The Catt Box
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It was back in mid 1978. I was living in a quaint Granite stone cottage on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Havre de Grace, Maryland.
I could open up my front door and listen to the water as it lapped itself upon the driftwood.......I was THAT close to the river.
A few yards behind the cottage stood the historical Concord Point Lighthouse.
In the years since that time the cottages have been torn down. There were four of them back then and I had the one that was closest to the water, right in front. Rent was $185 a month, for a two bedroom cottage.
*sigh*.....those were the days, huh?
I had taken out an album of Joan Baez to listen to......"Diamonds And Rust", one of my favorite songs.
There's something about Joan Baez that reminds me of my youth and a simpler time of my life.
Her soothing voice made me think of the ocean and my childhood vacations. I remember getting lost in those memories and the smiles it gave me. That was probably the first time I really looked back on those days and what it meant to me as a child.
It was an exceptionally warm day......the windows were open and a refreshing breeze blew through the house. Once in a while I could feel tiny pockets of cool air in the breeze. I closed my eyes and let my mind take me back to days of my youth.....days that were just like this one.
It's funny how a smell, a sound, a season, and even a song can bring back memories of days that make you smile.
I had been alone in the house all day. I wanted to listen to old songs and turn up the volume.
The dusty record case was like a Pandora's Box of good times and good tunes. I wanted to be transported back to a simpler time.
Another record I played was He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother, by The Hollies.
I sat back in my chair and the breeze continued to rush through the window. The curtains floated aimlessly in the wind and then settled back down..... I closed my eyes again and smiled. I could almost smell the incense ......I could almost taste the Coke that came in those small green glass bottles for 15¢ each.
The lonely harmonica of the song embraced me.
I could smell the heat from the hot summer day as it lingered in the air, just like I did back in the late 60's.......those delicious smells and sounds of summer days when a day lasted a full 24 hours long, and the impending night always promised an adventure, a visitor, or a place to go.
The words of the song now permeated the air......
The road is long, with many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where, who knows where
But I'm strong, strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy - he's my brother
So on we go, his welfare is my concern
No burden is he to bare, we'll get there
For I know he would not encumber me
He ain't heavy - he's my brother
I continued listening to my favorite songs, going back in time through the years.
The next record to play was Get Together, by the Youngbloods .
Time sure were different back in 1969......the movie Easy Rider was making it's big splash, the Vietnam war raged on, Nixon was sworn into office, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon that summer, Woodstock happened, and we're STILL talking about it, Tiny Tim married Miss Vickie on the Johnny Carson show, the Manson murders shocked the world, and Land Of The Giants was one of my favorite TV shows.
The song Get Together filled the air........
Love is but a song to sing,
Fear's the way we die.
You can make the mountains ring,
Or make the angels cry.
Though the bird is on the wing,
And you may not know why.
Come on people now,
Smile on your brother,
Everybody get together,
Try to love one another
Catt, Cindy, and Alan in December 1968. I'm the one holding Christy, 'the princess' of the family.
Some of my favorite memories of my childhood came from the summers of 1967, 1968, and 1969. My family spent vacations in Ocean City, Maryland and that was the most magical place on earth for my sister, and my brother, and me.
To this day I have never been to a beach that I enjoyed better, and I've been to some pretty amazing beaches.
I was only 11 years old in 1967.....too young to be a real 'Hippie', but old enough to wish I was. My brother and sister felt the same way. I was the oldest of us kids and very observant of my surroundings. I drank in the entire Hippie culture.
When you're young 'time' is forever...everything lasts so long. And anticipating a trip to Ocean City was so exciting, like it would never get here.
It was bad enough waiting for the school year to end, but then we'd have to wait for the week that we would all be in Ocean City, Maryland.
And we would never be 'just us, as a family', and for that I was glad. My parents always wanted to invite along another family. My parents were always easier to manipulate when other people were near. We loved that. It was like stepping out of our world for a while and slipping into a TV sitcom for a week.
We would be so excited about the trip... me, Cindy, and my brother Alan. This was all we would talk about. My brother was home for a month during the summers and he and I were so close and so much alike.
Summers were wonderful for me.... I was away from school, mom and dad were at work and we pretty much had the house to ourselves, and some of our classmates could visit.
Perhaps Debbie Diffenderfer could come over one Saturday to swim in the pool.
(Debbie, you know I'm laughing about the fimmin' poo)
Or maybe Pat Hopps would be able to spend the night.
And then there was that wonderful trip to Ocean City.
That was a lot for me to look forward to.
It was also exciting to find out who would accompany us on our vacation.
We always hated it when my mom's long-time friend 'Mean-woman' was invited. We never liked her or her kids. And her husband, 'Mean-man', was always... well, mean to us, always annoying us.
Besides, when that particular family came along with us, we kids were stuck babysitting her two children.
But on a good year, we would have a ball with the family that went along with us. And it's those years I want to think about.
I don't remember hearing all of the planning and details of the trip....that wasn't the sort of thing that interested us....we just talked about Frontier Town, which was on the out-skirts of Ocean City, and The Jolly Roger Park, and the Boardwalk, the Mid-way, which was the carnival that lasted all summer, and it was at the end of the eight mile long Boardwalk.
Dad would give us each $2.00 a day to spend however we wanted. We were pretty much on our own when we were there. Things would be so different today. The world didn't seem as dangerous and vicious back then. A kid used to be able to spend the entire day on the beach or poking in and out of the shops and parents didn't have to worry about them.
The day would finally come...we were on our way.
Dad was not a pleasant person to be around on 'trip day'. He and mom would bicker while loading the car. He didn't seem to be as excited as we were, but we were thrilled to be on our way and on that day nothing could bust our bubble.
And that trip was so long, about three and a half hours from our house, plus the traffic, if any. When you're a kid time is longer, and that trip felt like it lasted a week long.
And there were frequent trips to the rest rooms along the way. Mom and dad drank a lot of coffee. But I always loved it when we finally reached that famous turn in Glasgow, Delaware...the right hand turn that said that you were really on your way.
When we arrived we rolled the windows all the way down. We just had to smell that wonderful salty air. We had to listen to the radios and the general sounds of 'life at the beach'....all those young tanned, half naked people were everywhere. And the summers I really like to remember was, as I stated, in the late sixties.
The hippies were the most interesting things we had ever seen.
We came from a tiny little town called Perryville, Maryland, and we never saw hippies there.
My sister Cindy and I would have begged, borrowed or stolen a pair of bell-bottomed blue jeans back then. We wanted a pair more than anything else in this world.
And there was a new kind of store that had opened up across the street from our apartment building.
They were called 'Head Shops', or, as we understood them, 'Hippie Stores'. And we jumped at every opportunity to go in there and just look around.
We loved the smell of burning incense...
well, that's what we always thought it was.
We would watch the 'lava lamps' with wonderment....the black lights and the posters...the tie-dye clothing, love-beads, leather purses, exotic candles, and gadgets that we never did figure out.
And there was always that strange sweet smell that wafted out from the Head Shops.....we couldn't put our finger on it.....
What was that smell?.......
We would sit outside on the porch on rainy days and watch the hippies go in and out of the store, envying them for their freedom, and their blue jeans.
My brother Alan had to have his hair super-short in those days and he was longing for long hair, just like the hippies.
Cindy was just admiring the men. She was always much more 'boy crazy' than I ever was. I was just fascinated with the hippies.
They had such interesting lives, and they were always in the news. They were the 'hot topic' for conversation in mom's beauty shop, too, everyone was talking about the 'hippies'.
They talked about the hippie communes, the long hair, the 'dirty' way they all dressed, their stand against 'the establishment', the sexual freedom and 'shacking up' together instead of getting legally married.
We would finally pull up into a parking spot in front of the apartment house. I remember how I loved to lean out of the window a little and listen to the tires of our car driving slowly atop the gravel....cracking and grinding....
I could smell and feel the heat from the car, the gravel, the tires, the air, and it was a lazy kind of comfort.
The heat was suffocating and the sun was so hot.
At long last the engine was turned off and the car doors were opening and slamming shut and I could feel the excited knot in my stomach and throat. I thought I would surely bust out of pure joy of finally being there. We could see the Boardwalk from where we parked the car and the throngs of people walking to and fro...and I just wanted to get lost with them.
