Friday, March 6, 2009

Cliff's KV Notes, Part 3: Playing With Fire

Most kids have a special kind of vision—they can see things that adults can’t . Like anything with a button or knob or handle has a label on it that’s invisible to adults. The label says ‘Touch Me.” Our kitchen in HG9 looked like the one in the photo, except for the calendar. I remember the original appliances—the green and cream-colored stove with handle controls for the burners, and the separate oven with its big handle. Neither had a pilot light, and had to be lit using stick matches. The match boxes had a coarse sandpaper striking surface, not like the finer emery found on matchbook covers.
I was afraid of stick matches because of the small fireball they made when you struck them. Good thing too, otherwise neither KV nor myself might be here today. When my mother lit a burner, she would blow out the match and place it in a small dish on the stove. Then, when she needed to light another burner, she would put the dead match into the burner flame until it caught, and use it to light the new burner. I thought that was really cool, because you could have a burning match without the scary striking deal.
One day, my mother left the house with something cooking on the stove. Hmmmn…there was a lit burner and some dead matches. I held a dead match in the flame and then it caught. And I was actually holding fire! Wow! I guess the cavemen must’ve felt the same thrill. I blew out the match, and savored the experience. ‘Course I had to do it again…and again. What happened, was that each time, the flame crept a little closer to my fingers. The last time I did my match trick, the flame got real close to my fingers, and I panicked. I figured I’d “wipe the flame off” with a tissue. ‘Course the tissue caught on fire. I remember my thinking at the time: “I really don’t want to be holding this burning tissue,” so I did what my parents did when they wanted to get rid of something—they threw it in the garbage. In this case, the garbage was a brown paper bag (from the grocery store) in some sort of pail. Once the garbage caught fire, I remember thinking that playing in the kitchen wasn’t fun anymore, so I retreated to another room and put the kitchen out of my mind.
Luckily, my mother returned very shortly thereafter, and after first freaking out, she picked up the garbage pail, held it under the kitchen faucet and then ran out and threw it down the incinerator.
That satisfied my fire fixation…for a while. But there was the rest of the kitchen to explore. I say the kitchen, because the rest of the apartment didn’t have much you could fool with—except maybe the bathroom. What you could do there was to see how far you could move the toilet flush handle, which allowed water to run into the toilet, without triggering an automatic flush. Sort of like an exercise in manual dexterity.
But back to the kitchen. You couldn’t do much with a refrigerator except open and close the door a few times. Turning on the sink faucets to see how fast the water came out got boring after a while, and so did lowering and raising the wooden clothes dryer over the sink (although the pulley system, and the squeaky sounds it made, was kind of interesting.) So that left…the oven.
The oven had a lot more gas flow than a stove burner, and it made a loud hissing noise when you turned it on before you lit it with a match. Sooo, when my mother had to step out of the apartment for something, I decided to check out the oven. I opened the door and turned on the gas--full. The loud hissing noise scared me, and I decided that playing in the kitchen wasn’t fun anymore (again). Being too frightened to go near the oven and turn off the gas, I ran away from the source of my fear. The apartment was pretty full of gas when my mother returned, and after freaking out (again) she turned off the gas and opened all the windows. I guess I could have blown the walls out of the H building.
Many years later, when KV switched from natural to the other kind of gas (or vice versa), air got into some of the lines and caused problems. I was in my friend Marty Davis’ apartment in the F building at the time. Marty’s parents were Karl (an architect, I believe) and Mildred. They also had a housekeeper. Anyway, the housekeeper was trying to light the oven, when we heard a big Whuumph! There was a small explosion in the oven due to air in the lines, and the housekeeper had her eyebrows, eyelashes and some of her hair singed off. I knew you couldn’t trust those ovens.
When I wasn’t setting fire to it, or trying to blow it up, the kitchen was a great place. That’s where our solitary AM radio was stationed. And starting at around 5 p.m. three radio programs came on that I listened to religiously—Superman, Captain Midnight and Tom Mix (a western, for all you young folks). The voice of Superman was very distinctive, and I don’t remember any credit given to the man behind the voice. Many, many years later, I happened to watch “Beat The Clock,” on our black and white Magnavox TV. I couldn’t believe my ears—it was Superman’s voice from the 1940s radio program—Bud Collyer.
Old radio programs are a story in itself—one which others can tell a lot better than I can. But one jingle, lost in the annals of radio commercials, still sticks in my mind:
"Just the other day I heard a fella say, Give me Mission Bell wine because Mission Bell’s fine!" Man, if I only had that creativity…
The next chapter in Cliff's KV Notes
The previous installment of Cliff's KV Notes

No comments: