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From Line Material...

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Last Christmas season I posted a piece about the lyrics to Walt Kelly's famous Pogo holiday song, Deck the Halls With Boston Charlie. In it I offhandedly mentioned Christmas carols from Line Material. Now, to 99.99% of the world this was a less than obscure reference, but to a few, it really rang a (holiday) bell.

Line Material was a large electrical manufacturing company which, I believe, was long ago absorbed by another company. Since my father worked for an electrical equipment distributer from the late 1940s through the early 1970s, he often received promotional and gift items during the Christmas season. One of these was a bright red 45 rpm record of specially written carols from Line Material.

The songs were hokey but we were just kids and since every song ended with a variation of the refrain Merry Christmas, from Line Material, it soon became part of our Christmas culture. We would be decorating the tree and that 45 would be played. Not a Christmas has gone by in the last 40 years without one or all) of us singing that refrain.

Much to my surprise, I have received comments from a few people for whom those songs hold a similar meaning. Just today, a year later, I got a comment from a fellow who, like me, cannot say Merry Christmas without adding from Line Material out loud or in his head.

Our 45 has long since disappeared, but thanks to Stacy who commented on last year's posting, I now have six songs from the venerable Line Material discography.

In keeping with the Holiday Spirit, and in order to keep our obscure tradition alive, I am posting all six songs here as mp3s. I took the liberty of cleaning up Stacy's recordings, eliminating pops and scratches as much as possible and fixing the volume. I have guessed at the actual song titles. Some are obvious and some are not. If anyone out there can correct me or provide additional songs, I'd be very greatful.

Merry Christmas (from Line Material...)

(right click each to download)
Santa's North Pole Band
Different Kinds of Christmas
Santa's Underground North Pole Factoree!
Let's Trim the Christmas Tree
The Day Santa Was Sick
The Sounds of Christmas

Note - I've updated four of these files with downloads from Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else as they proved to be much cleaner rips - obviously from records never near children.

UPDATE - Thanks to commenter David, I am also posting the Line Material refrain ringtone below. The zip file has five different ringtone file types for you to use depending on your phone's requirements.

Line Material Ringtones

Merry Christmas, Boston Charlie

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Growing up Catholic meant that Christmas was chuck full of carols coming from the radio, the record player, or my mother for weeks prior to the big day. Secular or religious, the air was full of Christmas tunes for most of December.

Even today, after I haul out my infamous mp3 playlist of Bing Crosby, Mannhiem Steamroller, and Gene Autry around the middle of the month, and it performs background music chores while cookies are baked and the tree is trimmed, there is one carol (well, actually two, but NO ONE outside my contemporary siblings has ever heard the Line Material Christmas song...) that I have to sing myself.

Cartoonist Walt Kelly wrote these lyrics for his Pogo comic strip to the tune of "Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly".

Christmas isn't Chrsitmas without my off-tune massacring of this song.

The 5th of July

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explosion.jpg When I was a kid Independence Day was a big event in our neighborhood. My mother would put up red, white and blue decorations. My father would barbeque his famous pickle relish hamburgers. But best of all, the neighbors would set off fireworks.

Note I said the neighbors. Aside from the occasional sparklers, we werent allowed to have fireworks. Firecrackers, M80s, rockets, and the like were out of the question. Firecrackers would blow off your fingers. Rockets would go off course and set the house on fire. My mother spent years predicting wholesale slaughter down that other end of the block. In her visions the morning of July 5th would reveal limbs hanging from telephone wires and bodies strewn cross lawns and the fenders of cars, hardly recognizable for the burns, mutilated faces, and missing limbs. The smoldering wreckage of destroyed homes would waft acrid smoke into our windows - London after the Blitz on 270th Street in Queens.

So we had to content ourselves with watching all the kids from the other end of the block tossing whole packs of crackers into the street and lighting rocket fuses. We would peer from the curb as the rockets were launched 200 feet away, arching over the trees to burst gloriously over the rooftops. My Dad would try to assuage the pain by breaking out a box of sparklers. They would be dutifully lit and we would wave them around with half-hearted enthusiasm. By 9:00 p.m., adding insult to injury, our mother would make us go to bed before the fireworks had finished.

One year, after being sentenced to bed and forced to listen to the continuing fusillade outside, Chris and I lay in our room aching to be in on the action. Thats when the idea came to us. All those full packs of firecrackers that were set off invariably resulted in some duds that didnt go off. The occasional rocket fizzled. Tomorrow morning the streets would be littered with them. We would find them and have our own 5th of July.

ptui_3.jpgVery few were readily available on the open market. The embargo in effect by our parents made their import quite difficult. On occasion, the inspector (my mother) would act on suspicions and and swoop in. We weren't left with much choice. We had to institute our own secret Weapons of Personal Destruction (WPD) program.

WPD were fairly common back then. Just about every kid on the block had or used them at one time or another. The goal was simple � inflict pain and suffering on the other guy while he/she was trying to do the same to you. This was a common aspect of our play activities. If the super-power (parents) wouldn't let you have an open program of acquisition, you had to develop your own.

Our program consisted of three lines of weapons:

Dirt Bombs � Crude, but effective. A clod of dirt about the size of a walnut, hopefully pretty dry to enhance the smoke effect when it struck a person or the ground near them. The mobile launch system was your own arm, a rather crafty solution as it masqueraded as a normal limb during non-aggression periods. Thrown with the proper accuracy, it would strike the opponent and cause a modicum of pain and a very satisfying puff of faux explosive smoke. A secondary result was a nice dirt stain on their clothing.

Pea Shooters � Perhaps the original �you'll take your eye out with that thing� WPD. The ammunition was dried peas. They either came with your store-bought (�No Mom, I spent my allowance on candy!.. really!�) shooter or by the bag from the supermarket. The delivery system was a large diameter straw. This was not easily acquired in those days as plastic straws for thick shakes were not the norm. Most straws were made of paper and of small bore, but a commercially acquired shooter could last several years if hidden properly. All you has to do was put a handful of dried peas in your mouth and shoot one (or if you were really good � two) peas at your opponent. At close range these things really stung. They were easily capable of temporarily blinding a person in one eye and inducing real cries and tears (as I found out from painful experience).

WPD_1.jpg

Rubberband Guns � Sophisticated but poor accuracy. The ammunition was a piece of cardboard about 3/4� x 1/4�. The delivery system was wooden gun with a rubberband attached at the front. (see illustration) Stretch the rubberband to the back of the gun and loop it over the notch at the rear. Slip the cardboard bullet between the two strands of the rubberband. Use your thumb to push the band off its notch, propelling the cardboard bullet at your opponent. This was a tricky WPD. The cardboard bullet had a tendency to slice off to the right or left like Frisbee and was very susceptible to wind. This was primarily an indoor WPD. Modern versions of this WPD have dropped the cardboard and simply shoot rubberbands.

I have to make another confession here. I never made one of these things. My supplier was a traitor to the superpower cause (no he wasn't French..). He was my father. While building the upstairs bedrooms and adding the downstairs den, he rewarded our ineffective help with these clandestine weapons. We swore ourselves to secrecy. Now that he is safe from prosecution, the truth can come out.

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