Dad would start unloading the car and mom and Ms. 'Whoever for that year' would go into the apartment and begin to put things away. We were not allowed to go anywhere, not yet, but we would pester everyone to the point where they would pay us to leave, and off to the Boardwalk we'd go.
We always stayed at the same apartment house just within yards of the Boardwalk. Mom and dad owned the apartment building and each year we'd stay on a different floor. There were three apartments.
And we were on the most 'happening' end of the Boardwalk, too. The opposite end was mostly hotels and condominiums, a more barren area. But we were in the very best place to be......the place to be.
Nothing could compare with racing up the slant of the sidewalk and then reaching the wooden Boardwalk itself.....it was 'nirvana'.
There it was, all the familiar places and sounds. Bells were ringing from a new winner at one of the game booths, the smell of fresh cotton candy made your mouth water, the smell of the air....we had to just stop and breath it in. We could not see the surf from where we were standing because the beach was very long and even on it's busiest days you could always find a place on the beach.
Dotted along the Boardwalk were the proverbial gift shops with 'sea-shell-anythings'.
What couldn't be made with sea-shells?
And the miles of tee-shirt stands.....there was no end to those stores.
We loved the Boardwalk food, too, and we would always head to the right of the Boardwalk towards the most exciting places. We'd walk past all the games and look at the huge stuffed animals that we all wanted, but never could win.
Our focus was on the food and one of the first stops was the booth where you could buy those wonderful 'Boardwalk French fries', as we would call them. They were fried in peanut oil and that was the big advertisement on the sign above the booth. And the minute you got close enough to the place you could feel the heat from the fryers and smell the oil. And the whole time we would be standing in line we could could hear the 'pops' and 'bell-ringing' from more winners of stuffed toys, candy dishes, and those cool stretched bottle-necks of Coke.
If you stood close enough to anyone you could also smell the Coppertone suntan lotion that everyone used. Everyone was wearing a white tee-shirt with some kind of a saying on it, as well as sun glasses.
Ocean City was so big back then. I mean, it's a big place anyway, but when you're a kid, it's even bigger, and our wide-eyed wonderment would just take it all in.
We couldn't get anywhere fast enough....
We never had enough money....
We never had enough time....
We never were old enough......
There were not enough hours in the day.....
There were not enough days at Ocean City.
It was always such a whirl-wind time when we were there. It took a few days just for it all to sink in that we were really, truly there.
We never wanted the days to end. Mom and dad would play Bingo until very late at night, and us kids had the run of the Boardwalk.
I don't remember there being any curfew for us kids, but I do remember late at night the three of us kids would sit on the Boardwalk bench outside of The Purple Moose, which at that time was one of the most 'happening' bars to be at, and we'd watch the drunks go in and come out. We'd watch a scuffle or two, listen to the various conversations, and make a pact between us that when we were old enough, we'd go in there.
That was the big goal...go to The Purple Moose one day, and that we'd get a pair of bell-bottom blue jeans.
I am happy to tell you that when I was 30 years old, I went to Ocean City, when I still lived in Maryland, and I went to The Purple Moose and had a drink.....
I can die now.
I don't think we ever got much sleep there in Ocean City. Time was precious and short-lived, there was much to do.
I can remember getting badly sun-burned every year. You would think that we would learn about sun protection, but no one paid any attention to it. We would be burned to the point of blisters, and just wore a shirt the next day and was right back out in the sun. We wanted to spend more time on the Boardwalk than at the beach anyway. It was exciting just to go into the shops and look around.
Things started to slow down a little by our second or third day there and time lasted a little bit longer.... we wanted it to last longer. I don't ever remember a bored moment there. We had relaxing moments, but never bored moments.
There was always something going on somewhere....street entertainers...not like in New York City, of course, but street entertainers nevertheless. And I always enjoyed listening to the ones that sang.
You could always find a 'hippie girl' sitting 'Indian style' on the fringes of the Boardwalk. She would sit in the sand, and there would always be a gathering of people around her. A guy or two would have an acoustic guitar, maybe someone with a tambourine or a maraca, and the girl would be singing in Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez fashion. She would have deep, throaty vocals with lots of vibrato...or wispy, airy vocals that sounded like an angel, reaching a pitch that I think only a dog could hear, but beautiful, just the same.
Her eyes would always be closed and she would sway to the 'internal beat' that she kept....wind blowing in her hair....a 'floppy hat' on her head....long hair, usually blonde, parted in the middle, love beads, 'Water Buffalo Sandals' with the leather ring for the big toe, wearing a skirt or a wonderful pair of bell-bottom blue jeans.
There were three things I wanted in those moments....her voice, her clothes, and to figure out what that sweet smell was....it was always wafting from small groups of people....what was that?
Then there would be the 'blind guy', the one with the banjo and the tin cup taped on the end of it....and my brother would always 'test' the guy just to see if he was really blind.
I don't think Alan ever believed he was blind. Alan was harmless, but annoying, and I'm sure that the man was 'onto' him.
But late at night Alan would spook my sister Cindy by telling her that he actually saw the blind man's eyes and that he was really Satan and he was there to take Cindy back to hell with him....she'd be so upset.
Cindy was too easy for her own good. We could tell her anything and she'd believe it. To this day Cindy is somewhat neurotic...and we probably share some of the blame for that...she made it so tempting.
Ocean City was filled with people who didn't live there....summer jobs, summer run-aways, summer vacation, summer homes. You never knew who you were going to meet and where they may be coming from. It was like a week-long one-night-stand....."live for today, 'cause you'll be gone tomorrow..." and we lived every moment to our fullest. We'd meet someone on the beach for a day and never see them again. The only familiar faces were the vendors at the booths, they were always there.
I can still remember what it was like to walk past the little stores and sidewalk vendors. Those places were so lit up at night that you could feel the heat from the light bulbs as you walked past. It would be so hot and humid. And once in a while you could walk in front of a vent or a fan, something that would blow air onto you, and you just wanted to stand there and cool off.
The smell of fresh pop-corn and butter was heavy in the air....and you no sooner walked past that booth and another smell would take over....candy... hot dogs... French fries, etc. And there were the sounds of summer music everywhere.....songs that still put me back in Ocean City, Maryland every time I hear them....songs from The Hollies, The Mamas and the Papas, The Fifth Dimension, etc.
No matter where you went, someone was playing the best music of the day. Music that would be forever linked to those summers, those smells, and that beach.
Having a limited amount of money made it hard to figure out what to do. We loved the junk food, but we also wanted to buy things that we could take back with us.
We had to be 'wise' with our money.
The first day or two, the money slipped through our fingers with such speed and desperation that it left us with a barely audible whimper. We didn't see it coming, we didn't know what hit us.
It was 9:15 in the morning and the whole day was ahead of us and all we had to show for it was the taste in our mouths of our first 'sugar injection'.
Now we had to find ways to eat all day and enjoy looking around. Mom and dad always bought lots of salt water taffy and we'd load our pockets up with it, that way we could save our own money by not having to buy it ourselves.
However, the genius plan melted, right along with the taffy that stuck to the paper and rendered itself worthless to us.
The money......sure, we tried to 'hit dad up' for advancements for the next day and sometimes he'd give in and other times we'd have to sell him our first born child, three ribs, and a pint of blood.
Other times you just couldn't budge him.
Then we would get to the desperate begging stage....promising work, chores, and we'd have to barter with him about car washes and waxes, lawn care, extra stuff like that.
But, if he had gambled and won anything...if he had an exceptionally good day, and he was liquored up enough, we could get a little extra money. Then it was off to the Boardwalk for another 'spend-fest'.
Things haven't changed much for us through the years...only now we do the begging with banks, credit cards and loan companies.
Oh, and 'Boardwalk pizza', my personal favorite, right up there with the 'soft pretzel'. I'm a bread freak and soft pretzels were in that family of foods.
But is there anything better than Boardwalk pizza?
Something about that taste....can't get it anywhere else. All of that wonderful 'Boardwalk food' that was loaded with enough sugar to keep us jacked-up on a 'jet-puffed' sugar high for days.
Days at the beach were nice, I loved to swim, loved to build things in the sand....'ever-the-creator' of 'sand things', that was my favorite part.
We especially enjoyed the days when the waves were more aggressive. I can still taste the salty water if I think about it long enough.
I also loved watching the people walk by.
Mom and Ms. 'Whoever for that year' not only had those 'Beehive' hair sculptures, but they would wear these feather-like or flower-like scarf things on their heads to 'protect' the sculpture. We didn't know whether to laugh, die of embarrassment, or get as far away from them as possible.
And it must have taken them an hour to 'prepare' themselves for sitting under an umbrella.
First there was the blanket / chair / cooler arrangement. Once that was under control they had to re-position the umbrella because dad never got it right, ever.
Then came the bottles of lotion, one for each body part, and something else for lips, noses, and mom's legs because she would get sun-poisoning so easily.
Then came the coffee, cigarettes, the make-shift ashtray, the glass of ice-tea, the aspirin for the headache that was now present, the box of tissues, and the novel that mom was reading.
But it was in the year 1967 that my sister and I saw the girl that set the standard of what we wanted to be and how we wanted to look. Her name was Mazy Jo.
She was just a wisp of a girl, about 27 inches tall. She was sitting on the sand, near the Boardwalk, and she was playing her guitar.
Mazy Jo was wearing a lightweight floral skirt with hand-stitched lace on the hem. She also wore a very sheer white and floral print peasant blouse, complete with pull-strings decorated with beads. She also wore her 'peace sign' necklace around her neck, her Ankh necklace, and her love beads.
She also kept her lovely lace shawl with her. It was tea-stained and had fringe sewn along the edges. It hung down low on her back and kept her warm on chilly summer nights near the surf of the ocean.
Mazy Jo also had very long blonde hair, parted in the middle, and it was 100% real human hair.
(no, no, not my OWN hair.....I used hair extensions that I had purchased)
Mazy Jo had a soft 'tan' and she wore her tea stained floppy hat in order to control the sun on her delicate skin. Her purple-rimmed sun glasses rested on top of her hat at all times.
If you could get through the crowd and stand close enough, you could see her half-closed blue eyes and her white lipstick on her lips. That was sooooo in-style back then.
Her removable acoustic guitar had a nice black 7 inch guitar case with a red lining inside. She played and sang beautifully. The first song I ever heard her sing was "Ode To Billie Joe".
In between her singing and playing, the Boardwalk stores were sounding out other popular songs from that year....."Whiter Shade Of Pale", by Procal Harum, "San Francisco", by Scott McKenzie, and "White Rabbit", by Jefferson Airplane.
My sister Cindy and I decided that if any song captured the essence of Mazy Jo that summer, it would have to be "San Francisco". She looked like the poster child for the perfect Hippie Girl....and she seemed to be an angel from San Francisco, sent to the east coast to harvest more people for the huge love-in on the west coast.
Any girl who saw her wanted to look just like her.
And along side of Mazy Jo sat her tapestry bag of 'supplies'. She had all sorts of interesting things.
Inside of the bag she had a bottle of wine, and when it was empty, you can be sure that many candles would be burned and dripped onto the bottle.
Mazy Jo also traveled with her many 'albums' of her favorite singers. She also had a nice assortment of real incense in cones. They were in the 'flavors' of Strawberry, Sandalwood, Cinnamon, and Jasmine.
And the outside of Mazy Jo's bag had more of her 'wares'. She had a purple Maraca, some green candles, her key ring, a collection of 'buttons', and a pair of real leather Water Buffalo Sandals. (I made them myself from real leather)
She wasn't wearing her sandals yet because they were brand new and everyone knew that new Water Buffalo Sandals HAD to be soaked in water for a while before you could wear them.
Mazy Jo also had one of her recent yarn-made God's Eyes. She would sit and make them and give them away as gifts to her friends.
In addition to her tapestry bag, she carried a smaller, more personal green leather bag with fringe on her right shoulder. It was filled with her 'vices'.
A picture is worth a thousand words and if you knew anything at all about the 'culture' back then, then I need not say anymore on THIS subject........not even about the special Mushrooms.
The summer of 1967 ended and by the summer of 1968, we were back in Ocean City for our yearly vacation. We didn't have to go far to see that Mazy Jo was still spending her summers there. The huge band-stand had been torn down earlier that year, but Mazy Jo was still sitting in front of where it used to be. She was still singing and inspiring people to become more like her.
