Think you’re retro huh? Know what a Ben Franklin is? Not the guy, the thing that’s named after him. Or a shooter, or why your grandparents may still call a freezer an ice box? How about the highest hand you can get in cribbage, no? Then this is for you. I’m an 80’s child and pride myself on knowing tons of useless knowledge that corresponds to my childhood. Who doesn’t? Talking with people just one or two generations older than you can give you some great insight on what things were like before. It is simply amazing what you’ll hear about the “retro” world before you were born. I’d like to share with you a couple of stories from what historian’s call- rocking cool old people.




The Wagon Grenade Story

Not shown- block of ice and hand held explosive

When my grandpa was 5, he had a job. No not making shoes you sick bastard. Every morning he had to take his Radio Flyer down the road and pick up a block of ice. Although refrigerators were around they were still expensive and not every household had one. So families would simply get a large chunk of ice, and put it in their “ice box” to help keep perishables. 5 year old grandpa did this trek every morning. Until one day he found a toy. Sweet, it’s a play grenade, but oh boy it’s heavy. Doesn’t matter, free toy. Grandpa walked home proudly showing his new treasure but the neighbors weren’t as friendly that day. You got it, thing was a friggen live grenade. Apparently in the 30’s it was okay to leave explosives in the streets for kids to find. His mother called the cops and the firefighters came too just for good measure. So it seems kidnappers weren’t a problem, but your kid walking home a bomb was an issue. My parents only had to worry about me crawling into a sewer looking for ninja turtles when I was that age. How far we’ve come.




The Marble Coal Pile Story



I have one more grandpa story. It doesn’t include explosives, but it does have flammables. Flammables are cool right? My grandpa grew up in a time when people didn't have much. Central heating, nope. Air conditioning, no way in hell. Lollipops? I think they had lollipops, but not blueberry so what’s the point. So to compensate, houses had alternative ways for heating and cooling. And they probably just ate real blueberries. A common way to heat a house was with a Ben Franklin. He designed a type of fireplace that would help circulate warm arm in the house for a more efficient heating process. Didn’t work all that well, but it was cheap and could burn either wood or coal, which were also cheap. I've now explained why it was totally acceptable to have a coal pile in the basement of your house.

keep reading i'm going somewhere with this

Besides kicking cans, pulling wagons, and blowing shit up, my grandpa also played marbles. Terribly. He would lose them all. Candy stripes, cats eyes, cleareys, crockies, doughies, glassies, mibs, milkies, peeries, scrappers, shooters, and even black beauties. Think of losing a black beauty like losing your x-box 360 if you lost in Halo, pretty serious. Although my grandpa tried and tried, he just wasn’t any good. Not like his brother anyway. Since my grandpa lost all his marbles (tee hee) he had to get more from somewhere. That’s why God invented big brothers, so we can steal stuff from them. Everything my grandpa lost his brother was able to win back double. But to keep my grandpa from losing them again he'd hide his marbles all over the house to keep “cunny thumb” grandpa’s filthy mitts off em. The one hiding place grandpa never found? An old cigar box buried deep in the coal pit. Yeah, I knew I had a point in there.

Door Closed in the Summer

Say Beatrice, would you like to wet your whistle with a frosty ale? Splendid!

I’m from Milwaukee, which means I’ve been to a bar or few. If anyone has read my older articles I mentioned a bar I’ve been going to since I was 5. Not drinking silly, but my father had his hangout and I’d hangout with his buddy’s kids and play pool or whatever. The bar is called Town Beer but you just say, “I’m going to Town.” Town Beer was owned by the same guy for over 60 years, Joe. Really nice guy, gave me my first job. He’d have cribbage tournaments on Sundays and if anyone got a 29 hand, they’d sign it and he’d put it in glass and frame it on the wall. Really cool bar with history like that. So one day in the summer (I’m old enough to drink now) I asked Joe why he kept the door closed. It was a beautiful day, and there was a nice breeze that would have circulated nicely. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Because of the dust.” He had been in the same location for so long he didn’t notice that the street in front of his bar was now paved, and didn’t have carriages riding by clouding up his business. I thought this was the coolest thing ever. The guy had been around so long and was so used to doing things a certain way things just never changed. I found comfort in knowing some things in life do remain stable at least for a little while. Sadly Joe has passed on but I still visit Town when I’m home.


Squirrel Bashing

He would be considered a "banger"


This last story my father told me. Hell we might have been at Town when he did, but I’m not sure. When he was a kid marbles were no longer hip, but Atari was a decade away. Something had to fill the void. Now I’m going to do my best to not make this seem like a psychopath or “Lord of the Flies” thing. Let’s just call it energetic kids with a lot of free time. So what did they do? They hunted squirrels, with sticks. Now you have to appreciate the coordination of what I’m about to tell you. You needed a pack of at least 6 kids. 2 bangers or bashers, and 4 throwers. You’d find a tree with squirrels in it and the 2 bashers would bang against the trunk of the tree with logs or thick branches. The vibration and noise would scare the squirrel and it would run out on a limb attempting to jump to another tree. This is where the throwers come in. They’d throw sticks or rocks at the squirrel while it was running to knock it to the ground. Once successfully grounded all kids would then pulverize it with more sticks. Gruesome? Perhaps. But how many zombies did you shoot in the face today? Kinda the same, right?

That’s all I have for Mega-retro. If you have any stories from elders I’d love to hear them. And if you don’t, go get some. It may be hard to take a moral lesson from a guy who just told you about squirrel bashing but here it is- Tawk wit cher elders.