Jim Terry
Of strings and things
By Jim Terry
December 23, 2019

Wired Magazine is a publication which focuses on technology and how it affects us. Several years ago, Jonathan Liu offered a piece in the publication titled "The 5 Best Toys of All time." Although the magazine probes the world of geekism, he enumerates the most practical and truly most cherished toys, at least for boys, that anyone could offer: a stick, a box, string, a cardboard tube, and dirt.

My kids and grand-kids have had uncountable hours of fun with boxes or those tubes from the paper towels or toilet tissue which we called toot-too-toots, because they would use them as trumpets or megaphones.

When I first read the article, I was reminded of something I found while looking through my mother's desk shortly after she passed away. It was a list she had made, in 1950, of the items she found in my blue jean pockets as she was about to wash them. This was pre-cargo pants days when we only had two front pockets, two back pockets and a small watch pocket. I can't imagine the volume of stuff she would have found if we had had cargo pants.

As I looked at the list, it occurred to me that I am lucky to have teeth today because several items were plastic favors we used to get out of gum machines. I didn't remember how much gum I chewed as a kid, and none of it was sugarless in those days.

She listed the items in each of my pockets. The left front contained the most items, since I am left handed. First on her list was a plastic figure, about two and one-half inches tall, probably a toy soldier from a gum machine; a pocket knife; a spinning top and string with a button tied at one end to prevent the string from slipping through the fingers; a plastic ice skate from a gum machine; two keys on a ring; two feet of string in addition to the top string; a plastic hot dog from a gum machine; a picture of two boys wrestling; a bobby pin which was bent.

My dad and I had matching pocket knives. He believed a guy should always carry a pocket knife. Dad was a meat cutter and knew how to keep knives very sharp. He often checked on mine to assure I could cut string or whittle on a stick, should the need arise.

Since I am left-handed, I had to learn to wind my top string to throw from the left side. Most of my friends were righties and my top always spun opposite to theirs.

I have no memory of what the keys would have been for-probably a treasure chest I planted in the back yard. But, the bobby pin was a necessity. Three of the greatest inventions have been the bobby pin, a paper clip and a wooden clothes pin. I won't take time to discuss the uses they have, but a boy can do a lot with any or all of them.

Another pocket contained: a rubber band; a rabbit foot; a plastic heart from a gum machine; onehalf a button; a tax token from Oklahoma; and ninety three cents. In those days, with ninety-three cents, a kid could go to downtown Dallas on the bus, see a couple of movies, have popcorn, a candy bar and a drink and return home and have change left. According to the Bureau of labor Statistics inflation calculator, that ninety-three cents in 1950 would come to $10.18 in 2019, and that won't buy the ticket to the movie in most theaters today.

My left back pocket contained my billfold, a comb and two lists of Spanish words. My memory fails me as to why I would have had lists of Spanish words in my pocket, unless they were lists of words given to me by one of the rascals I knew and were words of questionable morality. It is probably good mom didn't speak Spanish. Had she understood those lists, today I probably would have a vivid memory of the trek to the woodshed.

The right rear pocket contained but one item-a weed, as she described it, "Wild oat or wheat that sticks." I remember those weeds known as foxtails. The two to three inch head resembled a fox's tail and you could put it between your hands and move the hands back and forth and cause the weed to crawl.

I appreciate that my mother preserved these memories and offer them at Christmas for parents struggling to make sure Johnny or Susie gets the latest in gadgetry or the current fad doll. Take a hint from the Wired article. Boys and girls like sticks, boxes and those cardboard tubes. Boys like string to tie things together while girls make string finger designs. And what kid doesn't like to dig in a sandbox, or absent that, a hole in the ground?

However your Santa lists go, I hope you have a blessed Christmas and a new year filled with God's blessings.

© Jim Terry


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Jim Terry

Jim Terry has worked in Republican grassroots politics for 40 years. Terry was an administrative assistant to a Republican elected official in Dallas for twenty years. In 1996, he ran for and was elected to Justice Court 2 in Dallas County where he served eight years. Contact Jim at tr4guy62@yahoo.com


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