Monday, October 26, 2009

Colored Memories

Fess Parker with Ed AmesI can barely remember the opening credits of the Daniel Boone TV show. Boone, played by Fess Parker, is standing in the trees, sees a bear, and readies his long gun. It's a dim memory because what I remember of the series is almost entirely from the color versions. And that first opening was in black-and-white. Why don't I remember the show from its earliest years? Dunno.

Fess Parker with Albert SalmiIf you remember the show you probably also remember the color version, with Ol' Dan stepping through a stream, throwing a tomahawk, and so on. Do you remember the main sidekick from the first season? Ed Ames? No, he wasn't the sidekick in the first season, though he was one of the regular cast members. No the original sidekick in the series was played by Albert Salmi. His character was Yadkin, a trapper.

If you watched the show I bet you remember Israel Boone, the white-haired son, played by Darby Hinton. But Jemimah Boone, played by Angela Cartwright, only lasted through two seasons. I didn't remember that at all. Remembered her, didn't remember her just disappearing from the show.

What's the point?

Memory is a funny thing. Some things make an impact, others don't. I was raised in the Era of Television. Television shows were the entertainment medium that influenced me, even though Movies did, too. But my memories of TV shows are terribly imperfect. Spotty, incomplete, distorted.

Sea HuntFor instance I remember "Sea Hunt," starring Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson. Playing a scuba diver, I remember his exciting adventures, the underwater filming. Great stuff. But did I see the original series or only the syndicated episodes later on?

Here's how Wikipedia describes the show:"The program followed the adventures of scuba diver Mike Nelson, an ex-Navy frogman turned freelance diver, played by Lloyd Bridges. He out maneuvered villains, salvaged everything from a bicycle to a nuclear missile, and rescued a downed Air Force pilot (in his sunken jet, in the pilot episode), children trapped in a flooded cave, and even a dog. One unusual aspect of the series was that at the end of each episode, Bridges made a plea to protect the oceans."

Sea Hunt - Lloyd BridgesIt's been years since I watched an episode, so my memory of Sea Hunt was lot more exciting than the reality. But I finally saw one, broadcast on RTV, and was surprised at how gentle the adventure was. I still love the ominous theme music, and enjoyed the swimming sequences. But somehow the 'adventure' was kind of bland. I'd have been about six-years-old when the series ended in 1961. So maybe I never saw the first run. But then, as a small child, what is bland now might've been exciting then.

Fact is the show was fun to watch - this time, too - and gave me a nice feeling of nostalgia. But it didn’t match my memory.

Unless something really impacts you as a child I don’t think your childhood memories are terribly reliable, if then. Yes, I know some folks who claim to remember things from their baby-hood. Maybe so, but I don’t. Most of the memories I do have from childhood are fragmented. Probably because I simply wasn’t paying attention.

I day-dreamed. And once my folks tricked me into enjoying reading books, well, I was off on dozens of other Universes. So my memories, of things going on during my early life, are faulty at best.

Ruby kills OswaldFor instance, I do remember the assassination of President Kennedy. I remember being sent home from school early. But little else remains in my head. Getting out of school early was far more important to me. What I remember clearly from that short period was the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. I saw that. On television. As it happened. I do remember that very clearly. But my memories of that moment are probably also colored by the years, just as other memories.

Do you remember how important things were to you, in grade school? The friends you made, the things you did and looked forward to doing? Not even a glimmer of importance to you now, are they? Why was it so hard to go to bed, when you were a small child - ignoring the times when you were utterly exhausted and simply fell asleep. Was it because there was so much going on, so much to experience, that you were afraid you’d miss it? When your folks had a party, wasn’t it sheer hell to be sent to bed before the party was over?

Why? You’d miss something. You didn’t know what it was, but you would miss something.

And your memories are colored, too, by that ‘missing something’ feeling, putting far more importance on events and experiences than they would hold later in your life. That’s also why the self-important pontifications of school students are not to be taken very seriously. There’s a distance between what they perceive and what is real. Their own life experiences are still so limited in scope that what they ‘feel’ is so important, so utterly imbued with urgency, makes it difficult to reason with them. Not all of them, but quite a few.

When we grow up, become real adults, our view of the world is tempered by experience, by learning. And we are embarrassed by the things we believed when we were just children. Most of us grow out of that stage of constant umbrage and self-righteousness. Some of us never do. Those colored memories become the ultimate truth rather than a faded, hazy view.

So, I will enjoy the old television programs, realizing that many of them were exciting for a child, but are only, now, amusing to the adult.

Just some thoughts I had. :)


Always On Watch said...

I loved The Daniel Boone TV Show and Sea Hunt when they were on the air! I never missed an episode as far as I know.

I admit that I haven't seen either show in decades now.

With regard to Ed Ames, he was a wonderful actor AND singer. I actually bought a couple of his albums.

Pleasant memories are enhanced over time by the brain, I think. That enhancement also involves forgetting details that didn't fit with the idea of pleasure.

Good post.

camojack said...

What of Mingo? You mentioned the actor who played him, but not the character's name.
(Just sayin')

When I was (much!) younger, I watched a lot of television; we all did.

Nowadays, I only watch (mostly old) movies and my hometown athletic mercenaries...

Jack Steiner said...

I went to school with one of Lloyd Bridges' grandchildren, not that it matters.

You make some good points about memory. Life experiences has a big impact upon how we view things.