See here’s my take: beware of hand puppets because they lie and get you into trouble. I know what you’re thinking: Myers has lost it; he’s finally gone over the wall. It’s time to haul him away to the funny farm, the loony bin, the crazy house. (There coming to take me away hee-hee, ha-ha, ho-ho…) However, I think after you’ve read my tale you’ll finally understand how puppet trauma negatively affected my young life, and contributed to my avant garde persona of today. |
It all began when my younger brother, Jimmy, sent in five Kellogg’s Rice Krispies box tops and 50-cents. A week or two later a certain hand puppet arrived, and started to cause an inordinate amount of trouble at our house, which always seemed to rub off on me.
My two brothers, including kid brother, Tommy, and I always preferred Rice Krispies because of the noises the cereal made when milk was added. Madison Avenue scored big with that ad campaign. Also Rice Krispies didn’t get soggy as quickly as Wheaties and Corn Flakes. Anyway, we were watching the Howdy Doody Show when it was announced during a commercial that hand puppets of Snap, Crackle, and Pop would soon become available. The gnomic elves were originally created by Vernon Grant in the 1930s and have been pitchmen for Kellogg’s ever since. Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody urged us to immediately pester our mothers about getting the latest offer on boxes now available in stores everywhere. Limited offer; get ‘em while they last!
Jimmy spoke up first and loudest. I knew which puppet he wanted because his favorite color was red, a preference that must have changed over the years since he later opted to play basketball for Michigan instead of Ohio State. I was not supportive of his choice of puppet. I thought Snap in his baker’s hat (or toque) would be the best choice since he was the oldest (like me) and reputed to be a problem solver. Crackle in his striped stocking cap would fit Jimmy better since Crackle was known as an unsure, middle child. That said there was nothing unsure about Jimmy. He was always in the middle of stirring up something, and curious to a fault. Pop was adorned in red and wore the military hat of a marching band leader. He was sometimes shown holding a flute or fife. Pop also had the malevolent grin of a mischievous youngster. When that imp entered our home, I was changed forever—and not for the better.
You think it was my imagination? Well, dig this: I know I am not the only one who has been vexed by a hand puppet. About a year ago I heard a song by Heywood Banks called, “Never Trust a Puppet”. He said they pretend to be your friend, but they lie to you. Once when an aunt used his puppet for an oven mitt it chased him around the house yelling, “I burned my tongue! I burned my tongue!”
Pop seemed to be well behaved with my brothers, but constantly encouraged me to engage in conduct I thought was questionable to say the least. For instance, swear words were not permitted in our home not even “damn” and “hell”. Of course the big no-nos were the f-bomb and taking the Lord’s name in vain. All of us kids knew use of those two words would result in the electric chair and an eventual one-way trip to Hell. Pop advised me words that sounded like swear words, but weren’t, were funny and people would think I was a really clever boy. Also he said there was nothing wrong with ass, which is a donkey, and bitch, which is a female dog. Further he wondered why words like shit and turds were bad while manure and excrement were acceptable. I admit I had to agree.
One day Pop and I walked into the kitchen after my Dad returned from work. He sat reading a newspaper while Mom was cutting up some vegetables in the sink. Pop suddenly yelled out, “Geez Cripes! Got dandruff! Some of it itches!” I received a spanking from Dad; my mouth washed out with soap (Camay) by Mom, and sent to my room. My crying was not the remorseful kind; it was pure anger for being punished for something I didn’t do! Couldn’t they tell Pop’s high-pitched falsetto voice from mine? Besides there were no swear words, which was what I (loudly) told them. They didn’t believe me saying it sure sounded like swearing. They didn’t seem to understand that was the funny part.
Another afternoon Pop and I were playing with an electric train set, which we had to do when Dad wasn’t home. Otherwise he gleefully took over while my brothers and I sullenly watched. Over my fervent objections, Pop insisted on being in command of the transformer, which controlled speed of the engine. He kept running the train off the track laughing manically as he did so. Mom told me to either play nicely or go to my room. I told her Pop was the cause of the crack-ups, but she refused to believe me. All went well until we unhooked the freight cars and replaced them with passenger cars and pulled the train up to the miniature station.
Pop said much too loudly, “All right you lazy sons-a-bitches. Get your fat asses loaded up. We have a schedule to keep. And don’t step in any dog turds.”
I got my mouth washed out again—how unfair is that?—and sent to my room. After an hour Mom asked me if I could play nice and made me apologize for what she called rough language. I agreed. Pop snickered. Boy was I angry with him.
I sat down with the train, and Pop announced, “Ladies and gentlemen I apologize for the one hour delay. If you dipsticks have a problem with it, take it up with the grouchy old biddy in the kitchen.” I won’t describe what happened when my father got home.
The final straw was Pop saying inappropriate things when my parents were entertaining. There are a few examples I still remember as follows:
A large; rotund gentleman with whom my Dad worked or was a Masonic chum were discussing the need for speed among the Cleveland Browns receiving corps. Pop was on my right hand when I was called over to meet the man. Inexplicably Pop blurted out, “Looks like you’re pretty fast yourself—at eating pie.” Then Pop poked the man in the stomach and made a sound like air being let out of a balloon.
Mom had some kind of card party for eight ladies. I think it was bridge, but it could have been pinochle or canasta. Both were fads at the time. One of the ladies was a nose-in-the-air, well-to-do matron who liked to lord it over everyone else. Her name was Leticia, rhymes with Patricia. Pop said, “Nice to meet you Le-titty-ah.” Needless to say, Mom was embarrassed, but I think in denial about what she heard; thought it was an innocent mispronunciation. Sometime later I recalled a conversation I heard between two older men as I left Ora Richard’s barbershop. They said a man should never waste a boner. I had no idea what that meant. In the middle of a card game Pop loudly asked all in attendance, “What’s a boner?”
I was sent to an adjacent room to keep (I suppose) Pop out of the way. Pop kept sneezing repeatedly and loudly, which sounded a lot like, “Ah, shit!”
Just before the arrival of the card party ladies, I found a gelatin fruit salad in the refrigerator that was intended to be part of the refreshments. Pop told me if I picked all the cut-up apples out of the top and ate them no one would notice. I did. Mom noticed and was mad as a hornet because she couldn’t serve it. I never owned up to doing the deed because I knew she wouldn’t believe that Pop caused the whole thing. When Dad got home, both my brothers and I were punished.
Later that night while we were fast asleep, mysteriously Pop the hand puppet ran away.
And I never saw him again.
Copyright by Gene Myers, author of AFTER HOURS: ADVENTURES OF AN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESSMAN (2009), Strategic Publishing Group, New York, NY – a hilarious account of the author’s overseas travels; and SONGS FROM LATTYS GROVE (2010), PublishAmerica, Fredericksburg, MD - a mildly sinister, but amusing work of fiction. Both are available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and available in Amazon Kindle and Nook formats. Watch for SALT HIS TAIL, a catch-me-if-you can crime thriller.
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