Press-Republican

July 7, 2013

Latest treasure brings youthful glee

By GORDIE LITTLE, Small Talk
Press-Republican

---- — Who remembers the lyrics to an old song called “Playmate, Come Out and Play With Me”? Good. Teach it to your grandchildren.

How about the second verse? It begins, “So sorry playmate, I cannot play with you. My dolly’s got the flu.”

I just asked Kaye if she recalled the words. We sang it together. We’re still kids at heart.

Kaye is the keeper of Gordie’s treasures. She calls it “stuff.” George Carlin did, too. As they say, “One man’s junk (stuff) is another man’s treasure.”

At least once a week, she comes downstairs and plunks a box down on the kitchen bar. “What’s this?” she asks coyly. She knows full well that the contents will engender gleeful excitement from this old-as-dirt Little boy.

Case in point: down she came recently with a stack of something and the usual query. Plunk! There on the bar were my old Children’s Play Mate magazines from the 1940s and early ‘50s. Treasures, for sure. I picked up the top issue. The date is August 1948. I was 11. They cost 15 cents. Inside was an invitation to enter a radio contest. The first 10 prizes were $5 apiece. One of the questions was, “Write, in 25 words or less, why you like your favorite radio program better than any other.” Even as a tyke, I was never able to write anything in 25 words or less, so I probably didn’t win.

The magazine was designed for boys and girls from 4 to 14; but mine go all the way to December 1954, when I was 17, so I must have been a closet fan. I had a ball looking through all of them the other day. It was like a time machine. Games, stories, activities, homemade toys and letters from my friends in “The Playate Club.”

I learned how to make a “Jolly Elf” pin from pipe cleaners dressed “in bright paper, with paste to hold him together.” There were pages on “Hobbies” and “How to Give Your Dog a Bath.” There was always artwork, drawn and painted by subscribers such as me. 

There was even a recipe called “Popsicle Fun,” calling for “2 packages of Kool Aid (any flavor), 1 cup sugar and 1 quart water.” I might go make some today.

Most of the colorful and charming artwork for the little digest-sized magazine was done by an artist you’ve probably never heard of. Her name was Fern Bisel Peat. She was prolific in this publication and others. She painted all the covers and everything inside except for the reader contributions. She could show you how to make paper dolls, how to carve pumpkins and how to make Christmas-tree ornaments. I also had tin toys with her artwork on them. She was born in 1893 and lived until 1971. She never heard of me, but I was a huge fan.

“Children’s Playmate Magazine” ran for 75 years starting in 1935. Very few others can make that boast. In 2008, it was merged with a magazine you might have seen called “Jack and Jill,” another long-standing publication that was first published in 1938. It merged with Children’s Digest several years ago.

Another box was plunked onto the kitchen bar. Inside were dozens of the original Casey Kasem “American Top Forty” radio programs on record and CD. I had no idea they were here. We started playing them and were instantly transported several decades backward in time as we danced around the kitchen.

Some weeks ago, I accepted a 100-pound cardboard box jam-packed with fabulous old 78 rpm record albums — some almost 100 years old. They were part of the estate of a well-known and respected politician friend who died some years back and his house was up for sale. 

You’d be proud of me, though. I finally said no to Bob Chessman, who offered his old records, and no to Dawn Brault, who wanted me to have her late father’s collection. Kaye smiled and kissed me on the lips for the 20th time since sunrise.

Have a great day and please, drive carefully.

Gordie Little was for many years a well-known radio personality in the North Country and now hosts the “Our Little Corner” television program for Home Town Cable. Anyone with comments for him may send them to the newspaper or email him at gordandk@aol.com.