Life, death, and music videos in 1969
Yesterday morning, I checked in with one of my favorite In & Out sites:
If you spend much time there, you'll not only understand why I think this place is so neat but, likely, you'll also become hooked on it.
Anyway, I noticed that
had posted the question:
What did people see music videos on before MTV?}
and had been given the answer by
they were on a few other regular channels,until "Video Killed the Radio Star"scared them all away
Now, when participating in this In & Out, not all of your answers have to be true. Some can simply be silly. However, I think that this answer was meant to be a true one--and it probably is, to a degree.
Even so, I can even go back farther than that, so Sail Away (or Fly Away, if you prefer) with me back to the year 1969. . .
"For the last time on this station, may I have your attention, please?"
That was the voice of our principal, Mr. Charlie Mock beginning his final morning announcement over the Markleville High School public address system.
When summer vacation ended, we would all be at our brand-new high school (Pendleton Heights High School) where he would become the assistant principal, and the high school portion of MHS would become a middle-school (grades 6-8).
The final graduating class had gone through their ceremony a couple of evenings before, with all of the girls in the class forming a choir that had done a haunting a cappella rendition of The Halls Of Ivy in a gym that had become so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Our experience of leaving one high school and going to another didn't give us the uprooted feeling of those kids who get bused so often that they often don't get the chance to form a bonding identity with a certain school, fellow classmates, teachers, and staff.
Except for a handful who were moving to different schools to teach, dropping out to have babies, retiring, or staying behind to be part of the middle-school, our faculty and staff were going with us, as were all of our classmates.
We would be surrounded by the same familiar faces--plus, would be making new friends from among the Pendleton High School students who would be sharing in our consolidation. They, too, would be bringing their faculty and staff with them into the new building.
We had been watching the high school being built and were looking forward to the state-of-the-art education it would afford us.
One thing I was personally excited about was the news that I'd just heard the day before from my English teacher, Miss Lois Simmermon: A wonderful chalk portrait of Miss Havisham (from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens) would be framed and hanging somewhere in the school.
This lovely work of art had been produced by a talented, young man named Michael Steven Clem (better known as Mike Clem) who had just turned 16 that past March 23.
Mike was in my art class, and we sat at the same table.
I thought he was a really cool guy: very talented, deep-thinking, and a lot of fun.
Although I knew that--if we were to get married--we'd probably be filing for divorce within five minutes after the minister pronounced us husband and wife, I still had dreams of possibly going to a few school dances with the guy and hanging out, because he was so special.
And somewhat of a rebel, like myself--not in the sense of going out and committing all kinds of sins (We were both quite conventional when it came to old-fashioned morals re: sex, drugs, etc.), but in the sense of knowing that we danced to the beat of different drummers and, like Robert Frost, often chose the roads less traveled by.
Although I was only 3 1/2 months older than Mike, he was a grade behind me, because his mother thought it would do him good to repeat a grade--and she was right, because, although highly intelligent, Mike had a different way of learning.
This meant that I couldn't have him as a date for my Junior Prom but, possibly, for my Senior Prom, if I didn't have anyone else I'd rather go with.
But that was okay. I didn't even know if Mike would want to go out with me.
Anyway, if he did, there were plenty of other school dances and functions to attend, as well as simply hanging out with each other at each others' homes and other places.
I, myself, had only begun to think along those lines after many months of sitting with him and his pals at the same art table. He might still just see me as "one of the boys."
In fact, I was pretty sure that he wasn't the least bit romantically-interested in me. I was under the impression that he liked a girl who lived close to his relatives in the Shelbyville area where he loved to go and spend time.
On the last two days of school, we only went half-days, completing some of our classes one day and the rest of them the next.
My English and art classes met on the same day--the second to the last.
When I heard the news about Mike's picture while in English class, I couldn't wait to get to art class to congratulate him.
He tried to act as if it were no big deal, but he couldn't help grinning from ear to ear.
There were no art projects to do the last day of art class, so we just had a party where we ate a lot of junk food and listened to 45s we'd brought in for the occasion.
Mike and I exchanged addresses so I could send him post cards, and he put his phone number down, too--which, he explained with a sheepish grin, was the way his address looked in the phone directory (why he'd put his phone number down).
He had asked me several days before if I still had my above-the-ground swimming pool, and I told him that it had blown apart during a windstorm had had "eaten" Daddy (another story in itself), but that there were other places to swim, such as Ryan's Lake.
Swimming was a favorite summer activity for both of us.
Since Mike had included his phone number, I had plans to call him and see if he wanted to go swimming.
We enjoyed the party, smiling at each other the whole time while we pigged out and listened to the latest hits and favorite oldies playing in the background.
It was a wonderful time--one that I'll always remember and cherish!
We left two days later on May 30th to visit Uncle Kermit, who was then teaching at University Of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky while working on his PhD at I.U. during the summer months.
I remember riding past Memorial Park Cemetery and noticing how beautiful it appeared with all of its drives lines with American Flags in celebration of Memorial Day Weekend.
That evening, we all went out to eat and then watched The Lion In Winter where it didn't take me long to come to the conclusion that Nigel Terry (who played Prince John) had to be one of the most adorable movie stars I'd ever laid eyes on.
My folks and Uncle Kermit thought he looked pretty stupid and ugly and didn't see what I saw. Of course, he was playing someone who was stupid and ugly. But he was so ugly he was cute.
I would find out later (when I saw him in other roles) that there was nothing ugly about him--in fact, he was pretty dashing.
But, even playing ugly and stupid, he was a meltaway studmuffin!
The next day, we had a big day of going to visit a deserted horse-racing track and a horse monument before deciding to go to a mall and get something to eat.
I finished my cafeteria-style meal, and my folks and Uncle Kermit still wanted to sit around and drink coffee, then visit other parts of the mall--enough time for me to see a movie I thought sounded interesting when I noticed that it was playing in one of the cinemas: If This Is Tuesday, Then This Must Be Belgium (or something like that).
It was so funny and romantic (about a bus tour through Europe where one of the tourists and guide end up having a whirlwind romance, and a lot of goofy situations happened to most of the others taking the tour) that I knew I wanted to see it again, if I could drag Mike along.
A few hours later, we left for home.
As we neared home, I began to get this feeling that there was something terribly wrong. It wasn't based on anything--just a gut-feeling.
I just told myself that I was imagining this and began to remind myself that my cousin, Carolyn, and her husband, Larry, would soon be visiting with their new baby (Eva Marie, who had just turned eleven days old that day)--and, of course, I would be spending time with Mike!
Not long after that Daddy turned on the radio to hear the news on WIBC 1070 AM.
It was getting close to midnight.
The theme song for the news came on, and the reporter began to talk about how a bunch of tornadoes had hit somewhere in the state--then, came the news of a drowning in the Flat Rock River near Shelbyville that afternoon. The victim was Mike!
I went to pieces--but hoped that I'd heard it wrong.
His picture in the paper the next morning showed me that I hadn't!
Life went on.
We went to church, after which we went to visit Aunt Kate, Uncle Don, and Denise.
Denise (who would be turning seven that July) was out on the sidewalk playing with her shirt-tail cousin and best friend, Sally Jo.
They had a little, red wagon and were glad to see me so they could both ride in it while I pulled them along at a rapid pace.
It was a beautiful day, and Denise and Sally Jo were squealing with laughter--and, in spite of everything, so was I.
I knew that Mike was probably watching us from Heaven. He was doing great.
He wasn't really a drowning victim--those of us left behind to miss him were the real drowning victims.
Mike's showing was a couple of evenings later, and my folks and I went to pay our respects.
His mother said that, instead of putting him in a suit, she had chosen to dress him in his favorite school clothes:
A casual shirt (blue, if I remember right); his dark-blue bell-bottoms with the light pin stripes and wide belt; his heavy, black boots with the taps on the bottom; and, of course, his black, horn-rimmed glasses.
He looked very much like himself (a lot like Paul on The Wonder Years, only more handsome), yet more mature. And the art class grime that was usually under his fingernails was gone.
Just weeks before, I had screwed up when it came to getting my driver's license.
The two testers thought I could use another week before passing the test in order to iron out a few kinks--the main one being my parallel parking ability (or the lack, thereof).
My dad and I had practiced and practiced that skill--and we had even parallel-parked in front of the BMV so that I could begin the drive-test by strutting my stuff.
To this day, I'm not the greatest parallel parker, but the tester I had six months later thought that I was such an excellent driver in other ways that he didn't see the point of nixing me 100%, so I finally got my license right around the time of my 17th birthday.
But, back to that fateful, spring day. . .
I had told Mike and our other two tablemates, Terry Owens and Randy Short, that I'd pick them up and let them ride to school with me just as soon as I had my license.
And, so, only a part of me was there when the older of the two testers from a week before got in the car with me.
I wasn't in Pendleton in a parallel parking space in front of the BMV.
Noooooo! I was on the road and pulling up to Mike's house on the northeast corner of Hwy. 36 and 200 E.
There was a dull thud as my car clipped the one parked ahead of me.
The driving test was over and couldn't be retaken for six whole months!
At almost 50 years old, six months seems to fly past faster than a speeding train--but, for a sixteen-year-old (even one, like myself, who was reasonably-patient), this is a lifetime!
I was in tears when I left the BMV, but I knew that this was just something I would have to go through, and that it wasn't the end of the world.
Now, with Mike gone, I would never get the chance to drive him to school.
My folks both worked days, so I had to find a way to get to the funeral, and my friend-since-birth (3 1/2 years older), Ruby McLaughlin, was more than happy to provide transportation and sit with me during the service.
Hadn't it been just a short time ago that she had given me a sophisticated-looking hairstyle, after which I put on a lovely dress, and she drove us down to Emporia to fill her car up at the little station so conveniently located across 200 E from Mike's house?
Nobody seemed to even be home over there at the time--much less outdoors--but, at least, she gave it her best shot for me!
Now, she would be driving me to his funeral.
Mike had still been searching for a church he wanted to make his own, but he'd felt most at home at a church in Shelbyville, so it was the minister from there who performed the service, telling of a wonderful, young man who read his Bible daily and was a blessing to have in Sunday School.
