Friday, July 11

Polite Society

Once properly enlightened

on unsightly nuclear fall-out

or personal hygiene appeal,

the film strip passively concluded

with the end piece tickitty-clicking

around the projector reel

and all of us

appreciatively applauding.

* Companion to 'Duck and Cover' drills were the highly efficient propaganda film strips all aware young American students were required to view. Regularly. Again, contradicting present-day commentary on Cold War Era follies, none of us were frightened in the least by the pretty, ballooning (though black & white) mushroom cloud expanding on the projection screen pulled down in front of the world map with the giant "U.S.S.R." over the black chalk board. Social Studies and Arithmetic to the wayside ~ it was movie time! Any break in routine was O.K. and we welcomed it.

The hot, stale classroom air thick with prepubescent afternoon recess sweat in the wooden bungalows at Lorne Street School seemed more intolerable than any atom bomb could be. The only thing that disturbed us was the repeated warning never to look at the bright, white flash. Akin to going blind if you looked directly at an eclipse of the sun, these were warnings we took seriously. There was a rumor we had all heard about a kid who looked at the eclipse for just a second - and well, you know.... Besides, we had already seen the film strip about washing your hair and brushing off your clothes from pesky nuclear fall-out dust. We could handle that. Piece of cake.

As for applauding after each educational film, no matter the content, no matter if it was an hour long or 13 minutes - it was just what was done. Even in public movie theaters after the latest James Bond, Henry Fonda or John Wayne epic - everyone stayed in their seats for part of the credits and clapped their hands. Our mothers also made sure we picked up our popcorn boxes, and mine was sure to comment indignantly on the starlet's immodest attire as we dismissed in an orderly fashion.

* Excerpt from 'Station Wagon Wars' ~ growing up in the 60's by cTanner


Cynthia said...

I remember the film projectors and slide shows. good times.

Yaj said...

I remember the under-the-desk drills very well! Yepper, that would have helped!

I also remember coming home from school one day to see my grandmother loading a paper grocery bag* with canned goods to put downstairs. "We might have to go to the basement if there is a war," she said, "and this way we'll have something to eat." Never mind the fact that we lived 3 miles from the White House, um, like, you know, ground zero!! Seeing her do that frightened me.

It was an interesting, naive era...

* For you westerners, this is the eastern word for "sack."