The last few weeks I have been occasionally musing about my early introduction to events and experiences such as the Army-McCarthy hearings, the American Civil Liberties Union, the John Birch Society, the Levering Act, hiding under the desk at school, and the Creature From the Black Lagoon.
In the 1950s I was just a kid but maturing fast. Three things scared me the most: The H-Bomb in the Roc nest on Beany, the one-eyed, one-horned beast that munched on Sinbad’s unlucky crew, and the creature from the Black Lagoon. Nowadays I gobble-up Ray Harryhausen movies, have actually been to the Black Lagoon (where it was filmed), and would give my left nut to have Time For Beany back on the television. Computer animation is impressive but give me a puppet show with good writers any day.
It must have been about fourth grade for me when I started hearing teachers whisper about mandatory pledges and oaths and whether they were a member of the ACLU (shhhh .. no one must know), and something called the John Birch Society which sounded innocuous but seemed to rattle the more liberal educators. Interestingly, my father was a teacher at this time and I never even considered asking him what it all meant (in fifth grade I asked my mother what “Fuck” meant but she put me off with a Zagnut bar and I lost at least a year of adolescent prurience).
The family would occasionally trek up to Los Angeles and a stop at Knott’s Berry Farm was common, sometimes just to have beef stew in the grill (I only went to the more expensive Chicken Dinner restaurant once). On the way out of the park there was an ice cream stand that served the greatest treat known to man: Boysenberry Ice Cream. Once, when I was a little older and allowed to roam on my own, I got my ice cream and wandered into a small store that had posters on the wall, a flag or two, and dozens of pamphlets spread out on a large table. I didn’t see anything that interested me. Later my dad suggested that I stay away from that place.
It was revealed to me that hard working berry farmer Walter Knott was a ranking member of the John Birch Society.
Back then I really didn’t know much about the Birchers but what I did know was scary. Of course, what I saw as evil in the last century is nothing compared to the events of today and the festering stink arising from the Republican Party. But let’s let Robert Zimmerman cast a folksy twist on the John Birch Society .. so jump in the wayback machine and listen to Bob’s riff on the traditional Talking’ Blues.
Bob Dylan wrote: This is called “Talkin’ John Birch paranoid blues”
I was feeling kinda a little down, blue
I didn’t know what I was going to do
The communists was a-comin’ around, they was in the air, they was on the ground
They was fallin’ me all over
I run down most hurriedly
And joined the John Birch society
Got me a secret membership card, started walking home, found the road, yoo-hoo
I’m a real John Bircher now, look out
Now we all agree with Hitler’s views
Although he killed six million Jews
It don’t matter too much that he was a Fascist
At least you can’t say he was a Communist!
That’s to say like if you got a cold, take a shot of malaria
I was lookin’ everywhere for them gol-darned Reds
I got up in the mornin’ ‘n’ looked under my bed
Looked behind the kitchen, behind the door
Looked in the glove compartment of my car
Couldn’t find any
Looked behind the sink, behind the chair
I was lookin’ for them Reds everywhere
I looked way up my chimney hole
Looked deep down inside my toilet bowl
They got away…
I was sittin’ home alone an’ started to sweat
I figured they was in my T.V. set
I peeked behind the picture frame
Got a shock from my feet, hit me right up in the brain
Them Reds did it!
Them hard-core ones
Well, I quit my job so I could work all alone
Then I changed my name to Sherlock Holmes
Followin’ some clues from my detective bag
Discovered there was red stripes on the American flag!
Old Betty Ross…
Now Eisenhower, he’s a Russian spy
Lincoln, Jefferson and that Roosevelt guy
To my knowledge there’s just one man that’s really a true American
George Lincoln Rockwell
I know for a fact he hates Commies ’cause he picketed the movie “Exodus”
Well, I finally started thinkin’ straight
When I ran outta things to investigate
I couldn’t imagine anything else
So now I’m at home investigatin’ myself
Hope I don’t find out anything… good God!