Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Sunday, June 26, 2011

C: Birthdays

I’ve used this picture before.  It is a favorite of mine, V and me at age four.  I am using it again because it has a picture in the background of my birthday cake.   This is the only picture I can recall of any of my numerous birthday parties (Mother where were you and the camera?):


V and I are to the right of the photo, V forward in the darker dress, me over to the right edge of the photo in white.  My little brother (now the big-time lawyer) is to the left edge, at age two.

You will notice that we were all dressed up.  That’s the way birthday parties were “back in the day.”  They aren’t pictured, but you can bet that my mother and the other mothers who were there were not in jeans, either.  Everyone dressed for special days back then.

Back to the cake: It was a Circus Cake, complete with carousel top and plastic circus animals on it.  I know without asking that my mother purchased this cake from Kohler’s Bakery.  It, really, was the only bakery in town for birthday cakes.  This was the day before in-store bakeries.  We all went to Kohler’s for our special occasion cakes, as well as the occasional cream horn.

Besides a Kohler’s cake, another obligatory element of birthday parties was Hawaiian punch.  hawaiian punch Back then it only came in the original red recipe in  great big cans, like this one.  And we only got this sweet-sweet treat (loaded with red dye) at children’s parties.  It was served universally at birthday parties and school parties, such as Valentine’s Day.

You will see from my picture that we had the birthday noise makers.  I don’t see hats, but they were usual.

Birthday parties back then were fairly simple affairs lasting, maybe two hours at the most. You would have the “gathering period,” where everyone arrived, each with a wrapped package to put on the pile.  Then there might be a game or two: Pin the tail on the donkey was a favorite.  The donkey picture was taped to the wall.  Each child was given a numbered tail with tape, and blindfolded.  He or she was then spun around pin the tail by the hostess mother, and pointed in the right direction to pin his/her tail on the picture.  The closest to the correct tail position won some sort of little prize.

After games, birthday girl got to open gifts, after which cake, vanilla ice cream and Hawaiian punch were served on colorful paper plates  and the party dissipated.

I was thinking, as I mulled over these memories, that with my own son and, later, with my nieces and nephews and friends’ kids, our birthday parties became more and more elaborate.  For one thing, they became bigger.  See from the picture, my guests were limited to five in addition to me and my brother.  I have seen (and hosted) parties with whole class enrollments.  Yikes! 

And the party activities became more elaborate.  It is as if we had to have some central (big) activity around which to center the party, instead of just centering it around the honoree: Horseback riding parties (I’ve done ‘em); parties with clown entertainment (done this, too); Chuck E. Cheez….not just the cake-and-ice cream gathering that were once so prevalent. 

But then I thought about one “flash” birthday party my mother allowed in our Meadowcliff home.  Truthfully, I think it may have been  my brother’s birthday, not mine, but it made an impression on me, for sure.

There was a man who called himself “Cactus Vick.”  He dressed as a cowboy and he was connected in some way (announcer, maybe?) with one of the local television stations.  He could be hired to host birthday parties, and—here was the hook—he had a little four-horse merry-go-round that he pulled behind his truck! 


Yessiree, my mama hired Cactus Vick for one of our birthday parties, and he pulled that little merry-go-round right up into our driveway.  We thought that was just the bomb!  Every kid in our city knew who Cactus Vick was and children who got him for their parties were the envy of all others. 

I can remember discussions about when someone was “too old” to have a birthday party, and I knew girls who were given money instead of a party--$1 per year seemed the going rate, so a girl who relieved her parents of hosting a tenth birthday party could look to score $10, which was big money back then.

My family never did that, but I did transition from the regular birthday party to the “bunking party.”  (We never called them “sleepovers” or “slumber parties”), and this became the norm for celebrating birthdays in those pre-teen and early-teen years.  V and I had and attended many bunking parties over the years and, having thrown them for my son, I can tell you:  Cactus Vick would have been worth his money several times over  if you could avoid the expense and sleepless night caused by these sleepovers.

I don’t know why I woke up thinking about birthday parties!  I now tend to want any birthday of mine to go off in a very low-key way (now that there is not enough room for the correct number of candles).  But, for some reason I did start thinking about pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and Hawaiian punch.

I’d love to hear your birthday memories…C


My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

well...it just so happens today is my 55th birthday...and when i was younger...we had the same kind of parties...the cake, the hawaiian punch in the can and pin the tail on the donkey...thanks for the memories...you couldn't have picked a better day, my friend


Vee said...

Birthday parties were reserved for family members only when I was growing up. I had just one party where my peers were invited and my mother made the cake herself. She wrapped little trinkets in aluminum foil and each child received a "gift" in his or her slice of cake. Thankfully, no trips to the dentist as everyone was alerted. I do remember the Hawaiian Punch, which usually packed quite a punch on its way back up the esophagus, dastardly red dye. Yes, I'd say that Cactus Vick would be the way to go. As for my children, I most enjoyed the birthdays where Mickey D was involved.

kath001 said...

Since my mother was ahead of her time as a career woman, I only had one birthday party...my 7th birthday. I had a cake with a rotating musical figurine on top. My classmates attended. I received a Schwinn bicycle and a western outfit with turquoise pants and a checked shirt. As soon as the party was over I put on my new duds, and someone (one of my sisters probaby) taught me how to ride my bicycle. I picked it up quick, and rode down the block...where the bottom of my turquoise pants got caught in the bicycle chain and promptly keeled me over where I lay trapped until a neighbor heard my cries for help.

I think one was plenty enough party for me. :)

Linda Lou Rogers Averitt said...

Love me some Catus Vick!!
and Hostess Twinkies!

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Oh yeah, to go to a birthday party with Cactus Vick and his merry-go-round as the entertainment was big stuff! At some parties, we dropped (or attempted to), wooden clothespins into glass milk bottles.
I was only allowed to have Hawaiian Punch at birthday parties--I still love it to this day!
Cowgirl V

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, Hawaiian Punch was to die for since all we were ever given was milk. Dr. Peppers were a very rare treat. I didn't even drink iced tea for supper until I was well into high school. And those dresses - that's what we wore to school, too. I remember my mom ironing my dress every night. Ahhhh...great memories!

KathySue said...

I recall being a little wary of Cactus Vick, but don't remember why. My memories of birthday parties do include some Kohler's bakery cakes....as I got a little older the birthday staple for me was a Kohler's coconut cake and what I would give for one of those now!!!! Simple birthday party games of pin the tail on the donkey and milk bottles full of clothespins were the norm. However, I do have two birthday memories that stand out. One included my dad stuffing several of my friends and I into his black VW beetle for a trip to Troy's Roller rink where I received my own pair of skates with fluffy "puffs" hanging from the laces. I was ecstatic! The other was attending a friend's birthday party (4th grade) to see "Old Yeller" at the movie theater. When I got home I was so sick with fever and terrible pain in my jaws...yep I had the mumps. And soon after so did everyone else that attended that party!

Seems we have exchanged simple activities for simpler attire...we now wear very casual clothing to the "bouncy house" or some other venue.

Joy said...

Great memories, thanks for sharing. Life was simpler back then, eh? Little girls not only wore dresses to birthday parties, they also wore dresses like that to school! I remember Hawiian Punch, but had forgotten about it. We would mix it with 7-Up and to give it a twang. Funny about the little 2 year old growing up to be a lawyer--who knew? If only people would think of that when babies are aborted--who knew what they were going to be.

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