Dizzy World of Gunplay in the Eisenhower Era

The Eisenhower era was the setting for the first generation of children to grow up shoulder to shoulder with that one-eyed monster glowing in the corners of living rooms across America.  We baby-boomers were a special lot, you know, pioneering players in that new American frontier.  And while we were busily playing our day-to-day roles in that vast wasteland, we later learned there had been strong-backed women out on the frontier among us– Jean Kerr, Erma Bombeck– dutifully scribbling in their journals, recording the bigger picture of the perils of conquering this new land called Suburbia.

TV captivated much of our attention.  Many of us could probably quote the weekly TV schedule.  Yet TV never held us captive inside.  Our world was still found outside.   But the one-eyed monster did whisper inspiration for outdoor play.  Crime dramas gave us plots, Our Gang comedies gave us impetus.

My neighborhood had concrete sidewalks on each side of the street.  These became our highways when we played our versions of Highway Patrol or Dragnet, with bikes and trikes doubling as squad cars and getaway cars.  Our curbside performances were legendary.  One neighborhood girl, Gail, was enamored with the role of the drunken gun moll.  She would wear her rummage-sale dress-up clothes and a smear of purloined lipstick.  She would rapidly spin behind a nearby bush until quite drunken.  At some point, she would stumble toward a parked “squad car,” toting an old discarded black patent leather purse, and start an argument with the “men,” wildly weaving, bellowing and flailing her arms.   Eventually, she’d reach into that purse and pull out a cap pistol!  Then the heat was really on!!!  I was usually the coroner.

Nowadays, Gail is a fine and respected second-generation pharmacist at the helm of the local still-family-owned drug store.

So much for the evils of childhood gun play–

Local Gun Moll Makes Good!

The Neighborhood Lemonade Stand

Ah, the lemonade stand.  A bit of initiative and voilá, easy pocket money for any kid.  Just one problem, the government is trillions of dollars in debt.  Wars are being continually created and financed to protect the freedoms of entrepreneurial ventures.  Resource-hungry politicians are overdue to realize that those enterprising tykes need to feel the pain of Uncle Sam taking a sip from every dime that crosses their makeshift counters.

Tyke-Tax is just around the corner, folks.  Then you will see those kiddie-made drink prices soar as the little ones strive to cover the additional overhead of retaining CPAs, corporate lawyers, buying street-vendor permits, bribing local health inspectors and joining watchdog groups to eyeball the Big Boys (Coke & Pepsi), least they try to muscle in on the wee ones’ turf.  No doubt, enlightened community colleges will rush to fill a need for these pre-pubescent capitalists by developing a series of weekend seminars.  Under-12 Upstarts would be one apt addition.  Reasonable fees with Pell Grant options, of course.  Ah, the carefree days of childhood.

Thinking about Thornton Wilder’s Our Town

When I was just four, Mother kept me up one night to see a live broadcast of a program on TV.  She said it was special and perhaps I might remember some of it later as I grew older.  It was a live production of Our Town.  Although I’ve seen several productions of Our Town on TV and on local stages in the intervening decades, I have never forgotten some of those shadowy b&w images on that early model TV screen.  I remember the stark, near-barren stage, Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs  cooking breakfast on invisible stoves.  I especially recall a mass of huddled umbrellas and a young lady emerging from them dressed in white.  Mother said the girl was dead.  It was her funeral.  I have never forgotten that.  I have attended many graveside funerals since then, and studied Our Town– especially Act III.  And I have taken many peaceful walks through our city cemetery and imagined its residents seated in folding chairs beside their tombstones, unemotionally commenting about my presence amongst themselves as I passed by reading their stones.  “Beloved Wife.” “Daddy.”  “Little Angel.”  Act III tells us the departed grieve the ignorance and blindness of the living.  And if we only could, we’d grieve more for ourselves than for our dearly departed no matter the age or circumstance.  The answer to all of our “whys?” and “what fors?” about the meaning of death lies in Act III of Our Town.  Yet I’ve never found the words to utter that answer aloud– but I can feel it in my bones.

Winston and the mighty Zenith

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