These days, there are very few objects from my childhood that still get daily use but there is one object that has been in constant use since I first got it back in June, 1972. It is the first thing I see in the morning when I get out of bed. And it is usually the next to last thing I see before I turn out the lights at night. I am speaking, of course, about my Florida desktop date calendar.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t into keeping track of the days as they pass. Perhaps it comes from my Grandma Rothrock who always had a Flip Top Perpetual Date Calendar in her kitchen. And when we visited her, I always asked to flip it each morning. She usually agreed. But I got it in my head that I wanted one of my own.
So I saved up my allowance money and, when my family headed south to Florida for our 1972 family vacation, I had my money with me and I was looking for one. We travelled those days in our 1969 Pontiac Safari station wagon (that kid travelling with the luggage in THE WAY WAY BACK (2013)? That was me!). Our family usually stopped at many of the tourist traps along the road so that my sisters and I could buy many of the cheap novelty items sold (then and now) to us unsuspecting, gullible tourists so I figured there was a good chance that I’d find one.
Not long after crossing the Florida state line, my father pulled off I-75 just north of Gainesville and stopped at a place called Candyland. This was one of those Mom and Pop all in one restaurant, gas station, and gift shop sort of places that seemed so plentiful back then before national franchising seemed to do it all away. A contemporary postcard describes Candyland as a “One-stop service center for today's fast moving Interstate traveler; restaurant; candies; gifts; souvenirs; gasoline; towel & tog shop; towels; textiles; clothing; mill store prices.” Wow, what a neat sounding place!
We hustled inside. I really only remember two things about the place. First, were the bins of toys and souvenirs for kids to rifle through. The other is that they had music piped through and the song playing when we arrived was the current Sammy Davis Jr. hit, “Candyman” (from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory). I remember thinking that it seemed very apropos to have that song playing.
Of course, Mom wanted us to sit and have something to eat because we had just arrived in Florida from our long trip from West Virginia but, being a kid, I went straight for the souvenirs. And it didn’t take long to find the thing I was looking for, my date calendar. I remember being a little put off that it had a “Florida” plate on the front – its single bow to tourism – but other than that it was exactly what I wanted. I remember showing it to my father who scowled down and said (as he said about most of my purchases), “You really wanna buy THAT?” Well, of course, I did. I remember hurrying over to the check out and paying for it with my own money. I don’t remember at all what it cost.
That night, I set it up next to my roll away bed in our motel room (I always got the roll away). And when I got up in the morning, I advanced it to the new day. And I have been doing that every day since for 42 years. My date calendar has held pride of place on my chest of drawers in 13 places of residence in 4 different states. It has marked and shared every good and bad day I have ever had from the very high to the very low and back again.
It has been with me through first loves, high school graduation, college road trips, my parents’ divorce, graduate school, multiple jobs, one firing, death of pets, my marriage, fatherhood, my mother’s death, and on and on and on. You name the life event and it and I have marked it together. And for some strange reason, being able to get up each morning and turn those knobs helps me to get the proper perspective on the day. If yesterday was great, it helps me to smile at the memory but know that today is another day and I have to work today to make this one as good as yesterday. If yesterday was a bad day, it makes me realize that today is another day and, most likely, it won’t be as bad. In fact, it has a very good chance of being better.
Of course, many things have changed since 1972. I am a little grayer and a little heavier than I was when I was ten. Candyland has long since gone though the building still exists today:
Sammy Davis Jr. has moved on and is now performing daily with the rest of the Rat Pack up in Heaven (or maybe down below – it’s hard to say).
I did inherit Grandma Rothrock’s flip date calendar when she passed away and used it daily in my kitchens as well until it broke in the late 1980s.
But me and my Florida desktop date calendar keep motoring along. I turned it this morning as soon as I stumbled out of bed. I expect I will be using it until that day when I will be making my last move and unable to bring it (or anything else) along except my memories.
Do you have anything like this in your life?
Oh, and for the record, I prefer the original version of “Candyman” from the movie.