New music set the theme for the summer of 1968.....Mazy Jo was singing her own rendition of "Those Were The Days", by Mary Hopkins, she made us cry with Bobby Goldsboro's song "Honey", she drew smiles and laughter when she sang Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley P.T.A.", and she made us all wish we were tap dancers when she sang "Dream A Little Dream Of Me", by the Mama's and Papa's.
Of course, in between her soft, beautiful songs, we heard the loud-speakers from the Boardwalk stores playing Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man", Status Quo's "Pictures Of Matchstick Men", and during the lazy afternoon lulls we were easily swept away with Herb Albert's "This Guy's In Love With You".
Mazy Jo had become every bit as much a part of our vacations as the beach itself, in those days.
When we returned in 1969, Mazy Jo continued to entertain us. The three of us kids were a little older.....The Fifth Dimension were singing "Aquarius" and Tommy Roe gave us "Dizzy"....The Cowsills sang "Hair' and it awesome...it gave the world 'permission' to have long hair.
I loved going in and out of the shops, feeling good, and hearing Oliver's "Good Morning Starshine". Who couldn't feel good after hearing that song?...even the silly parts!
I was becoming a true Three Dog Night fan and their song "One" dominated the airwaves.
The sad day of departure always came too soon. Back to the bickering between mom and dad....back to the hot car...back into our own world.
We were only allowed to be in this world for a week at a time, once a year. These were the last few summers of my innocent youth....the summers I remember most....the summers I remember best. These were the summers of Charles Manson, Woodstock, the Vietnam war, and "Mrs. Robinson".
And along with the great music of those days of the 60's, the 1970's brought us more understanding of the world we were in, and a little of it followed us into our vacation.
I was drifting away from 'bubble-gum' music and getting my first taste of Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad. Four students were killed at Kent State University and my generation was getting restless. Cindy and Alan were experimenting with smoking cigarettes and we were beginning to look a little more like the hippies.
We finally had bell-bottom blue jeans.
You couldn't get away from the war that was still going on in Vietnam and the riots and protesting that went along with it in our own country. I stood on the Boardwalk one day and heard some people heckling soldiers as they walked by. I had never seen a soldier being disrespected before...and I didn't understand it. It scared and confused me. Why were the soldiers treated like the bad guys?
I was beginning to grow up and lose my wide-eyed innocence ....my joy and excitement were now replaced by confusion and worry.
I no longer headed to the infamous Boardwalk without a care or worry in the world....now I had to be careful...there were murders and rapes and kidnappings. We were beginning to understand about drugs, and I was afraid of them.
And that's when we finally realized what that strange smell was.....
We were more serious about the world, and about ourselves. We no longer just 'blended in' with the crowds, living our lives as giggling children racing to the nearest carnival ride, or laughing as we tried on a silly hat or as we scared each other with a rubber snake.
We were now beginning to feel like prey.
Fears and the world have grown worse during the years, for all of us, but my wonderful memories of Ocean City, Maryland and of Mazy Jo are safe and sound on film, in pictures, and locked away in my mind.....my never-forgotten world of when I could just be a kid at the beach.
I sure was a long way from when I used to sniff Crayons in a cigar box with Sylvia Jenkins.
And just as if it had been planned, the song Time Of The Season by The Zombies began to play while I was still enjoying my summer memories.....
It's the time of the season.
When love runs high.
And this time, give it to me easy.
And let me try with pleasured hands.
To take you in the sun to (promised lands).
To show you every one.
It's the time of the season for loving.
What's your name? Who's your daddy?
(He rich) Is he rich like me.
Has he taken, any time.
(To show) To show you what you need to live.
Tell it to me slowly (tell me what).
I really want to know. It's the time of
the season for loving.
Copyright © June 15, 2003 and February 25, 2005 Cathy Palmer-Scruggs / Catt Alexander
A super special thanks to eBay seller imosh for the Ankh pendant.
Also, big hugs and a special thanks to Mazy Jo for being my inspiration for 'the good ol' days'.
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My dolls are not for everyone, they are my art. If you are offended, I suggest you hit the back button. It will not do you any good to write me 'hate mail'.
In spite of the dolls I create and the stories I write, I do not use recreational drugs, I don't smoke cigarettes, and I don't even drink alcoholic beverages.