.  We were old enough to ride our bikes to school.  We also had certain school privileges such as serving as safety patrol crossing guards.  All of this was pretty heady stuff for nine-year olds.

Fourth grade was also a great year in the classroom for me.  My teacher was Emma Apple, one of my favorite teachers ever.  Somehow, she made learning more exciting.  I was especially energized by a competition to see how many pages each student could read.  Mrs. Apple had hung a paper moon near the ceiling and a path to the moon was marked in pages read.  Each student had a paper rocket ship that zoomed along the path.  Inspired by Neil Armstrong’s recent moonwalk in July, I wanted to race my rocket ship as fast I could to the moon in our classroom. 

Each fall, the school held an Open House so parents could see what students were learning and chat with the teacher.  In Mrs. Apple’s classroom, we were reading a story about a “computer” in class and we decided to make that the highlight of our Open House presentation.  To represent the computer in the story, Mr. Apple built a large box, bigger than a refrigerator and painted it turquoise like the computer in our story.  In the classroom, Mrs. Apple allowed the students to add the finishing artistic touches to the computer.

In the story, a person could ask the computer a question and receive an instantaneous answer, a novel idea in 1969 but an oddly funny idea in today’s era of Google!  At the Open House, there was a pad of paper on the outside of our classroom computer and a visitor could write a question on the paper and drop it in the slot and soon another slip with a hand-written answer would come out of the same slot.  For Open House, Mrs. Apple allowed students to sign up for the opportunity to be inside the computer box and answer questions.  I was so excited to be chosen to fill one of the 15 minute stints inside the computer!

In the days leading up to Open House, the number of absences at Powell School began to soar due to a chickenpox outbreak, but the last thing I had on my mind as I put my dress on to get ready for the Open House was chickenpox.  In hindsight, I remember noticing that I had a couple tiny red spots on my belly, but I was an active kid who always had bumps, bruises, and mosquito bites. As I eagerly brushed my hair and teeth to prepare for Open House, it never crossed my mind to tell my parents about those tiny red spots.

As expected, the computer box was a big hit with the Open House visitors and for me it was great fun trying to think of answers for the questions that were submitted to the computer.  When I returned home, still animated from the exciting event, I took my dress off and noticed that there were now a dozen tiny blisters on my belly.  By morning, I felt ill and missed the next week of school due to chicken pox.

So, if you went to Powell School in 1969 and you contracted chickenpox, it was probably my fault.  Sorry.