My Glorious Summer of ’76

Note: Since I’m on vacation, I’m giving you a rerun. This first appeared on June 3, 2015, back when I was new to blogging and had about 10 followers. It relates a childhood memory of mine that involved murder and explosives, as all good memories do. Also, the post includes a recipe because when I first started blogging, that was supposed to be my schtick. Then I forgot my schtick.
That’s the trouble with schticks. They only work if you remember them.
Oh well. Enjoy.

Growing up in the 70s was great. I’m not even talking about the movies and music from that era, although we had some darn fine ones.

What I’m talking about is the total lack of parental involvement. Even if a parent stayed home, they pretty much left us to our own devices. It was great.Kids-jumping-and-playing-outside-940x600

Brother and I had it even better, as both Older Sisters and Older Brother were out of the house.

We’re talking complete lack of supervision, baby! Frankly, it’s a wonder we didn’t burn the whole place down.

Though we came close.

It was the Summer of ’76. I was a sweet, young preteen, Brother a worldly teenager. He was also the summer Program Director, coming up with all sorts of creative ideas to occupy our time. One time he created roads in our backyard with scraps of lumber from Father’s workshop. Neighbor kids joined us with their bikes and we zoomed around our yard and yelled at each other and had accidents and everything. It was great.

Click to Jump to Recipe

But it had nothing on the idea he had in ’76. His plan was simple. We would solve the Don Bolles murder case.

What? You don’t know about the Don Bolles murder?

Why, it was in all the papers! Well, a lot of them.

Bolles_hedDon Bolles was an investigative reporter for the Arizona Republic. On June 2, 1976, while following a lead on a story, he was the victim of a car bombing. Word got around the mafia was involved.

The Mafia! In Phoenix!


Brother’s idea was that we would reenact the crime to solve it. Because that’s how they do it on television. We learned everything by television.

It was Bugs Bunny who taught us that a line of gun powder, leading to a larger pile of gun powder, would cause an explosion. An explosion just like like a car bomb!

Some imagination required.

Fortunately, Older Brother once did a little hunting and some of his things were still at the house. It was while digging through it that Brother found a nice stash of gun powder. Hence, his glorious plan was hatched.

Brother had a snap together model car we’d use — it wasn’t a Datsun like the car Don Bolles drove, but it would do. He asked me if I had a small doll I wouldn’t mind blowing up?

I didn’t have to think twice. Kimberly was the one.Liddle Kiddle

Kimberly was one of those little dolls that came in a pendant necklace. I think they were called Liddle Kiddles. I had several and of them all, Kimberly was the most stuck up.

Even the way she insisted on being called Kimberly. What a snob.

None of my other dolls liked her.

We had an area in the backyard perfect for a small car bombing. Brother positioned the car in our chalk-drawn parking lot and carefully led a small line of gun powder to the doomed vehicle, leaving a larger pile under the car.

I walked Kimberly, intrepid investigative reporter, to the car. Brother took the top off the car (the car doors didn’t open), and I plopped her in the seat. We stood at a safe distance, about three feet, and Brother lit the end of the gunpowder.


It worked! A line of gunpowder burns, just as it did for Wile E Coyote. It ended with a little poof under the car.

The next time we put more under the car. And then more. And juuuust a bit more. And then more. The next day required more. And yes, more. The car came apart so many times, we had to use rubber bands to keep it together. Kimberly’s hair was singed.

We decided to use more.

I’m sure you have moments in your life that stand out as memorable. Maybe it’s the day your parents took the whole family to the circus. Or maybe it was when they brought home your new baby brother.

For me, it was The Great Backyard Explosion of 1976.

I can still see my brother stamping out the flames. He looked at me and said, “Maybe that was too much.”

Now that, my friends, was a glorious summer. We never did solve the case — frankly, I think we forgot there was a case. But Lord, we did have fun.

Also, on a side note, Kimberly was a changed person after her complete loss of hair. More humble, less stand-offish. The other dolls and I found her much more agreeable. And we had to give her credit for being so brave. It was inspiring.

Okay, enough reminiscing. Time to think about dinner.

WP_20150601_16_32_53_Pro[1]Look what I found! These are little recipe pamphlets from the Arizona Beef Council in the 70s. No kidding!

The recipe I’m sharing with you is one we enjoyed as a family and that we firmly believed was refined and elegant. Which should tell you a lot about my family.

I’m tweaking it just a bit to make it more healthy; feel free to make it as fatty or lean as you like.

Meatball Stroganoff

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

This makes a large amount, but can be halved easily. 


  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, finely choppedBeef Stroganoff
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 package sliced button or crimini mushrooms (also known as Baby Bellas)
  • 1 can (15 oz.) beef broth
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon or stone-ground mustard
  • 1 cup low-fat sour cream (or you can use 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup Greek yogurt)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine ground beef with onion, 1 tablespoon flour, salt, pepper and ketchup. Shape into about 36 balls. Place meatballs on a foil lined baking sheet, set in oven and bake for 20 minutes, until cooked through.

While meatballs are baking, make sauce: In a large fry pan over medium heat, add 1/4 cup beef broth and sliced mushrooms. Simmer until mushrooms are soft, stirring gently, about five minutes. Pour remaining broth into a small bowl, whisk in the other tablespoon flour, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Add to mushrooms and stir, cooking until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Gradually add sour cream (and yogurt, if using), stirring to blend.

Once meatballs are done, add them to the mushroom sauce and return to heat. Stir until heated through. When done, sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serve with noodles or rice.

19 thoughts on “My Glorious Summer of ’76

  1. In 1971, my friends and I found that if you crush a soda can, you can get it back mostly into shape by putting a firecracker inside and lighting the fuse. Worked well until the police showed up.

  2. I don’t think my youth was quite that explosive, but I did learn that firecrackers made a much more satisfying boom when you set them off inside empty metal garbage cans…

  3. Ahhh the summers of the 70’service, I remember them well. My younger brother burned off his eyebrows and eyelashes with fire crackers! “Don’t tell mom!” was often heard. I remember Don also. His wife and my mom were great friends that worked together for years and I played with his kids. I really like that you tried to solve the murder! ☺❤ Thanks!

    1. Well, we tried.
      As for the “don’t tell Mom!” — Once my brothers were wrestling on the sofa, as brothers do, and one of their legs went through the window – crash! Glass flew everywhere. They both turned to me and in unison said, “Don’t tell Mom!”
      Did they think she wouldn’t notice? 😄

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