Fact or fiction?
Sometimes, it’s hard to determine what’s true and what’s not – especially for the younger set.
I’m a product of a much earlier generation. Born during World War II, I’m too old to be considered part of the “Baby Boomer” generation.
So, where do I fit, exactly? There may be a word or two that describes “my” generation, or there may not be. Let’s say there’s not. Well, I’ll coin one.
Those of my age are all part of the “television” generation.
Television, at least for those of us who grew up in rural parts of Iowa, didn’t come into our lives until the early 1950s. I remember the first television that ever came into the Haglund household. It was in the early 1950s, perhaps 1952. It was a 14-inch black and white Admiral set. I became quite used to seeing those often-blurry, often-dull images.
It was amazing. I remember the “Tail-Gunner Joe” McCarthy hearings on un-American activities, those trumped-up hearings against many in the entertainment industry. The hearings portrayed many of them, incorrectly I might add, as being Communists. I remember the Nuremberg Trials, films of which kept us up to date on Nazis being tried as war criminals.
Television wasn’t all bad news, however. I also remember Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” and “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain” every single day. I’d never heard of Kate Smith before that, but I’ll never forget Kate Smith because of it.
Saturday mornings, though, soon brought the first half-hour programming that kids loved. I don’t imagine I was the only 8-year-old who was glued to the small box to watch favorites like “The Lone Ranger,” “The Cisco Kid,” “Gene Autry” and, of course, the amazing adventures of “Superman.”
What kid has ever forgotten the opening phrase “Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No. It’s Superman” … “who, disguised as mild-mannered newspaper reporter Clark Kent, fights a never-ending battle” and so on?
Well, I wasn’t the only 8-year-old in America who wanted to grow up to be Superman. I could imagine myself flying through the air, my X-ray vision spotting trouble miles away, my keen hearing able to detect a damsel in distress in another county. Saturday morning after Saturday morning I watched Clark Kent duck into a closet and emerge as Superman. I saw him fly out a window, listen to bad guys plan the demise of someone and watch as Superman flew in, landed and saved the day.
What kid wouldn’t want to be Superman?
The more Saturday mornings I watched, the more I envisioned myself as one day growing up to be Superman. In fact, I couldn’t wait. All I needed, I believed was a blue shirt with a big red “S” on the front, some matching blue pants and some red shorts.
I had the perfect source for such a uniform – Mom.
Mom, I imagined, could sew anything. I wasn’t’ far from wrong, either. When I asked her for a Superman uniform, she readily agreed. I watched as she went through her seemingly endless hampers filled with rags of all colors and all sizes, picking out just the right ones. It seemed like a long time, but finally Mom said that I should try it on.
It fit perfectly. I imagined I had the best Superman costume anyone could ever have.
Oh, I loved playing Superman. I’d imagine flying around the house and saving someone. It got so that I thought Superman’s powers had become my own.
We lived in a small house in Duncombe. Outside there was a shed in which gardening tools were kept and another, a shed that stood a little less tall. Inside were two seats, almost round. You can probably figure out what that building was used for.
One day, wearing my Superman outfit, I was playing outside, imagining myself flying around Duncombe, which had become Metropolis, saving all damsels in distress.
Eventually, I found a stepladder lying near the shed. Aha, I thought, “Just what I need.”
I grabbed the stepladder and placed it against the old outhouse. Before I knew it, I had climbed atop that old shed and was standing there, my legs spread, arms on my hips, looking over Metropolis.
Suddenly, I imagined a block away was a damsel in distress. Without a thought, I stepped to the edge of the outhouse, shouted “I’ll save you” and jumped, spreading my arms and cape as I plummeted to the ground below.
Almost as soon as I learned that I couldn’t fly, pain wracked my 8-year-old body. Mom, from the garden nearby, heard my cries as I held my arms, legs, stomach and head. They were all still attached to my astonishment and glee.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. Superman would have to remain a hero to others. It took a week, or so, to get over my fears. Still, I knew I’d never be a super hero, at least one who could fly.
Mom, always ready with her sewing machine, though, was still there and still willing to help.
“Hey, Mom,” I said in my sweetest I-want-something-voice, “Can we make a star out of this and can you sew me a buckskin shirt with tassels on it?”
Of course, she did.
That’s how I became Roy Rogers back in 1953.
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