Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Life without Arnold

When I was a kid in the 1970s, I used to watch Happy Days. In the mid 1970s, programmes such as Happy Days, Get Smart, MASH and Doctor Who were compulsory viewing. Back then on the black and white television that my parents owned, John Pertwee’s Doctor fought plastic figurines with squeaky voices, while the Fonz remained a minor character next to Richie Cunningham. Star Wars was still some way in the future, and a large great white shark was just about to make its starring debut in a film titled appropriately enough as “Jaws."

I was reminded of my 70s childhood with a posting by Tristan of ‘About Town’ about the death of Pat Morita at age 73 over the weekend. While Tristan and people of his age associated Pat with Mr Miyagi of the Karate Kid, I had more vivid and older memories of him as Arnold, owner of the restaurant and youth hangout ‘Arnold’s’ on Happy Days. (By the time that he appeared as Mr Miyagi, I had become a rather cynical teenager in the 1980s and, as a result, the Karate Kid was completely lost on me).

I am quietly saddened by Pat Morita’s death. Coming, as it did, on top of the deaths of a number of other memorable ‘pop’ icons from my childhood; people such as James Doohan, better known as Chief Engineer, Montgomery Scott (Scotty) of the star ship Enterprise, Don Adams or Secret Agent 86 of Control and Bob Denver, first mate Gilligan of the ‘Minnow’. With every one of their deaths, it seems as if a small part of my childhood slips away with its memories of a seemingly happier time when ice blocks were only 5 cents, a 20 cent mixture would last an afternoon and when it only cost 95 cents to go to the pictures.

Of course, it wasn’t all ‘coming up’ roses as I was also reminded yesterday as I was listening to a music review from Jim Page of the Washington Post, in which he named 1974 as the worst year for popular music. He noted the following songs, ‘The Night Chicago Died’, ‘Billy, Don’t be a Hero’ both by Paper Lace (shuttering begins), ‘You’re having my Baby’ by Paul Anka (longer shutter), Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks (violent shuttering) as candidates for songs that needed to be buried in a dark vault and best forgotten. From the vantage point of thirty years later, I can honesty agree with him (when you are 7 or 8, most songs are just fun). Of course, from the same vantage point there are also a number of other songs that I would also willingly send into the darkness of any vault.

However, the 1970s with its bad songs, its purple, orange and brown coloured clothes, its television shows and its actors like Pat Morita and Don Adams is dead. It is gone and they are gone. They exist no more except in television repeats or in photographs or in my memory.

I feel that a little part of me has died as well.


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