1. Sounds of My Youth

Published on 1 July 2022 at 06:22

©2022 Robert Sickles

There was a certain knack required and desired by young boys in my age group, achieved with stellar success by a rare few, then copied clumsily by everyone else. This necessary skill was the ability to vocally imitate the sounds of weapons and warfare. For example, a ricocheting pistol shot and other weapon sounds, various crashes and explosions, a diving fighter jet, anti-aircraft fire, and whistling-exploding bombs. Also, we needed several animal and human sounds such as jungle bird calls for the sneak attacks, kamikaze yells, the scream of the mortally wounded soldier falling from a cliff or stockade, various other grunts and groans for combat and death. Older guys who maybe knew what the words meant mastered the guttural profanities of the leader of the charge. Apparently, we were nurtured on a rich diet of old John Wayne movies, and we couldn’t possibly do backyard battle reenactments without the sound effects Hollywood used. Battle was for the real men. The unfortunate ones who couldn’t get the sounds right were dismissed as underlings and relegated to lesser roles in the battle or told to go home and play in the sandbox. 

Not too many years later our interests had shifted and it was now important to have a new repertoire of sound effects. The acceleration and gear shifting sounds of hot-rods and motorcycles, as well as an assortment of useful sounds gleaned from characters on comedy shows and cartoons, like Three Stooges and Looney Tunes. Everyone admired the guy who imitated Curly’s snicker, Daffy’s spitty splatter and Roadrunner’s meep-meep.

Thrilled with this memory and convinced I had stumbled onto a slice of life no one actually thought about in so many words, I wrote it down for my enjoyment. I was telling this all to my wife on our morning walk, as though opening her eyes to an unknown side of boyhood (we had two daughters).  I proceeded to demonstrate some of my all-time favorite sounds so she could see how well I’ve remembered them. “Linda, listen: ‘pfoom-pfoom-pfoom-pfoom!’” I sounded exactly like a naval pompom gun! "Tchsh-tchsh-tchsh-tchsh-tchsh," the machine gun, and "Psheeer," the ricochet.

But one thing I forgot—that she had spent nearly 30 years teaching primary grade. “Oh my God,” she said, “Please stop, I’ve heard it all a thousand times! Boys! Why do there have to be boys?!”

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Camille Fastle
2 years ago

Nuk nuk nuk

Woowoowoowoo woo woo

Name that guy!

Rosa McBride
2 years ago

I love it!!!

2 years ago

Way to go, Robert! I never mastered most of the sounds though. I spent my time in the sandbox!

2 years ago


Kathy M.
2 years ago

Love it! Talk about getting grounded quickly! Way to go Lin....really funny stuff Robert!

2 years ago

Still, Robert has a fine repertoire of sounds he can make but he has matured to the point that mimicking other people or birds are his main feats.

2 years ago

Yup. Brings back memories of mastering the dripping sound by taping your mouth just the right way. : )