Sting- Ray Afternoons by Steve Rushin
If you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s Sting-Ray Afternoons is a must read. If you are a millennial, it is a glimpse into the influences your parents had growing up. You will find yourself laughing out loud at the references to family life, and the daily routines. The book is a memoir set in Bloomington, Minnesota. At a time where many moms stayed home and raised the family, Rushin remembers his mom being a clean freak. Always with a can of Lemon Pledge in hand and tossing empty bottles as soon as the last sip was taken. The title refers to the Sting-Ray bicycle. Desirable by children of that generation, you certainly were a “cool” kid if you owned one. The bike had a seat that resembled a banana shape and chopper handlebars. Get ready for references to a by-gone time. Kool-Aid was the drink all kids craved. Back then we didn’t know the downfall of eating too much sugar, and kids loved Chunky, Chuckles, Chiclets and Charlston Chew candy. Many homes had a Zenith TV with just a few channels. “When mom snapped off the TV, the image would shrink toward the center, as if also disappearing down a drain. I would pass my hand across the warm surface of the screen. It would crackle with an electromagnetic force field, literally drawing me to it, the find hairs on my arm bending toward its bottle green glass,” writes the author. Romper room was the show all kids watched. When Rushin receives a pair of “Romper Stompers” as a birthday present, he screams “just what I didn’t want!” This phrase is throughput out the entire book, and brings a smile to your face when Mom opens her presents and repeats it. Food references are true to the times. Who doesn’t remember eating Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-Roni, Lucky Charms and Wonder bread just to name a few. A perfect sandwich was 2 slices of Wonder bread with bologna and a slice of cheese. Once the bread bag was empty, the bag was used to cover your feet in the winter from snow and ice. Dessert was served every night and Rushin describes the top of chocolate pudding with perfect amusement. “we skeptically tap our spoons on its trampoline surface before rolling the skin back like the lid of a sardine can.”
You will smile as the author talks about the popularity of simulated wood paneling. From side panels on automobiles, wood-paneled furniture, wood panels on the walls in the basement, wood aluminum siding, and steak knife handles made to look like rotted logs, it was everywhere!
Kids collecting things were as popular then as they are now. Some of the authors friends collected beer cans, some soda pop cans. Topps baseball cards were kept in Rushin’s Velveeta box in his closet. At the end of the book, the author thanks his mom for not throwing away his beloved Velveeta box which contained the keepsakes necessary to write the memoir.
Records were also the rage to collect. Most kids and teenagers had extensive collections. Maybe some of you have them still? As Professional Organizers we try to encourage people to reduce clutter and help them learn new systems to stay organized. At House to Home Organizing we help clients organize items that are meaningful, and to keep them stored in a safe place. Never do we encourage a client to toss anything sentimental that would lead to regret.
Clearly the book is about growing up in a time when technology was young and life was simpler. It is a trip down memory lane and laugh out loud funny throughout. Rushin states that the heroes of the story are his parents, and what a wonderful tribute to them he has created.
The book contains little violence and is strong on love. A truly enjoyable read that transports you back in time!
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