Planet Mom will return soon...
By Gerry Ayers
All Hail the Van Man
favorite periodical going off on a tangent. A gardening magazine
decides to cover lava rocks. A biking magazine discovers the joy
of hang gliding. A newsletter devoted to dogs suddenly covers
ducks in great detail.
So it was with
great dismay when my beloved car magazines went off the deep end
to write about and photograph... gasp... VANS!
For a brief
time period, from about 1975 to 1979, vans became all the rage.
A phenomenon I am still trying to figure out. And while
subscribing to Hot Rod, Motor Trend, Car Craft, etc., and
expecting stories on cool cars, I was given page after page of
customized, crazy looking vans. Yuck.
manufacturers jumped in with both feet. Ford had these purple
and orange striped vans shown at the beach with muscle bound
male hunks and bikini clad babes holding surf boards and jumping
out of the van doors to the water like it was the end of the
world. Dodge and Chevrolet did the same thing. "Fun stuff" as
one company called it. Sure it was, a decorated box on wheels.
Now, let me
tell you, these vans weren't your basic bread delivery trucks.
No sir. Inside, you'd find deep shag carpeting, black lights,
lava lamps, swivel seats, captains chairs, wet bars, mini
fridges, eight track stereo equipment with massive speakers,
television sets, plastic beads and perhaps a few oil paintings
from sears thrown in for good measure. Don't forget the porthole
windows to peek out or the vents on top that opened up -- kinda
like a square submarine on wheels.
The 1970s van craze may
have been spawned by the 1960's hippie VW bus. Peace, love…and
despised this new mode of American customization. I remember my
father and some neighbors calling them "portable passion pits."
Guys in the 1950s impressed girls with chopped rods. Dudes in
the 1960s lit their fire with muscle cars. And now these
bell-bottomed posers in the swinging '70s were going to do it
with hairy vans.
report I didn't get caught up in this van-o-man frenzy that was
spreading across the country. In fact, I wrote letters to all
the major magazines decrying this new van phase that was
littering our highways and downtowns. In my eyes, they were too
big; they were too pompous (some painted murals on the side with
metal flake paint of iron maidens and dolphins and gypsies and
waterfalls and...). They also sucked fuel. Couldn't go anywhere
in the snow either.
is, the guys with the custom, hip vans traveled together around
town. Like a Conestoga wagon convention circling the troops.
When there was one, there were five of them! I can tell you why
they traveled in packs. It's because if they were made fun of,
they needed lots of reinforcement to uphold their garish choice
in transportation! The tube top, cut off jean-laden girls inside
them? Just there to boogie and waste some time. Truth is, if a
souped up Corvette or Pontiac Trans Am came a calling, they'd
probably abandon that ship in a heartbeat! At least those cars
had T-tops to let the sun or moon in, if not a pull out bed or
disco ball. Gals still dug cars. You know, the ones I wanted to
read about in the first place!
those high center of gravity, mag wheeled, fat tired vans
couldn't handle worth a tinker's darn. You sat high in them,
always looking down at things. They had the turning radius of an
aircraft carrier. They had drum brakes, which caught fire when
used hard. And when loaded down with a half dozen "friends" in
the back, that ate into the already alarming fuel mileage! They
also weren't inexpensive -- you could have a nice used 'Vette,
or Z-28 or Nova SS or Aspen R/T for less dough.
Some dudes in
high school fell hard into this motoring masquerade, thinking
being a "van man" was the way to score with the foxes and be the
hit of the neighborhood. The 1970s were funky enough, but this
van thing was becoming hot as those lava lamps, or those citizen
band radios or Bee Gees of the same time period. There was even
a hit song... "Me and my Chevy Van." Whatever.
At the local
circuit, the vans were the first to pull over and head for an
empty lot or go curbside. My take? One can be printed (running
out of fuel) and one can't (use your imagination). Fuzzy couches
and fringe roofs a go-go. A real hit with the "pavement
Picassos" and Farrah Fawcett wannabes. But, my group was more
into ram air hood scoops, dual exhausts and staggered shocks.
Remember, no van ever raced at Indianapolis or Le Mans!
