10 Things that Shaped My Youth: Part 1

A list of some of the things that helped make me into who I am today


10. Rocky and Bullwinkle

The creation of Jay Ward, ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ connected with me instantly. I love the irreverent humor of Moose and Squirrel. The show is so ahead of its time and holds up to this day. A show that through away conventions and filled with off the wall characters and humor. A show I really look forward to getting my daughter in to once she’s older.



9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

It is no surprise that I’m into horror. But the book series of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will always hold a bony claw around my heart. There is something so simple and universal about the stories in the book. Just filled with folk tales and passed down stories that are actually terrifying. I was in kindergarten when I first started reading (and listening to the records they made which were just as scary) and I remember many nights thinking of those stories, alone, in the darkness of my room with shadows playing on the wall. The thing though, was not only were the stories scary, but the illustrations are some to the most disturbing pictures ever created. I would love to have some of those prints from those books. There is something so otherworldly and almost alive in those drawings, something images that are forever burned into my brain. I mean look at this:






8. Mad Magazine

Mad Magazine was every young boy’s paradise. Filled with everything that made you feel like you had got one over on the establishment (ie school, parents, teachers). MAD knew how to speak to mischief and that dangerous smirk that kids get when they are up to no good. I know MAD is still in print but I hope a generation of kids can find it again and get into it the way I did growing up.



7. Looney Tunes

I was never really a fan of Mickey Mouse or the Disney cartoons, but I loved Looney Tunes. I loved the sarcasm of Bugs, the idiocy of Yosemite Sam, the Self-Satisfaction of Foghorn Leghorn, and others. But my all time favorite was and will always be Daffy Duck. Long-suffering and the foil to Bugs, Daffy was a character who could never win, but provided me with some of the biggest laughs of my youth. Looney Tunes had some of the greatest animators and writers from Mel Blanc to Tex Avery, to my favorite, Chuck Jones, each had their own style and used it to make cartoons with universal and intimate humor and some of the best use of music of anything I’ve seen. There are too many great moments to pick a favorite, so I’ll leave you with one of my personal favorites, Daffy Duck, as Robin Hood, Yoiks and Away!



6.  Vinyl

Luckily I was able to grow up in a time before the internet. I was able to experience a lot. And  a huge part of my life was music, courtesy of my parents record players. Music that really brought a lot of joy into my life. I grew up listening to the scratches and pops and loving that sound of the needle going down onto the album. Some of the things that helped me grow were: Bob Marley, Led Zepplin, The Beatles, Van Morrison, James Taylor, Elton John, Leon Redbone, Donovan, Kansas, the Moody Blues, and many more. Special nod to the comedy albums my mom had: Monty Python records and the Smothers Brothers.




5. Edward Gorey

Edward Gorey speaks to the morbid sense of humor I’ve grown to have. There is so much dark humor in the poems and art of Gorey. I mean there is an alphabet comprised of different children dying. Doesn’t get much darker than that.




4. Monsters

I think you can go a few different ways as a boy growing up with the things you like. Some kids go the G.I. Joe and Transformers route. Some kids like comics and superheros. And then there are kids like me, who loved Monsters. I couldn’t get enough as a kid. It was Dracula, Wolf Man, Frankenstein, The Gill Man, Godzilla, and a plethora of others that sparked my kid-motor. I loved the tragic tales of these creatures who to me were misunderstood. But anyone who feels the same way knows what I mean.




3. Kurt Vonnegut

My first Vonnegut novel was Breakfast of Champions. It was the first book that really opened my eyes to the fact that creativity and literature didn’t have to look like everything else. You could play around with the genre and create something different and beautiful. It also opened my eyes to dark humor and satire. To this day Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors and his novels are cherished in my collection.




