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trip down memory's storytelling past

Reading a long lj thread on fandom meta had me wandering all over the mental landscape this afternoon. Made me go back in time (yes, kiddies, back when rocks were new) and remember some of the most memorable, impactful stories from my childhood. A few were television and/or movies, some were from the stage. But actually, the earliest ones, the ones that I remember clearly despite my young age, were stories read to me, or that I read.



I can remember my curling up on my mother's bed in her bedroom as she read to me The Borrowers books, one chapter or so per night. The adventures of the Clock family beneath the floorboards of the English country home shall forever be remembered by me...and I shall always treasure the time spent lost in other worlds, alone with my mom. She also favored The Wind in the Willows, and the adventures of Rat, Mole, Toad and Badger.

Another beautiful, wonderful memory is my second grade teacher reading aloud to my class the book, Charlotte's Web. I'll never forget how we waited with baited breath every day for the time after lunch when she would pull the book out and read the next bit for about fifteen minutes or so. The day Charlotte died, there were thirty teary-eyed (or out-and-out crying) children in that room. All that emotion generated by that story--guaranteed it to always be remembered.

A book that I loved and read over and over again by myself when I was still quite young was Tomas Takes Charge. I never thought about it before, but...it was a book before its time. Published in 1966, it's about two young Hispanic siblings in Manhattan who are left to fend for themselves. They live in an abandoned building, forage for food, because they are afraid they'll be separated if found by the authorities. I don't know what it was that enthralled me about it--my childhood was the polar opposite of theirs--but enthralled I was. Everyone should read it. Find a copy and read it now, no matter your age. (Tomas Takes Charge by Charlene Joy Talbot)

I had my father's entire collection of original Hardy Boys books to read when I was young, and my mother regularly bought me new Nancy Drew books (my favorite was The Mystery of the 99 Steps) so those classics were read early and often.

I bet no other person can recall their seventh grade social studies teacher reading a book aloud to their class. I had the biggest crush on my teacher, Mr. Hughes--he of the long, dark sideburns and the thick, dark glasses, and the kindest brown eyes, and a voice like rich chocolate. Everybody knew it, including him...but I was still young enough that didn't bother me. Ah, youth. In any event, despite our sophisticated age of 12--nearly teenagers!--we waited with baited breath just as eagerly as my second grade class did, for the several times per week Mr. Hughes had set aside reading time, and he would pull out a copy of Johnny Tremain and ensnare us in the world of colonial Boston, and young Johnny's life as a silversmith apprentice and budding revolutionary. I also bet nobody in that class ever forgot the details we learned about that period of our country's history!

There were many more books, but these were some of the ones that stand out brightest in my childhood memories. But in addition to the written word, there were other things that influenced me and left indelible marks upon my childhood. I'm watching one right now--The Sound of Music. It's the earliest thing I can remember, as far as 'stories' go. I spent lots of time at my nanny's house up to age of four, ensconced in her sun parlor, playing the soundtrack record of the Sound of Music stage play, over and over again. I was told I could sing all the songs when I was four, and would sing some with my older sister singing harmony.

When the movie came out in 1965, I was seven, and I'll never forget seeing it with my father at the theater, huge on the screen, all my music come to life. It was one of the things I "imprinted" on, I think. I've always loved musicals (with my father, the original fanboy for movies, musicals, and operettas, indoctrinating me from birth, it was a foregone conclusion.)

A year later, the longest love affair of my life arrived: Star Trek. Who can say at such a youthful age why something grabs them so hard? All I knew was that it thrilled me to death to watch this show each week, to follow the adventures of Kirk and Spock and McCoy, Uhura and Sulu and Scotty, in their flying home, Enterprise. My parents went out to eat every Friday night, and when they'd linger over dinner, or take a detour to do something or other on the way home, I'd be having conniptions, getting gradually louder as the clock edged to 8:00p.m. And if it went past 8:00 and we weren't home yet? EEEEK! It was a wonder I didn't have a heart attack. They may not have gotten me home on time each Friday, but they knew better than to usurp the television for some other show when Star Trek was airing.

Shades of my future VCR and now DVR mania: I set up a recorder (that's a reel-to-reel recorder, kiddies, *not* a cassette) with the mic in front of the television in an attempt to capture the memories to relisten to at later times, thanks to my much older brother and his collection of the latest electronic devices. I might not have been able to watch them, but I could listen to Kirk and Spock over and over again. Technology and fandom from then on would be indelibly linked in my mind.

(Actually, I can also remember taping the Rogers and Hammerstein teleplay version of Cinderella about the same time--I think it was released in 1965, also. That was another musical whose songs I knew by heart.)

I certainly don't have those old reel-to-reels anymore...neither do I have the old black-and-white composition notebooks I used to write mostly Star Trek stories in the whole time I was in elementary school, after it aired in '66. Boy, I wish I did. I have no idea what became of them...guess I just threw them out. *cringe* Oh, well. When James Blish wrote his adaptations of the episodes, and suddenly Star Trek *was officially in the written word*....oh my! And then he wrote an Original Story--Spock Must Die! Double oh my! That was actually more exciting than when I later on found fanzines and the "un"official Star Trek in print. I guess your 'first' is always the most memorable, heh.

So what lead me down memory lane this evening? Lots of things. I was also wondering about the differences in generational experiences. While I had television and movies growing up, they weren't yet the kind of wholly encompassing part of everyday life they were in some respects in my own children's lives, and in those of youth today. There weren't as many shows and movies, and those that we liked tended to loom much larger, in a sense, due to a sparser offering, but also, we *read books* much more than it appears today's youth do. There just wasn't that much on tv; we couldn't turn it on and plug into any number of shows being aired, or pull from our shelves a tape or dvd to watch. If we wanted to go to another world, we had to work at it--we had to play and create with all of our imagination that other reality, or we had to pick up a book and read the words and use them to help draw the pictures and sounds and knowledge of another world, another place.

