Later this week, OnMilwaukee.com will post a guide to locations for kids’ birthday parties. While researching the article, the staff reminisced about favorite birthday parties from their childhoods, and here are a few accounts of their stand-out memories.
Molly Snyder Edler
Ironically, my best and worst birthday party fell on the same day. For my fifth birthday, my parents made a dream come true, and planned my party at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour at Northridge. I witnessed other birthday parties at Farrell’s while eating there with my family, and I really wanted to have my birthday in that festive environment.
However, prior to the party, I made one request to my parents: I didn’t want the staff to pick me up and carry me around the restaurant while they sang the birthday song. I had seen them do this with other kids, and it looked scary to me. My parents promised, and said they told the waitstaff upon our arrival that I was fine with the drum banging and the loud singing that usually accompanies a Farrell’s birthday celebration, but that they should not pick me up during the song.
You know where this is going …
I was so delighted by the sight of the super huge sundae being brought out on a stretcher (Farrell’s signature birthday sundae is massive) that I didn’t notice a waiter wearing a vest and a white brimmed hat standing behind me. Before I knew it, he lifted me into the air and started bouncing me up and down. I instantly started wailing and kicking and finally, sobbing. I remember seeing my dad’s horrified face as he ran towards me. He waved his arms and yelled, "Stop! Put her down!" Finally, the waiter realized what was going on, and he sat me back in my chair and apologized by giving me a massive lollipop shaped like a unicorn’s horn. That worked.
Having your birthday fall on a national holiday can be a bummer for some kids, as the usual hoopla normally associated with said holiday usurps the singular glory of being "the birthday boy or girl." I was born on a holiday, but luckily for me, it’s Halloween and the ghosts and goblins are always willing to share the spotlight.
When your birthday is on Halloween, you always have a costume party; there’s just no way around it. And when it’s your party, you have to be the best dressed, so, over the years I’ve had some pretty inventive and well-executed costumes (thanks, mom!) Pippi Longstocking was not just a literary hero if mine, she was also inspiration for one of my best birthday getups, complete with hanger wire keeping my braids at a solid 90 degrees from my face. The Cat in the Hat was another big hit -- almost as big as the stripped hat I wore.
From age three to 12, getting to celebrate your birthday with your BFFs AND dressing up in costumes AND eating all that candy is, quite honestly, the best thing ever. It’s like double Christmas.
Advancing age and a life spent under the crush of relentless deadlines have obliterated much of my long-term memory. My sister, Amy, can remember what flavor popsicles we had at the Memorial Day cookout in 1976. I can't remember where I put my sunglasses.
I do, however, recall the day I turned 6 years old. It's probably one of my earliest memories. My mom and sister came into my room to wake me up and they gave me the first of a few presents I got that day. It was a framed, piece of what I think was homemade 3-D, needlepoint-type rendering of Snoopy, my favorite Peanuts character. I remember going to breakfast and wondering if the artwork would be my only present. Again, the memory fades, but I'm pretty sure I also got my first baseball glove later that day -- a Wilson fielder's mitt in a shade of Brewer blue that got me through two years of T-ball. What I remember most about childhood birthdays is people asking me "How does it feel to be (insert age here)?" Then, as now, I don't understand that question.
When I was a kid my parents took my the family to a baseball game each year for my birthday. I loved getting out the ballpark, which was a special treat for us. Nowadays I take my toddler to probably a dozen games a year, but back then we went to Shea twice a year, at most. Once for my birthday in July and once later in the season for my brother's post-season birthday. I particularly remember having great seats in 1976 and getting my bicentennial-themed Mets yearbook signed by visiting Astros pitcher Joe Sambito, a fellow Brooklyn native that later briefly joined my Mets. Otherwise, because my birthday coincides with Independence Day, I only remember stars and stripes-themed parties as a kid. Ugh!
Birthday parties were a big deal for me growing up. For my 13th, we went to the Safe House. Earlier, we rented the Edelweiss and toured the Milwaukee River. It was my eighth, I think, when my dad called in a favor from the late Ben Barkin and took me up to Bud Selig's owner box to take in a Brewers game at County Stadium. But my all-time favorite was my sixth birthday, when my parents arranged a "Dukes of Hazzard" costume party at Hubbard Lodge in Shorewood. We had a General Lee show up (apparently, there were plenty in Milwaukee back then), and all the kids dressed up as their favorite character. I chose Roscoe P. Coltrane. There's still VHS footage of this memorable event.