Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday Circus

When the Cub Scouts came looking for volunteers, I joined. I was an eager volunteer, but I have to confess, I was never a very good Cubby. I could never see the point of merit badges and such, but there was one activity I put my heart and soul into: door-to-door sales of tickets to the Boy Scout Circus, a mini-jamboree held once a year at the El Paso County Coliseum.

There was a prize for the Scout who sold the most tickets, so I hit the pavement. I led the competition for the first three weeks, but sadly after that fourth and final week, when our den mother tallied the sales results, her son had edged me by one ticket and had won the week-long stay at summer camp, Skyline Ranch near Cloudcroft, NM. My competitor's amazing come-from-behind win was impressive, but (as I say) I was not a very good Cub Scout, so I neglected to congratulate him on his astounding flurry of salesmanship.

One Saturday morning our den mother took us all down to the Channel 4 studios to be on "Saturday Circus", a locally produced kiddie show (ala "Howdy Doody") featuring such notable screen personalities as Red Brown, his wife Anna Lee and the master of ceremonies Bernie Bracher. Bernie was dressed as ringmaster; Red and Anna Lee were fittingly outfitted in ill-fitting clown costumes. This was before the days of video tape, so the show was broadcast live before a studio audience of weary mothers and distracted children. (For those of you who aren't old enough to remember just how amateurish live TV was, here's an old kinescope of the Howdy Doody Show.)

Our little band of Cubs was asked to select a representative to appear in front of the camera in one of the quiz contests. The den mother's kid didn't want to, so she proposed that we let the oldest child represent us. That was David Weir, but David was too scared, so the mantle came to rest on my shoulders.

In this particular competition three contestants were quizzed, one at a time. Each contestant was asked a different question. The questions were designed to require multiple answers, and the child who gave the most correct answers won. So when the time came to demonstrate my wits, I stood confidently before the camera and answered Bernie Bracher's inquiry, "Name as many baseball players as you can."

I got four: "Mickey Mantle, Roger Marris, Babe Ruth and Ryne Duren." (I wasn't real sure about Y.A. Tittle, so I didn't mention him.)

At this point you may be asking yourself, "Who the heck is Ryne Duren"? He was a New Tork Yankee pitcher who had the fastest fastball in the Majors. His only deficiency was that he was nearly blind. (My dad always loved to tell about how Duren once began peering down at third base, searching for the umpire and catcher.)

Anyway I came up with four names. As I say, the goal of the competition was to name the most, and it seems the difficulty of your question depended on your age. Being nine, I got the toughy. Some little 6-year-old twit walked away with the gold by naming five forms of transportation.

However, there was a consolation round in which all us "losers" from the various contests were gathered together and asked a single question. The first person to spout the answer got five dollars -- that's right FIVE WHOLE BUCKAROOS (which was no chump change back in 1961).

Inspite my natural modesty, candor compels me to tell you, "I nailed it!" For those of you who may not remember my triumphal moment, the correct answer to the question, "Which nursery rhyme character suffered a fatal injury when he fell from a masonry precipice?" was "Humpty-Dumpty!!!" (As the native English speaker among the contestants, I may have had a wee unfair advantage.)

Our den mother was jubilant. She promised everyone that Bobby would be a good Cub Scout and share his good fortune by taking them to Gunning-Casteel's Drug store and buying them all coke floats. But as I've said, I was never a very good Cub Scout -- I had a different opinion about an equitable division of my funds.

While we were riding to the pharmacy in the den mother's car, I stuck the fiver into my shoe. Upon arriving at Gunnings, we all trooped up the soda fountain and enjoyed our floats. But when we got to the register and den mom demanded my winnings, I just stared at her with a confused look on my face. She was incensed and let fly verbal abuse in mixed Spanish and English. But I remained dim-witted -- she paid.

When I got home, I allowed my two older brothers, Joel and Roy, to "Ooo and aaah" over my Abe Lincoln for a while. Then, I gathered about a half-dozen of the neighborhood kids and led them up the street to Smitty's grocery (on the corner of Van Buren and Piedras) where I converted the paper money into dimes. We spent the entire afternoon riding the bronco in front of the store. Smitty objected to all of us burdening his horse, so we rode three at a time -- everyone took turns ... well, everyone except me. As I said, I wasn't a very good Cub Scout. I road in the saddle all fifty times.


LadyBugCrossing said...

Good for you! Why should you not do what you want with your hard earned cash??? And I think you were a pretty good scout!

Gradual Dazzle said...

Hilarious!!! What a great story, and shame on Den Mother for attempting to redistribute your wealth. She must've been a commie. hehe

GUYK said...

Heh..I woulda done the same thing..except I would probably been buying enough cigarettes to last a while instead of riding a fake pony

Mrs. Who said...

Remind me never to play poker with you!

Bob said...

Mrs Who--
So you'd play Scrabble?

Well, I didn't say I spent my money wisely...

Gradual Dazzle--
Yeah, she was definitely Marxist.

Thanks, but honestly, scouting wasn't my thing.

Bag Blog said...

Great story! That reminds me of being on some similar TV show in Wichita Falls when I was a Campfire Girl.

Mrs. Who said...

Now we're talking...I love Scrabble!

The Friendly Neighborhood Piper said...

That wench!...and after selling her son's stuff for him to win you out? you did her right. only thing better woulda been if she woulda come to the store and saw you payin' for pony rides.

Nothin like a nine year old getting over on a scheming soccer mom.