A To Z Challenge – T – Redux

april-challenge

When I published my T For Terrific Challenge post,  I made it an interactive one, promising to select one entry from those who gave me a T-word and a prompt, and write a post about it.  Susan Leighton over at Woman On The Ledge was the only one who actually did that, so she wins(?) by default.

Click on the link to her site and ask her why she would do such a thing. I guess I have to go through with this.  Since she’s a Woman On The Ledge, if I reneged, she might jump.

She submitted the word ‘tacky.’ Tacky??! I could write about tacky all day!  I have lots of inspiration.  I could go on at great length about the Kardashians or Donald Trump!  Why not?? They do!

Then she slipped the fine print to me. It had to be about cheesy B-grade movies of the 80s.  Oh, what an embarrassment of riches!  I wanted to do a piece about Clint Eastwood.  From Rowdy Yates on TV’s Rawhide, to talking to an empty chair, Clint has been quite a character over the years, both onscreen, and off.

clint-eastwood

I had hoped to write about his spaghetti westerns, but those were in the 60s and 70s.  I’ll have to go with his Dirt Harry series to get the correct decade.  It doesn’t matter.  They’re indistinguishable.  Like the remaking of the Japanese ‘Seven Samurai’ into the American western The Magnificent Seven, they are all morality plays.

dirty-harry

Everything is black and white. The Good Guys are always good. The Bad Guys are evil, and Right always prevails.  The only difference is that Clint’s character ‘Makes America Great Again’ through the application of justice with a Colt .44 Magnum handgun, instead of a .45 caliber Peacemaker.

The overall theme is to be respected, but the presentation means that each movie contains enough cheese to make me a big plate of nachos. I once watched a network broadcast of, “I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots – or only five?” where the network censors edited out two gunshots to reduce the total violence, rendering the line ridiculous.

The 80s was also the decade when Clint did a couple of Any Which Way But…. movies, where he played second banana to an ill-mannered, incoherent, bright orange orangutan.  This should have been good training for dealing with the recently-crowned inaugurated, Emperor President Donald Trump.

Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, another composition proving that I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, and couldn’t generate interest with Doctor Frankenstein’s lightning-rod apparatus. Don’t blame me!  It’s not my fault!  susan Susan made me do it!  😳

Let’s Go To The Movies

I don’t know how old (young) I was when I first started going to movies, probably about 5 or 6.  There was a little movie theater in my home town which ran Saturday afternoon matinees.  They were often the same movies that adults attended on Saturday night, but back in the 1940s and ‘50s, there were no PG-14 or X-rated movies. They were all safe for kids, although I took shit from my sister for allowing my younger nephew to accompany me to Psycho.

My Mom gave me a quarter a week allowance, and off I went.  The adults’ evening shows were 35 cents, while the kids paid 15 cents in the afternoon.  That left me 10 cents for a 5 cent individual bag of chips, and a 5 cent chocolate bar, or box of toffee.

As I got to be 9 and 10, my younger brother was now the age I was when I started going to the movies, but it hadn’t occurred to Mom to give him any money.  One day he kinda complained, and asked if he could go with me.  The next week, I asked Mom if she would give me 30 cents instead of 25, and she gladly said yes.  I just never thought to tell her what the extra nickel was for.

For about six months we both attended the shows, just with nothing left to buy treats.  Finally it occurred to Mom to ask where he disappeared to each Saturday afternoon.  When she realized I was donating half my allowance to him, she started giving him his own.

It wasn’t till I moved away from home to get a job, that I realized what I had been viewing all those years.  These weren’t first-run movies!  Our little theater ran seconds and thirds.  After they’d been seen everywhere else, they came to my town.  For about fifteen years, I watched everything they put on the silver screen.  I saw every movie!

The theater wasn’t allowed to open on Sundays, so they ran three movies a week, one on Monday and Tuesday, a different one on Wednesday and Thursday, and yet a third on Friday and Saturday.  After I started delivering newspapers, and had a bit of cash of my own, I went almost every Monday, Thursday and Saturday night.

In the era of westerns, I watched hundreds of them, the Duke, John Wayne, Alan Ladd in Shane, Rory Calhoun – Martin and Lewis comedies, then Jerry solo, and Dean in the Matt Helm fiascos, James Coburn as Our Man Flint – musicals, Auntie Mame, Oklahoma, Clint Eastwood in Paint Your Wagon – stuff I didn’t understand till later, Kim Novack in Bell, Book and Candle, George Peppard in Walk, Don’t Run.

On the first of July, August, and September long weekends, the theater would run a Sunday midnight showing, actually Monday, to get around the closing by-law.  These were often Hammer Films, English horror pictures, good to take your girl, to get her to cuddle closer, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, or the dubbed Japanese jokes, Godzilla, or Mothra.

Early on, they were in black and white.  Later, color film arrived, as well as Technicolor and Cinemascope.  Showings usually started with previews of upcoming movies.  These were followed by cartoons, Woody Woodpecker or Bugs Bunny.  Often there was a “short” before the main feature, The Three Stooges, or The Bowery Boys, always still in gritty black and white.

The bowling alley in town was only open during the summer.  Back when pool rooms were dens of iniquity, I was not allowed to enter until I was 18, but started rather openly “sneaking in” when I was 13.  When the proprietor found that my Dad had no objections, he turned a blind eye, but all that allowed me to do was watch older players, because most of my same-age compatriots couldn’t get past the bouncer.

