When you grow up, you make your entire house your own. Actually, your wife makes it like she wants. But when you’re a kid, your room is the only place you have where everything can be just like you like it.
The only new house my parents ever built was constructed in 1974. Prior to that, we lived in a small red brick house that was built post-World War II. Before that, my parents rented a white, framed house that was so close to the highway, you could almost high-five people as they drove by.
So when my mother was given a clean slate to build whatever she wanted, she did. Now, before you read what I’ve written next, keep in mind that there was a window of fashion time between leaving the ‘60s and heading toward the ‘80s when people, in hindsight, were somewhat lost.
Harvest gold and avocado green still dominated homes. Fake paneling took the place of sheetrock. And shag carpet seemed to shag its way throughout our lives.
What were we thinking?
At any rate, when my parents finished building our new home, my sister had purple carpet and a light fixture with purple trim. My room had bright green carpet and a light fixture with an assortment of those smiley faces.
Remember the smiley face?
The one we know today was commissioned by an insurance company in 1963. A man named Harvey Ball was hired to draw it. He was paid $45 for his 10 minutes of work. However, Mr. Ball isn’t the originator of the smiley face. According to Smithsonian Magazine, a remarkably similar smiley face was found on a piece of reassembled pottery that is 3,700 years old.
I guess smiley has always been with us.
It was certainly with me all of my growing up years as I would lie on my twin bed with the orange bed spread and stare at the light fixture on the ceiling.
I couldn’t change the green carpet, the orange bedspread or the smiley face light fixture, but everything else was a blank canvas.
My journey to make my room uniquely me began with a trip to the annual county fair. Between the weighted bottles you tried to knock over for a stuffed animal and the under inflated balloons you had to pop with a dart for your choice of a goldfish in a bowl, there was the skee-ball area.
Skee-ball requires a slanted lane and a hump. You roll the ball and it lands in a bulls-eye area. Each circle you aim for has a specific number of points. The more points you get, the more likely you are to win.
Now this will be shocking to some, but games of chance at the fair can be rigged. I know, that doesn’t seem right, but I have an inside bit of information from a cousin who dated a carney. I’m not sure if these games are still rigged, but before the carney began serving time upstate, he assured us the games weren’t on the up-and-up.
But back to skee-ball.
For some reason, I was good at it. So good that I kept winning. My buddy Scotty and I had to now decide which armload of prizes we were going to take with us. It was determined that since girls had yet to notice us, stuffed animals were not a good choice, and we didn’t want to carry a goldfish.
So, posters it was.
The posters we selected are a prime example of why the early 1970s were great for American teens. Today, you’d never find a poster of a smiling grandmother holding a plant of dubious distinction that’s adorned with a ribbon that says, “1st Place County Fair.”
I chose that one, and two large posters of the band KISS, a Led Zeppelin poster, and a depiction of the cartoon characters Roadrunner and Coyote. In the latter, the coyote had actually caught the roadrunner and was holding him triumphantly in the air.
The carney (not the one my cousin dated, but he looked quite similar) assured us that there was a hidden bonus with my winnings. He said each was also a black light poster. He said if I won five more games I could get a black light bulb.
Being out of quarters, I decided to take my winnings and go home to decorate my room.
Scotty chose similar posters. Suffice it to say, neither of our moms were happy with our selections.
After hanging my new wins on the wall of my room, I went to Walmart and bought a black light. The carney was right. My granny with the plant glowed a knowing smile, and the Coyote and Roadrunner glowed with glee. Well, the coyote did, anyway.
As the years passed, posters became widely available. There were some that became must-haves for teenage boys everywhere. I added the Farrah Fawcett poster, where she’s smiling and wearing a red bathing suit.
The strobe light became a requirement, as did the box with multi-colored lights that plugged into your stereo and blinked different shades as the music played.
Then one day, it all came to an end. A girl I was dating convinced me to do something my mother never could: Take down everything; wallpaper, and change the bedspread.
I regretted it. But, I couldn’t admit it to my mom or my girlfriend. I pretended to like it.
I’m still pretending. It’s why men build man caves when they’re 50. We want our old rooms back.
I noticed the fair is in town. Don’t tell my wife, but I’ve been practicing my skee-ball.