Archive for the 'Reels' Category

When Young Was Young

Saturday, February 16th, 2008
There was a time when coming of age was a short intoxicating ride. Even in an otherwise mundane life, a window of recreational opportunity would open when you’d get your first taste of independence and grownup rights, only to slam shut forever when weighty duties and obligations set you on the treadmill of adulthood. Whether you had to fight a war, take up chores at the factory or farm, or were lucky enough to go to college– there wasn’t a lot of time to make all your youthful indiscretions come true before you had to settle down and work and breed and be responsible, until the end.

That’s how life was, in my parent’s era and before (perhaps your grandparents time). It ain’t like that anymore, unless you happened to grow up in an old world-type community (Amish, Hasidic, crazy home schooling, etc.), the world has changed. Thanks to lots of societal tweaking that’s occurred since of the 1960’s, adolescence often begins much earlier, and sometimes it never ends.

To blame? Well, there’s plenty to go around. The draft is gone. The many choices of birth control and “family planning” made a big difference. It brought more women in the workplace and kept a lot of folks footloose far past their twenties. People wait much longer to get married, and there’s really no big stigma about getting married at all. More people don’t have kids at all, or have them well into middle age. And then there’s the complete fetish of life-long adolescence– through regimens of supplements and hormones or the horrors of botox and plastic surgery.

Which brings us to the rhetorical question of the day– Why is so much youth wasted on old people? Who oughtta have something better to do.

So with this post let us hearken back to simpler times, when coming of age was still an event. When the onset of adulthood was arousing and revelatory. And what made it so spectacular was that it was so fleeting and temporary.

To actually hear these ripening juveniles in their heyday, you have to dig back a few decades. These two offerings were created with separate technologies. Two are homemade discs (or records) featuring a gathering of friends. The others are clandestine telephone recordings captured with a reel to reel deck. I don’t have dates on any of these artifacts, but I’d guess the discs are from the late 40’s or early 50’s. The tapes are probably from the mid-1950’s. At least that’s my guess. And beyond content, what I really appreciate about all of these recordings is the richness of the regional accents. Something else that’s also disappearing in this future we inhabit.

Let’s go there now, into the heart of the jungle…

Jolly Boy’s Necking Party 5:01

The natives are puckered up and restless in this mock radio drama, recorded as a memento of a weekend trip to Panther Lake, and the memorable necking party that ensued. As someone beats out a jungle rhythm on a cardboard box, exaggerated smooching sounds are heard as the narrator hints at the terrors of kissing in the dark. When the drums and lip smacking abates, the group improvises a dark farce based on the scary radio shows of the day.

Looking around online, I see there’s a Panther Lake resort with cabins up in northern New Jersey. I’d say there’s a good chance that this is where these funlovers made these recordings so many years ago.

Panther Lake Farewell  5:54

While the side one was entertaining, side two is a more factual account of the weekend. They all sound youn enough (except for Helen, who sounds like she’s already on a two pack a day habit). It’s Sunday night and I believe the big necking party must have occurred the night before. But at this point the festivities are winding down, and they’re discussing their disparate destinations and where they’ll be tomorrow. Some will go back to work. Another has exams. And one fellah is heading out to Indianapolis for the big race, which would put this soiree right before Memorial Day– the traditional yearly kick-off of vacation season.

This bunch is far from wild. You might say they were rather square. And there’s no mention of drinking (except for some hot cocoa). And having grown up a generation after these folks, the “necking parties” I remember were part of our social scene when we were more like fifteen or sixteen (and we were drinking). I’d guess the kinds on this recording were at least 19 and older. However, it sounds like a swell time was had by all.

The other two archives here are somewhat less innocent. The scamp protagonist of these recordings, Jerry is the proud owner of an early tape recorder as well as a phone pick up he employed to capture telephone conversations. And the first selection is a session of boy-talk between Jerry and his friend Herb. Apparently, they had recently been on a double date when Herb improvised some masterful fiction to impress his date. Jerry was inspired. “Teach me to lie,” he implores Herb.

The Art Of Lying  4:44

If there’s a pop culture cliche for a guy like Jerry, it would be Eddie Haskell from “Leave it to Beaver.” Not that sitcoms are all that lifelike, but I think that the prankster/rebel who has a believable “nice boy” act for the parents is an archetype that has stood the test of time. And in fact, Jerry’s idea for a “bit” here is practically worthy of a sitcom script.

While may have only been an aspiring liar at the time, Jerry reveals through these phone calls that his manipulative skills and sense of mischief were already well developed. After hearing these two recordings I’d have to say that if Jerry didn’t eventually go into a sales profession one day he probably missed his calling.

Betty and New Years Eve  6:17

I don’t know the name of this sweet-voiced young woman, but she’s a mutual friend of Jerry and a woman he’s casually dating– Betty. And he’s called to tell her that he’s come up with a great plan for New Years Eve. Or a lack of one. He’s not going to ask out Betty (or anyone) for New Years Eve. Instead, Jerry is just going to wait to be asked out.

According to Jerry, his brazen behavior is based on his ongoing lucky streak (he’s “scoring on everything” he tries). And for his next miracle, Betty will magically call him for a date (to a party) on New Year’s Eve. I’m sure there’s no need for me to mention that “good girls” would never do such a thing back then. And her friend is quite defensive of Betty on this point, and besides she has other beaus to tend to her dating needs. And after all, Betty is a good girl (unlike Helen…), too good for Jerry’s needs. And what he really wants to find out from Betty’s friend is when and if she might actually be bad enough to satisfy Jerry. She makes no promises, but does hint that Jerry might get lucky if he’s patient.

It’s certainly odd to me to hear a guy lobbying so hard for nookie by pumping a mutual friend for information like this. But in the end he does find out why he’s been stuck on third base with Betty for so long. “She likes you,” her friend admits. “She thinks you’re a nice guy. But she’s not in love with you.”

“Well, she should be by now,” he says in frustration. “Every other one was.” What? A quid pro quo of dating and dining for some hubba hubba "affection"? Yes, times have certainly changed. But guys? Not so much.