Monday, May 26, 2008
Sibling Assignment #64: White Elephant in a Snowstorm
This week the sibling assignment comes from InlandEmpireGirl who gave us this prompt:
Taking in the strong fragrance of lilacs today reminded me of Spokane, " The Lilac City". Write about a memorable time from childhood that was spent in Spokane.
When my sisters post their pieces, I'll create links to them.
I think it was my twelfth birthday. So, let's say it was December 27, 1965.
Our family loaded up the Chevy, piled in, and headed off to Orofino, Idaho. Orofino is Mom's birthplace and her mother, Grandma West, and I both have December 27th birth dates. We were heading off for a bash.
Instead, we got bashed. We got bashed by a blizzard. When we tried to head south from Coeur d'Alene to head toward Orofino, the state patrol turned us away. The highway was closed.
We decided to go to Spokane where Grandma Woolum lived. At Grandma's house, Dad either had to or wanted to park outside Grandma's backyard garage, but the snow was so thick he couldn't get the car in the spot.
He and I had to shovel it out. The temperature had increased. It was starting to rain.
Each shovel of snow weighed about ten tons.
We finished shoveling and Mom and Dad let me choose where I wanted to go to shop for a birthday gift.
I couldn't believe my ears.
To me, Spokane was a boy's heaven for shopping. I remembered when I was a really little kid and faithfully watched "Romper Room" with Miss Florence. "Romper Room" was sponsored by J. J. Newberry's and all the toys on "Romper Room" came from J. J. Newberry's.
On one of our visits to Spokane when I was a really little kid, Mom took me and InlandEmpireGirl to J. J. Newberry's and it made me dizzy. I had an allowance to spend and I nearly threw up trying to decide between buying a paratrooper whom I could eject from a cockpit and watch him float to the ground or a new Dr. Seuss book or a fun board game like Chutes and Ladders or Uncle Wiggly or a Superball or some Silly Putty or a plastic baseball and bat set.
But, at twelve, I didn't want to go to J. J. Newberry's. That was for little kids.
I didn't want to go to Northtown and shop at The Crescent because we always did that and I wanted to go somewhere new. Besides, The Crescent was not really a kid's store. It was more Mom and Grandma's store.
I suppose a few years earlier I might have wanted to go to Northwest Seed. They sponsored the afternoon children's program "Mr. Wallaby and Jack" and I had it my head that I could see the show's eponymous kangaroo. Can someone tell me -- was there a real kangaroo caged at Northwest Seed?
On some television show I watched back then, commercials appeared for a place called the White Elephant Surplus Store. Or maybe it was that every time we went downtown on Division Street, I saw the flashing neon"Toys" sign.
Something had lured me to the White Elephant Surplus Store and that's where we went.
I walked in the White Elephant Surplus Store and I was shocked.
I'd ignored the fact that The White Elephant Surplus Store was Spokane's Original Source for Sporting Goods.
I had imagined a Toyland, a bright celestial wonderland of shelf upon shelf of Coleco Electric Football games and cool new Table Hockey sets and boxes of Strat-o-matic Baseball and rows of imaginatively designed cribbage boards and maybe even Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.
The White Elephant Surplus store was not celestial. It was dim.
Rather than Hasbro or Ideal or Remco or Kenner toys, everywhere I looked were Remington rifles, blaze orange vests, Coleman camp stoves, Shakespeare fishing tackle, not to mention Wooly Worms, Nymphs, Scuds, Dry Flies, Streamers, and Shrimp.
"Mom, where are the toys?"
She asked a burly man wearing a Carhartt canvas duck hunting vest and smoking a Viceroy where the toys were and he looked over his glasses, stifled a chuckle, and pointed to the back of the store.
Among the imitation GI Joes and knock off Chatty Cathys, I found some board games. I picked out Clue.
My spirits sagged. No trip to Orofino. Shoveling wet snow. Toyland was more ToyTundra.
I walked in Grandma's house and could hear chicken sizzling and could smell bacon frying: a fried chicken and green beans and bacon with mashed potatoes and gravy dinner.
My spirits raised.
Underneath the smell of dinner, a sweet fragrance rose.
"Chocolate birthday cake?"
"Yes, Billy," Grandma smiled. "With German chocolate frosting."
Dinner. Cake. Candles. Ice cream. A fire in the fireplace. A marshmallow roast.
Sated, InlandEmpireGirl, Mom, and I went upstairs to figure out if Mr. Boddy was killed with the dagger by Col. Mustard in the Conservatory.