Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A woody wagon is a surfin' goodie

Like most kids of the early 1960s I was an avid watcher of Bozo's Circus hosted by Bozo the Clown. Similarly like most kids I really, really wanted to win Bozo's Treasure Box of toys, not knowing I had to be present on the set to have any sort of success in doing so. Millions of kids wanted to be on the show but the bleachers only held about thirty seats so odds were that would never happen for most.

Yet, Bozo wasn't a mean clown so the show also held contests that the local stations over America that carried the show could attach to the program so the kids at home wouldn't be left out. Most of the millions of viewing children didn't have the resources to travel to Chicago to sit on the bleachers under the big tent. Eventually the majority of the children watching would have realized they had no chance of winning anything and would quit mailing in those cards and letters so involving the syndicated stations with contests was a really good idea.

Being typical, I entered one of those mail-in contests, had the post card sent off and promptly forgot about it. Sure, I watched the show but I was a kid. There were plenty of things to do in Saginaw in my youth. Play in the orchard, swim in the creek, explore the cattail swamp forest, climb around the giant cubes of crushed scrap metal stacked in the back of the Eaton plant and try to cajole the semi-wild horses in the neighbor's field to come up to the fence. We didn't have hundreds of television channels and computers and video games to play with. Mostly we had nature for that.

Then one day a month or after I had mailed off the entry to the television station I entered my Kindergarten class. Everybody started yelling when they saw me. After Mrs. Hill, the teacher, quieted everyone down she told my classmates and I that I had won one of the local Bozo the Clown contests. I was surprised since I don't recall seeing the show the previous day but all the kids knew. Even my teacher claimed to have watched the show entirely by accident. She had turned the television on but wasn't wearing her glasses so she couldn't see what station she was tuned into. Mrs. Hill told us she was turning channels and heard heard my name and hers being announced, saying we had won a drawing from the Bozo show.

The prizes were a corsage for my teacher and a 45 record for myself. I was a kindergarten celebrity! While what we won may not seem like much now today's equivalent would be like clicking a spam banner on a website and actually winning an ipod instead of a come on or a computer virus. Everyone in the class was really pleased about us winning except for Vicky. She seemed a little jealous and managed to swipe and break my blue pencil that had the square eraser in the white base on the end. I really liked that pencil. Pretty soon the entire class forgot about the news and moved on to other things.

Eventually my record arrived in the mail and I played the heck out of it. I even took it to school to play in the classroom. The recordings on the 45 consisted of surf music, something that was all over the radio in the 1960s. There was a peppy vocal tune on the A side and an instrumental on the flip side of the record. The record was published by the Legend label (LEG-124) in 1963. The A side tune is What Is Surfin' All About by Jerry Norell and the The Beach Girls. The B side is the instrumental Salt Water Taffy by Morty Jay and The Surfin' Cats.

Being in Saginaw, Michigan I only had the vaguest notion of what the ocean was really like and exactly what surfing was as an activity. Not many people surfed in Lake Erie. The water, when not whipped up into foaming death swells by apocalyptic storms, had a tendency to melt fiberglass and plastic. Surf movies didn't play much in that part of the country either and my parents weren't the sort to take us to that kind of flick anyways. I was aware surf music existed from the radio but my household was usually filled with the sounds of instrumentals and Elvis. My only real exposure to music other than full orchestras and The Pelvis was from television or my uncles. They listened to a lot of the new stuff coming from the emerging rock scene and while I liked it they didn't appreciate me hanging around because my incessant questions kind of interfered with their weed smoking and listening pleasure.

I kept the 45 as a treasured memento of youth and it moved along with me to California. It still remains in storage though it is heavily scratched from years of use. Still played great though. A copy of the record is extremely difficult to locate in pristine condition and demands a pretty high price for what it is, probably due more to the rarity of the record than the quality of the artists. Information on the production and artists is nearly non-existent and I have no idea how many of the records were pressed. To make a search all the more frustrating many of the available resources routinely get the names of the songs and artists in error. I'm sure this is from a sort of "Purple Monkey Dishwasher" error through repetition. Since fact-checking is difficult the errors were perpetuated through many sources so it is here I set the record straight.

The story of how a copy of this obscure 45 was made available as a prize from Bozo's Circus out of Chicago is probably forever lost to time, but that's okay. It's all about the music, anyways. Today for your listening enjoyment here is a tune that probably hasn't been heard by anyone, anywhere other than a hard-core 45 collector in more than 40 years.

Cowabunga, Moon-Doggies!

FYI, check the street-view of that map in the Saginaw link. That hedge of bushes? Straight outta Satan's garden. I don't know what that plant is called but it is the best natural deterrent to bad guys and revenuers entering a property next to a flaming moat filled with rabid T-Rexes. When I read Sleeping Beauty I easily imagined the impenetrable hedge that imprisoned her castle was somehow magically duplicated at my house. It is that evil. The hedge is dense, tough and sends out long roots that extend for several yards in all directions just under the surface of the earth, from which project upwards wicked, long and nearly unbreakable thorns that easily penetrate the thickest leather. Many people with both nasty intent and good intentions limped away from the property after failing to circumvent The Hedge. My own mother recalls running afoul of them on several occasions in her youth.


  1. My Lovely Wife actually got to be in the audience of the Chicago Bozo show.

  2. That's awesome! Didn't win a treasure box, then.


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