It was a dark and stormy night.
No...the storm was over, the night was humid.
No, no, no...it was a quiet night, smothered in eeriness-- the kind found on Elm Street, that favorite haunt of Eddie Kruger.
So much for great begininings. Truth is, it was an average night in an average neighborhood in an average U.S. city. The date was June 30, 1961. I was ten years old.
The night was sticky. That's what it was, sticky. Walking down my street of broken sidewalks felt like moving through a spiderweb, a gigantic web that encompassed the entire neighborhood. And it wasn't quiet. The boys, always raucous, always running, climbing or screaming, were chasing each other through backyards, intent on mayhem--fifties style, which consisted of wrestling in cool grass or finding girls to torment.
The girls were hugging home. We didn't like to stray too far in the dark. The streetlights were a comfort, even though their dull yellow glow was of little use, kind of like having a jar of fireflies hanging overhead. We liked to play freeze-tag in our driveways, or play hopskotch, rolling our favorite stone along split concrete that threatened a stubbed toe with every hop. We were, of course, barefoot. Our keds, the popular footwear of the day, were flung against garage doors, sprawled sideways on black macadem, white laces curling out in front of them like sleepy worms.
Summer in 1961 was a universe apart from the summer I see ahead of us today. I wonder how many children will stroll down shadowy city streets, feeling the humid air cling to their bare arms like spider web silk? How many will invent games of their own, instead of relying on mass produced entertainment? How many will be allowed to skip down to the corner store to buy penny candy? Not many. There are few corner stores left in this country, and no penny candy.
The astounding thing is that in the midst of all this change, in the morphing of American society into a technological wonder, kids are pretty much the same. As I say, their play is different--mostly supervised, by necessity, not as inventive (even poor kids have TV and Happy Meals, which come with their own play things)--but deep, down inside, kids are still kids. They want freedom to run, to congregate with friends while keeping adults at bay, and they want to play "grown-up." As a favorite poem I enjoy says,
Hurry the baby as fast as you can,
Hurry him, worry him, make him a man.
Off with his baby clothes, get him in pants,
Feed him on brain foods and make him advance.
The poem goes on to say we Moms and Dads are at fault for not letting kids be kids, and sometimes that is true, but if one knows children (and having been around several dozen throughout my life, including the almost 30 nieces and nephews I have now), one knows that children are the ones trying to hurry into adulthood, today just as much as we baby boomers were intent on doing so back in that old Dick and Jane world of the mid-twentieth century.
Which brings me to the true reason for this post. The sixties are about to return to TV. Dick Clark, in partnership with American Idol, Simon Fuller, plans to offer a "revamped version," in true reality TV fashion. As Dick Clark noted in the article from the Palm Beach Post,
"If you think about it 'American Bandstand' was probably the original reality show. And to bring it back in the throes of excitement about reality isn't a bad idea."
Boomers will be happy to review this new Bandstand--albeit, our reviews will be tainted with happy memories of the show we loved from days gone by. What will the kids today think? That's a loaded question. This is something to watch for. This can be a solid connection from Mom to Daughter. It's not a documented fact, to my knowledge anyway, but I expect that Bandstand was more popular with the fairer sex back in the 60s and 70s. And I believe the new show will also attract more young women, than young men. Mom and Daughter, together, on the sofa, watching American Bandstand. Wow. What an opportunity to sell. Online. Because you just know the show is going to have a website, don't you? Watch for it. This is instant behavorial marketing. Take advantage of it to reach the women's market, from teen to Queen.
What's not to like about that?