Saturday, April 9, 2011

Part 4 - The End of the '60's, the Beginning of the '70's and Sharing a Room with My Brother

As the decade began to end, my brother, Scott, and I began to notice a shift: our favorite television shows were disappearing from the airways.  STAR TREK, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (which he had given up on a season ago), LOST IN SPACE, BATMAN, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. were no longer around to transport us from Terrytown, Louisiana to destinations of the imagination.

True, TWILIGHT ZONE was still being rerun, and there were a couple of new shows such as LAND OF THE GIANTS and THE PRISONER to ease the pain.  The former became a bit trying for us, even as kids, but the latter affected us and the giant, white "Rover" that would mug actor Patrick McGoohan weekly was the stuff of nightmares!

And speaking of British-imported-genre, a few of producer, Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation programs (or programmes as they say across the pond) did come to our little Hamlet: SUPERCAR, FIREBALL XL-5, and STINGRAY.  His most celebrated THUNDERBIRDS, however, did not make it, and I didn't hear or see much about this show until college, but that would be years away.

On the big screen, we awed to BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES and the appearance of the mutants in the "forbidden zone". In addition, although we were well aware of his incredible screen presence already, Vincent Price became a huge favorite to us as THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES!

The house I grew up in was a two-story brick construction with faux shelters on the windows, a living room, den, kitchen, 2 1/4 bathrooms and four bedrooms upstairs.  The master bedroom was for my parents, one bedroom went to my sister, and one bedroom was referred to as "The Study".

The Study was where my parents kept their books, my father banged out his reviews and articles on his old manual Underwood typewriter, and most importantly, where my mother slept on a little bed.  When questioned, she explained that Dad snored and kept her awake and because we could all hear it echoing through the second floor at night, nobody questioned it.

The last bedroom was a sanctuary occupied by my brother and I.  We each had a twin bed pushed against opposing walls.  In the middle, a small stereo sat, a prisoner to my brother's tastes.  Not that I cared, because I was never into popular music and since he primarily played The Beatles, I didn't complain.  More often than not, he would put on big earphones and lie in bed and read a book while on my side of the room, I would be creating tons of garbage and disarray with my creative exploits.

In a corner were two identical desks (that for some reason, Dad had put a brick patterned contact paper on the tops!).  Mine was in the corner; my brother's desk was next to it under the window.  Mine became a catch all since sitting in the upright wicker-seated, high-backed chair was uncomfortable.  My brother's was also a catch all, but he attempted to at least stack his crap in orderly piles.  Above the desks, my father had mounted a series of shelves on the wall with brackets.

Aurora model kits of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon as well as The Hulk (complete with that weird, flat impact plate on the base!?) all collected dust.  Above that were vehicles: The Moonbus and the Aries 1B from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, The Flying Sub and the Seaview from VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, the Flying Saucer from THE INVADERS, and the Spindrift from LAND OF THE GIANTS would teeter on their flimsy stands.  Occasionally, one would take a dive and shatter on the ground in a cascade of styrene and tears only to be replaced at a birthday or Christmas.

On the wall above my brother's bed, were Beatles Posters and later, a very Hippie-inspired JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR poster (where the hell had THAT come from?).  Between them, carefully removed from their parent magazines, MAD MAGAZINE mini-posters accented my brother's territory with humorous sarcasm.

My walls, however, were guarded my MONSTERS!  Giant black and white posters of KING KONG and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS majestically protected my corner -
This, exactly, is what was above my headboard in my room.
Beneath the posters, my bed became a landscape for my beloved plastic dinosaurs!  I would push the upper blankets and spread back and would poke caves and pull summits out of the fabric.  This would be the land masses where the dinosaurs roamed.  The remaining fitted sheet was the ocean where my few (but important) Plesiosaurs swam and my herds of Brontosauruses waded in the shallows.  I would spend hours transporting myself into this pre-historic fantasy world while muffled tinny music wafted from across the room.

When the sun set, dinner time drama (or trauma) was over, and we were done "ratting the neighborhood" as my parents called it, we would park in front of the television, especially in December of 1970 when a new show began airing: ROD SERLINGS: NIGHT GALLERY.

I find myself pausing here.  All I can say is that few television shows had given me nightmares prior to this show.  Perhaps it was the fact that it was in color, or it was the quality of the creepy stories, or it was the incredible paintings that introduced the stories.  Whatever it was, my father would curse when I woke up in the middle of the night blubbering hysterics that there was a killer doll in the house or an earwig burrowing into my brain.  However, it never prevented us from tuning in the following week for another dose of the macabre.

It must have been around December of 1971 when Santa Claus brought me my first "big boy" bicycle.  It had a purple frame, a matching glittered purple banana seat and what was referred to in those days as a "sissy bar" in the back.  Yes, I'm aware of how that sounds, but in 1971, believe me, that was a cool ride.  Suddenly, I had "freedom" and could ride around the neighborhood with ease.  The summer of '72, I recall that I would ride about a mile to and from my house to the corner store to buy FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine using my preciously saved allowance.

More than once, I'd come home to my irritated father would would ask why I had wasted my money on garbage, taking the magazine out of my hand. Ten minutes later, I would see him lying on the sofa in the living room (taboo territory for kids) reading my magazine and an hour later he would hand it back to me saying something like, "Hey, so they're making a sequel to Dr. Phibes.  We'll have to go see that when it opens."


  1. God help me, I swear I remember that contact paper on the desks...

    I also remember a framed quotation on the wall in your downstairs (very small) bathroom which read (as closely as I can remember): A wise man once said "Movies should be more like real life." A wiser man said "No. Life should be more like the movies."

    Looking forward to the next installment...

  2. Spank, I owned the SAME bike! Did we ever discuss this?

  3. The early 1970s was truly a "Dry Spell" for imaginative film and TV fare. But in that time of extreme scarcity, the few gems really stood out and were much cherished...