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February 17, 2018

Growing up in Louisa – Pain Pays!

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

We’ve all heard the comment, ‘no pain, no gain.’ In this week’s article I intend to explore the benefits of being hurt! While the concept seems foreign to most of us, since we go through life trying to avoid pain. I recall what I think is a Yogi-ism, “If it ain’t worth doing, then it ain’t worth doing.” This kind of falls within the thinking that you get ‘what you pay for.’ Granted, most pain comes as a complete surprise to us because we rarely seek that result from our actions. In fact, luck may play a hand in that innocent bystanders sometimes suffer by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, Suzy and I have three young grandkids that are spending most days and evenings with us. The action of this trio reminds me of those days of long ago where I, too, acted in much the same ways. When experiencing a sight bump, or even a tiny scratch, we humans tend to run to mom for sympathy. She will hopefully make it alright. Dutifully, she kisses the tiny wound and makes it better. I suspect this is a commonality with civilizations around the world, but I can only speak about local practices that I experienced when I was growing up, as well as those with our children growing up. Everyone knows instinctively that mom’s kisses, heals. In a worst-case scenario, dad’s kiss will fill in if mom is absent.

 If a little blood happens to be secreted from a wound, it was clearly time to apply a Band-Aid, or a reasonable facsimile. Over time bandages have become a fashion statement of their own, some with cartoon pictures, or Batman logos. Back in the day, we were a lot more limited in those medical resources. I recall that once or twice I had to wear some gauze taped to whichever appendage was hurt. The tape used was strong, so much so that it had to be ripped to be removed. The pain of that was often worse than the original injury. I remember mom ripping up an old sheet or some t-shirt fabric to make bandages, or perhaps a sling for a hurt arm or shoulder. Making do was what life was about in those days.

 A spinoff benefit from getting hurt was that the poor wounded soul would gain the admiration of their friends. When my peers saw that I had braved yet another serious accident of some sort, I was eligible to receive some well-deserved sympathy. What kid doesn’t like loads of attention? I recall being asked what happened. I was glad to relate the gruesome details that had inflicted the underlying damage to my otherwise perfect knee, arm, elbow, or whatever. Sometimes I would even lift the edge of the bandage to expose the horror of the wound. After joining in play, except in the worst of cases, the gauze or bandage would slip off, only to be forgotten by all. Its purpose was served, after all. There was no need to be braggadocios.

Jacob, the youngest of the three grandchildren staying with us, is a shadow around the feet of my poor wife. There’s always a risk that she might trip. He blocks her path while raising both hands and dancing while repeating ‘Hold me.’ Suzy has little choice but to bend down and pick up the child. Once accomplished, she can continue her vacuuming while balancing little Jacob on her hip and trying to use a free hand. Seeing her despair, I try to help by winding up the other two children through teasing or via distractive play. While this might have an undesirable effect, I consider it a ‘cop out,’ to simply turn on cartoons. On the other hand, they do tend to mesmerize the kids and bring a level of quietness. There’s something good about that! With the vacuum running I am forced to turn up the sound so I can hear the dialogue. These sounds make me want to sneak off to some quieter environment, but I confess that I am learning the names of ourfavorite cartoon characters. I think I’ve even formed a bond with one of them.

 I was a young fellow living in Louisa when my best friend, Billy Elkins, broke his leg playing baseball on the Moore’s lawn at Main & Lock Avenue. I think someone told me that that big old house is Bud Adams’ office these days. I saw Billy go down when it happened and I still believe that I heard the bone crack. I went with him to the Louisa General hospital and there in the basement watched the doctor set his leg. I must say that he held up well under the pain. I thought he was brave, but of course I knew nothing of what he was really feeling. I gave him credit for undergoing extreme torture. Now, some people would see a broken leg as something negative, but this was an opportunity to enjoy a much more fame than that caused by a mere scratch. Indeed, this was a major event! While Billy found that his movements were restricted, he had something far better than a patch of gauze. He had a real, honest to goodness, cast!

I remember kids from all over town showed up to wish him well and to sign his cast. Then, even better, they would rush to open doors for him and assist the poor fellow with his wheelchair or crutches. In some ways, for a time, he was king. No one could upstage Billy. At least not while he still had a limp, or a cast, the wheelchair, or other associated gear. I know that I was impressed enough to show up at his house every day that summer. We’d pass baseball while he sat in the wheelchair. I brought him books, magazines, and toy army tanks. We’d always try to make a fun day of it, for sure. I felt it was my job to help him find happiness in his restrictions. I’d like to think I may have made his life a little better. We reminisced about this the last time I visited with him. What fun it is to think back to the fun times, or even the not so much fun times.

For certain, there were lots of ways to get hurt while growing up. We were careful to stay away from any real danger, but when it came to our taking slight risks, we were, after all, boys. We jumped onto a moving train boxcar a few times, ran down some very steep hills, went frog-gigging at night, shot at rats at the town dump, and lots of other fun things. Sports are an obvious way to get hurt, but bike wrecks, or running into trees, buildings, clotheslines, briar patches, or taking a tumble down a hill, were a common way to earn that sticky merit badge. For example, I remember when my bike’s front wheel was caught in a slot at a railroad grade crossing and I went flying over the handle-bars. That fall left me with gravel and cinders buried in the heal of my hands, elbows, and knees. The debris had to be picked out with tweezers and then swabbed with alcohol before bandaging them. Talk about pain…ouch! Other badges of bravery included slings, stiches, and any recent blood showing on patches or clothing. While these were good to have they often came with a cost. Once hurt, though, they paid off by obtaining the desired effects of people’s admiration and sympathy.

There were limits, thank goodness. Because of the warnings from mom, I always had a higher level of caution when I was around highways, train tracks, caves, wells, a rushing stream, or a mean bull discovered in a farmer’s fenced lot. I still remember the movie I saw at the Garden Theater when I was a little kid that portrayed a boy that was gored by a bull. To prove that all movies don’t have happy endings because he died. I cried all the way home. I’m not sure which movie it was, but it was traumatic enough for me. Maybe it was the ‘Song of the South?’ Sure, we all knew that taking certain risks could have potentially serious consequences and put our parents into mourning. It was always a hard thing to figure out how much risk was worth taking, but I tried to be sensible, at least for a rambunctious boy.

Some of us will remember the days when doctors made house-calls. I think I had every childhood disease possible. One or two of the illnesses I had scared everyone, including the doctor. I’m not sure if it was Dr. McNabb, Dr. Sheely, Dr. Joe Carter, or someone else. At the top of the list of maladies, I had the measles, whooping cough, mumps, chicken-pox, the flu, and some illnesses with names that are no longer used. I remember times when I laid there in bed feeling just plain rotten. Even if I knew I had ‘thus and so,’ I had no idea if this one might take my life. Sadly, mom couldn’t kiss those wounds and no one would come around offering sympathy. What a waste!

 It was normal in those days to post a quarantine notice on the front door to alert visitors to go away and try their visit on another day. Strangely, there were parents that would bring their child over with the express purpose to expose them to the nasty germs that had made me sick. If a parent loved their child then why would them put them through the pain? I figured I’d know when I grew up. Guess I was wrong since I still don’t understand.    

I’m sure that it was common practice for kids to sometimes play sick. Usually this happens when an event is scheduled that the child wants to avoid. I remember my cousin George putting a lit match under his thermometer so his mom would think he was sick. I don’t think it worked. I guess he wanted to avoid a test, or maybe some bully, but when the doctor was summoned the jig was up. Also, if you convinced the doctor you were really sick you were at risk of getting some nasty medicine, or getting a shot in the butt. That never felt good and it was sometimes a bit embarrassing, too. Mom gave me Castor Oil all the time and Cod liver oil, too. I must have been one oily kid. Yuk!

As a people, we should be about helping the infirm through their pain and by giving them support even when we can do little to really help. We should not miss an opportunity to bond with our kids, either. Whether by holding, kissing, or reassuring them, or whatever. We can find ways to help them bear the pain. We can share the burden, help with that load, and empathize, for goodness sake. If we can identify the spot of the hurt, you can cover it with a band aid. It shows you care.

 As a young person there is a tendency to milk an injury for all its worth. When helped off the football field, a teen often can’t wait to get back out there and take another hit for the team. In the military, some soldiers can’t wait to be discharged from a field hospital and get back to serving with their units. While injury isn’t a good thing for soldiers, Purple Heart, or not, they learn from their mistakes and become ‘battle-hardened.’ At the same time, some may have seen all they can handle. They will carry those scars to the grave. Sorry, mom and dad can’t kiss away those wounds to make them better. Still, for us old codgers, a cane, or a slowing gait can get doors opened for you and maybe earn you a senior discount. Get enough of the bumps of the world you get a handicap tag. Even then, there’s degrees of pain that can’t be seen, or understood.

As adults, hurt still comes to us in all kinds of ways. It might be the death of someone close, a divorce, a serious health threat, the loss of a job, a business failure, or an accident. Blessed are those who have support during these times. Some continue to carry the pain, often eschewing encouragement or withdrawing from society. I think we have an obligation to reach out and give encouragement when we can. We should give everyone a message of hope and remind them they are loved.

I’ve seen good people carry in dishes of food, dropping by with a dessert, or even taking in crops for a farmer laid-up in bed. That’s a good side of human nature. I wish there was more random acts of kindness. If someone helped you when you needed it, write and tell me. I’d enjoy knowing about your experience. My intent was to show that sometimes there are benefits in getting hurt. With that, I wish for you that all your hurts be kissed away and be made better. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


February 10, 2018

Growing up in Louisa – Be My Valentine!   

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

I recently sat down with my darling wife Suzie to watch another Hallmark movie. This activity is rather normal for us since we try to watch something together each evening. It helps us wind down from the distractions of the day and helps us to relax a little before bedtime. The film we watched on this particular evening was a love story that starred none other but our old friend Cupid, that mythical, iconic arrow-shooting cherub whose duty it is to bestow love on unguarded and unexpecting humans. Around this time of year, he is known to let his arrows fly! Whether the victims are random, or the targets are selected is unclear, but lives are changed once the ‘love bug’ strikes. Based upon the calendar it is altogether appropriate that we tuned in on this presentation. I fear that magical time called Valentine’s Day is upon us.

By-the-way, the husbands out there should try to memorize the date, February 14. It is known to arrive before we can make reasonable preparations to keep our most precious relationships at an even keel. We know from experience that forgetting that day is an unforgiveable sin, almost equal to forgetting your wedding anniversary. Ignoring the special celebrations and gift-giving, can be troublesome at best, or in a worst case, a tragedy for the whole family. Count this as a friendly reminder to take quick action to pick up a card, some flowers, candy, or jewelry on the way home. There, now I have done my duty.

I remember that when I was growing up in Louisa, grade school students were put to work annually making colorful paper Valentines for their moms and fellow classmates. Non-threating scissors that were part of a school-supply kit clattered while the room full of youngsters clipped away creating heart-shapes of paper that would be glued onto another to construct wonderful works of art. While this happened before the practice of sticking them to refrigerator doors, our moms nonetheless found prominent places to display her sweet muffin’s work.

 I expect that today the kids would be more comfortable using Twitter, email, texting, or some other electronic means to ask that special someone ‘to be their Valentine.’ In the old days, we were directed to drop our envelopes into a decorated cardboard box that our teacher had especially prepared for the occasion. This homemade ‘mail-box’ had nothing to do with the US Postal Service, which was a good thing because otherwise it would cost us a cool three-cents each. As for me, I didn’t have that kind of money.

The resultant collection of personally addressed envelopes was saved until that special day. The classroom was full of crepe paper decorations and some of the parents brought in heart-shaped cookies. We had ‘Kool-Aid,’ peanuts, and iced cupcakes while we listened to the teacher read a love story. Finally, the box was opened by the teacher, or a selected helper so the handmade cards could be handed out. Because we were required to make a card for every class member, each of us ended up with a stack of cards to take home. Some kept those artful masterpieces for years after they were taken home and shown to our mommies. The cards may yet exist in scrapbooks (old technology) stowed away in the attics and barns of America. The policy of making a Valentine for everyone addressed the problem of some popular kids getting a slew of cards, while others of us may not have gotten any. I cannot help but think of the trauma and heartbreak that was avoided by the teacher’s wise requirement that neutralized what would have happened otherwise. It was like a cartoon of good ole’ Charley Brown, but then, he was to come along much later. These teachers were ahead of their times.   

At the beginning of February the stores downtown displayed red and white decorations in their windows. They were promoting the season and suggesting that we buy gifts of candy, jewelry, flowers, and for some reason, fancy sleep-wear, for that special Valentine of our choosing. I’m sure I got my share of the candy, but that was because mom didn’t eat hers, or was somehow distracted. I remember the delicious chocolate truffles that were filled with sweet creams and syrups, and maybe a nut or a cherry. I quickly adapted to having unguarded candy around.

I think the point was that this special day was to draw our attention to demonstrating our ‘love’ and devotion through giving. In considering an appropriate gift for mom, I could see that jewelry was sparkly and shiny, but I saw little value otherwise. I guessed it was a ‘girl thing’ because I just didn’t get it, so I didn’t get mom any.

Neither was I into the fancy sleep-wear, since wool long-johns had so long served to keep us warm at night. Heavy wool pajamas were nice to have during February’s cold evenings, but some of those were overkill. Take, for example, those ‘onesies’ that came complete with feet. They were cute, to be sure, but a little hard to get off and on. I mean, long-johns have a trap door for going ‘potty’ during the night, but those zipped-up one-piece suits were an invitation for an accident. Besides, having to disrobe to the point of exposing the whole body to the cold air didn’t make sense to me. For what it’s worth, the fancy things stores were pushing wouldn’t have kept anyone warm! They were pretty, I guess, but these lacy things seemed to come only in pink, red, or black. Granted, these were the colors of Valentine’s Day, so I guess they made sense. Anyone who liked blue or green was out of luck.

I was new in high school when I witnessed some of the upper-classmen falling head-over-heels in love with girls. While I saw little of the mushy stuff, I couldn’t help but notice that the guys mostly moped around like a wet dishrag. For sure, several of the girls were cute, or even pretty, but to want to hang around them all day was a new idea to me. When their special valentine came around the boys seemed to suddenly lose their strength. Clearly they were inclined to weakly condescend to every wish or suggestion from the girl. It made me think that ‘giving in’ to love placed the girls in charge. Why, that wasn’t democratic and was very close to treason. I vowed to avoid that as long as possible.

The successful girls paraded their ‘boyfriend’ with locked arms to let others see they had won one of us over. They displayed pride in having captured themselves what was a virtual ‘man-servant.’ Humph, I thought. Over time I found that I couldn’t discount the fact that a proper high-school romance was enough to melt any heart. All around the campus I saw sets of love-birds walking hand-in-hand with watery stars in their eyes. I just wrote them off as a loss to the enemy. There would be no ‘choose-up’ games for them. Why, they wouldn’t even be interested in trading comic books. They were in love!

Many of these new liaisons seemed natural and almost predictable, but others were complete surprises. I remember looking at one of these couples and wondering what the girl saw in him. Maybe it was a bit of jealously on my part, but frankly, some matches just didn’t seem right. A few of the sweetest, best looking girls seemed to be attracted to boys from the ‘dark-side.’ They’d date the guy that came off as tough and rebellious instead of a kind, thoughtful, handsome gentleman. That left me in a big void, because I wasn’t rebellious, or handsome either. I watched some couples magnetically draw together on field trips, or camps, or at ballgames. It was my belief that neither could be blamed because mother-nature, herself, had thrown them together. Who could resist when Cupid had fired his arrow?

When I was first in high school, I noticed that romances were common with the upperclassmen. These relationships became a kind of a ‘model’ that trickled down so even us younger kids felt its effect. It turned out to be a learning process for all of us on how to deal with the opposite sex. Some efforts were wasted because of our lack of skills. I was so naïve that I didn’t know when someone was flirting. I just figured they were being nice. Also, because of our inexperience, or a possible misunderstanding, or maybe even a new love appearing on the scene, very few relationships lasted through the school year, or even a month. Sometimes it seemed as if couples were more about learning how to ‘break up’ rather than how to get along.

Falling in love in the spring, when love was in the air was to be expected, but it was tough when summer break came along and opportunities for couples to see each other were fewer. While town couples didn’t have a problem, those from opposite ends of the county faced serious issues. Yes, there was telephones and weekends, but sometimes even those were limited with party-lines and chores. Of course, there were relationships that would last a life-time. Those was worth envy, but were an exception. Couples in long-term relationships weren’t really seen as part of the ‘dating crowd.’ Yes, they dated each other, but they were off-limits to others. Everyone knew these partnerships were well-founded and were the model of ‘true love.’

Some popular kids, seemed to be in a contest to see how many partners they might experience within a given time allotment. Often, these were ‘fiery’ and contentious relationships that ended with fights that brought a disturbance across the student-body. I must admit that some were ‘funny’ to watch. As in all things some went too far. A few ‘shot-gun’ weddings happened, but polite society gave them a break and conversation remained quiet. Maybe Cupid had shot too strong an arrow?   

I think it was Doris Day that sang the song that had the lyrics “Everybody, loves a lover…” As a rule, that rang very true then and it remains so today. Whether in high school, or in college, dating someone was an unspoken goal, or dream. Dating took the couple out of one sub-group of peers (eligible) into a different one (taken.) There were a few ‘vamps’ that dismissed current connections and flirted away with whomever was in their sights. Maybe it was the ‘hormones that drove that jeep.’ Undoubtedly, hormones are one of the driving forces of nature. I like to think that romance is a gift from our Creator, but like all gifts, it can be misused, or abused.

Falling in love for many people is a mystery, indeed. One of my now adult sons used to puzzle about things he never saw coming. He’s say, “What happened?” I remember several times when I overheard a question by someone ‘Does he really love me?’ I also remember picking the pedals from a daisy to get the answer. “He loves me, he loves me not…”

Studies have shown that people who are married live longer and have happier lives. Maybe it’s the old ‘two heads are better than one,’ sharing the stresses of life, or maybe it’s simply good to have intellectual and physical companionship. As those needs are satisfied the couple should grow closer over time until they figuratively become one. I know my wife and I finish each other’s sentences and anticipate the other’s needs. We laugh at the times when I ask for another cup of coffee and look up to see her already standing there holding a steamy mug. That isn’t at all the kind of ‘high-school’ love I’ve tried to describe up to this point. It is something far better, but it takes a willingness and effort to obtain it. There is a lot to be said to having a partner with whom we can share both the good and the bad. Giving support, being understanding of the other, and enjoying life’s victories is the key. It all started with the romance instigated by human nature, or maybe with a simple Valentine, or maybe there’s a real Cupid.   

For most of us school is a place of learning. It isn’t just the three R’s we take in, but we learn about each other and how to get along. We learn about physical attraction and we sometimes grow in intellectual understanding. Maybe it starts with putting together valintine cover copyvalintine cover copysome valentines, then grows with a dance, a movie, or a chance meeting. It matures as we learn and appreciate others, and finally it becomes ‘true love’ as bonding happens and we grow to deeply care about the other. It is important to be there for someone, and likewise, to have someone there for you. It’s only then that the legacy you created through love, adds to bless you and future generations. Helping your sweetheart through life and having that favor returned is sweet, indeed, not to mention, fulfilling.   

All this said, I’m not past the place of buying chocolates, or jewelry, or fancy sleepwear, if it will warm my Valentine’s heart. There’s always a place for my love and that companionship that defines what is truly important in life. Now, dear reader, let me wish you a ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ and a life full of blessings and love.

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February 3, 2018

Growing up in Louisa – Scary Mont-ners!   

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

The youngest of my three grandchildren that I get to see nearly every day is young enough that he only speaks a few words. Of course, his pronouncing of syllables is a little off, so my dear Suzie and I struggle to figure out what he is saying. We have ‘hold me,’ ‘I cold’ and ‘feed me’ down pat, but none so well as his favorite pretend mont-ners (monsters). They were apparently introduced to him through television cartoons and/or his older sister, or brother. Like all toddlers, he loves to chase and be chased, all the while shouting ‘Mont-ner.’

It was back in the days of my growing up and attending movies at the Garden Theater, when I was caught up in the same fads that Hollywood produced and promoted across America. Playing on our imagination, we envisioned invaders from outer space, the undead of various kinds erupting from tombs and graves, or a slimy pit of despair. We were haunted by the curses of other generations. Foolish men stirred up trouble while trying to make money with freakish side-shows. As a youth, I personally witnessed a number of side-shows when the carnival came to town. What was commonly called ‘freaks’ back then, were big money to the promoters.

 It is questionable as to which had greater influence on society, but many quickened our heart-beats and made us shrink down low in our seats. No doubt we gobbled boxes of popcorn and spilled our drinks when we first saw the shocking image of a monster. Two types come to mind. The first, and perhaps the more famous of all was the Frankenstein Monster. This fellow was made up of body parts taken by creepy men sent out to help Dr. Frankenstein, a scientist, find the key to creating life. In the movie we are led to become sympathetic to this scary creature. Oh, I thought, if people only understood and gave him a chance, but alas, he was doomed to return to a fiery end. I wept for him and the sorry, if understandable, condition of mankind.    

Then there was Dracula. This blood-sucking ‘undead’ vampire preyed on a beautiful, innocent, aristocratic starlet, who if her blood veins were violated, would be destined to become a vampire herself and a slave for evil. Her father and her apparent boyfriend would fight trying to protect her when she slumbered in her chambers. Count Dracula had a trick up his sleeve. He could manifest himself into a bat and fly through the open window to the very bedside of the sweet maiden. It would take sunrise and a stake driven through his heart to neutralize this monster. We were glad when it finally happened. We felt immediate relief that the vampire was finally dead.

When Howard Carter discovered King Tuts tomb back in 1922, fashion immediately adopted Egyptian motifs and replicated artful discoveries in dress, decorations, and jewelry. Carter’s benefactor, Lord Carnarvon, who financed the dig, became ill and died just after the opening of the tomb. Others of the team quickly began to wither and die off making the public wonder if a curse was falling on those audacious enough to disturb the tomb. This seemed to be bring certain death to all involved.

When the movie was made, we watched the mummy rise from his coffin in all his wrapping, some trailing behind him as he shuffled after the tomb invaders. With one moldy hand to the throat these grave-robbers met their dreadful fate. Maybe grave diggers deserve a curse. After all, we treat sunken ships as a memorial in honor of the men who were entombed. Why wouldn’t we treat all graves the same?   

Another monster movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame was merely a badly deformed human, who was agile enough to climb the parapets and up and over the gargoyles that were high upon the famous Parisian cathedral.  The hunchback’s deformity was too much for man to handle. The crowds recoiled from his appearance, finally unfairly leading to another tragic death. We convinced ourselves that we would do better if given the chance. Then again, maybe it was the nature of man to reject those who were different and it was simply survival of the fittest. I suspect that kind of thinking lowers our relative worth to that of an animal. Like a farmer, mankind culled the unsuitable hunchback from our midst. There lies the cost of non-tolerance for those who are different.      

 During that same era, we watched many others including Werewolves, Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Godzilla, and the Blob. There were creatures from ‘Outer space,’ and those who turned into flies, or perhaps became invisible. Imaginations soared with fake science and the public ate it up. Even today we look up when Roswell, NM is mentioned, or we hear something new about Area 51. We look for the Lock Ness monster, wonder about Sasquatch, and Bigfoot, and in our dreams, we think about a close encounter with UFO’s.   

I remember as a kid when I empathized with the giant gorilla, King Kong, who was captured during an African safari, and brought by ship to New York to be promoted in a side-show. Man’s greed and lack of respect for the captured animal was part of the tale, but the overriding fact was that the great King Kong had fallen in love with a beautiful girl played by Fay Wray. (a last-name prominent in my family) The audience was tossed between screaming and crying. Emotions flowed first out of fear, then with sympathy. The oversized ape broke loose from its chains and terrorized the City, finally climbing the Empire State Building only to be shot down by WWI era fighter planes. Our hearts hurt for the unnecessary death that should have been allowed to live within its own habitat. This proved once again the lack of understanding and character of mankind. Sadly, we went home wondering why crowds of people could not identify and find a peaceful solution. The complexities of mankind somehow allow us to shout for blood and then just as quickly turn back to empathize with the under-trodden.      

The scariest movie that I remember came out late in that era. It was taken from Edgar Allen Poe’s, ‘The Pit & the Pendulum.’ I had mistrust of the character played by Vincent Price, (an actor, art expert, and winner of the $64,000 Question program). He seemed hospitable, but insane, as he hid secrets that would come to haunt us all. A visiting brother-in-law had stopped in to find out why his sister had died in the care of his host. To protect the secret, the hero brother was taken to the dungeon and strapped to a machine having a swinging blade (pendulum) that worked closer to the prone gentleman. It would soon slice the brother-in-law two, if only little by little.

 While this dungeon experience was stressful to the audience, nothing prepared us for the shock when they suddenly flashed a picture of the dead sister’s newly opened coffin. That picture, which is burned into my memory, gave theater goers a terrible fright. There we saw the sure answer to whether the sister had been buried alive. There in front of us, the bloody claws of the corpse with its broken fingernails proved the point. It was clear that she had tried to dig through the coffin’s shredded fabric and lid, to attempt an escape. In bloody horror, her corpse lay there exposed to this young mind. I remember it had its mouth open, as if still crying out for the rescue that would never come. I was in shock, as were those around me in that dark theater. I could barely breathe as I pondered how it must have felt to be buried alive. Wait a minute… I don’t want to think about that.     

This was a time when America clambered for scary pictures. There can be little doubt that they must have been just as much fun for the producers to create. I remember that years later I was a lighting technician on a stage play, Dracula. That was fun. The special effects people back in the day were not restricted except to avoid such things that may have led to outright panic. Today’s film-makers have digital resources that can imitate whatever might be imagined. They can now take things to the point of absolute believability. The space wars, zombies, and high-speed chases appear real and come with surround sound that can pull us into the action, sometimes in 3-D. The market of darkness somehow still exists and tempts us through movies, theme parks, television, and real-looking costumes.

As for me, I’m glad we didn’t have that level of technology back in those pioneering days. Recent reruns of movies that I saw when I was growing up make me shake my head. They appear silly and highly naïve to me. They are poorly acted, and way more comical, than scary. My children and grandchildren laugh at those old movies and lose interest in favor of nearly anything else. Already in their life, they have seen much worse and have a much higher tolerance of violence. With this new level of sophistication, they are much harder to scare than the pubic was back in those early days. With the resources available to film-makers today, I’m sure a remake of some of these would be improved, but I suspect the moral embedded in the original story might be lost. They can draw the screams, but would they also draw the tears?

 Those movies taught us lessons that we have applied throughout our lives. We have hardened our outlook and doubt that there are any real ‘mont-ners.’ We do have atomic wars, terrorism, and endemic illnesses, along with an insensitivity to other people’s suffering. These are the things that threaten us today. Because I have read the last chapter of the Book, I have reason to fear the worst is yet to come. It won’t come from Hollywood and will result in gnashing of teeth and crying buckets of tears. Regardless, I have faith that we can be on the winning side when the final curtain is drawn. Pass the popcorn, please.

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