The more things change, the more they stay the same
by Juanita Hughes
May 21, 2013 11:37 PM | 919 views | 1 1 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juanita Hughes
Juanita Hughes
As bad as television programming is, an occasional commercial makes me glad I happen to be watching.

There are different versions of this particular ad, but the message is the same. It features an older child explaining to some younger children how antiquated and old-fashioned television used to be when she was young, (maybe two years ago), and how good they’ve got it now with all the new technology.

The little kids seem to ignore her. They take it all for granted with little or no appreciation for how far things have advanced to get them to this point.

It’s the age-old story of “the olden days.” The fabled walk to school, three miles through the snow, and the homework done by lamplight or candlelight, seem like fairy tales.

The recent release of yet another movie production of “The Great Gatsby” is a perfect example of the mindset of today’s entertainment industry. You have to wonder why they think it necessary to churn out a fifth adaptation.

In 1949 when I saw the black-and-white version starring Alan Ladd, it never occurred to me that there would ever be another such movie. This version was never released for television viewing, but I had my memories.

I didn’t know then that there had already been one make of the movie in 1926 when the screen was silent and the films were called “moving picture shows.” Folks were amazed at such a miracle, and even more amazed when voices came from the people moving on the screen.

At some point, the general public began to call the shows “movies,” and later, with voices, “talkies.” Then there was color, and then 3-D and wide-screen and IMAX. There was overwhelming sound … explosions and outbursts, and soft sounds … whispers and waves breaking on the beach and tearful sobs. Audiences were spellbound.

Then there was television, black-and-white at first. No longer did we have to go to a theater. We could be entertained in our own home. Hollywood felt threatened. They were afraid that the fickle public would stay home instead of going to theaters. They sent the leading stars on goodwill tours all over the country to meet fans face-to-face. That’s how I met Rory Calhoun. He need not have worried. I would have paid dearly to see him on the big screen instead of staying home to watch Lassie free of charge.

By 1974, when Robert Redford and Mia Farrow starred in a new production of Gatsby, it was easy to see that Americans could handle two forms of “moving picture” entertainment. Most families had at least one, and perhaps two or three, television sets.

And most families still went to the movies. Gatsby was in color this time, as was television. Hollywood must have decided that Nick and Daisy were too colorful to be bound by black-and-white. In 2000 there was yet another re-make, this one for television only.

And now we’re back to square one. After all, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald’s classic tale needs to be shown to a new generation. I may have to re-read the book with the college grandkids and see the new movie as well, probably with the young folks.

I’ll try to refrain from telling them about the olden days, how debonair Alan Ladd was, how we hung on every word, how clear those black-and-white images were. In case my front-row-memory-seat is fading, perhaps I should rent that one so they can see for themselves. But I’m afraid they would be like the little kids in the commercial, preferring just to sit and enjoy without being told how lucky they are with all these fancy new gadgets.

My, how some things stay the same.

And on another note, how some things change.

I’m on a crusade. During the last few years we seem to be losing something important. My generation was encouraged to be patriotic. We learned the Pledge of Allegiance, how to stand and salute and hold our hands over our hearts. We learned to recognize and sing the National Anthem, the words and the melody. Then something happened.

When “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played and sung, people just sat and talked, kids played. They didn’t seem to want to hear anything good that represented America. We have the freedom to be unhappy with government, but there is NO excuse for failing to respect what our country stands for, especially on Memorial Day when we honor those who have died in service.

Wherever you are … ball game, church, memorial service, school event … think twice before you refuse to stand. Celebrate the day with pride.

Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.
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Linda Hamby Pope
May 26, 2013
Juanita, you are so right, I get very frustrated when I see a ball game or race and they sing the anthem. The players and racers are standing with their hands over their hearts and some are even singing along, Then they show the audience. Most are standing, but talking among themselves and kids are playing, I pray I am setting an example for my grandkids. Thank you for an excellent article.
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