Thursday, 23 August 2012
By Mickey Rogers of This, That and the Other
Last evening the double-barreled truth hit me - I’m officially old and in at least one way, I’ve become like my father.
Bev and I watched an old Fred Astaire - Ginger Rogers movie with her dad. After the film was finished we returned to his room at the assisted living complex. Innocently enough, he turned on the TV set and began watching one of his favorite programs.
When I was a kid, like most families in our neighborhood, we were the proud owners of one TV set. When the boss (Dad) was at work, occasionally I had the chance to view something that he would never watch.
For example, Dad worked on Saturdays so sometimes I’d watch college football and basketball games. When the boss got home, however, he was in complete charge of everything, including the “boob tube.”
At that point, we kids could either watch whatever Dad had on or we could find something else to do. Luckily for me, most of Dad’s favorites were my favorites, too. Just about every night he and I would watch westerns, comedies and variety shows.
But with me being a teenager at that long ago time, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that a few of Dad’s shows simply nauseated me. Every Saturday night he watched a cornpone country western program that made me yearn to escape to the basement, the woods or even Siberia.
Growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I was weaned on rock and roll. It was perfectly clear to me that no other music could ever reach the perfection of “my” listening favorites. Naturally, being an “old” guy, Dad hated Elvis Presley and a few years later, he developed an even bigger hatred for The Beatles. To be on the safe side, I hid my rock and roll records in my underwear drawer.
The worst program from a then-kid’s point of view was The Lawrence Welk Show. Sophisticated fourteen year olds listened to inspirational music like that offered by the Rolling Stones, not to the out-of-date stuff offered by some old guy who spoke with an accent (wunnerful, wunnerful!) and occasionally danced with elderly, blue-haired ladies. Of course, those “old” ladies don’t seem so old anymore.
We young folks had a term for Welk’s music; it was “square.” Scratching one’s fingernails down a chalkboard sounded better than Myron on the accordion or Ms. Castle on the piano. Admitting that one watched the Welk show was akin to admitting that he was not “hip.”
A friend and I used to make fun of Lawrence and his show: “This is Lawrence Welcome. Our show tonight is wunnerful, wunnerful! Tonight I’m a gonna’ dance ah with the ah old ah ladies in the ah audience. Then the Lemon sisters will do a medley of a 1820 big ah hit ah songs. A one and a two ah.”
Bev said that neither of her parents regularly watched Lawrence‘s program but they were exposed to it whenever they visited Grandma on a Saturday night. Although Bev and I didn’t know each other at the time, we had a similar evaluation of the show.
For a kid, watching the program was pure torture. More than once I wondered how any sane person, even an old one, could stoop so low in seeking entertainment.
Surprisingly, there were many people who did like the show. Welk’s program ran on a Los Angeles station from 1951 until 1955. Then it had a long run (too long, as far as I was concerned) on ABC from 1955 until 1971. Still not through, the show continued in syndication until 1982.
This longevity surprised me. I thought that once the original old fans died off, the show would simply fade into the sunset but like a certain watch, the show just keeps on ticking.
Let’s go back to last evening. My father-in-law turned on a 1964 recording of The Lawrence Welk Show. To my utter surprise, I no longer had an urge to jump out the nearest window or to stick tissue paper into my ears. As Myron and Ms. Castle played, and while the Lennon sisters sang, I merely sat back and enjoyed myself!
No doubt somewhere in this universe my father was watching this great transformation and I bet he had a huge grin on his face. Just like he had done so many years ago, I was watching and enjoying an old person’s show! Say it isn’t so!
Why are Welk’s reruns shown today? Because there is a new set of fans out there. Let’s call them the “new old.” Mother nature keeps producing an audience for the show.
No doubt Lawrence, wherever he is, is thinking that this is just “wunnerful, wunnerful” but it scares me half to death. I’ve morphed into a Lawrence Welk fan. My old hero Elvis must be rolling in his grave! What’s next, foxtrot lessons?
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