Fun and Games

I played a little softball as a kid, but I never did play any baseball. I admit I was never more than mildly interested in what was then “the national pastime.” But hey, it was opening day of the new season, with roasted peanuts and root beer and hot dogs slathered with mustard and close-up action on the field and a loud hopeful crowd in the stands. It had all the makings of a great afternoon.

As I recall it, the Portland Beavers lost the game.

***

I could tell that my dad and Eleanor were falling in love. It was obvious, even to my immature grade-school mind. The two were inseparable.

On her 21st birthday, my dad gave her a ring, and a few weeks later they were married. He was 41 years old at the time. A 20-year-difference in ages! To the surprise of many people, including my mother, their marriage was a strong and happy relationship that lasted 32 years, until the day my dad died of cancer in 1966.

At the time of their wedding, Eleanor was pastry maker in an east side gourmet bakery. The bakery often featured her silky-smooth custard pies. However, when she learned that I was wild about banana cream pie, she launched a tradition that I was to appreciate for years to come: Whenever I joined them for dinner in their small house out on Southeast 72nd Street, she would bake us a luscious banana cream pie for dessert.

***

I’m not certain why, but during the ’30s, everybody seemed to love the comical antics of black-faced Amos and Andy. It was the most popular nightly show on the NBC radio network. I thought it was stupid. So I didn’t share in my grandmother’s nightly ritual of listening to Amos and Andy, followed by the trials and tribulations of Myrt and Marge. But I did share her healthy enthusiasm for The Shadow, an over-the-top atmospheric thriller.

“Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men?”

“The Shadow knows.”

Sunday nights on the NBC radio network it was a different story. We all sat glued to the radio on Sunday nights, laughing and listening to the Eddie Cantor Hour followed by the Jack Benny Show. Jack Benny was probably my all-time favorite radio comedian. He was a master at self-deprecating humor. Years later, his wit and style led the way on television, too.

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