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Cyber page provides pathway to Pasadena past

The other night I stumbled across a seemingly endless supply of decades-old memories — and long-lost childhood friends.

Curious about a link on a pal's Facebook page, I clicked on it and tumbled heart-first through a time warp, only to pop out in "Old School" Pasadena.

Everyone posting on this fledgling page had grown up in the Land of the Rose Parade "back in the day." The nostalgia was palpable as we posted common memories of our school days, our cultural landmarks and our neighborhood icons. In less than 48 hours, there were more than 1,000 posts as the rapidly expanding group reminisced.

Many of our memories are ubiquitous to the majority of urban American baby boomers. Phone numbers with only five digits and beginning with words like "Sycamore" or "Murray." Milk being delivered to our doorsteps. Donuts, too, selected from the back of the Helms Bakery trucks. The Fuller Brush man. Licking Green Stamps till you were spitless so your mom could get some metal ice tray for "free."

From Romper Room to Sheriff John to Captain Kangaroo, we covered favorite television shows from the box's black-and-white beginnings to the advent of colorful cartoons. Beanie and Cecil got my vote. Soupy Sales was my older brother's fave.

Did you go hunting for tadpoles at summer camp? How about those endless playground games of dodgeball, kickball and softball?

A pal since pre-kindergarten days pointed out the potential for lifelong psychological damage when children are forced by their teacher to stand front and center in a circle of playmates and have huge rubber balls hurled at their heads. To this day I have a deadly fear of dropping anything based on the penalty phase of a non-teacher approved game involving a tennis ball, a backstop and a humiliating position. Butts Up, anyone? Or did you call it Suicide?

We discussed youthful transgressions like egg fights with rival teams of buddies on Halloween, sneaking out on late-night T.P. forays and the hottest make-out spots. Can you relate?

Trips down the infamous "slime slides" were also popular posts. Oops. Did we lose you on that one? Allow me to explain.

I'm lucky to live on the banks of the Rogue River now. But as a natural-born water-lover hatched in a notoriously arid area, there might have been a time when I illegally frolicked on slightly less-than-natural waterways. In fact, my buddies and I might have played in the flood system that channels water from the Devil's Gate dam area below JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratories), past the Rose Bowl along the Arroyo Seco, and down toward the Pacific Ocean along the (don't make me laugh) L.A. River.

One of the things I may have learned during my impetuous youth — perhaps the hard way — was you never wanted to be the first kid down one of those algae-covered concrete slopes. To do so meant pulling broken bottle bits out of your fanny for the rest of the summer. A bloody badge of honor. Or so I was told.

Other halcyon memories also specific to Pasadena are the birth of the Doo Dah Parade, Van Halen, and another less nationally known but no less beloved Pasadena band, Snotty Scotty and the Hankies.

Favorite pubs, grub, record stores and deejays were verbally toasted. (Hello Wolfman Jack and Dr. Demento.) As was working on Rose Parade floats, all-night partying along Orange Grove and Colorado boulevards on New Year's Eve. We still take pride in the fact that our greatest high school football rivalries and graduation ceremonies were held in the Rose Bowl. Don't think they do that anymore. I'll have to check with the group.

Did you know, like in San Francisco, there are flocks of wild parrots flying about Pasadena? Not everyone knew the amazons were released from a pet store during a fire. One gal was thrilled to discover she hadn't been hallucinating about green pigeons all these years.

Many of our favorite places are long gone, but clearly not forgotten. As the hits keep coming in this magical interactive time machine, it occurs to me that the page may lose steam as we exhaust our cache of "do you remember" questions. But reconnecting with old friends, and making a few new ones, has been wicked fun. And I just wanted to publicly "like" John C. Pings for hosting one bitchin' cyber party.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.