When I was a young child, we moved from our little house on the prairie to what my parents dubbed the “wild kingdom” of Ohio. My best friend, Rhoda, lived next door and had migrated from the streets of San Francisco. She had hair of gold, like her mother. That girl got what was happening in our hotter-than-Vegas neighborhood. She knew why McMillon and his wife were at odds with the Partridge family. She understood why the Waltons disapproved of Alice’s courtship of Eddie’s father. She explained to me what made Mork and Mindy such an odd couple. Just entering into the age of double digits, we would have long hart to harts about our cute neighbor, James, age 15. Nibbling on chips, we’d sip soda, and listen to WKRP in Cincinnati.
Laverne and Shirley were our buds at school. Something always happened whenever we got together. In the corner of our homeroom, Room 222, we first learned the facts of life from know-it-all Phyllis. Our sassy pal, Maude, lived with her nanny and our professor, Dr. Quincy. Maude claimed to know all about love, American style and exclaimed Phyllis should get her mouthed washed out with soap for getting her facts wrong. Donny and Marie wholeheartedly agreed.
For P.E., we learned Kung Fu from Mr. Kojak. We had yearly assemblies where Trapper John, M.D. informed us what to do in a medical emergency. Captain Barney Miller explained how we should duck and cover should S.W.A.T. ever show up at our school. Our principal, Ms. Mary Tyler Moore, would do anything she could to make our dreams come true. “C’mon! Get happy!” she would chant to us. That schoolhouse rocked!
When Rhoda and I were feeling a bit daring, we’d journey a few blocks over to spend time with the McCloud twins, Starsky and Hutch. Their parents were hippies, thus their unusual names. Those boys were making their way the only way they knew how. Sometimes, they would try to get us to play what they called “the newlywed game.” We knew enough to realize they were just trying to catch a glimpse of our hee haws.
Those were happy days with our friends and family. I was one of four girls and we had four brothers. My mother, a true wonder of a woman, always wanted more kids. “No. No!” my dad would bellow. “This is it! Eight is enough for this mod squad!” We would all laugh in unison at his attempt to be hip.
It wasn’t always good times, though. Our friend, Chico, and the man next door feuded with Mr. Sanford and his son, Logan. “Run!” we exclaimed when we saw Logan walk out of his house, carrying a loaded baretta. He wanted all of us, especially Chico, to switch neighborhoods. After he fired into the air, the gun smoke floated away like a fish drifting through the ocean. I often wondered what became of him.
We got inside as fast as we could. “Wait ‘til your father gets home,” my mother counseled. “He’ll know what to do.” Later that night, our father explained that Logan had been involved in something called Operation Petticoat during the Korean War. The experience had left him a bit “mashed in the head,” as my dad put it. “Best to keep our playtime all in the family yard,” he declared.
During summer sleepovers, we would try to scare each other with tales about the mysterious white shadow cast by the ghost and Mrs. Muir. Our Saturday nights came alive when we ventured out with the Dukes of Hazzard Street. That didn’t sit well with our mutual friend, Beverly. “Hillbillies!” she would call the boys. “I’d much rather hang out with the Jeffersons or Bob Newhart. Now he’s an incredible hulk!”
I have fond memories of life at 2367 Columbo Lane. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything, not even six million dollars. Man, we sure did enjoy our childhood! We approached life one day at a time. We developed roots. We lived our lives based on the words of my father, Charlie: “Angels,” he would call us, “You can be whatever you want to be: rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief – it’s all up to you.” Those were the days!
This piece contains 72 television show titles and 9 theme song lyrics. Did you catch them all?