growing up country in suburbia
After the war…The Big One…mom, dad and sis lived on Franklin Street just down the street from Mrs. Smith’s Pies and I showed up a few years later in ’52. Dad went to night school at Drexel on the GI Bill while working nights at the incinerator plant by the Delaware River.
He became a mechanical engineer, and when I was maybe three or four we moved to a small town in West Virginia for about a year. He helped design a new addition to the original Fenton Art Glass factory in Williamstown, and when we moved back to Philadelphia my folks took about five years to save up enough money to buy their first home. The tract home was one of five hundred identical others, built on the edge of Pennypack Park. It cost $16,990 in 1961 and came with all the modern conveniences.
Well, not a microwave nor push button phones. They weren’t invented yet. But there was an oven built into the wall and a small basement where the washer and dryer would be hooked up. And they bought a Dumont entertainment system with a stereo phonograph, AM/FM radio and a black and white television for the new recreation room. Whatever that was. With an early addictive personality, I was a television junkie. A husky lad who had to buy his clothes at a special store named Goldstein’s down in the old neighborhood off of Passyunk Avenue, I’d sit in front of the screen for hours, lost in a black and white fantasy, eating Tastykake’s Jelly Krimpets and Chocolate Juniors, and drinking glasses of Frank’s Black Cherry Wishniak. Ah…I’m getting lost here. Forgive me.
What I wanted to talk about was the migratory and cultural shift in America from rural to suburban during the late fifties through the early sixties, and how media helped soften the transition by giving us an endless stream of television shows that brought the old days into the living rooms of the new days. So that would be George Lindsay’s picture up there on top, he of the Andy Griffith Show and Hee Haw, in the character of Goober Pyle. Played an auto mechanic, Gomer’s cousin if you might recall. He just died a few days ago and it made me a bit sad. Lots of folks seem to be dying off these days, as if a plague is descending on the heroes of my youth, taking them out one by one, day after day. But it has also had the effect of jogging this old memory chip of mine.
The Andy Griffith Show was a huge influence on me, and I would love it when Andy would pick up a guitar and sing a song on occasion. I also enjoyed The Real McCoys with Walter Brennan, which was loosely based on the dust bowl and subsequent mass movement to California’s Central Valley, although this family came from West Vir-ginny. There was some music there too, although I can’t place exactly what it was. The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction often showcased Flatt and Scruggs. And Westerns were virtually non-stop: Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, The Virginians, Maverick, Palladin, Wyatt Earp, Kit Carson, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, The Lone Ranger….we strongly held onto the past throughout the sixties, as long as we could.
So this is a long preamble to a short statement: If for nothing else, we are blessed to have You Tube available to us because it offers so much archival footage to visit and play with. As I can do some days, this morning I went looking for one thing, and ended up watching lots of things. Which I thought I’d share here.
I think it offers some explanation of how a kid who grew up in a little box of ticky-tacky that all looked the same could have this country touchstone in his life. It’s why I have a pair of cowboy boots, a hat on the wall and a suede fringe jacket that doesn’t fit me anymore hangin’ in the closet. It’s why I play guitar, have a dobro and pedal steel, a cheap mandolin and handcrafted mountain dulcimer. It’s why I listen to the music I listen to, and why I think the term Americana means a lot more than a new Neil Young album. (BTW….It ain’t me babe.)
And with that…some things I found today on You Tube that I’d like to share:
You might recognize this voice: