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Commentary: Bang the Pot

By Jim Nolan

Buffalo, NY – To celebrate my recent birthday, my wife bought me a nose-hair trimmer Sadly, I not only received the present, I was actually grateful for it. I needed one. I'm 49.

My birthdays were a lot more fun in Amherst in the 1960s. My mom, with four kids, had birthday parties down to a science. We didn't go to Chuck E. Cheese's or a "playspace." We played "Bang the Pot" in the backyard.

Bang the Pot was Mother's strange combination of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and a pi ata. She'd put a metal kitchen pot on the lawn, stick a prize under it, and have a blind-folded partygoer try to locate it by wandering around, whacking at the ground with a big wooden spoon.

My father shot these birthdays on his hand-cranked Kodak movie camera, and Bang the Pot was always the film's highlight.

Apparently, Dad could never capture enough of the action. We have hours of Bang the Pot footage and frankly, it's not always appreciated.

Larry Urban, a friend of Dad's since their School of Practice kindergarten days, not only lived through some of those parties, but he has been forced to relive them, first in a darkened room with Dad's old Bell & Howell film projector, then on videotape on a TV screen, and now digitally on a computer. It's little wonder Larry has a fear of new technology.

I always thought that Bang the Pot was some strange creation of my mother's. None of the other kids' moms played it. But those of you of German heritage already know better. In the old country, they call it "tops schlagen."

I'm sad to say, Bang the Pot is not a tradition we passed on to our own kids. Kids today would no more elect to have a birthday party in the backyard than they'd wanna watch "Commander Tom" after school instead of playing "Guitar Hero."

But when I turn 50, I wouldn't mind my mom blindfolding me for one more shot at a prize.

I just hope it's not another nose hair-trimmer.

Commentator Jim Nolan is a New York City advertising executive who grew up in Snyder.

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