2ND GRADE, 1979-1980

I posted this awesome class picture on my Facebook page for ‘throwback Thursday’ last week.

THE CIRCLED ONE IS ME
THE CIRCLED ONE IS ME

Isn’t it awesome?  I thought it was.  I don’t really remember that much about 2nd grade, but here are a few things.

1.  I remember that I had a “Six Million Dollar Man” coloring book.  I couldn’t color at all.  I never have had any kind of fine arts abilities, but I really, really liked the Bionic Man and the Bionic Woman.  Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers rule!

2.  I remember the teeter-totters.  I was so fat that it took two kids on the other end to balance me out.  Sometimes three.

3.  I remember that second grade was the first time I was aware of the sting of injustice.  It was a typical hot, dusty, summer day.  We’d played outside, hard.  All of us were thirsty and sweaty.  There was one drinking fountain, for which we all stood in line to get a drink.  I was near the back of the line, as were most of the boys.  The line was about half way through getting a drink, and some boy did something that made our teacher mad.  He probably said a dirty word or cut in line or something.  Whatever it was, it caused the teacher to declare, “That’s it, drinking time is over. Everyone back in the room.”  So, some kids got a drink, some of us (ME!) didn’t, and it was all because of the actions of one person.  Injustice bites.

4.  I remember being afraid of the girls.  I still am.

5.  It was in second grade that I saw the movie Jaws for the first time.  This was a time before movies on demand, cable, and DVDs.  It was even before VHS.  I was too young for the theatrical version, but that year they showed it on network television, as one of those “Movie of the Week” things.  Some of you might remember those.  I was dumbfounded.  I had seen Star Wars, of course, but I had never seen a live action movie like that before.  The effect on me was profound.  Every day I sat at my little wooden desk and drew pictures.  I must have gone through a whole ream of notebook paper that year depicting various scenes of the gigantic shark eating away at the boat, swimming, eating swimmers, exploding, and just about every action scene in the movie.  I even made a few up of my own.

THIS IS ALMOST EXACTLY LIKE MY 2ND GRADE DESK
THIS IS ALMOST EXACTLY LIKE MY 2ND GRADE DESK

6.  I remember I had a green and white shirt, mesh type (very popular back then) material, that had the word “Kawasaki” in white script.  It was a hand-me-down from a friend of my mother’s who had boys a little older than me.  Some older boys, boys from the unattainable world of fourth and fifth grade, asked me if I liked Kawasakis.  I said yes.  They asked me what kind I had.  Busted!  Not only did I not have a Kawasaki, I didn’t even know what a Kawasaki was.  I remember feeling like it was something that I should have know about, but didn’t.  I remember their mocking.  It is, I think, the first time I ever felt inadequate and inferior.  It was not the last.

desk image from allaboutprops.com  

FINDING 1978

I’ve written two monster stories, Deep Cove and Deep Cove: The Party Crasher set in August of 1978. (SELFISH NOTE: YOU CAN BUY THESE RIGHT NOW BY CLICKING ON THE LINKS ON THE SIDEBAR)  My intention is to elongate this series out with a collection of stories to include an origins account of where the monster came from, other incidents, the hunt to destroy the monster and eventually a dramatic climax.  If all goes according to plan, when I am finished with the series, I will have enough to make a “collection” of Deep Cove monster stories for a printed book.

There are two challenges for me in this particular story arc.  One challenge is that unlike just about everything else I’ve written, the Deep Cove stories are not theological or designed as social commentary.  Its just a monster story.  If anything, it is more nostalgia as I have set the story in the backdrop of my childhood in rural Texas.

The second challenge, though is the time period I put the story.  In August of 1978 I was only 6 years old and was looking forward to first grade, having survived the trauma of kindergarten’s nap time and lice checks.

So how do I write about a period of time I only barely remember?  There were four things I worked at.

1.  Music.  Music helps conjure a feeling about a time period that convinces an audience of authenticity.  If am reading about the roaring 20’s I expect to have some mention of swing.  If I am watching a movie about the 1950’s, at some point I need to hear some classic teeny bop.  In both my stories I use music to set the mood.  The fishermen listens to country music on the AM dial while the teenagers listen to Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac on the 8 track.

2.  Fashion.  What people wear is vital to creating imagery.  What I worry most about fashion issues is that I might put something anachronistic into the text.  When exactly did girls start wearing Daisy Dukes?  I let a friend of mine read the most recent story and he said all it was missing was “a mood ring and a halter top.”  Well, I didn’t put the mood ring in, but I did rewrite the wardrobe of one of the girls to make her wear a halter top.

3.  Food.  People eat different things in different time periods, especially name brand items.  In the first story I used the different labels on the beer cans to set the time.  One of the fishermen drank Schlitz.  Schlitz doesn’t exist (that I know of?) anymore but people who were alive in the ’70’s will no doubt remember its familiar red and white label.  The other story doesn’t have food or drink, but the people are smoking marijuana.  Even at the age of 6, I remember marijuana.  I also remember those LSD tattoos we were supposed to be afraid of.  Anyone else remember those?  That just might find its way into the next story.

4.  Vehicles.  I learned this from reading James Bond novels.  What people drive not only dates the piece, it is also very interesting to male readers.  There is something about shifting gears, revving engines and squealing tires that make men keep reading long after the chase is over.  Of the four I’ve mentioned, vehicles are the easiest because they are so easily dated by year, make and model.  One sidebar to vehicles in 1978 I haven’t mentioned yet is the CB radio.  You know that is coming at some point.  It is an imperative–breaker one nine.

There are other ways to capture the spirit of an age such as catch phrases (swell=1950, dude=1986) or politics (do they like Ike or are they being drafted to Vietnam) or pastimes (roller derby or skateboarding).  Of course, a huge aspect of dating a piece is technology.  Don’t put a cell phone in the middle of 1992 unless your character is Onassis wealthy.  Of course, for 2013 that would be Buffet wealthy.