> by Bill Monson
> I was in the checkout line at Wal-Mart, waiting to buy a 2004 date book and browsing the "impulse" items stacked near the cash register, when I saw something that flashed me back over half a century. Paraffin bottles with colored sugar water! Instantly, I remembered the little paraffin pop bottles filled with "soda pop" we Blaine Avenue Bulldogs used to buy at the market on Main on our way home from Farnham School. You'd bite the top off the three-inch-long bottle, sip out the syrupy, non-carbonated sugar water, then chew the bottle itself. It usually lasted until we reached our neighborhood before every last scintilla of flavor was gone and our weary jaws rebelled. We'd spit it down a storm drain grating or wad it into a ball and see how far out onto Main Street we could spit the missile. Main was narrower then--only one lane in each direction--and we might get it all the way across with a mighty blast and a lucky bounce. If we didn't and positioned the paraffin pellet just right, it could wind up in somebody's tire tread--which called for a cheer and a round of playful punches on the shoulder. (No high-fives in those far-off days.)
> You could also buy big red paraffin lips and march into your classroom wearing them, but the teacher would usually confiscate them. Even if she didn't, the novelty soon wore off. No, the pop bottles were our preference.
> The new bottles aren't shaped like cola bottles, but the resurrection of the idea got me to thinking about other items from my childhood which have evolved into new forms.
> The most obvious were the pie tins which became Frisbees. Not that I ever got to fling a pie tin. They were reusable, so neither my mom or Grandma Watts would give me one. What we Bulldogs threw were coffee can lids. They were just as aerodynamic, and they gleamed as they flew through the air. However, their sharp metal edges complicated any games which involved catching them. Even throwing them was tricky. Nobody wanted a metal cut and the sting of iodine. The most dramatic evolution was probably in roller skates. When I was a kid, they had four metal wheels and were worn by being clamped on the bottom of your regular shoes. You needed a key to adjust them, which you wore on a string around your neck inside your tee shirt so you wouldn't lose it or hurt yourself when you fell down. And you always fell down. The fershluginer skates were always coming off. One big crack in the sidewalk, one overly-aggressive maneuver, and off went a skate and "down went McGinty." (I always wondered who McGinty was...) Of course, there were shoe skates; but they were expensive and far too quickly outgrown. So we suffered with clampers.
> Lots of American kids used the skates to create scooters by nailing them on the bottom of a board and building up a superstructure. Kids in the movies and magazines were always doing that--but we never did.
> Eventually, of course, skates got ball bearings, then plastic or polyurethane wheels. Then they became in-line shoe skates which you could use to do all kinds of stunts or play iceless hockey. The offshoot of the scooter idea became skate boards, and we now have whole parks devoted to skates and skate boards. There are also helmets and pads for elbows and knees. Sometimes I take my grandson to our local skate park so we can marvel at the stunts. And when they fall, today's youngsters don't usually suffer the skinned elbows and knees-- and occasional broken bone--we used to get on a regular basis. (I can remember one summer when I had scabs on my knees from Memorial Day to Labor Day.) There is not as much derision these days, either.