My father had
a light green Ford van during this time period. I thought he was
going to grow his hair long, sport a beard, wear leather sandals
and a tank top and talk about ‘hanging 10’ – instead, he painted
his business logo on both sides, kept the AM radio intact, and
instead of picking up chicks, he picked up rugs, draperies and
furniture to haul to his customers. Didn't have to buy him a
bumper sticker that said, "If this van is rockin' don't bother
say, THAT van never, ever made it to any of my magazines. By
1980, the van craze was coming to an end. Just like dinosaurs
that were going extinct. For my tastes, not a minute too soon.
At classic car shows or cruise-ins these days? You see plenty of
GTOs and Mustangs and even Corvairs. No customized vans. Ever.
I rest my
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My youth running program (Small
Strides) just ended. I am going to share a story with you,
simply because it will make you smile.
This year, our team consisted of 63
participants. 47 children ages 6 to 13, two grandmothers, three
fathers and eleven mothers. WOW!
I also have a supportive team of 10
mentors for our 8-week adventure. I launch this as a self-esteem
program with a goal of completing a 5k at the end. I assign
mandatory weekend running homework, we cross train as a team,
discuss nutrition, flexibility, hydration and run – obviously.
This just briefly touches on the depth of the experience. I wish
it were possible for me to allow you to experience the
tremendous chemistry that exists among this group.
Some children are wild spirited yet
unconfident, some just love the connection to their peers and
others are naturally gifted. My adults are much the same. Some
struggle more than others; to me that is where the stories
happen. One mother was very aware that running presented a
tremendous challenge. She declared with tears in her eyes "I
just don’t want my children to see me struggle so much."
I met her one tenth of a mile from
her first ever finish line to ask her one question: You have two
One is to "survive" this
experience, the other is to "conquer" it – what’s it going to
be? So, with children by her side and head held high, she
sprinted through the finish line. Congratulations my friend –
celebrate your strength.
Buffy is the Wellness Director at
the Eastern Lycoming YMCA.
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I Love(d) Lucy
By Mike Murphy
Memories can be strange things. A
human mind definitely works in mysterious ways. I was recently
listening to Billy Joel’s "River of Dreams" CD, which is
basically about 20 years old at this point. It was right at the
time this CD was popular that my Aunt Lucy died. She was my
"grand-aunt" actually, and she lived every day to the fullest.
From the time I was 8 till about
the time I was 13, I used to spend every other weekend at her
home. I had a cousin Bryan my same age, who stayed over also,
and we had the best of times, not just with each other but with
She used to let us do things my
mother would have never allowed. We started and maintained fires
in her fireplace, we chopped wood outside with saws and axes, we
were allowed to cook things on the stove, and put things in the
oven. My mom was always worried about me being "hurt"; her
response was, "if he gets hurt, he knows what NOT to do the next
There were (what seemed) miles of
woods behind her house. My cousin Bryan and me were allowed to
explore these woods (without a mountain of directions or
warnings) all day until dinnertime. Her only request was, "Be
here in time for dinner or I’ll give you two birds hell."
She NEVER had to worry about us
skipping dinner. She was the absolute best cook that I ever
knew. She made every kind of fruit pie (blueberry, cherry,
apple, raspberry) and I could have eaten the whole pie myself.
She made the best turkey, chicken and homemade filling. No
offense to my mother, but this was like heaven, compared to the
"normal" food I had at home. She always had a mountain of
lunchmeats. She always let my cousin and me make our own
sandwiches, which comprised meat, cheese, egg, lettuce, onions,
peppers, tomatoes. Theses sandwiches were so big we could barely
fit them into our mouths. When my mom cautioned me about being a
glutton, she would say, "He’s a growing boy, they are supposed
to eat a lot. Let him go, EAT, EAT."
Now I believe that boys usually
like to "do their own thing" when they stay at their
grandparent’s house, but my cousin Bryan and I would play games
with my Aunt Lucy and listen to her stories of "the old days"
for hours. She was SO FUNNY. Her mind was sharp too; she didn’t
forget one detail from events that happened in her life. She
went camping, hiking, exploring, slept in tents, built shelters
out of things collected in the woods, went boating, all kinds of
cool things that when you are a little kid you don’t expect out
of an "old lady"
However, I never saw her as old.
She was always planting, cooking, baking, canning, chopping wood
herself, planting bushes, pruning trees, cutting grass, weeding
with a hand chopper. She was an active woman. She also never
treated you like a "dumb kid". You were allowed (and expected)
to help out with every chore in the house. Like I said, if you
got hurt, "be more careful next time". She would say,
"Experience is the best teacher."
She used to give us wood and tools
and my cousin and I would make wooden robots, treehouses, and
forts. It was fun AND creative. She would give us flour and
sugar and dough and measuring cups and instruct us to make our
own pies. NO micromanaging. She told you what to do and ": you
were expected to do it". If it didn’t come out right, you had
better plan on eating it anyway!
When I got to high school. I guess
I was too busy or too cool, or you name it, whatever number of
lame excuses there are for not visiting as much. I went over
Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor
Day, - all the holidays mainly, and boy do I feel like a dope
now. She taught me so much AND she continued to teach me when I
got myself over there. There were some times my buddies and I
dropped by to have a piece of pie or a cup of tea, but it flat
out wasn’t enough.
In the early 90s Lucy was slowing
down and I would go over and cut her lawn, help her with chores
around the house, sit and talk with her (probably what she
appreciated most). She had been buying mint sets of coins for me
for years and also had loads of "old coins" saved up which she
shared and presented to me. She told me I was a good boy. She
said she was always proud of me as a kid and proud of me as a
man. She passed away shortly thereafter.
Twenty years passes fast I realize.
I wish my wife had gotten to meet her. They would be like two
peas in a pod. They both, together, could let me know what’s
Lucy—I still love you!
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Loyalsock’s Trip to the
Philadelphia Museum of Art
You know those
long anticipated trips? You wait for them – impatiently. You
even cross out dates on your calendar until the event. And these
journeys get even better when you travel with your friends. The
fun and excitement are basically directly proportional to the
number of friends you have with you. These trips don’t happen
often, and that only makes them even more precious for you as
well as the wait – more anxious.
One of those
trips has happened to me recently. But it wasn’t just a usual
travel – it was a class field trip. Loyalsock’s AP Art History
class, even though not entirely, went to the Philadelphia Museum
of Art and Rodin Museum in the beginning of April.
Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the United
States. The museum has a long history. It began as a museum in
1876, after the Centennial Exhibition held during the
celebration of the 100th anniversary of the
Declaration of Independence. After the conclusion of the
Exhibition, Memorial Hall – the Exhibition’s art gallery –
remained open and eventually became a museum of art.
does have a pretty impressive collection of art, which has been
getting larger and larger. In the collection of over 227,000
objects, the museum touts paintings, sculptures, decorative
arts, and architecture of Western and Asian art traditions.
collection of the museum includes ceramics, Persian and Turkish
carpets, a very impressive ceremonial Japanese teahouse, and a
Temple Hall from a building complex of an Indian city Madurai.
European collection is also quite notable. It includes
paintings, decorative arts, sculptures, tapestries of early
Renaissance and Renaissance, Impressionism, and Modern Art.
Among some of
the most famous artists represented in the museum are Picasso,
Monet, Van Gogh, Dali, Renoir, Duchamp, and Eakins. If you like
Impressionism paintings, you will enjoy that section in the
museum, as it holds multiple paintings by Monet, Degas, Renoir,
Pissarro and, of course, the well-known Sunflowers by Van Gogh.
To me, that was the best section of the museum; it is always a
great pleasure to see some of my favorite works of art in real
When our class
found Thomas Eakins’s paintings, The Agnew Clinic and the Gross
Clinic, which we had learned about not long ago – the level of
excitement in our group grew. All art looks different when you
know what it is and how it was created. It looks familiar as if
you were almost present when it was made.
trip we also went to Rodin Museum. It is a part of the
Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum has the largest (over 140
objects) collection of Rodin’s works outside of Paris. Some of
the most famous sculptures held there are The Thinker, The Gates
of Hell, The Age of Bronze, The Three Shades, and The Kiss. It
was again very impressive to see the famous sculptures with my
own eyes; the museum visit was even more meaningful as Rodin is
definitely among my favorite sculptors. Visiting museums like
that helps one either love or hate an artist more.
In addition to
viewing the great collections in both museums, throughout the
entire trip our class got to enjoy the wonderful friendly
atmosphere. The fact that there were only 9 of us very much
helped to create this atmosphere.
As all trips,
this one came to an end as well. Being on a trip to a museum
with like-minded people always is an exciting adventure and I am
more than happy that we will soon have another trip like this
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