Wednesday, June 15, 2005


The Music Man is a great movie, sure, especially as musicals go, but can one really rank it up there with the likes of the Godfather, Lawrence of Arabia, and Pride and Prejudice? We Stokes folk obviously do, so here's a little behind this bit of peculiarity for the unititiated kith.

Back in the day at the Stokes house, we're talking early eighties or so, Mom took charge of all things TV and tried to remove its influence from her household. The story goes that the parents (or at least Mom) were content with the 13" B&W TV during the 70s, and it was not until Mom was in the hospital delivering Walter in '78 that Dad managed to buy our 19" color TV (Walter would later pull a similar trick to get his nintendo, but he can fill you in on that story). This TV would serve our family for the next 22 years, until I went off to college and they replaced it with another 19" color TV.

As far as TV watching goes, I think at some point the folks had cable, but by the time I was aware of my surroundings, the cable was out and the rabbit ears dictated what would appear on the screen.

The first phase of limiting our viewing, beyond Mom just telling us to turn it off or change the channel, came in the form of little laminated tickets giving us an allowance of an hour or so a day of TV watching. Mine were pink, being the girl, and I think Walter's and Macon's were blue and red (I don't know who had what color). We would insert a ticket into a white box each time we wanted to watch something, and when the tickets ran out, we couldn't watch anymore. So, if we wanted to watch the afternoon installment of Sesame Street as well as the morning showing, but only had tickets enough for one show, we'd have to make a choice and budget our tickets.

Perhaps you're already seeing the snag in this plan. There is one TV, but three kids. So, it could work out that we'd each use our tickets for different shows, but stay in the family room the entire time the TV was on. We could either work together to optimize our viewing, or what was the more likely scenario, we could fight over whose show it actually was and why my ticket shouldn't be spent on it. So you can see that this plan did little to improve the climate of our house.

Because we were obviously incapable of working within the limits of a TV budget, the next step was to remove our watching priveldges entirely. Or almost entirely. The TV was turned off for most of the week; but, we were able to watch the Cosby Show on Thursday night, sports events on the weekend, and movies Dad read about in Leonard (that's another post) and then rented from Romans (see post below). Sometimes we could watch movies that we owned--and here's where The Music Man comes in. We owned it, and for a long time, we owned no other movie except a taped from TV version of the Secret Garden which I often watched with my friends until Mac-Walter taped over it. (I think we also had a video recording of the 1984 Orange Bowl game between Miami and Nebraska.) Back to the Music Man-- I'm not entirely sure how that came to be the one movie we owned, but that was it. And so we watched it often and came to love and learn its catchy songs and witty dialogue; we could anticipate a young Ron Howard's fall from the tree or Richard Preston's fall from grace; we smiled as Marion softens toward the stranger and tried to dance as the little fat man demonstrates the Shapoopie. We marched along, at least in our hearts if not on the living room floor, as the final 76 trombones boomed away. And if we were lucky, the movie would end, some TV show would then come on, and if Mom wasn't in the kitchen, we could steal a few minutes of some forbidden fruit.

No comments: