The world has changed in myriad ways — huge and subtle — since I grew up. When I was a kid, none of us, regardless of how much money our parents had or didn’t have, got everything. You wanted everything, sure, because kids always want everything … but you got something. In my house, since we didn’t celebrate Christmas, birthdays were the big gift-giving day.

Annabelle - 1952, Mme. Alexander

Annabelle – 1952, Mme. Alexander

Each year on my birthday from when I was three until I was eight, I got one really nice doll. When I was five, I got “Annabelle,” the 1952 special doll from Madame Alexander. She would be my favorite for the rest of my life. Over her long life (she was born in 1952) she has been rewigged, restrung, repainted, and redressed half a dozen times.

I really played with my dolls. They were my friends. I talked to them. I told them everything and I took them everywhere. Everything I did, felt, hoped for, and feared, my dolls knew.

My dolls understood. Always.

Toni (22") Revlon, 1953

Toni (22″) Revlon, 1953

When I was six, I got Toni. She was Revlon’s “flagship” girl doll with hair that could be “permanent waved” using a doll version of the Toni Permanent Wave kit. The set was just tiny plastic rollers and sugar-water and they didn’t really curl hair. They just made it sticky … which attracted ants. So then you had to wash it and you were lucky if the wig didn’t come right off her head.

Madame Alexander as herself - 1985

Madame Alexander as herself – 1985

There was Betsy Wetsy — also from Revlon, I believe (Tiny Tears was made by American Character). Those were the memorable dolls. Lots of little 8″ Ginnie dolls too and too many outfits to recall. Ginnie was in my day what Barbie was to the next generations of girls. It is perhaps a reflection of how the concept of girlhood changed during those years. By the time I turned 9, it was all about books.

From then on, I got books for my birthdays, though usually one other “special” thing too. One year, my beloved bicycle arrived. It was much too big for me to ride. I was a tiny wisp of a thing, but also, the only 9-year-old with a titanium frame Dutch racing bike. I had blocks on the pedals and I had to ride standing up because no way could I reach the seat or use the coaster brakes sitting down. But I grew a few inches. So, by the time I was an adolescent, I could reach the pedals without help. And, I knew I had the greatest bike ever. Tiger Racer and me … we flew!

When I was 11 I got a little transistor radio. It was a big deal, the ultra high-tech of the late 1950s. I was the only kid who had my very own portable radio. After that memory fades …

I slept with my dolls.

As I headed into my 50s, I began searching for the dolls with which I had grown up. Collecting is insidious and doll collecting even more so. I developed a bizarre lust for dolls. I didn’t know I had become a collector until I began to buy reference books so I could identify dolls by model, year, manufacturer, etc. Reference book are the significator of any kind of collector. When your reference collection is far more complete than the local library, you are a collector. Accept it. Deal with it.

These pictures are a sampling of the dolls. I tried to capture something of that ephemeral sweetness the dolls of my generation had. Perhaps show a hint of why they still give me a warm glow when I look at them. They never argue, always forgive. And they never complain and don’t mind if you drag them around by one leg with their foreheads scraping the sidewalk.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016



I am not as nostalgic about the past as most people. I had a difficult and often unpleasant growing up and it’s hard to put aside the unhappy child to find happy memories. They get tangled.


It is in the autumn where whatever good memories exist continue to live. That perpetual autumn I can sometimes smell in the air this time of year. It is probably why I love this season. Fall signals the return to school and what passed for “normal” in my world.


I was a New Yorker. I’m sure it was cooler there 50 plus years ago than it is today. Especially in the fall.

And, I loved school. I know this was not a popular point of view in the kid world, but I loved it. Home kind of sucked. School was better. Orderly. I had assignments. Things to learn. Teachers didn’t beat students and there were very few moments of sheer terror to cope with. Unlike home. In generating fear, schoolyard bullies were amateurs compared to my father.


The thing I remember best and most fondly were the sound of the leaves crunching under my squeaky new leather shoes. The shoes always gave me blisters, no matter what salesmen in stores told my mother about the perfect fit. I don’t know why she believed them when they told her the shoes fit, but never believed me when I told her they hurt.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016


A Collaboration of Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

We watched “Rustler’s Rhapsody” again last night. I love this movie. It’s an affectionate spoof of the B-Westerns of the 1940s starring Tom Berenger, Patrick Wayne, G.W. Baily (currently with “Major Crimes” on which Berenger has a recurring guest role), Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey.

The women include Sela Ward, a solid dramatic actress perhaps best remembered as Dr. Richard Kimble’s slain wife in the movie version of “The Fugitive”. There’s also Marilu Henner who riffs on the Miss Kitty/Miss Lily saloon ladies of our favorite TV westerns.

Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey both play power-mad cattle barons. Fernando usually plays an international drug czar and you probably remember him in “The French Connection”. He is slimy sinister personified. Rey and Griffith make a very odd couple. Check out the scene where they argue about who gets to do the countdown for killing the hero. They are hilarious, but Andy Griffith steals the show.

We love the movie so much we own two identical copies of it on DVD. It wasn’t going to be available for long, so Marilyn bought a copy for us, another for our best friends … and an extra. Just in case.

rustler's rhapsody dvd cover

NOTE: As it turns out, “Rustler’s Rhapsody” is available. Again. Who know for how long? If you are interested, Amazon has the DVD and the download.

Tom Berenger is The Hero who shoots the bad guys in the hand. Pat Wayne is the other good guy, but he used to be a lawyer, so be warned. Casting Pat Wayne was an inspiration. “Rustler’s Rhapsody” could easily be homage to his Dad’s ‘poverty row’ westerns of the 1930s. Pat even nails Duke’s acting range of that period.

My heroes have always been cowboys, even the stalwarts of those budget-challenged B movies. I had the good fortune to spend time with two legends of the genre. Buster Crabbe and Jack “Jock” Mahoney.

Crabbe, most famous for his “Flash Gordon” days, contends he had more fun playing the lead in the oaters where the line between good and bad is always clear and you get to wear nice costumes. He considers his westerns as “small classics” not B movies. (Crabbe continued his career into the late 60’s when producer A.C. Lyles revived the B cowboy movie with over the hill actors including Johnny Mack Brown, Rod Cameron, Bob Steele, Hoot Gibson and Richard Arlen among others).

Jack “Jock” Mahoney, known to many as TV’s “Range Rider”, is a former stuntman who graduated to supporting roles as nimble villains and finally established a following at Universal-International, playing literate good guys in lean, well written westerns. Mahoney clearly is proud of his work in the B movies. I remember the smile on his face as he recalled the fun of being recognized as a cowboy hero.

I think all the cowboy actors I’ve met (Including John Wayne) would heartily approve of “Rustler’s Rhapsody”. It’s an affectionate tribute to their work.

This is the song they play at the end of the movie when the credits are rolling. I love the song and the memories it brings because I’m of the generation that went to the movies and watched those B movies as part of the afternoon double-header at the Carlton or Laurelton, the second (third?) run movies houses where you could see two movies and a cartoon for a dime.

Warner Brothers, 1982. “Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys” by Rex Allen Jr. and Rex Allen Sr. Be sure to listen for Roy Rogers in the final commentary and chorus!



SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK (and a little history)

East Side, West Side, all around the town
The kids sang “ring around rosie”, “London Bridge is falling down”
Boys and girls together, me and Mamie O’Rourke
We tripped the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York

East Side, West Side, all around the town
Sweet Mamie grew up and bough herself a sweet little Alice-blue gown
All the fellas dug her, you should have heard them squark
When I escorted Mamie round the sidewalks of New York

East Side, West Side, riding through the parks
We started swinging at Jilly’s then we split to P.J. Clark’s
On to Chuck’s Composite, then a drink at The Stork
We won’t get home until morning ’cause we’re going to take a walk
On the sidewalks of New York

Courtesy of YouTube

“The Sidewalks of New York” is a popular song about life in New York City during the 1890’s. It was created by lyricist James W. Blake (23 September 1862–24 May 1935) and vaudeville actor and composer Charles B. Lawlor in 1894. The song proved successful afterwards, and is often considered a theme for New York City.

Many artists, including Mel Tormé, Duke Ellington, Larry Groce and The Grateful Dead, have performed this song. Governor Al Smith of New York used it as a theme song for his failed presidential campaign in 1928. The song is also known under the title “East Side, West Side” from the first words of the chorus.

Boston at night

Boston at night


(Note: The responses aren’t posting today for the “sidewalk” prompt. It’s another “no go” on The Daily Post. Sorry!)


The calendar page has changed. Again. Just a few pages remain on this year. A few brief weeks of tee-shirt, shorts, and boat shoe weather. Walter Houston is singing in my head. Raspy and bittersweet.

It’s the beginning of baseball’s stretch drive. Our Boston Red Sox are in the mix for the post season. It’s high anxiety time if you’re a die-hard fan. Will the hitters cool off? Will the starters maintain their newly discovered success? Will the bull pen purge those relievers who are serial arsonists?

