Friday, January 9, 2015

My very first PUBLIC memory : Little Rock 1957

Why I think toddlers watching TV news is actually good for them 

In September 1957, I had just turned six, my family had just arrived in Victoria BC and my dad was away on a Canadian Navy ship.

Mom had the radio on as always (I think we got TV for the first time, a few months later) but up till then, radio has made absolutely no (none , zippo) impression on me in my early memories.

(My only previous radio memory was about 2 years earlier, when the Halifax CBC radio station had played Guy Mitchell's version of "Singing the Blues" and my dad joined in.

But it was the unusual fact of my dad singing, and singing what my parents usually casually dismissed as 'jazz' , that struck me as so unusual that my 4 year old mind remembered it at all.)

 Mom suddenly - very serious - told me to listen carefully to the onging radio news story about two little boys my age who had switched a rail yard switch and derailed a big train.

Struck by her seriousness, I listened intently, all the while thinking this was not something I'd ever think of doing in a million years, being in fact a very responsible child.

The next news item said something about President Eisenhower, Little Rock and sending in troops and then my memory fades out.

(Now I said I just said that I remembered this news - not that I understood it at all).

Little kids can't read, and then can't read very well : we don't even 'listen and understand' radio very well.

But we understand visual images, mixed with audio and parental explanations, very well indeed - and from an extremely early age.

When my family got TV - albeit a shadowy greyish black and white blobby image much of the time in bad weather, I got an insight to worlds far beyond my home and neighbourhood and beyond my own era.

The local TV stations, in a big area for military personnel , always found that endless WWII movies - English as well as American went down well.

My parents unexpectedly encouraged little old 6 and 7 year old me to stay up late to watch these adult oriented war dramas and willingly discussed the events with me.

I don't remember ever watching the local TV news until more than two years later but me constantly asking or receiving explanations about incidents on screen in these adult movie (and TV docu-dramas) sure made me grew up fast intellectually.

In 2016 election year, its worth remembering that no one left in the workforce will personally remember the Korea War at all, left alone WWII

All this is to suggest that just how much small kids from the WWII years actually personally remember anything about it is very much dependent on these sort of incidents such I have recalled about me and Little Rock.

Most of the British Invasion rockers were tiny kids during WWII and their only war memories, as recounted in many interviews, seems to consist of the one time  a street near by got hit by bombs sometime very late in the war.

I have sure all kids born before 1935 are fully part of The Greatest Generation Ever and personally feel part-ownership of the WWII memories and myths.

But the kids born between 1935 and 1941 - I am less sure - it depends on chance vivid incidents forming secure memories.

And those born after 1941 - they're effectively one of us, the post WWII generations ...

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