We may have been little rascals, but we'd never pass for Our Gang
I don't know whether or not this could be termed progress. When I was a kid, I believed in nearly everything I saw in a 30- or 60-second commercial. Now that I am definitely not a kid (by 50 years or so), I have to resist the urge to get caught up in infomercials.
I suppose it's not too bad to get addicted to infomercials. Half of them are about exercise equipment or special products to help you lose weight while the other half are about gadgets that help you cook food.
You should come in at just about even in the weight department.
While television has provided me with hundreds of thousands of hours' worth of entertainment, it has also led to some major disappointments.
One time I wasted hours of some of my best whining and begging in order to convince my parents to let me stay up a half-hour past my bedtime because I heard a commercial that my favorite comedian was going to be on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
I was all set to watch Jerry Lewis pretend to eat the microphone and then fall off the stage, when I was shocked to see Jerry Lee Lewis pounding away on a piano at one of his rock 'n' roll hits. He didn't even fall off the stage once.
Ed Sullivan was also the source of an even greater disappointment when I heard that Spanky and Our Gang were going to be guests that Sunday.
Once again, I wheedled a half-hour of bedtime out of my folks. I wasn't completely clueless. Since the Our Gang/Little Rascal comedies were made in the 1920s and 1930s, I expected that my favorites were a bit older by the early 1960s.
I did not expect that Spanky would be a woman and she would be singing the folk rock group's big hit, "Sunday Will Never Be the Same." I thought Spanky would never be the same until my dad explained that woman's nickname and the group's name were based on my old favorites.
Although our neighborhood was in color and not in black and white like the Our Gang, if I wasn't outside wearing out my Keds sneakers from the inside out, I was plopped in front of the big TV watching the old comedies.
(The TV, which must have taken a few good-sized trees to build, was big. The picture tube it contained was about 27 inches. That was not its diameter; it was its circumference. It was like watching TV through a porthole.)
We had a great group of guys in our neighborhood. They included my brothers Phil and Little Dave, as well as Big Dave, George, Mark, Blaine, Big Mike and Little Mike. (Actually Little Mike was bigger than Big Mike, but we knew the difference and that is all that mattered.)
Sad to say, we didn't have the colorful characters that inhabited the Our Gang comedies. We did not have anyone who could match up with the weight-challenged Chubby. Little Dave was husky, but nowhere near being overweight.
Thankfully, we didn't have anyone like the "king of the cowlicks," Alfalfa. I regret to say I might have come closest as a result of my freckles and untamed hair, but I learned early on that my singing voice should only be used in self-defense.
The neighborhood gang could not boast of anyone who could match up to any of the three versions of the original Spanky McFarland the kid and not Spanky McFarlane the singer.
While all toddlers are cute, none of us could come close to the unbelievably cute little Spanky. None of us wore a beanie - or even knew what a beanie was - so we could not compare to the school-age Spanky who was sort of like a miniature Oliver Hardy to Alfalfa's Stan Laurel.
Spanky stayed with the series until its end, but he had kind of outgrown the part. He looked as though he could play on the offensive line of the Chicago Bears. None of us was that big.
Unfortunately, we did not have anyone who compared with the incomparable Stymie, my favorite member of Our Gang.
I didn't even know where to get a derby hat like Stymie wore and had even less of an idea how Stymie got his ears to wiggle whenever he was in danger.
None of us even had a dog to match up with the Gang's Pete the Pup with the black circle around one eye. One guy had Harry the Hamster, but it just wasn't the same.
We were also at a major disadvantage because we didn't have our own theme music like Our Gang did. The Rascals had a variety of peppy, jazzy music for every situation - scary, funny or just ordinary.
The closest we came was humming "The William Tell Overture" while pretending we were the Lone Ranger.
But what I envied most about Our Gang was the kids' neat clubhouses and cool vehicles such as a wooden full-size taxi cab propelled by a drunken donkey.
The closest thing we had to a clubhouse was to hang out in my family's cinderblock garage after we had gotten evicted from all the front porches in the neighborhood. As far as I know, our neighborhood never saw a donkey - drunk or sober.
Our gang had only one advantage of Our Gang - we did not have any female members.
And when you're little boys, not being around little girls is almost as much fun as a bunch of drunken donkeys.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)