2. Calvin and Hobbes

Nothing. And I mean nothing. Captures my youth as well as Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson is my hero for Calvin and Hobbes. I loved the comics in the paper like, Far Side, Pogo, Bloom County, Krazy Kat, and more, but Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite. Filled with insights on life, society, personal revelation. It can be hilarious, but it can also be reflective and sad. It meant so much to me as a child, but it means even more as an adult. I still go back and read it and am blown away by how moving it is and how affecting it still is




1.Stephen King

It was only a matter of time before I found out about Stephen King. My parents used to take me to yard sales most weekends in the spring and summer and being an avid reader I would always case the boxes of books. I’ll never forget seeing the cover of my first SK book. The frothing muzzle of a dog with the name CUJO in deep red letters. I was hooked from there. I was only in 3rd grade at the time but as soon as I finished I went looking for more. It’s been 18 years since that first book and my love of all things King hasn’t changed.


447 thoughts on “10 Things that Shaped My Youth: Part 1

  1. Looney Tunes was my favorite thing to watch when I was a kid. It was great and entertained me and my sisters for hours. I also used to watch Rocky and Bullwinkle but honestly, Looney Tunes for me was it. The best. Along with 90’s Nick.

  2. Great memories. I enjoyed Rocky and Bullwinkle and Loney Tunes very much as a youth. Cartoons as a way of teaching and entertaining kids is very underrated these days.

  3. LOVED Calvin and Hobbes as well. Still my favorite. Named our cat Hobbes, though he doesn’t talk to me when we’re alone. 😦 It is amazing how as an adult I can look back and still get as much enjoyment out of the comic as I did when I was much younger. Few things hold that allure from my childhood. The picture alone on your page brought back memories. This afternoon I’ll be pulling out “The Days are Just Packed” from the shelf and sitting down to enjoy!

    I hadn’t heard about “Scary Stories..” or really experienced Edward Gorey. Your descriptions have intrigued me to look it all up. I can’t wait! As a writer, I’m always looking for new things to influence my work.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  4. I *loved* Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and the artwork in those books! In fact, a few weeks ago my husband and I spent a good hour talking about the stories and the artwork in the books, and even looked up the art on my iPhone.

    I also was a huge Looney Tunes and Calvin and Hobbes fan as well. I had planned on recreating at least one of Calvin’s snowmen creations this winter, now that we have a house with a yard to do it, but we didn’t get enough snow 😦 Hopefully next year!

    • I always wanted to build the mini-snowmen like calvin did when he pretended to be a dinosaur, devouring up the city haha. Thanks for readin!

  5. I use to love Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark! For me, also remember reading the “Little Miss and Mr. Men” books aka “Little Miss Bossy”, “Little Miss Perfect”, “Mr. Happy”.

  6. I agree with you on Looney Tunes – boy! I used to watch them all the time. They had Bugs Bunny, Tom & Terry and so many different cartoons!

  7. So glad I found this! I remember my fourth grade teacher reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to our class every Friday. Seeing the illustrations really takes me back to her classroom.

    Just yesterday I saw Breakfast of Champions in my parents’ book collection. Having heard so much of Vonnegut but never having read his titles, I plucked it off the shelf immediately.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Edward Gorey illustrating Mystery! on PBS was my favorite weekend treat. Calvin and Hobbes clearly illustrates the inner life of thwarted genius. My favorite line still holds today: “Somedays Hobbes, not even my lucky rocketship underpants helps.”
    And a lot of days I feel very much like Bug’s genie just waiting to get rubbed the wrong way and then look out!
    Substitute legos for the scary stuff and it’s childhood all over again. Thanks so much for the blast from the past.

    • Ahh, Mystery, as a kid I would never sit through the show, but I would make sure always to catch that opening 🙂

      • That’s a shame. I met the most authentic Holmes through that show. Jeremy Brett was simply the best. The Granada productions were so close to the way you see it in the book you could swear someone had read your mind. Talk about creepy!

  9. What a nice blast from the past. Thanks for sharing your list and commentary on why each one is meaningful to you. I grew up on vinyl, too, and miss the warmth, pop, and even the occasional stuck record. lol Foghorn Leghorn was one of my favorite childhood characters. He was just so funny to me. And, like you, Cujo was my first Stephen King book. I read it in 7th grade and it stuck with me all these years later (although I’ve read many more of his since then). Again, thanks for the post. Great trip down memory lane.

