1965: “Luuuuu-jon! Luuuuu-jon!”

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During her life my Grandmother went from “if man were meant to fly God would have given him wings” to “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. There’s no denying that the world has changed radically in the last century but there was a time in my life when I thought all the really cool stuff had already happened before my time.  I was mistaken. (I promise to not queue up “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel at this point)

 There actually have been a lot of changes in my life but most of those changes have been subtle. For example, when we moved to Sterling, Alaska in the summer of 1964 most people – including many Alaskans – had no idea where Sterling was located but since that time the Kenai Peninsula has become a very popular vacation site. The spot at the confluence of the Kenai and Moose Rivers where Jesse, Spencer and I could leisurely spread to fish now holds at least 65 “combat fisherman’ every day and hour of the season.

In 1965 in order to be considered a true angler at Sterling Elementary you had to have two things:

  • A fishing license (depending on your age)
  • A Lu-Jon lure

I’m sure you know what a fishing license is, but you may not understand the majesty of a Lu-Jon Lure. Shaped like a streamlined abstract Paul Manship-vision of a salmon, these lures were silver in color and sold for a dollar. They trailed a treble-hook behind them (yes, they were legal but then so was snagging!) and we knew they were irresistible to anything with fins. However, these silver treasures were nothing in comparison to gold Lu-Jon lures…in fact the mere idea of a gold Lu-Jon still takes my breath away 50 years later.  The difference in color no doubt was a matter of what color lacquer was in the spray-gun when the work-day started at the factory, but through some quirk of distribution the gold ones were rare in Sterling.  Scoring a gold Lu-Jon was akin to winning the Irish sweepstakes. They were unbeatable.

Fishing technique was fairly basic – you cast the lure out as far as you could across the water, then you would vigorously yank the pole back, winding the line up as fast as possible. No bait was used – as I said snagging was legal so your goal was to make as many casts and get your line out as possible to increase your odds of getting a fish. My sister Holly still stoutly maintains that the reel and line would moan “llluuuuuu-jjoooonnnn…. llluuuuuu-jjoooonnnn” during all that yanking and rapid-reeling. I missed that soundtrack as my buddies and I were too busy talking, sharing the Playboy Party jokes that Jesse was reading to us from the back of the pin-up of one Belgian lass by the name of Hedy Scott a.k.a. Miss June 1965…though we really didn’t understand the jokes or the shapely Miss Scott all that well at the time.

Google turns up pictures of a small orange carton that these lures were supposed to be sold in, but I never saw them come in anything other than a plastic zip-loc bag – which is the real subject of my story. My first Lu-Jon was given to me by an older fisherman so the first time I actually bought one of my own I was surprised to find that the local store sold them in Zip-Loc bags. That might not mean much – but I had never seen a Zip-Loc bag before….and while the Lu-Jon lure was a real prize, that Zip-Loc bag was stunning. I didn’t know the name for the field yet, but I was already interested in product design and I was captivated by the beautiful simplicity of the closure/lock process. It helped that it was made of a fairly heavy mil plastic – nothing like the flimsy sandwich bags that use Zip-loc feature now so there was a very satisfying zip and pop when opening and closing the container. I knew of nothing else like it. There were some forms of plastic wrap available but we all took our sandwiches to school wrapped in wax paper.

As I think back to that moment two thoughts came to mind:

  1. While I grouse about finances, the fact is that by owning a car and more than one set of clothes I am far richer than 75% of the world’s population. Even now there are here are third world countries where something like that heavy-duty Zip-Loc bag would be considered a valuable tool to be carefully maintained and secured when not in use.
  2.  I miss being able to totally focus on something like a Zip-Loc bag they way I could when I was young. Between naiveté of youth and the lack of all the electronic distractions of current times I was unencumbered enough to zero in on anything with the precision of an electron microscope.

I don’t know if I can personally eliminate income inequality and hunger referred to in thought #1 but I try as best I can with the resources that I do have. As far as the second concept goes: Is there any way to regain that Zen-state of focus?  We have so many electronic distractions with “cool stuff’ that it is hard for anything to hold my attention for long.

I just have to hope that as I continue to age the brain cells I lose will be the ones that are infatuated with flashy, noisy electronic things. Maybe at some point I will regress to that second childhood everyone talks about and I will finally be able to figure out if the gold or silver Lu-Jons work the best!

2 thoughts on “1965: “Luuuuu-jon! Luuuuu-jon!”

  1. I’ve been musing about that very contrast between pre-computer and post-computer attention states. I also find myself constantly amazed by the availability of knowledge. No more childhood mysteries or disputes dragging on for years or decades when the definitive answer is usually a mere google click away. I’m not sure if this is a good thing. I used to get a lot of pleasure from the kind of dreamy anticipation that just doesn’t seem to occur much these days.

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