Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

When I was a little kid I had one set of grandparents – my father’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa to me.  There was also Nana, my mother’s aunt, with whom Mom lived with since she was 3,

Nana’s daughter, Iza Mae, and her husband, Dale, were two generations ahead of me and were like a second set of grandparents. Iza Mae and Dale were my mother’s cousin and her husband. They lived around the corner from us, practically in my grandmother’s back yard.

Iza Mae, old enough to be Mom’s mother and my grandmother, was – well, interesting, and liked to talk, talk and talk. Dale was a talented musician who worked for the Clark Music Co. in Syracuse for many years.

Dale loved playing with us kids. I remember him getting down on the floor on Christmas Day to play with our new toys, including the musical instruments we had received. He could actually play boogie woogie on a toy piano, and make real music on plastic flutes and a toy xylophone.

Whenever we went to visit Iza Mae and Dale, we went up the stairs to their apartment and headed towards Dale’s room which was full of toys – musical instruments, puppets and all kinds of other fun things.

I remember something that hung on the wall next to the kitchen door in their apartment. It was a small xylophone–type instrument with a mallet attached that the hostess could use to call the guests to dinner.

And, yes, Dale could play a tune on it.

Any memories I have of my mother’s cousins would have to be 60 or more years old because they moved to California to be near their son and his family in the early 50s. I used to receive Christmas presents from them but I never saw them again.

I am reminded of Iza Mae and Dale often as I go through the box in my dresser drawer where I keep my tie clasps, keepsakes and other jewelry. I have a pair of cuff links that I received from them on the last Christmas Day they spent with us before leaving for California.

I guess that it’s true that good memories last forever.

A Sweet Treat 

My wife often picks out a little sack of bulk candy treats when she does her weekly grocery shopping. In that little bag are two or three packages of candy that bring back memories of the Riviera Theatre on Saturday afternoons.

“Necco Wafers – where have you been?”, I exclaimed the first time I discovered packages of the little round candy treat one week in my wife’s little bag.

The small samplers are about one-fourth the size of the packages that we used to buy at the Riv for five cents. If there was a lull in the action on the screen you could hear the crunch-crunch-crunching of many of the young theater-goers chomping on their Necco wafers.

There were, as I remember, eight colors and flavors  in a package back then – orange (you guessed) was orange, yellow was lemon, green was lime,  pink was  wintergreen, white was cinnamon,  violet was clove, brown was chocolate, and black was licorice.

A real connoisseur could detect a lot of difference of flavors between the colors.

Necco Wafers were first produced in 1847. At the time of the Civil War they were called “hub wafers,” and were carried by Union soldiers. Upon returning home, many former soldiers became faithful customers who continued to buy the wafers.

Sometimes, eating Necco Wafers was a scientific venture – you had to stack all the colors up and munch on them one color at a time.  (I imagine that there are people out there that didn’t realize that eating those little wafers could be considered by some as an art).

In 2009, Necco changed the formula for its wafers.  Artificial colors and flavors were eliminated. A new cinnamon flavor was “less like Red Hots,” a new lemon flavor was more like lemon meringue pie, and a new chocolate flavor was more intense.

However, the changes weren’t popular with longtime wafer eaters, and in 2011 the company switched back to the original formula.

My favorite way of eating the candy back when I enjoyed them every week at the Saturday movie matinee at the Riviera – and now, too, I am discovering all over again – was to put a stack of the wafers in my mouth, crunch them up with my teeth into tiny pieces and then swish them around and around in my mouth.

A little crunching, scrunching, swishing, and squishing, and then back to the popcorn – it was all part of the Saturday afternoon routine.

More sloshing

In last week’s space here, still thinking about catalogs in a follow-up to the column I had written the week before, I wrote: “Something that caught my attention quickly was an ‘Original Slinky’.

“The copy in the catalog asks, ‘Does anyone have to be told about a Slinky toy?’   The description continues, ‘. . . Slosh it from hand to hand.  Put it on the stairs and watch it walk down.’

“I remember the Christmas afternoon we spent doing exactly that. Ah, there is nothing more satisfying than getting nostalgic about sloshing your Slinky.”

At least one person who read that article feels the same way. A good friend responded, “My sisters, cousins and I spent many happy hours playing with the Slinky (probably an original one) at my grandparents’ house – among all the other toys, kick ball in their backyard, and riding home-made go-carts down their driveway.

Many thanks for the weekly study respite, I always look forward to it!”

One more note: All this Slinky stuff has aroused my interest.

My wife found a Slinky that we had put away someplace. Mostly I have just looked at it. But, I have to admit, I have found myself trying a little “sloshing.”  I can only say that I have discovered another skill that hasn’t improved with age.

A parting thought

Summer weather hath September, May, June, July, August, but remember … all the rest could bring . . . winter.


. . . Roy Hodge


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