The Parakeet Craze

Not long ago, my brother, Glenn, and I got to talking about parakeets and that time in the fifties when everyone had a parakeet. It was the rage.Unknown

Our Aunt Clarissa and Uncle Stamper had a blue one named Snookie. Since they never had children, they treated Snookie like their child. His home was an elaborate cage full of mirrors and every parakeet toy imaginable: little seesaws and bells and plastic balls to push around. He could whistle and say a few words like “Pretty Boy” and “Hello.”  Aunt Clarissa would let him sit on her head and preen her hair or on her shoulder where she would turn her head and allow him to kiss her, which all seems a little disgusting now that parakeets aren’t so much the rage.  But it was awful when he died, and they were not able to have another parakeet after vintage printable_parakeets and children

After I begged for weeks, my mother let me pick out a parakeet at the dime store. I  chose a green one and named him Petie, but he was not half as smart as Snookie.  His only claim to fame was his demonstrative shows of affection for his reflection in the mirror that charmed him and his ability to make an incredible mess in the bottom of his cage.

My brother remembered that back during the parakeet rage, our Uncle Hughie heard that parakeets would be a good business venture, so he decided to raise them. He had a little house full of parakeets who laid tiny eggs in nests. I don’t remember how well Uncle Hughie did at the business, but I never saw any baby birds in the nests.Unknown-1

Glenn told about how every now and then someone’s parakeet in our neighborhood would escape, and you’d see that person standing under a telephone line with the cage and the door open. There, balanced on the wire, would be a row of sparrows; and right in the middle, a bright green parakeet. The owner stood down below pointing to the open door of the wire cage, saying: “Here pretty boy, here, pretty boy.” He was attempting to lure the bird with a tantalizing cuttlebone. The bird, on the other hand, seemed happy enough trying to blend in with the sparrows.

I don’t know what happened to the parakeet craze, but I do remember our son, Mike, asking for a bird for Christmas when he was in the second grade. That was all he wanted. So we got him a parakeet. The birds must have evolved, or de-volved, from the time of the Snookies, or maybe we owners just weren’t willing to work with them the way Aunt Clarissa did. Our bird, Barney, was a mess. He never could get used to being out of his cage, so we could tame him. He would fly in big arching circles all over the house, and then cling, in desperation, to a curtain while our dog Max looked up at him hungrily.

Barney did have one major talent. He couldn’t seem to die. He lived on and on until we finally gave him to our daughter, who was living in an apartment. One day she came home to find him on the bottom of the cage, his two little feet sticking up into the air.

And that was the end of the parakeet craze, at least for us.


Writing Jumpstart: Think about some “craze” that has come and gone, at least for you. See how many stories you can string together. Go for ten minutes. Then another ten minutes until you have at least three stories to tell.

4 thoughts on “The Parakeet Craze

  1. Cute piece (sorry for the cute word but I couldn’t at 11 pm after a night of teaching come up with a more appropriate word… charming. That’s probably better!) Anyway, the thought that came to me was wondering if Uncle Hughie had the requisite number of males along with females in the cages. Do parakeets mate for life? Guess I had two questions…

  2. Thanks, Janet. Good questions. I wish Uncle Hughie were still around to answer those questions. I find it amazing that this barber who lived in a small southeastern N. C. farming community would become interested enough in parakeets that he tried to raise them. There’s another story!

  3. I love it! I had a parakeet named Tweety when I was a child. Mom had an aversion to animals in her home. She finally relented to my begging for a bird because my uncle also raised the birds. I’ll have to tell you about Tweety one day. I smiled and chuckled through the entire piece. Thanks for the memory.

    • So glad you enjoyed this blog, Arlene. Those birds all had names like Petie and Tweetie supposedly because it was easy for them to learn those names, as in “Tweetie is a pretty boy!” Snookie was so smart he didn’t need such a name. Crazy. Here I go again talking about parakeets again! Maybe I should write about my pet turtle sometime. There must be some larger meaning lurking here.

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