My best childhood summers were 1961-1965; 1964 being an especially good one, as I recall. As long as I can remember we had a big, above-ground backyard pool. Made by a firm named Doughboy, Sears marketed them in the Sixties.

1964: Jimmy and I used to spend long hours in the pool, with a transistor radio on in the background tuned to KHJ (later called "Boss Radio") which, in that particular year, played Beatles music practically non-stop. All day, we were two hyper-active boys, splashing, yelling, diving and swimming. From this I got a good ability to get around in the water, and therefore feel confident swimming - even though my stroke is unpracticed. Jimmyís sister Kathy was the president of the Beatles fan club for all of California, which (as I learned forty years later) got her into the interview with them when they arrived at Los Angeles airport. One day her friend came by; she drove a white Ford Falcon, which had a garish images of the Beatles on the four doors in Day-Glo pink - Kathy's idea.

Kathyís contribution to the cause was a sign on canvas or vinyl that was erected over our tiki hut. It was a hand-painted affair of the Beatlesí faces with something about "Leverpool" and "We Luv You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!" I think. At some point it occurred to us that we had misspelled "Liverpool," but my mom suggested that it was acceptable since that was how the Beatles probably pronounced it; this seemed to pacify Kathy. I wish I had a photo of that sign - Iím surprised Mom didnít take one.

When the Animalsí hit "House of the Rising Sun" came out, it briefly unseated a Beatles tune as the #1 top pop hit. On the occasions when Kathy was in the pool with us, sheíd get so angry and emotional about it she would dunk me or Jimmy, whomever she could reach first. (Dunking was holding the head under water for what seemed a long amount of time.) I used to thrash and thrash to get away from Kathy, but to no avail - she was a teenage girl and faster and bigger than I was. To this day, when I hear the opening chords of that song, I can recall the sensation of pool water going up my nasal passages.

One of the things that greatly enhanced the pool experience of Jimmy and I was sugar - loads of it. It was mostly ingested in the form of Shasta soft drinks. I understand that you can now get Shasta drinks outside of California, but I donít see it often; perhaps itís mainly a Western thing. Anyway, I got a jolt from my past in the woods of Virginia, while on a church father-son campout. At about midnight it started to rain, so we broke up our campfire conversational circle and began clearing the picnic table to leave camp (the forecast called for it to pour all night). There on the table was a can of Shasta root beer (shown at top), in what I recognized as their original design from the Sixties. It was a special commemorative can to celebrate a windstorm that damaged some aluminum siding on a San Francisco building, which revealed a giant can of Shasta Cola from the 1950ís, painted on the side of the building.

Back in the Sixties Shasta was what was called a "family brand" - meant to be consumed in large quantities, I guess - and came in all sorts of fun flavors, with each can having its own color-coding. Letís see if I can remember them all:

Shasta Flavor Color-Coding

Root Beer

Brown

Cola

Red

Ginger Ale

Green

Creme Soda

Yellow

Punch

Red-orange

Orange

Orange

Grape

Purple

Black cherry

Dark red

Lemon-lime

Light green

Strawberry

Pink

Club soda

Light blue (?)

Grapefruit

Yellow-green

 

Iím not sure about that last one, grapefruit - my wife remembers it, but I donít. I mainly liked the creme soda and root beer.

Another source of sugar in 1964 was Funny Face drinks, which Pillsbury introduced. The novelty of either adding sugar or not to the drink mixes appealed to Jimmy and I, as did the cartoon characters. I recall that the pre-sweetened drinks didnít taste very good and had a wicked after-taste. (This was due to the use of Pillsburyís Sweet 10 formula, based on cyclamates, which were banned by the FDA in 1969.) What did appeal to us, however, was some incredibly sweet "sun tea" my mother used to fix. She must have dumped a load of sugar into it - anyway, Jimmy and I loved it. She didnít make it very often, but when she did we were on it like ugly on an ape.

Sugar, pool water, the Beatles and being a boy - yeah, yeah, yeah.


POSTSCRIPT: After forty years I have made e-mail contact with Kathy, who has corrected a few inaccuracies in this article as I originally had it. As it turns out she was a far bigger Beatles fan than I had realized, back then. She was backstage at their first Hollywood Bowl performance, which led to Capitol placing her on a record of Beatles interviews. She tells me she documented all her various adventures in a book; I'd love to read it!


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