Fill In the Blank: School _________

I grew up in the 50s. Born just after the war: an early baby boomer. Life was very different then. First, we didn’t have a television. Rather than dull my brains with laugh tracks and insipid three-camera comedies, I would sprawl on the floor with my friendly frog pillow and sharpen my senses by recreating entire worlds from a few words of dialogue and easily identifiable sounds of the foley operator. Can you spell Schenectady?

Television then was itself very different. First, I only watched television at my grandfather’s house, usually when they were babysitting me. In the daytime, there were a few three-hour shows (Gary Moore, Arlene Francis) followed by soap operas (ugh) and then Cowboys & Injuns on the new ABC affiliate showing Bob Steele, Johnny Mack Brown, or my favorite Lash LaRue. The nighttime was turned over to more local programming, 15 minutes of news, wrestling, boxing, Lawrence Welk.

Back then program selection was an adult function: if granddad wanted to watch Korla Pandit or Spade Cooley, you watched Korla Pandit or Spade Cooley and didn’t dare argue.

We were kids. Our job was to mind our parents, go to school, roll the cuffs on our bluejeans halfway to our knees, and clothespin playing cards to the spokes on our trusty Roll-Fast. The most violent experience I had in school outside of dodgeball was a squirrel challenge at recess. I hated that.

Now look at schools: cafeteria ladies packing heat, lock-down drills, cops at the door manning metal detectors, show-and-tell-and-shoot.

And America says its youth is its most important resource. Really? It’s not guns?

I mentioned this before but I grew up and went away to college without ever carrying a house key in my pocket. In fact, I’m not sure my parents even knew where the house keys were. We just didn’t lock the house doors; in fact, we often failed to shut the door. Our defense against home invasion then was a squeaky screen door. Now we’re being told we should have an arsenal of deadly firearms available and can openly blow a person’s head off if they come to the door and we even think they are dangerous.

What a way to live.

In this day of Smartphones and Internet, it’s hard to believe that network television, centered in New York City, was a day behind on the west coast. The procedure was to film the show and put the kinescope on an airplane to the coast in time to show on the following day. We would watch Gary Moore’s Tuesday show on Wednesday. I remember Gary Moore wearing Bermuda shorts in the summer; almost everything I knew about New York was from these shows, and being a Southern California boy, New York was weird.

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