Media Moment Memories, or How I Learned to Dance and Other Stuff

Exploring the media preferences and key media moments of one’s youth can be a powerful tool for reflecting on identity formation and development as well as on adult patterns of behavior. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs salivating to the sound of a bell, wherever I was in my childhood home at 4:30pm, when I heard this theme music I rushed to the living room to grab a good spot in front of the television for The Early Show – a feature film showcase that aired every weeknight on one of the three channels on our TV in the 1950s and 60s. It was the best impetus for me to finish my homework before that time, a requirement in my family before being allowed to watch TV.

I can’t say that I remember any of the specific movies that aired on that show having any great impact on me, but the overall experience of lounging in the living room watching a movie I could get lost in, surrounded by the smells of the dinner my mother was cooking and the percussive backing track of her activities in the kitchen, while we all waited for my father to return home from work, provided a deep feeling of security and comfort. I still retain a love of movies and the feeling of comfort that accompanies watching them in my home, alone or with others, when the work day or work week ends.

During that time, I also learned to set a table or make a salad in the amount of time of a commercial break, valuable skills I retain to this day. Luckily for me, as I grew older and salads grew more complicated, commercial breaks grew longer, and videos, DVDs, and remote controls with pause buttons were invented.

Being one of four, and later five children in the family, however, in a home with only one television, meant that there were the inevitable disputes about what to watch. There were days when I had to relinquish control to my older brother or sister’s choice for afternoon viewing, usually The Mickey Mouse Club and later American Bandstand which was produced in nearby Philadelphia. Both shows also had an impact on the development of a sense of my once and future self. Seeing girls a bit older than me having roles as Mouseketeers, and also acting in adventure series aired on the show, like Corky and White Shadow and Spin and Marty, added to my own adventurous tomboy spirit and interest in acting. Found this online description of Corky laughably familiar :

Freckle faced, buck toothed Darlene Gillespie, whose rampant enthusiasm masked an envy for Annette Funicello, Uncle Walt’s personal favorite, hams it up throughout this series…If Annette was the girl every preteen boy wanted to kiss in the backseat of an Impala, then Darlene was the one you wanted helping overhaul the Chevy’s 283.(

Seeing local teens, including a neighbor of mine, appear on American Bandstand, and dance and talk on camera, made being on TV seem like something within reach, and instilled a lifetime love of dancing. Sadly, by the time I was old enough to skip school myself to go stand in line to get into the show, Bandstand had moved to Los Angeles, but I can still recognize a good song with a danceable beat when I hear one.

For a story about a feature film that did have an amazing impact on me when I was young, see my Flipgrid video about seeing The Red Shoes in a theater for the first time. I am still exploring just how deeply the repercussions from that experience, and other key media moments from my childhood, have affected my life to this day.


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