Pro football is also back. If you belong to Patriots’ Nation, you have to deal with Tom Brady’s four-week suspension. The stiff penalty handed down by the fascist NFL Commissioner who is probably a staunch supporter of Orange Head’s political campaign.

Free Brady! Brady! Brady! Brady, Almighty!

Facebook is full of posts and pictures from parents crying as they send their kids off to school for the first time. There are no posts for drop-outs.

We offer requiems for our fading summer flowers. It’s difficult to watch them as they slowly die.

The late night talk shows are packed with “stars” promoting their new series which sound like old series. I particularly object to reboots of old shows that weren’t particularly good back in their first run.

Autumn september road to home

We’re glutted with new movies, reportedly more serious than the summer blockbusters which for the most part, bombed. How in the wide, wide world of sports could you top lucky Chucky Heston’s “Ben Hur”? And no, I won’t spend money on the reboot of “The Magnificent Seven.” It wouldn’t even pay for my bullets. The old man was right.

Political analysts are dizzy, trying to explain Orange Head’s bizarre and unprecedented campaign for the White House.


Labor Day weekend offers a brief time out for memories about summers past when we were younger and our world a bit more innocent. Think “Moon Glow” and “The Theme from Picnic”.  I’m William Holden dancing with Kim Novak. Snapshot memories of faded love affairs.

It’s a brief respite.

Walter Houston is now singing louder in my head — even more bittersweet — about those once lazy days dwindling down to hurricanes, raging fires, floods, mass shootings and Orange Head tirades blurring our collective sanity.

September Song.

These precious days I’ll spend with you…….


“The song is ended but the melody lingers on.

You and the song are gone.

But the melody lingers on.”

My mother hummed all the time. While she worked in the kitchen. While she sewed. When she was hauling a vacuum over the rugs and when she was tending the kids. I doubt she knew she was humming.

When I was studying music in college, I occasionally recorded myself, just to see how I might sound to an audience. Turns out, I was humming as I played. I had no idea I did that. Maybe it’s genetic?


I’ve been to concerts where the pianist was humming. I’m sure they didn’t know, either (but I hope someone tells them).

Melodies get stuck in my head. They roll around and around. Sometimes, I have to think of another tune, just to change the recording. I’m sure this song is going to be playing until something replaces it.

Come to think of it, “The song has ended” has — for now — taken the place of the theme for “MidSomer Murders.” It’s a welcome, respite.



Today is Flag Day for those of a certain age. But in my family, it’s Esther Armstrong’s birthday. Mom has been gone nine years now.

Gone but not forgotten.

Painting by Judi Bartnicki

Painting by Judi Bartnicki

Esther Letticia Armstrong was a special woman. Wife of William Benfield Armstrong. Mother of Garry, Bill, and Anton Armstrong. I get top billing because I’m the oldest. Mom and Dad were married 61 years until Dad left us in 2002. They were a handsome couple!

I called my parents Mommy and Daddy for most of my life and it always seemed natural. Even when I was a veteran TV news reporter with decades of experience it seemed natural.

One evening I was preparing to do a live news report in the TV studio. It was the lead story. A big deal. Breaking news! My thoughts were interrupted by a colleague who said I had a phone call. No way. Put it on hold. Garry, it’s your MOTHER!  The newsroom grew silent.

I took the call. The story waited.

75-WEDDING-Garry's Parents

My Mom was a force of nature. I had no sisters, so I learned to do household chores early in life. Whenever I objected, Mom stopped me dead in my tracks with a strong, clear voice. Baseball and other critical things were secondary no matter how strongly I felt about my manhood.

My Mother was always supportive of learning and creativity. We always had books and records. Lots of them. I read books that I wouldn’t fully understand for years. But somehow I felt comfortable with Eric Sevareid’s So Well Remembered.

Decades later, Mr. Sevareid was impressed by my adolescent tackling of his book. The books and music fired my imagination. Mom would smile when I played big band music or vocals by Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Sometimes she would sway in time with the music as if remembering a time when she was dancing.



I was Mom’s favorite movie date. Dad was usually tired. He often worked two jobs and just wanted to rest. So Mom and I went to the movies. Often three times a week. Yes, that’s how my love affair with movies was born and nurtured.

Mom seemed like a different person during our movie dates. She smiled and laughed. Those were the days of Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Gene Kelly and other legends who were still in their prime on the big screen. I remember Mom giggling when we scored big on dish and glass night events at our local movie theater.

I know we tend to look back on our youth with rose-colored glasses. It’s normal. But there were lots of good times.

So, today as I remember Esther Armstrong’s birthday, I wish I could crank up my hearing aids and hear it again …

Garry, your Mother is calling you!