Billy Graham and My Brother’s Creepy Toys: Childhood Memoirs
Billy Graham comes to South Bend
I found an article saying that Billy Graham came to South Bend on May 15, 1977, and a video of the event. It had to be Notre Dame, because it looked like a football stadium. In all these years, I didn’t remember where it was, just that it was big and stadium-like, not a place we went to otherwise.
I don’t remember much from that day, being only 3, but I do remember wanting some Pepsi. My parents didn’t have any, and I guess they couldn’t buy any, because they gave me water instead. Being a little kid, this made me cry as I sipped my water (and probably got some snot into it).
My Brother’s Creepy Toys
My brother had a bunch of really creepy toys in his room. One was a creepy puppet with a “plastisol” head, Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces. (He had a bald head which you’d give all sorts of different wigs and faces, like a Mr. Potato Head.) Hugo came out in 1975, when I was 2, and my brother would’ve been 9.
One toy was a Frankenstein head, mounted on the wall, which my brother painted green. Then there was the poster….I think it had a vampire on it and was for the Krofft Horror Hotel….. Gee, I wonder how Gen-X got so twisted…. I think it said “Come stay at the Horror Hotel” or some such. At the time, I recognized it as belonging to the TV show he watched with the girl being thrown to what I thought was a spider. I wrote about that show here.
Anyway, my brother had his monster stuff and rubber dinosaurs (which I loved to play with), and I’d go in his room (which I wasn’t supposed to do) and play with them, and find 9V batteries he left on the floor and stick my tongue on them. They gave me a weird shock, which I liked, but it wasn’t enough to hurt me. It had this metallic taste. Through the Internet, I’ve learned that 9V battery-licking is actually a thing, not just something I did as a toddler. There was also rubber cement; I don’t remember if I touched that stuff.
In my grandma’s big walk-in attic was a bunch of toys used by my dad and uncles, so they were ranged 1930s to probably around 1950: toy Wild West guns with holsters, jack in the box, something with the Mulberry Bush song, Cooties…. My grandma also had a chalkboard, which she said was her slate in school, so it must be from around the 1920s. It wasn’t like my slates, with their texture and slate pencil, but larger and more like a chalkboard, so I’m not sure it was technically the same as a slate. But she must’ve used it that way anyway, with chalk instead of a pencil. Eventually she gave it to me, and we still have it. It’s currently in my little library, since my son is too old to play with it anymore.
There was also a box with a magnet and geometric metal strips which you could build things with, Magnastiks. I played with that for hours while watching Grandma’s TV–a string of half-hour kid’s shows from the 50s and 60s, like the Lone Ranger and Lassie and Robin Hood, which channel 46 played in the afternoon. Grandma finally gave it to me to keep, and I later gave it to my son, who played with it as a kid; at the moment, it’s upstairs in my house, with a bunch of other games.