Recently, sockkpuppett wrote in her journal about the rabid incompetence in our country, and I couldn't have put it any better. The creeping apathy, ignorance and stupidity in our country is so blatant these days, it's not even funny anymore. I wonder how much of our country's native critical thinking skills are fading away as the average tv watcher plugs in and passively lets someone else do his/her thinking for them?

Something active fandom has going for it--it takes a passive medium and turns it into a creative force. It promotes creative writing and related skills, critical thinking and reading skills, dialoging and debate skills, and social skills through a sense of community. In other words, it's pretty damn cool *g*. But I do wonder how the stories of the twentysomethings in fandom differ from those of my generation, the generation of their parents--the stories they remember from their youth. Do they have memorable stories from the world of the written word, or are their memorable stories and worlds all derived from the visual media? And, does their differing experiences make for a different kind of creativity?

My father's generation had for its entertainment books and audio storytelling, radio, and the rise of talkies, movies, just coming into its own. There was still wonder at seeing things created on the big screen. My children have the rise of personal technology: iPODs and personal portable media players allowing them to take any media file they want with them at any time--tv shows or movies. I wonder how that effects them, us, society, and our creativity and our view of storytelling? Did they, when growing up, read a lot of children's books? Or, with the incredible technical ability we have now to create whole worlds and universes on screen via computerization, are they too jaded to enjoy the written word (other than the latest story in their favorite fandom? Ha.)

I'd love to hear everyone's own personal musings on the subject, not to mention any particular books, movies, and/or television that moved and touched you deeply while young and growing up. These are, after all, the things that help inform us and mold us into who we are, and I find that endlessly fascinating.

Comments

( 6 spoke — Speak )
jimpage363
Apr. 8th, 2007 05:34 am (UTC)
I bet no other person can recall their seventh grade social studies teacher reading a book aloud to their class.

Not so! I recall my 6th grade Social Studies teacher, Miss Waight, reading Clive Cussler's "Raise the Titanic" to us. We were spellbound. (She was enormously good humored, had terrible teeth and a heavy Maine accent. I adored her.)

While I don't much care for Cussler now, I do recall that being one of the best experiences of a rather awful year of school - the idea that stories could be important to adults as well as to kids and that they could be shared. This was stacked up against my own English teacher who did not believe that I was reading "The Lord of the Rings" and made us sit in a circle and read paragraphs in turn from the reading book series "Horizons". (While I am not given to destroying books of any kind, it is possible that I would grin to see one of that series alight even now.)
sundara
Apr. 8th, 2007 06:02 am (UTC)
Oh cool! Another very cool teacher using storytelling to teach. Excellent. Although I commiserate about your English teacher. While I never had English teachers who disbelieved my reading level and forced me to read far below it, for the most part, I had rather uninterested English teachers who imparted little enthusiasm for reading, and tended to stick to the traditional lists of books to read, doing little to make them relevant or interesting. The first time I had a decent English teacher was in college as an adult, in World Lit. She was very young, enthusiastic and had a way of bringing even the most arcane thing into the light of understanding. I enjoyed her class immensely.
spuffyduds
Apr. 8th, 2007 06:24 am (UTC)
Pod! Arietty! Spiller's awesome first name!
sundara
Apr. 8th, 2007 07:04 am (UTC)
Yes! Dreadful, isn't it? *g* And Witless, too!
devohoneybee
Apr. 8th, 2007 08:55 am (UTC)
Earliest memories of being read to: My mother, reading the Christopher Robin poems, with she, my sister, and I, acting out the voices. No, no, before that, there was a Golden Book: "Hello. My name is Cleo. I am a dog."

I remember Chicken Little, and a huge, gorgeous book of Russian fairy tales (Baba Yaga's hut on giant chicken legs was truly terrifying), and a book of myths from around the world. I wonder what became of it.

Biographies, Nancy Drew (a musty set I found in the basement, languishing), an aborted, too early attempt at the Black Stallion (there was a wall around an island...).

Then 2001: A Space Odyssey happened, and I was never the same again. I found Clarke's book, then read everything else of his I could get my hands on, which led to Asimov, Heinlein, and eventually the "new wave" of science fiction. Lord of the Rings and Dune weren't until high school, when I read them to keep up with my friends. Dune, all night on a couch, babysitting, finishing it at dawn with a raging headache.

Themes: the myths, aliens, people with powers beyond the human "norms." Journeys of self discovery and initiation. Beautiful language: language itself as magic and power. I could hide myself in books, and live an alternate life there.

Maybe not the healthiest thing at every stage of my life, but it beat going nuts when life was pretty nutty.
sundara
Apr. 8th, 2007 12:42 pm (UTC)
2001! Thought of this last night--I went to see the movie in '68 with my grandmother when it came out. We walked up to the corner movie theater up the street from her apartment. I'd already been transported into space via Star Trek (so to speak) and 2001 just continued the trip. I didn't get to mainstream scifi until I was older--at this age, I was still being the original fangrrl with Star Trek--I was district secretary for the original, national fan club and busy writing my own, now compost, scifi stories.

I didn't go back as far as baby books, but yeah! My mother actually kept them all, I still have the Golden Books we read. Some of them are huge classics and have since been reprinted with the original artwork and look, very dated *g* As for Baba Yaga, yes, one of those terrifying things for a young child! SO many classic stories and myths are/were!

And escapism? Good grief, during the longest, hardest social period of many peoples' lives? (childhood) Kind of a classic response. And, from what I've read over the years, responsible for lots and lots of adult-aged creativity and beautiful stories, books, movies and paintings.
( 6 spoke — Speak )