Al Batt: Don’t forget to remember and don’t remember to forget

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, what app do I use?

I remember a day before apps when a kid named Harold got on the school bus and announced that from that point on, his name was Eugene. That wasn’t his middle name, but he preferred it to Harold. I could never remember not to call him Harold, but thanks to that memory, I remembered other things.

Al Batt

I taught journaling. Everyone should keep a journal. Journaling uses up the time that would otherwise be spent shopping online. One way to inspire people to chronicle their memories is by asking questions. Do I have an example? Thanks for asking.

What was your favorite school lunch? I enjoyed goulash, tater tot hotdish, beanie weenies and mashed potatoes covered in hamburger gravy. I thought mashed potatoes covered in hamburger gravy in a cake cone would be sold at every county fair by now. Of course, thanks to the Jetsons, I believed we’d be operating flying cars today. The lunchroom was a place where kids hoped for the least worst food. My apologies to the lunch ladies for smiling when fellow students called the cafeteria a crapeteria. My least favorite lunch was a big bag of wet mice.

What was the first thing you were good at? Picking your nose doesn’t count. 

The first family car you remember? Mine was a Pontiac Chieftain four-door with a straight-8 engine, chrome stripes on the hood and the head of Chief Pontiac hood ornament glowing in amber as it motored away.

The first teacher who called you by a sibling’s name? The first teacher to pin a note on your clothing? I wanted to read those notes but was afraid I couldn’t get the pin back through the same holes and my mother would  notice there were four holes in the note instead of two and know I’d read it. 

Your first bus driver? The first TV show you fell in love with? The theme song of a favorite TV show you sang along with? My mother memorized poetry. I memorized the theme songs from “Mister Ed” and “George of the Jungle.”

What brand was your refrigerator? Ours was a Westinghouse with three climate zones. Put something in the back and it froze solid. Anything in the middle kept about right. The stuff at the front of the fridge melted. What is the weirdest thing you’ve put in the refrigerator by mistake?

Your favorite toy? Mine was a Tweety Bird doll. Yes, a doll, and I was comfortable with that. Tweety’s cartoon character said, “I tawt I taw a puddy tat! I did! I did taw a puddy tat!”

Best Christmas present? Mine was a Heinz 57 female puppy I named Rex because she joined the family as my father listened to Rex Allen, the singing cowboy, on an AM radio, which also worked in the p.m.

Your favorite snappy comeback as a child? “I know you are, but what am I?” “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” “That was so funny I forgot to laugh.” My old standby was, “Oh, yeah?”

What’s your favorite knock-knock joke and what were you laughing at when the milk came out of your nose?

Your favorite church food? It’s hard to find anything better than a potluck with its three-bean, four-bean, five-bean and umpteen-bean salads. I loved funeral potatoes (scalloped potatoes and ham). Their only drawback was someone had to die for me to get funeral potatoes. Cake was frequently served at funerals, a reminder we should eat cake while we’re able. 

If you grew up with an outhouse too far away in the winter and too close in the summer, what was your favorite toilet paper, not counting store-bought? My family recycled catalogs (wish books)–Monkey Wards, Sears, Penney’s, Herter’s and Aldens. I learned to remove every staple and that you can cut a diamond with slick pages. Experience is an outstanding teacher. Peach papers were the best in class.

Remember, we’re given memories so we’ll have something to remember. Where is the Elmer’s Glue-All? I need to paste pasta on plywood and turn that saying into an elbow macaroni art project hanging on my office wall.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.