We didn’t watch a lot of television when I was a kid. Our black and white TV was in a small room off the living room that had been Larry’s bedroom before he died. I remember watching Captain Kangaroo before school and sometimes Captain 11 after school, but not many programs after supper. Ordinarily Dad had church commitments most nights. Mom was an avid knitter/reader, plus housework and laundry. I think TV bored her, so immersing myself with hours of the boob tube was frowned upon.
For the first decade of my life the only music I was familiar with came from school, church or TV. School consisted of, “Touch down every morning, 10 times, not just now and then. Give that chicken fat back to the chicken, and don’t be chicken again. Push up every morning, 10 times, push up, starting low. Once more on the rise, nuts to the flabby guys. Go you chicken fat go!”
Church songs were whatever our choir director had us practicing for our turn of special music during the morning worship service, or the songs we learned at summer church camp like, “We are climbing Ja-cob’s ladder, we are climbing Ja-cob’s ladder, we are climbing Ja-cob’s ladder, sold-iers of the cross.”
TV songs were usually the themes from popular programs like, “Keep rollin rollin, rollin, though the streams are swollen. Keep them doggies rollin, rawhide! Through rain and wind and weather, hell bent for leather, wishin my gal was by my side. All the things I’m missin, good vittles, love and kissin, are waiting at the end of my ride. Move ‘em out, head ‘em up, head ‘em up, move ‘em on, move ‘em out, head ‘em up-Rawhide!
Somewhere around 1960 (I was about 9) mom purchased something that revolutionized home entertainment for this family of 3. I think mom’s paycheck was used for discretionary spending and saving. When she had a hankering for something new, she’d head to Vander Ploeg’s furniture in Sioux Center. It was her choice, dad was not interested in furnishing our home which was fine by mom. She wasn’t an impulsive shopper and rarely bought something ‘expensive’ on the spot. She needed to mull that over for a bit before deciding.
Most of the rooms in our house were not big. The dining room was the largest but used the least. The living room was square with a double wide opening off the dining room, 2 windows and a narrow door leading to the TV room. We had a couch, 2 chairs, mom’s knitting basket, magazine rack, ugly hanging light fixture (off-center), a pole lamp, a shelf holding a few pieces of mom’s milk glass collection and a nice early American maple bookcase filled with World Book Encyclopedias.
The new piece of furniture (adding class to the room) was perched on the north paneled wall, under the milk glass shelf. It went along with the early American theme and was about as long as a compact car these days. A real piece of Americana, an RCA Victor Stereo Console (with a genuine diamond needle)! Goodness the times I was scolded for ruining another dang needle. I thought I was helping by removing the minuscule dust bunny which collected at the tip of the needle when I usually yanked the whole thing out by mistake. Mom would traipse down to Van Manaan’s Electric to replace the one I broke.
There was a sliding door on the top of the cabinet to hold records (we didn’t call them albums back then), the turntable/radio (AM, don’t remember if the stereo had the FM band yet) was the other half. Quite the centerpiece for our nondescript room. Mom and I were fascinated with the wizardry of this new fangled way of listening to music. Dad, not so much. I was never allowed to use the stereo console for my music. Once I became a teen I got a radio and small record player for my room. Until then though, I had to be content with the music mom bought.
Records by George Beverly Shea, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Tennessee Ernie Ford and various orchestra’s playing every waltz known to mankind. Each orchestra record included, The Blue Danube which was ok because it was mom’s favorite.
Mom was born and raised in the nearby town of Sioux Center and always had a soft spot for it (however, Sioux Center was our arch rivals in school sports, we hated them). One day after she had been shopping in Sioux Center she brought home a new record to play. I’d give my eye teeth to have that vinyl today because I can’t remember the name of the quartet and can only recall about half the songs on it when I had every lyric of every song memorized for a couple of reasons. Not all the songs were religious, (yay, I was a kid after all, but some of the songs had a gospel feel to them) plus none of the orchestra (waltz after waltz) albums had words.
I remember the group was made up of 4 young men (college or mid-20’s, maybe Dordt College?) who harmonized magnificently. I’ve sung the few songs I memorized from that album all my life. Kind of strange that the one most often screeched by this deaf person is religious, as if Ernie Ford, George Beverly Shea or the big group of Mormons wasn’t sufficient.
One of the songs was a bit risqué for this quiet household. For the life of me, I can’t remember the verse, but I loved it. The line ended with the word ‘swell,’ so the last word of rhyming line should have been ‘hell.’ Couldn’t have that out of Sioux Center boys, so they sang, “wella, wella, wella.” The song was Little Liza. “I had a dream the other night-and baby it was nice. I dreamt I saw a crowd outside-and they were throwing rice, wella, wella, wella. Little Liza, I love you, Little Liza I love you. I love you in the springtime and the fall, honey, honey, honey. Little Liza I love you, little Liza I love you, I love you best of all.”
Another song was, “Yellow Bird, so high in banana tree. Yellow bird, who sits all alone like me. Did your lady friend leave the nest again? That is very sad-makes me feel so bad. You can fly away, in the sky away, you’re more lucky than I. Wish that I was a yellow bird, I’d fly away with you. But I am not a yellow bird-so here I sit, nothin’ else to dooooo.”
For all my whining about the religious records mom had in the house, my favorite song from the “I can’t remember the group’s name,” was, Standing in the need of Prayer, with that gospel vibe. “It’s me, it’s me oh Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer. It’s me, it’s me oh Lord, standing’ in the need of prayer. Not my father, not my mother, but it’s me oh Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer. Not my sister, not my brother but it’s me oh Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer!”
At the age of 10 I recognized the significance of that catchy gospel tune asking for God’s help, guidance and forgiveness. Sixty years later, nothing has changed. “It’s me, it’s me oh Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.”…