Bread Bags& Bullies: Surviving the 80’s: Steven Manchester
Family unity is the primary link to both the past and the present in this authentic depiction of the author’s recounting of a time period that so many will always remember. Herbie is our adult narrator in the present as he deals with a common problem just as prevalent in schools today, bullying and harassment by one child that thrives on hurting others. His older son takes aim at his younger son in the same fashion or way the bully did in order to teach him to fight back. But Herbie remembers his brother Wally’s fears that about dealing with getting beaten up on the bus and reminds Dylan his older son that they need to team up together to help his brother toughen up as the author flashes back to the past and we get to know Herbie as a 12 year old, Wally and Alphonse or Cockroach as the call him. Brothers that pull rank on each other living in a family that has no real modern conveniences, food and other items bought on sale and coupons used in a store that provides credit for customers. Not much in the way of healthy cereals as these three love the sugary ones, candy that’s sweet and meals that require not very many expensive things and the excitement of simple things like BLT sandwiched, popcorn in a microwave and any sugary breakfast cereal that will fill their cereal bowls for more than just one serving.
Parents that demanded respect. A father who requested that dinner begins when he returns home from work and children that had minor chores and Wally who worked a newspaper route in order to have his own money.
This family was tightly knit to a point and yet each member including their extended family had their own distinct personality that adds to the humor, sarcasm and family discords that are part of any family unit.
These boys just got cable and their mode of entertainment were board games and Atari plus a stereo, some cassette tapes and making their own fun. They were not rich, yet they managed to do something parents and kids rarely do today: family dinner, family Sundays and family visit to grandparents and dealing with negative she critical Aunt Phyllis.
This is more than just family relationships, friendships and three brothers that had to withstand you might say the sands of their parent’s hard times yet never complaining about not having or getting what other kids have or wanted. Little however is told about their time in school other than the bullying incident in bury time periods.
Vacation arrives and rules are established as their mom insists, they remain outside until sundown wanting them to have fun but, she wanted time for herself and catching up on her soaps.
Family issues are at the heart of this novel as we learn how a family that has limited funds fairs during a time when others have much more. Meals created in bulk and a car that it’s amazing that it runs and a house in disrepair this family has other qualities that cement them as a unit divorced from material things. Yet the mother wants them out of the house in frigid temperatures using bread bags over their socks to keep their feet dry and warm. At times you wonder why both parents are so oblivious to their son’s actions.
Fear of the unknown is part of Alphonse’s makeup, spiders for Herbie and yet Wally seems to be getting tougher as the author allows us to understand why the cellar plays an important part of his life and the truth behind why he might want another paper route. Living at home most kids in school get jobs for extra money so they can buy stuff they normally won’t ask their parents for. But his mother told him she might want half his money and wants him to pay room and board. Normally this is not really a bad thing but her credit the variety store is reaching the limit and her main purpose is to feed her smoking habit and his father’s need for beer. Their parents had a unique way of trying to teach them responsibility and respect. Never really asking if they wanted to do the chores yet Herbie enjoyed the shopping runs always snagged something for himself. He and his brothers fought, wound up in the ER and spent days at home trying to figure out ways to have fun, get even with each other and when the blizzard hit just realizing the value and importance of family. Food was not exactly what most would want, learning to be independent was something all three mastered, facing up to their fears, standing up to bullies and making them accountable for their actions and realizing that school was important, grades and money earned and the author takes us back to a time when space invaders was the rage, Michael Jackson was on everyone’s record player, bubble gum , homemade forts, trading baseball cards and family dinners were the norm. Author Steven Manchester reminds us of what some used to keep their feet dry in the bad weather, standing up to bullies, protecting your brothers and helping those in need. Something my mom taught me that the father in this book brings out : if someone is in trouble or needs your help you stop what you are doing and help them. You never know if you might save a life or just make someone’s day brighter. Wally, Cockroach and Herbie our storyteller. Where are they now? What final lessons did the learn? What happens when you are stuck in the house with little to do and limited places to play? Cellar, room, clubhouse or freezing cold outside? No matter what these three might fight , prank each other or just be plain mean but in the end the managed as you will learn when you laugh, cry, yell, shout and join in the fun and antics and turn the clock back and find out what happens when you learn the meaning of :bread bags &bullies and surviving the 80’s. The cover says it all from magic 8 ball to help Herbie find out if Donna likes him, to Cockroach who can do the Rubik’s cube and tootsie rolls and bubble gum and sugary cereals and matchbox cars, join the three brothers and enter their crowded world and learn the true meaning of family unity and love.
Fran Lewis just reviews