I/we frequented a couple of local restaurants, but, if you weren’t ordering French fries, or plugging money in the jukebox, you could get asked to leave.  You would also get thrown out if you gathered the ashes from all the ash-trays, and sprinkled vinegar on them.  The rank smell from that chemical stink-bomb was good for at least a week’s ban.  Going to the movies was the most financially rewarding way to while away some spare time.

If, what was depicted by movies wasn’t a reflection of reality, it at least educated me that other folks did and said things in ways that were different from our little microcosm.

Since the wife can’t attend theater movies because of inhalant allergies, she and I have not been out for years.  I still go with the son occasionally, but only for blockbusters which need the big screen.  I believe Avatar was the last.  I still haven’t watched Star Trek Into Darkness, so nobody tell me the ending.  (Did the butler do it?)       😕

One TV Town

People in New York City could watch “network” television shortly after W. W. II, in 1947.  TV came to my little town at the edge of the universe in 1955.  Back then, television signals were taken from the air by metal aerials, and relied on line-of-sight and broadcaster strength, generally not much more than 35 or 40 miles.  Living back of beyond, we were well over 100 miles from Detroit, Buffalo or Toronto.

A foresighted businessman in Wingham, Ontario, about 40 miles south, wanted to get out ahead of the rest of the pack.  He already owned and ran a little AM radio station, and could see the coming profits from television.  He applied for the rights to channel 8, which was supposed to go to Buffalo.  He had to get on the air before the Americans were ready.  Normally a year or more job, he swung some deals, and started broadcasting at 6 PM, November 18, 1955, just over three months from his original application.

Wingham wasn’t much bigger than my stagecoach-stop town.  They bragged that they were the world’s tiniest town to have a TV station.  Like our down-the-road neighbor, they were a farm-based town.  The stock report on the new station didn’t include any NYSE, or NASDAQ info, rather, how many hogs were sold, how many cows were slaughtered, and the cost of hay and straw for cattle feed.

Early programming included an hour daily show for women, titled M’Lady, two Country and Western weekly shows, one called Circle 8 Ranch, playing off the channel number, and two half-hour religious shows Sunday mornings.  Initial scheduling had only 30 hours of broadcast per week.

My family joined the TV-watching elite in August, 1957.  By then, the bank manager, several of the local merchants, and the guy who made a small fortune in mining, had TVs.  Dad’s wages from one of the factories was the same as everyone else’s, but, he also received a small government check for wartime disability, he got a small honorarium for organizing the weekly party at the Legion, and Mom had just begun a part-time job.

We all, but especially my brother and I, were mesmerized by this new piece of entertainment.  We watched all kinds of things that we would describe as crap today, simply because they were the only things on.  We’d have watched the test pattern; in fact I did several times, talking to the Indian Chief with the feathered head-dress, and trying to hypnotise myself with the “telescopic sight” graphic.

By 1957, the schedule had expanded a little, but there was still a lot of that test pattern time.  In a way, I was exposed to some of the best entertainment, simply because the station was desperate to put something, anything, on the air.  No Saturday morning cartoons, so then, and after school, they showed all the 1930s’ movie serials.  I was able to watch Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Johnny Weissmuller Tarzans, as well as The Three Stooges, and The Marx Brothers.

All of these were shown in black and white.  Movies had graduated to color, but TV’s color days were still in the future.  All these old serials and movies had been shot in black and white, and suited the B&W format perfectly.  I got to see Laurel and Hardy make fools of each other, a house fall on and a train run away with Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd dangle from a tower clock hand.  I watched The Dead End Kids on TV, who had become The Bowery Boys, when I went to the theater.

Censorship was not a problem.  If it had been shown in theaters, it showed on my TV.  W. C. Fields said I was “My little chickadee”, although he also said, “I love kids.  I had two for breakfast,” and Mae West issued an invitation to “Come on up and see me some time.”  “Goodness had nothing to do with it!”

The ‘40s and ‘50s were the heyday of the western, the oater.  I saw Roy Rogers, and The Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry, who went on to own several radio stations and a TV station in California, as well as the Anaheim Angels baseball team from 1961 to 1997.  I also got to see dozens (hundreds?) of episodes of The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, Wild Bill Hickock and Hopalong Cassidy.  And you guys wonder why I’m odd!

My little one-horse television station broadcast at about one candle-power for years.  Their broadcast tower got situated at the top of the only local hill, and our aerial perched on top of a steel pipe which poked above our roof, and had to be “aimed” at Wingham.

They operated as an independent station for a while, and later became a CBC affiliate, but their operating budget didn’t allow for the importation of improving, expanding American network shows.  One of the things I won in my Rewards Of Radio post, was because I could name the first female police TV detective.

Several other callers got through to the station before I did, and every one of them guessed Angie Dickinson as Policewoman.  I knew that it was Anne Francis, as Honey West, ten years earlier. The DJ congratulated me, and said that I must have watched the show as a youngster.  Not in my One-TV town, I got my knowledge about that, from my other major source of information, MAD Magazine.

I wish that my kids could have got to see some of the stuff I watched as I was growing up.  It was a bit less brittle and stressful, and more idyllic and innocent.  Writing up one of these “remember when” posts is always like waving a double-edged sword.  On the one side, I get a lovely wave of nostalgia, especially if I can share it with you, my friends and readers.  On the other, I end up feeling old, about seven different ways.  Now, let’s discuss some of the shit that you watched as a kid.

By the time even the earliest of you get to read this, the son and I will be on our way to Detroit for the weekend.  Please comment anyway, and I will reply Sunday night/Monday, as well as relate all the gory details.    🙂