We learned today of the death of Annette Funicello, one of our generation's favorite stars. She came to our attention through a television program called "The Mickey Mouse Club". The program was a variety show more or less, with skits, singing and dancing, and filmed shorts like "Spin and Marty" aimed at children.
I was one of those children in the 1950's who was captivated by that show. We would turn on our Philco TV, with a screen the size of a dessert plate crossed with a saucer, and patiently wait for it to warm up and display images of the show. I wasn't really knowledgeable about Disney characters back then, as Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker seemed to rule the screen. Still, I was fascinated by images of a world like I could never imagine. It all seemed unreal to a young kid in the 50's! Annette was always the star of the show. It's funny how being so young, I still knew there was something special about her.
Shortly thereafter, Walt Disney had a show called "The Wonderful World of Disney", if memory serves me correctly. I still remember the show where he introduced the country to "Disneyland". It was something beyond what a kid my age could even imagine!
But then, the 1950's were a time when anything seemed possible. Even growing up poor, you had access to things that today would be beyond your reach. We were urged to"See the USA, in your Chevrolet" during commercials, and I often thought of making a trip to this new "Disneyland" place when I got older. Television seemed to provide a window to a whole new existence. The "Can-Do" American spirit pervaded every aspect of our daily lives.
For we had just recently won WWII, sent the Germans and the Japanese packing with good old American might. The back pages of magazines of the era were packed with ads for $5 surplus jeeps, or motorcycles. How I wanted a few of each, yet never managed to get such a huge sum of money!
As I got older, Annette still ruled the screen, but now it was the silver screen. Our country was still the best on earth, and the standard of living was still high. I remember still how much I wanted one of those new-fangled Honda motorbikes, because "You meet the nicest people on a Honda", not to mention prices started at $215, still a princely sum for me. Instead, I spent all my savings, a total of $7.50, on 1/2 of a 1949 Chevrolet 4-door. Pretty much all that was left of the body was metal the rust seemed to overlook. I wasn't going to see the USA in this bomb! Still, when you're 13 years old, I suppose that's right up there with winning the Lotto!
As time passed and we grew older, the tone of the entire country had changed. It was a more somber America, no longer believing in itself as the mightiest nation on earth. We were in the throes of a "police action" in the far-off country of Vietnam, and thousands of our generation were getting sent over to fight. The mood at home was anger, because this war wasn't about keeping the world safe, it was about making profits for the defense contractors. Our shiny future was being tarnished, and Annette was no longer on the silver screen!
The war finally ended, but the country still continued down the wrong path. Our small towns and small businesses were being eradicated by corporations that put profit over people. Inflation destroyed any chance of living with our paltry incomes, and we were urged to "charge it" in order to afford some overpriced "must have" item. Jobs were dwindling, and gas prices skyrocketed. We became a nation of "yes-men" who had lost the independent spirit of our youth.
Fast forward to today, where we find a country that's more divided than we were during the Civil war. We have "hate radio" shows, hateful blogs, and websites. Our news media has been replaced by propaganda sites, that many people here take as gospel. Our savings, and futures have been decimated by good old corporate greed, and the America of our youth is now only relived by viewing photos posted on the Internet.
Just thinking of the name "Annette" brought a smile and a flood of pleasant memories back each time it crossed my mind. Our youth and innocence are now gone forever, and sadly, now so is Annette herself. May she rest in peace.
© 2013 Ornery Arkie Productions