Thursday, July 2, 2009

Alligator Families

The other day, I suddenly had a memory pop into my head that I hadn’t thought about in a really long time. And it wasn’t even a specific memory—more a conglomeration of memories, of times spent hanging out with my Dad in his t.v. and radio repair shop.

Nowadays, I find it amazing that even though my Dad had a full-time management job at Wisconsin Electric, he also had a side business fixing people’s radios and t.v.’s. Dad, dude, did you ever hear of taking some time off?

But that’s not to say that my Dad was all work and no play. And in fact, even when he was working in his workshop, he would often allow me to come in there and hang out with him. I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy to do your work with a little five-year-old girl chatting your ear off nearby, but Dad didn’t seem to mind. And I enjoyed the time just hanging out with my Daddy in the workshop he called “Al’s Radio Hospital.”

Al’s Radio Hospital was chock-full of people’s broken-down radios and t.v.’s…and all kinds of tools and devices that in my little kid imagination, were perfect toys. And I quickly learned which toys I was allowed to play with and which ones I wasn’t. (Saws and hammers were definitely not allowed.)

My absolute favorite things to play with were these colorful clippy wire things that he had hanging from a metal plate attached to the workshop counter. Believe it or not, I had no idea what those were called until about five minutes ago, or what they are used for. They’re called alligator clips—how ‘bout that?—and apparently they are used to clip together metal objects, especially in electrical repair shops.

But to my five-year-old imagination, they were families. There was the blue family, the yellow family, and the green family, etc….and they all lived together on the same block. Here’s a picture of what those alligator clip “people” look like.



I would spend hours playing with my alligator clip families, while my Dad stood nearby fixing someone’s t.v. or radio.

I was also fascinated with this device on the workshop counter, where you turned the crank to make the two sides of it come together. And yes, I just found out what that’s called, too—apparently it’s called a “workshop vice,” used to hold objects in place while working on them. I just thought of it as a “smasher,” and sometimes I would put a cheap toy or a piece of candy in there, just to see how long I could crank that sucker before the toy or candy would break. I don’t why that was fun, but it was to me!

When I look back at those happy times, it occurs to me that a kid sure doesn’t need much to have fun. In our modern world, parents often seem to think that they have to get their kids everything they want—but that’s simply not true.

Just give your kid a set of alligator clips or something simple like that, and let their imagination run wild!

13 comments:

murry said...

I have fond memories of hanging out in Al's Radio Hospital, too! Dad was great for allowing us to bug him so much without telling us to go fly a kite. Wasn't that great?

Miss Healthypants said...

Yes, Mary, it WAS great! We have a wonderful Dad! *smiles*

Buck said...

Who's Murry

Random Thinker said...

Kids have so much imagination if we just give them the space to explore. Freedom to touch things and "mess" with them. BTW, does your Dad fix Ipods?

Diane said...

My dad had a "smasher" in his workshop too. I loved playing with it too!

MaryRuth said...

My Dad had a cool workshop in the basement too--he did wood-working though. Like you I had fun hanging out there. He'd give me a scrap hunk of wood that I could put in the vice and go at it with wood files or hammer nails into. At the end of the night I would get to sweep up all the sawdust with a special little brush. Fun times, indeed.
Does your Dad do ham radio?

Diane said...

One more thing... in my dad's shop I made Fonzi's motorcycle from Happy Days. When my dad had an open house some lady saw it and bought it from me for $1.00! To a 5 year old kid back in the 70's that was good money!

Sling said...

Alligator clips are totally cool toys!
When my brother and I were kids,my mom got us mousetraps to play with(I kid you not)..We'd spend hours launching assorted objects across our bedroom.
Good times!

rosemary said...

umm...I am a child of the 60's....we called them roach clips.

Jeanna said...

I hear ya, I hung out with my dad in WI bars and did the same thing with pool balls.
No, that's not sad, it was good times.

Jeanna said...

Oh, Happy Fourth of July!

sageweb said...

Rosemary just made me fall off my desk chair.

So funny..we call those jumpers..cuz that is what we use them for..we jump electrical power or grounds from one place to another...That is probably what your dad used them for too. Or he just bought them to entertain you.

Maria said...

Kids are amazing. When I was a kid, I hated math, so I invented a system where each number was a personality. (7 was funny and endearing, 8 was a stickler for good manners, 9 was a crank, 1 was rich.) Then when I solved math problems, I would pretend that the answer was a new family with all these personality. And the weird thing? I just discovered that my daughter does a version of the same game, although her number's personalities are different than mine were and she loves math....