Tempus Fugit (Countdown to the Big Six-Oh Edition): Late Winter 1973 – Waiting, with Bated Breath, for the Big One-Oh

One of the things I wanted most for my 10th birthday was a globe of the Earth. This one, a Livingston 12″ illuminated desk model, is fancier than the one I wanted, but otherwise nearly identical. Now, at nearly 60, I want a new globe! (Screenshot of the product page at the online Rand McNally store.

Things I Remember: February 1973

With just a bit over two weeks till my 60th birthday – date-wise it’s 15 days, but today is half-over – and with no clue as to what will happen on that day (I nixed a trip to a Disney park due to concerns about exposure to COVID-19), my thoughts swirl, whirlpool-like, to February of 1973, when I was looking forward to my 10th birthday with far more enthusiasm.

The house at 1001 SW 102nd Avenue in 2022. I lived here with my mom (and for a time, with my older half-sister, too) from August of 1972 to August of 1977. Image Credit: Google Maps

Learning to “Fend for Myself” – Hazy Memories of Becoming Confident in the Kitchen

A video – no narration, apparently, that shows many of the Swanson TV dinners that were available when I was a kid.

Obviously, 50 years on, there are many things that I do not remember vividly, such as whether at that point in time I’d learned how to use the big oven in our kitchen to heat TV dinners (mostly from Swanson’s) or had gotten over my fear of breaking dishes and glasses whilst I washed them in the sink.

Aerial view of part of the block where I lived from August of 1972 to September of 1977. Image Credit: Google Maps

I do remember that in the half-decade when we lived at 1001 SW 102nd Avenue in the Coral Estates Park neighborhood in my native South Florida, my widowed mother alternated between being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) and working outside the home, depending on our finances. She was an intelligent woman with many interests and talents, and even though during our 43-year-long sojourn in the Miami area she preferred to be a SAHM, she liked to try new ventures, such as taking on interior decorating gigs or working as a nutrition department aide at Palmetto General Hospital.

This meant that at various times when we lived in Westchester – the larger unincorporated Miami suburb that Coral Estates Park was a section of – my mother worked outside the home. She often had to be absent when I came home from Tropical Elementary School at 3:30 PM, so on those occasions, I alternated between going to several trusted neighbors’ houses – either the Blascos, who lived at 915 SW 102nd Avenue, or the Blanchards, who lived next door to the Blascos at 925 SW 102nd Avenue – or, once Mom saw that I would be okay and not cause a house fire, alone at home.

Photo by Liliana Drew on Pexels.com

I seriously doubt that Mom, in February of 1973, left me to my own devices before my 10th birthday; I do remember that by the time I was 11 (in 1974), I was confident enough in the kitchen to wash dishes – a chore I had for much of my life till I moved to the Tampa Bay area in 2016 – and at least use the oven (which I was initially afraid to do) to heat such delicacies as Swanson’s Polynesian Dinner and Mexican-Style TV dinners.

At 10? While it’s plausible that I might have started washing dishes around this time half a century ago, I don’t think I had gotten over my fear of breaking something – especially drinking glasses – and cutting my hands.

What I Wanted Most for My 10th Birthday

Again, my memories about this time are nebulous. It’s not like I have “total recall” or kept a detailed diary. I was given my first electric typewriter when I was 11, and my handwriting was and still is, awful, so I did not jot down stuff for posterity. Thus, other than a trip to Walt Disney World – which in 1973 was only two years old and not the target of conservative ire over “wokeness” – and Hasbro GI Joes (the original 12-inch scale action figures), I don’t remember what I most wanted for my 10th birthday as far as presents were concerned.

(C) 1973 Topps Chewing Gum
(C) 1972 Topps Chewing Gum Company

I couldn’t ride a bicycle – still can’t, either – like the other kids on the block did, so I know that was not on my birthday wish list. The best I could hope for at the time was an upscale, sized for a 10-year-old boy, version of a Marx Toys’ Big Wheel. I had one of those, believe it or not, but by March of 1973, I was beginning to outgrow it.

Another aerial view of my first post-Bogota home in South Florida, this one being from Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
Image Credit: (C) 2023 Rand McNally

I do remember wanting a globe of the Earth, and Mom wanted to oblige, but the one she wanted to get me (one that was a “physical relief” rendition of our planet rather than one that had “political” multicolored countries) was too pricey for her at the time. She did get me one when I was either 11 or 12 (my memory is hazy about the timeline), but not for my 10th birthday.

(C) 1973 Topps Chewing Gum Company

Oh, and at the time I was into Topps Chewing Gum Company’s Wacky Packages, so I wanted enough birthday money ($5.00, which in 2023 dollars would be $33.69) to buy an entire unopened box of those collectible stickers that were the forerunners of the 1980s-era Garbage Pail Kids stickers (also made by Topps).

I also remember wanting one of these for my 11th birthday.

I had, of course, a girlfriend, and a platoon’s worth of friends both at Tropical Elementary and on my block, so I wasn’t wishing – as I am wishing fervently fifty years later – for the companionship of any kind.

La Familia

Mom, Vicky, and me at one of the few IHOP restaurants left open in Miami-Dade County, circa 2013. (Geez. 10 years have passed since we last went to a restaurant as a family…..)

Mom was in relatively good health, although by 1973 she already had the beginnings of the spinal column issues that would eventually be her downfall in the late 2000s. We had a good parent-child relationship then – I adored my mother, even though I wasn’t an ideal child and was, at times, obstinate, messy, and even disrespectful. Not constantly; I tried to be a “team player” because even when our household included my half-sister Vicky, I understood that Mom had a lot on her hands as a widowed single mother and head of a household. So I did my best to be a “good boy” and mostly succeeded, even though I earned a fair share of groundings and “no TV for a week” punishments for being insolent or disobedient.

As for Vicky?

My older (by almost 13 years) half-sister and I got along…okay in 1973. Not “swimmingly” well because she often alternated between being a nice, considerate, and generous young woman – she was 22 going on 23 then – and behaving like an angry, rebellious, and resentful human being.

I think – I’m not sure – that around this time Vicky was no longer working at Palmetto General Hospital. Instead, she was working at a nursing home near the Green Briar West apartment complex in Westchester. This, of course, meant that just as our schedules in Bogota had kept us apart during the day, our schedules – I was in school from 8 AM to 2:30 PM and got home around 3 or 3:30 PM, while Vicky worked from 7 AM to 7 PM – did not allow us to interact with each other much.

At the time, I didn’t have an adversarial relationship with Vicky; on the surface, she seemed to like me well enough. She sometimes took me out to buy a bag of “green army men” or surprised me with the occasional bag of Oreo cookies – which, for some reason, she thought were my favorites – or a candy bar. We sometimes quarreled over who got to watch Mom’s Zenith color TV – the only color set in our two-TV house – or Vicky’s habit of taking too long in the bathroom we all had to share; the house on 102nd Avenue, as originally built, only had one and a half bathrooms) when I needed to take a shower or use the toilet.

(Luckily, Mom’s half-bathroom was available if I “had to go” when Vicky was taking forever to do her makeup or wash her hair, but since there was no shower or bathtub there, if it was a matter of showering to get ready to go somewhere, the shared bathroom concept was a source of contention back then.)

But as far as sibling rivalry was concerned – at least from my end – this was the extent of our squabbling. I respected Vicky’s space, and in turn she respected mine.

However, there were already significant red flags indicating the Great Schism between Vicky and me. For instance, I had zero tolerance for the constant bickering between Vicky and Mom over various things that ranged from my half-sister’s obsession with weight-loss and fad diets to her resentment that the family in Bogota had compelled Vicky to move back to Miami the previous summer.

My “core family” group before a social event circa 1989.

And, deep down, I was the unwitting target of that resentment, even though at the time Vicky never overtly show it. Most of the arguments she had with our mother took place when I was in my room, and because I am hard of hearing – but no one had yet discovered this – I could only make out the voices and the angry tones during these heated mother-daughter exchanges, not the exact words they shouted at each other.

I hated those verbal battles, and even though I wasn’t privy to what had gone on, I automatically sided with Mom. It was purely instinctive and not because I knew what had happened, even though later on, even into my late 40s and until Mom died in 2015, I understood that Vicky’s rants were fueled by what I can only describe as toxic sibling rivalry.

But what nearly-60-year-old me knows in 2023, nearly-10-year-old me clearly did not.

Fun Bonus Fact

An aerial view of the area around the Coral Park Shopping Center. (Image Credit: Google Maps)

In 1973, there were two anchor stores at the Coral Park Shopping Center, which was 0.7 miles away from the house at SW 102nd Avenue.

On the westernmost side – the one closest to our house – there was a smallish department store (I forgot the name because it closed before 1975, and in its place now there’s an AutoZone Auto Parts store, and a Food Fair supermarket, which was renamed Pantry Pride supermarket, circa 1974 or ’75. That Pantry Pride still operated under that name when Mom sold the house in 1977 and we moved to East Wind Lake Village in 1978, but since we had a Winn Dixie store a third of a mile away, we did all our food shopping there. As a result, I don’t know when the Pantry Pride supermarket became a more Latin American geared supermarket named Jumbo, or when a Goodwill store replaced that last grocery store in the Coral Park Shopping Center.  

More commercials from 1973…closer to 1974, really, since they aired on December 22, 1973.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

4 thoughts on “Tempus Fugit (Countdown to the Big Six-Oh Edition): Late Winter 1973 – Waiting, with Bated Breath, for the Big One-Oh

    1. You’re much too kind, Thomas.

      I wish I had access to a scanner (and my family albums). I think these posts about the past would work best if I illustrated them with pictures from the period!

      Thanks for the comment, though!

      Liked by 1 person

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