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Suddenly feeling my age

August 11, 2011 - Dorothy McKnight
I’m sure I stood with my mouth open. I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing as some of my youthful co-workers looked at me as if I had just arrived from another planet. When I expressed my disbelief, they simply shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders.

Can you believe they’ve never heard of Dale Evans??!! The “Queen of the West” — married to the Roy Rogers, “King of the Cowboys.” (Come to think of it — they don’t know who he is either).

This bigger-than-life pair valiantly pursued bad guys across the silver screen and then sang a victory song at the end in the western adventures that were shown just about every Saturday afternoon at our local theater in New York City. Then years later they were a fixture in the kids’ viewing lineup on Saturday morning television, concluding each program with a rendition of “Happy Trails To You.”

Then a few weeks ago, a retired Daily Press photographer, George Peltier, brought a few old photographs into the Press office and gave them to me to include in the “Remember When?” feature that runs every Tuesday in Lifestyles. One of the pictures was when Duncan Renaldo came to Escanaba in 1956 and made a stop at OSF St. Francis Hospital and posed for a photo with a little patient there.

I couldn’t resist asking around the newsroom again.

Same blank stare. Same negative shake of the head.

But I finally found a kinship when I went back to the sports department and asked Denny Grall if he remembered the name Duncan Renaldo. “Of course,” he said. “The ‘Cisco Kid’ and his faithful sidekick, ‘Poncho.’” (He even included the accent).

I felt vindicated even for just a minute or two.

But after the “are you sure it was safe for you to come back to work” stares I received, I’m afraid to even mention watching “Howdy Doody,” “Mighty Mouse,” and “Bozo the Clown” on television as a child. I’m also reluctant to reminisce about life before television when everyone listened to such radio favorites as “Inner Sanctum,” “You Bet Your Life” with Groucho Marx, “The Shadow,” and “Our Miss Brooks.” Heck, I can still hum their theme songs and pitch their punch lines if I think about it for a while.

I remember when my older kids were teenagers and first saw the movie, “Grease” with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John made in 1978. I can remember them laughing their fool heads off at the hairstyles and clothes that were so much a part of my high school years in the late 1950s in Oklahoma.

“That’s how things were back then!” I told them. “That’s really how kids dressed!” But my efforts to explain were met with even more guffaws and “I can’t believe anyone ever went out in public dressed like that, let alone to school!”

I just shrank back into my recliner and watched the rest of the show in silence.

I look at my high school yearbook and every boy in the school had either a flattop (for the studious kids) or duck-tail haircut (for the “cool” kids). Both were held in place by half-a-bottle of Vitalis hair tonic that greased up the back of every high-back chair they sat on and slathered up their pillowcases every night. The girls generally wore page-boys (curled under) or flips (curled out), bee-hives, ponytails, pixie cuts and spit curls. Most of them were achieved by sleeping on bobby-pins or brush rollers all night long. My scalp still cringes at the mere mention of brush rollers. But even when the desired effect was achieved, there was still the finishing touch of five-minute long sprays of Aqua Net Hair Spray (only because it was the cheapest) that left a filmy cloud in the air long after you moved away from it.

And the clothes — ah yes, the clothes.

When I was in high school in Oklahoma, the only day a girl could wear jeans was on the last day of school. But because it was 90+ degrees by then, a few girls ventured out to school with bermuda shorts that couldn’t be more than two inches above the kneecap (and believe me, they checked). The remainder of the year the girls wore dresses or skirts with either a blouse or a sweater. I remember light-weight cardigan sweaters that we buttoned down the back and added a silk scarf tied cowboy-style on the side of the neck as a fashion statement. Girls either wore nylon stockings held up with garter belts (no such thing as pantyhose back then) or white bobby-socks.

While some of the “cool” boys wore jeans and t-shirts, many of the boys wore dress pants and button-down shirts.

NOBODY wore tennis shoes to school. We wouldn’t have been caught dead in them unless we were in gym class.

But I guess the tide has changed. I’ve subscribed to “People” magazine for my daughter-in-law for a number of years as a Christmas gift. A year or so ago, I was given a three-month trial subscription to see if I wanted it for myself as well. After three months, I came to realize that I didn’t know who 90 percent of the people they were writing about. So why would I want to pay all that money for a subscription? So now who’s out of the loop?

I just wish I could still be around 40 years from now when these “youngsters” in the newsroom are one day my age and they stand there with their mouths open as their youthful coworkers ask, “Who the heck is Justin Bieber?”


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