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Looking forward to a Cracker Jack holiday

It is almost time to celebrate America’s birthday. Since Tuesday is July 4th, I’m guessing everyone who can manage it will take a vacation day on Monday to turn this into a four-day-weekend. This is typically one of the times law enforcement will institute what they call maximum enforcement patrols. Extra units will be on the roads and sobriety checkpoints randomly spread throughout the valley. The mantra is simple if you drink or get high, don’t drive.

I was watching the TV game show “The Price is Right” this week. One of the contestants had to pick grocery items priced less than $2.99. Her last pick was an oversized package of Cracker Jacks. The price was $1.99 and the lady won a car. Summertime must be a good time to market Cracker Jacks. I saw a display in a local grocery store that had bundles of four individual boxes. The cost was four packages of four for $5.

My better-half commented that when he was a kid, (the 1950s) a box of Cracker Jacks was a dime. I remember a time (the 1960s) when they were 17 cents. Cracker Jacks were a double treat because they came with a toy surprise. They still include a toy in the package but the toys from my childhood were so much better than the ones currently dispensed. Plastic puzzles, faux diamond rings and toy soldiers were in the box. The prizes in today’s product are usually a sticker or a temporary tattoo. Our parents rarely worried about the choking hazard posed by tiny plastic toys because at an early age they taught us not to stick the toys in our mouth.

Cracker Jacks reminds me of a very fond time in my childhood.

My childhood friend, Jeff DalCerro, and I would play in his neighborhood surrounding Washington School. There was a small grocery store on South Lake Street operated by a man named Joe Vickers. When we were age 5 or 6 we would walk the three blocks from Jeff’s house on South Street to Vickers’ store. We thought we were a really big deal out on our own. Kids with a quarter in their pockets could buy a big sack of penny candy for 25 cents. The take was not quite as good as our bags on Halloween, but it was close. Little kids today have missed out on both penny candy and the opportunity to run around their neighborhoods unsupervised.

Some of my best summers were spent at the public pools in Madera. We took early morning swimming lessons at what is now Centennial Park Pool. The water in that unheated pool was brisk.


When my generation misbehaved a small smack on the hand, legs or bottom were common enough. Parents today can barely raise their voices to their children without fear of reprisals. The balance of power has shifted to the point where a call to Child Protective Service will invite the government into your life, forever.

Child abuse is a horrible blight in this country and children need to be protected from beatings. But, as is usually the case, the environment of child rearing has changed to the point where corporal punishment is forbidden in all circumstances. And guess what? The kids know it.

Our teachers had the power to administer a smack when necessary. Today if a teacher lays a hand on a student they can kiss their careers goodbye.

The school year I spent in Murfreesboro, Tenn., I got smacked across the palm by my homeroom teacher for not doing my homework. I was a much better student after that. The threat of a spanking was enough to curtail a lot of bad behavior.

I remember one third grade teacher at James Monroe who would grab a student by the shoulders and shake them. I was fortunate that she wasn’t my teacher. My third grade teacher was Lois Romine. She attended the Church of Christ and had known my parents for many years. One call to my parents and my life would be negatively impacted in a big way.

The main punishment dispensed in grammar school could be classified as a precursor to the time-out. Minor infractions were punished by making the student stand at the wall during recess. I spent my share of time on the wall. These same teachers punished the Spanish-speaking kids for talking in their native language. They weren’t as enlightened as educators today.

Have a great holiday weekend.

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