Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Royal Guardsmen - "Snoopy's Christmas" (1967)

I was about 13 years old when this recording was released. The country had been in a Snoopy craze for about a year and a half when the Royal Guardsmen released their first hit “Snoopy and the Red Baron”, which gave many kids my age their first taste of the legendary World War One flying ace Baron Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen. Snoopy had been fighting him for several years from atop his doghouse, which served as his plane. Snoopy made it through the war; the Baron did not. He was shot down over France on April 21, 1918 after having had his picture taken pre-flight with a stray dog. The pilot’s wisdom back then was to not have your photo taken before a mission. It was considered to be a bad omen, and for the Baron, it was.

For me, the record brings back a vivid memory each year when I hear the song played on the radio at Christmas time. (The video above is not "Snoopy’s Christmas", but their earlier record, “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron”, from 1966. The video player would not allow me to upload “Snoopy’s Christmas”.) I had saved up all of my money from the paper route I worked after schools to buy Christmas gifts for my parents , Uncle and brother, as well as a few friends. So, with my money bulging in my pockets; I had about $30, which may seem small now, but was a tidy sum for a 13 year old back then; I boarded the “D” train at Kings Highway in Brooklyn, headed for “the city”;which is Brooklynese for the Borough of Manhattan.

Adding to the mystique of my trip was the “local”, which made stops at every station along the way. I can still remember, as anyone who grew up in Brooklyn can, each of the stops along the entire “D” line from Brighton Beach to 59th Street and Central Park, at the very least. The “local” which I was on was one of the older subway cars which dated back to the 1930’s. They had lacquered straw seats and overhead fan blades which resembled the old fashioned ice cream parlors from the turn of the century. They also had the smell from almost 40 years of commuters making their way to and from work each day.

This was not an unpleasant odor, and I believe most of the smell was comprised of the automobile exhaust which drifted down into the subway cars in Manhattan. Even the long, open, elevated section of the line, where I lived, couldn’t air those cars out.
I arrived at the 34th Street station and made my way up to the street and into Macy’s. I had in mind a scarf which my mother had indicated a desire for, and a pipe for my father. He had just quit smoking cigarettes again, taking up pipe smoking as a way to cope with the ordeal. That reasoning didn’t make sense to me then, and still doesn’t now. I also bought something for my Uncle Irving; it was a tie which I bought from a street vendor right outside of Macy’s. I think the guy selling the ties used to go in and steal them before setting up shop outside, where he would re-sell them at a fraction of the cost. Working without a roof, you might say that his “overhead” was less.
My $30 went quite a long way, as I managed to find the scarf for something like $3, and the pipe set me back about $8, leaving me with plenty of money to spend on my day shopping. I ate lunch at the Nedick’s on the corner. Next to Nathan’s, they had the best hotdogs around, and also their famous Orange Drink. I felt very grown up standing at the counter and eating my “dog” with all the adults.
When all was finished and my shopping done, I went back down into the subway, inhaling deeply of the aroma which still, to this day, reminds me of growing up. I don’t remember much else from that Christmas; mainly because my trip into the city was the highlight of the holiday for me that year. I was growing up.
There’s no point to this story; it’s just an old Christmas memory from long ago and far away.

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