Christmas 1964

This is one of those Awkward Family Photographs.

Dad is not only disheveled, but looks thin and unwell - not at all his robust self. That's because not too long before this picture was taken he was in the hospital for various physical ailments having to do with alcoholism. We almost lost him. I well recall one occasion when we had to call the ambulance because he was hemorrhaging interally (that's what I heard the ambulanceman say); it was very scary. I was bundled off to the neighbor's house - my friend Jimmy - while Mom rushed to the hospital with Dad. We watched "my Favorite Martian," a TV show we both loved, but I got very little enjoyment out of it that night. I am happy to report that after this Dad became a teetotaler and enjoyed generally good health for the next nineteen years until he died.

As for me, the camera caught me in sky blue flannel pajamas with snow scenes in a totally unprepared, zombie-like pose. Perhaps this is one Christmas where the dad was wide awake and the kid was half-asleep.

Dad is proudly presenting me with the Grand Gift of 1964: A flamboyant green (that's what they called it) Schwinn Sting Ray - with basket and horn. The basket and horn would soon be removed, but I loved this bike. When we moved to Burbank two months later this bike and I went everywhere. It and my first Lego set remain my all-time favorite Christmas gifts. You can read more about my Sting Ray here.

As was our custom, we once again taped our Christmas cards around the door. That's the kitchen behind Dad; you can see our white Hotpoint fridge, which we took to Burbank.

My expression clearly shows my happiness with my new bike. This shot also shows the bike's whitewall tires which, I think, dress up the bike considerably. However whitewall tires were not cool for boys, and so they wouldn't last long.

I distinctly recall riding around the neighborhood - somewhat wobbly - on Christmas Day. The bike was slightly big for me, and so I got the impression that I was really riding some big kid's bike, not my own. That was a cool feeling. I would keep this Sting Ray until 1968, when I would get a 5-speed model. When that got stolen I got another like this one, and so I rode this size Sting Ray bike until I was nearly seventeen! By then I was a tall, strapping young lad and looked fairly ridiculous on a Sting Ray, and so bought a larger 10-speed.

You can see one of Mom's gifts to Dad on the right: a golf club bag caddy - which he would never use. That's our kitchen behind me; various jars and mugs can be seen in the cupboard.

Ah, that's more like it! Dad is now groomed and dressed and so am I. I am a happy boy. It's Christmas morning and I have my father.

Note, however, the dirt and grass stain on the knee of my pants. I was an active, rough and ready eight year-old and frequently ended up wearing my play environment.

Our pole lamp with the milk glass globes can be seen. There is a milk glass dish on the television, also a bottle of Vicks VapoRub, Dad's solace. That television was, of course, a black and white model. We would buy our first color television in 1965, once we moved to Burbank.

The Christmas tree is rather small and stands upon a box to give it some height. You can barely make out a cloth pixie ornament hanging near the top of the tree. We had three of these: one in a white tunic, one in a green tunic and one in a red tunic. They met a bitter end. When we decided that we no longer wanted these Snap, Crackle and Pop clones as Christmas decorations I cut their heads off with a large pair of scissors before throwing them in the trash.

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