The Wonder Years Rediscovered

Christine Wiese

There was just one big happy family at the Clausen Center in Holstein last Saturday evening. It was essentially a reunion of disparate souls engineered by Pat Hazell’s show, The Wonder Bread Years.

He not only brought back a lot of good memories, he made it clear that the family of man has more in common with each other than most people realize. Hazell transported the audience back to when we were all young. Back before our innocence and sense of wonder became papered over with concerns and responsibilities and outlived sorrows. Back to when everything was new and we thought anything was possible.

Velveeta? Who cared whether it was really cheese or just a cheese product? Put on white bread, it made as good a sandwich as butter and sugar did. Pure sugar – white or brown – none of those clever substitutes we use today to hold down our caloric intake. It gave kids the energy boost they needed to do and be great things.

We rode stick horses and banished the bad guys with cap guns. We sat in the third seat of the station wagon watching the countryside roll by backwards and it seemed strange and magical. We drank root beer and pretended it was sarsaparilla like the good guys drank in the westerns we watched on our black and white TV’s. Smoking was still OK so we toted around packages of candy cigarettes and played like we were movie stars.

Life was more simple then. As Hazell said, a kid’s schedule was pretty much “Wake up; play; eat; go to bed.”. It wasn’t all fun, of course. We had our hurts, our disappointments, our heartaches. But they could usually be forgotten by the next great adventure waiting for us in the glorious world of Tomorrow.

As Hazell reminded us, the best parts of the year were our birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The weeks before each of these huge events stretched out interminably. Now they fly by like the flicker of an eyelash. We barely have time to get ready for them before they’re gone. We need to step back and rekindle the days of awe struck wonder and undiluted delight.

As Lauren van der Post put it, “Life begins as a quest of the child for the man and ends as a journey by the man to rediscover the child.”.

Pat Hazell came to town and served as our tour guide on this incredible journey. Through laughter and shared memories he pointed the way. What a gift he gave us. Why, it was almost like Christmas.