Bill O’Boyle: Mr. Goldstein, I need a doohickey please

Mar. 19—PLYMOUTH — The memories remain clear.

I took the Way Back Machine back to the early 1960s for a mini-study of the language of the era — searching to find those words and catch phrases of yesteryear.

I was in Bill Goldstein's Hardware Store on Main Street in Plymouth with my dad. We were there to buy some sort of nut or bolt needed to fix something at home.

This man walks in and tells Mr. Goldstein he needs a "doohickey" to fix something in his house.

A doohickey? What is that?

Well, let me tell you, Mr. Goldstein knew pretty much what the man was looking for, so he went to a shelf, took down a few jars filled with various doohickies, I presume, and he and the customer began a search for the exact doohickey he needed.

This was not an uncommon scene back then. Words like doohickey were aplenty.

It was even evident on cartoons back then. "Heavens to Murgatroyd," a phrase which traces to medieval England and was used by a cartoon pink panther, named Snagglepuss, and his expression of disbelief or utter bewilderment. It's another version of the more familiar, "Heavens to Betsy."

So that's why I totally understood my Aunt Betty when she would ask me, in the middle of watching a Yankees game on TV, to hand her "that thingamajig."

You know what a thingamajig is, right? It's, ummm, a thingy, a whatchamacallit, and yes, it could be a doohickey.

These were words we all used back then and we knew what the speaker meant when uttering them, but we were never really certain exactly what they were.


Well, let's do a deeper dive into this language that contains words that are usually spelled in various ways and have multiple definitions.

We would routinely say sentences like:

"What the heck is that doodad?"

"Where did you find that gizmo?"

"That is some contraption you have there."

OK all you varmints, let's go even deeper into this language abyss.

"Gee willikers Mr. Wilson, I didn't see that window."

"Awww fiddlesticks, we lost another game we shoulda won."

"Holy Moley, they really took a shellacking last night, didn't they?"

"Hey, you keep that up and you will be cruisin' for a bruisin' buddy!"

"Oh yeah, are you hungry for a knuckle sandwich?"

"Don't worry, we got it made in the shade daddy-o."

Then we would jump in our jalopy and be on our way.

This was the slang language of our day. We used these words and terms constantly and we knew what they all meant — I think.

That's why I love scrolling through the Facebook site Plymouth PA 1960 Shawnee Still Shines. It never disappoints.

The brainstorm of Bob Wychulis, the site has grown to evoke millions of memories — all good — of life in Plymouth "back in the day."

And I am certain that people who grew up in other small towns in Luzerne County have similar memories of what it was like to live in a world where hometown pride was a way of life, school spirit was evident at every football or basketball game and where neighbors were always neighborly. And where all those words above were part of the common language.

The site always allows me, with the aid of the Way Back Machine, to travel back in time to visit the places we all frequented and will always remember.

These places provide special and everlasting memories of life in a small town. Collectively, I like to think those experiences molded us into fine, upstanding human beings who appreciate patriotism, community pride, quality education, delicious food, outstanding athletics, and the refreshing feel of a thirst-quenching cherry Coke.

I would stop at Minnie's Store, a yellow house on Orchard Street where Minnie sold penny candy that we would stuff in our pockets to get us through the first half of the day. Or we would stop at Klavonski's Store on West Shawnee Avenue, or maybe we would stop at Kocher's Store at the top of Academy Street, later to be Volinsky's, or even venture over to Lou Gelb's at the top of Gaylord Avenue, known for selling vanilla Popsicle's.

My neighborhood had Jack's Market on Second Street. Kids would go there for a Tastykake, a Yoo Hoo, a Kickapoo Joy Juice or a Fudgsicle or Squeeze-me and sit outside and plan our next adventure.

Like I said, memory after memory — of pizza at Joe's or the Octagon Bar, hoagies at Walt's Servette or Red's Subs, hot dogs at Mergo's, ice cream at Golden Quality, or a dinner at Raub's Restaurant.

And football games at Huber Field, basketball at the Gaylord Armory. Hacker's Market, Mitch Plessett's Men's Store, Al Wasley's Jewelers, Rea & Derick, the Shawnee Theater, C. Matus News, Ben Franklin Store, and a Main Street of bars, funeral homes, furniture stores — one after another.

And Bill Goldstein's Hardware Store, where we could get any doohickey, thingamajig or whatchamacallit we needed.

Gee willikers!

Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.