Growing up in Southern California, I loved watching Sheriff John’s Lunch Brigade in glorious black & white. The show began airing on L.A. station KTTV in 1952 and featured popular segments including the daily Pledge of Allegiance and Safety Bulletin.
Weekdays after kindergarten, I would sit on the floor of our family room in front of our wooden ark-like Zenith console TV and wait for Mom to bring in my wholesome all-American lunch which — if I was lucky — included a deviled egg sandwich on white Wonder bread with the crusts cut off, and a wiggly, jiggly square of orange Jell-O with shredded carrot and pineapple chunks inside. My epicurean snobbery began at an early age, obviously.
Each year as the middle of June approached and other kids would anticipate the start of summer, I’d be riveted to Sheriff John’s show to see if maybe, just maybe, this would be the year he’d look straight into the camera, say my name during the Birthday Roundup segment of the show and sing, “Put another candle on my birthday cake, we’re gonna bake, a birthday cake; put another candle on my birthday cake, I’m another year old today!”
Alas, Sheriff John went off the air in 1970 and never did say my name or sing to me. My birthday still seems to come around the middle of every June, however, whether I like it or not. It happened again at the beginning of this week, in fact. Now, can somebody please tell me where the past year went? I mean, how can the weeks and months between birthdays pass so s-l-o-w-l-y when you’re young and in school. But then, once you reach your late 20s or mid-30s at the latest, time suddenly seems to speed up and pass by faster and faster with every additional year.
Quite frankly, these days I’m looking for some sort of anchor I can toss over the side to create a little drag. Better yet, I’d love to be able to pull off a Fred Flintstone move, jam my big feet through the floorboards and just slow this whole train down.
Last week, I received an early Happy Birthday e-mail from the Hamburger Hamlet chain of restaurants. It was valid for a whopping 10% off any meal during June. Isn’t that special? It brought to mind all of the “birthday clubs” local eateries like Bob’s Big Boy in Montrose, or Baskin-Robbins ice cream stores in La Cañada and La Crescenta used to send to us kids as our birthdays approached. I’d spot a postcard addressed to “Jimmy Chase” and know that a birthday freebie was coming my way.
Of course, that always meant Mom and Dad had to cough up some cash to buy everyone else a meal or ice cream cone too, but hey, birthdays are all about greasing the wheels of commerce, right?
When they were younger, my own kids were themselves members in good standing of Coco’s “Birthday Club.” Every birthday they received postcards in the mail to redeem for their own special birthday meals, complete with a festive birthday sippy cup they could take home as a souvenir.
As for me, I’m thrilled simply to get an envelope in the mail with a birthday card inside from a friend or relative. So many people simply click and send a heartfelt “e-card” online today — or the even more convenient Facebook wall-to-wall post. The problem is, I have yet to figure out how to put an e-card on my living room mantel to enjoy for days after my birthday.
Truth be told, I know a birthday is approaching nowadays when a different set of postcards begin appearing in the mailbox — ones touting the benefits of AARP membership. Or worse, postcard reminders that it’s time for a colonoscopy. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the proctologist gave out souvenir sippy cups.
I’ll see you ’round town.
JIM CHASE is a longtime Crescenta Valley resident and freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.