  10. I love the idea of listing things that shaped my childhood. I wonder if I can do the same thing. I’m going to try. Thanks for the idea!

  11. I’m with you on every single one of these. Although, I have to say, Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite. Everything about it is perfect in an oh-so-imperfect way. To this day, I wish I had a stuffed tiger that came to life when no one else was around.

    • Thanks for reading man! C&H seems to really be the one thing from this list that really speaks to a lot of us. It’s been amazing to see so many people who share the same stuff

      • AS sad as I was to find out that there would be no more Calvin & Hobbes, Iam astounded by the reasoning for the end of the strip. I read one of the few interviews with Bill Watterson, and his reason for end of the series was because he never wanted that crazy kid and his tiger to become tired or gimmicky. So for all of us, he let them go out on a high note.

  12. Those images from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark haunted me. I loved being scared by those books. My favorite was the girl with the ribbon around her neck whose head fell off when she removed it. Chills.

  13. Calvin and Hobbes is the perfect snapshot of my childhood — I think half the reason I write is that I still live in my mind almost as much as Calvin does.

  14. I was surprised to see how many of the things that influenced you also influenced me–and I’m 49 years old and a grandfather. C&H came along a bit later in my life than it did it yours (since my children consider it an influence in their childhood), but I loved Rocky and Bullwinkle, monsters, Looney Tunes, and, most of all, MAD Magazine growing up–much to my parents’ chagrin. “What, me worry?” has served as an amazingly apt life mantra, too. Enjoyed this post!

  15. Popeye, He-Man, Thundercats, Tom & Jerry, Road Runner.. aaah! i love remembering how i was glued to the carpet in front of the TV..

    i grew up with Enid Blyton..

    and i still love Calvin and Hobbes

  16. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, OMG, I forgot about these books. Man, blast from the past. I especially remembered that drawing of the decaying skull. I’m heading to Amazon right now to see if I can still purchase these books.

  17. First-rate. I wasn’t as in to the scary, but I definitely see parts of my life here. For some reason my parents let me read Cracked, but not Mad. Less bewbs? Who knows.

  18. Love this post. Scary stories to tell in the dark was a huge part of my childhood. Recently my 9 year old son brought the book home from the school library and asked if I would read with him. Aaaah childhood.

  19. Wow someone whose dark twisted childhood heart matches my own! I loved anything scary or horror related as a child. I wanted to be Morticia Addams when I grew up. Cujo was also my first Stephen King epiphany as well. If you like Edward Gorey and haven’t yet made the trip, I highly recommend a visit to his house out on Cape Cod. He was a very interesting individual. Its only a couple hours drive from my house so we went out there last summer. And my favorite Loony Tunes episode is Bugs Bunny and Witch Hazel with Hansel and Gretel. I’m almost 40 years old and that still kills me every time I see it.

  20. Couldn’t agree more, the illustrations in the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark are forever burned in my brain!! As a kid they were so other-wordly that they blew my young mind away. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • Dude, they are still scary today. I look at those pictures and I’m instantly 5 again haha. Thanks for reading

  21. Indeed! All of these apply to me as well – esp. Scary Stories. They were the best. 🙂

  22. I didn’t know so many others read Scary Stores…

    Looking back on some of the pictures, I don’t know how I handled it when I was 8 yrs old.

  23. I agree with all the points..I never like Mickey Mouse that much .. Loony toons were so much better.. The funny thing about MAD is that I knew a friend who looked exactly like that boy in the magazine. Stephen King is my favourite. Some times I wish I had discovered his books sooner .. Great Post!

  24. Excellent list! Speaking of ‘Scary Stories’, have you seen the new artwork they’ve done for the anniversary edition? I mean, don’t get me wrong, the artwork is decent enough, but why change it for this book? The artwork was so powerful, so creepy, so macabre that to replace it just seems…I dunno, almost sacrilegious in a way.

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