What a beautiful way to be remembered--a way that even outshines his artistic talent!!!
His picture never hung in the halls of PHHS, because Miss Simmermon decided that it would be better to pass his drawing on to his mom and stepdad. I was disappointed in one way--yet, I knew that this was the best choice.
I once asked Mike what he wanted to do when he grew up, and he told me that he wanted to be an architect and a scientist. He had hopes, with the latter, to invent as many things as possible that would make the world a better place to live.
He was forever sixteen--and his mother tried to look on the bright side saying that at least he died in a nice way doing what he loved instead of being drafted and getting blown apart in Vietnam.
She said that his trick-back had gone out on him and that he must have gotten disoriented trying to swim to the surface and had gone in the direction of the bed instead.
His autopsy showed no signs of a terrified struggle--just of a someone thinking that he would surface soon and, eventually, becoming too tired to swim anymore and slipping away peacefully.
When he was found, his coloring was close-to-normal, and he looked a lot as if he were simply sleeping and would wake up soon, with the gravel in his nostrils being the only clue that this wasn't the case.
Mike had told me about this wreck on the railroad track that had left an older man partially-decapitated (top of head severed).
He couldn't resist looking in to see what the man looked like, and he told me that he must have been asleep (He was a passenger) at the time. His face wore a peaceful expression, and he looked very normal, except for the skullcap up being missing.
A few days later, he had found something along the track that looked like brains.
He said that they could have been the brains of an animal, but he thought they belonged to the guy.
So he had called a few friends, and they had decided to give the brain parts a proper funeral and burial before some animal ended up eating them.
This was just another example of the kind of person Mike was, and why, to this day, I wonder what he would have been like if he had survived into adulthood.
Ruby would later tell my folks and me that she had never seen such a good-looking corpse--that she had been amazed that a corpse (even that of a teen) could look so lifelike and handsome. I had to agree with her. I'd seen some nice-looking corpses, but Mike's earthly remains were either the best or else shared first-place with my maternal grandpa.
After the funeral, the procession followed the hearse out to Memorial Park Cemetery. Just days before, I'd been looking at the cemetery and thinking how beautiful it looked decked out for Memorial Day Weekend.
In the days and weeks to come, life went on.
I talked to Mike's mom from time to time, and she told me how she missed her son so much that she would go into his room and put some of his favorite records on the stereo.
When the music started up, Mike's Airedale would come running into the room thinking that Mike had returned--and would get the most pitiful and confused expression on his face when he didn't see him in there.
Even though I'd never considered Mike "Mr. Right" for the simple reason that I didn't think we would get along as a married couple, I was still very fond of him.
I told my folks that I didn't feel as if I would ever feel like even flirting with another man--this feeling lasted as long as the first time I saw this sweet, adorable-looking guy named Terry King just days after Mike's funeral.
I've never told Terry this before, but he was the one who made me feel like flirting again!
Even though I was now back to flirting with other guys, I still had a lot of crying jags over Mike--and the fact that his grave was yet to have a marker made me especially sad.
His family was simply looking for the best marker to pay tribute to a very special person, but I would have my folks to take me out to the cemetery to see if one had been placed on his grave yet, and, each time, the sight of the bare grave left me feeling down and weepy.
My folks suggested that we should take a trip out to see Uncle Finley and Aunt Marce, taking in other sights going to and from there.
This trip turned out to be very good for me--and, when we returned, I was happy to find out that Mike's grave now had a beautiful marker.
The first night out was difficult, though.
We had decided to drive through the night to make some mileage after stopping by to visit Uncle George and Aunt Mildred.
I was doing really great until I suddenly had time to think, and a wave of grieving for Mike washed over me.
I said that, perhaps, we should just turn around and go back home, because I was, obviously, not going to be very good company.
"And do what?" my folks asked. "Drive out to the cemetery day after day looking for Mike's marker?"
I began sobbing and saying that I just wanted to go back home, so we pulled into a truck-stop on the outskirts of St. Louis.
My folks told me that we could turn around and go back if I didn't feel better after having a good breakfast (an early breakfast, as it was around three or four in the morning).
The truck-stop was small and cozy.
From the outside, it looked like a square building with a pointed roof. On the inside, it had pinewood walls.
Country music was playing in the background from what I'd assumed was a jukebox--until I got a better look, and my eyes about popped out!
I'd never seen anything like this in my life.
This was a tall piece of furniture with jukebox keys--but there was a small TV screen at the top, and there were people on there acting out the song that they were singing.
At that time, you could get between three and five songs for a quarter on your average jukebox.
This machine cost--as I recall--about a dollar a song.
My folks gave me a dollar in change and told me I could choose one song, and I chose One Has My Name; The Other Has My Heart.
This song has been done by several people, but I seem to recall that this version was done by Bill Anderson.
Anyway, as he was singing it, he was shown dramatizing it with his attention divided between a nagging wife and a much more pleasant "other woman."
I was given no more dollars, because other people were also selecting songs, and my folks thought it wise for us to save our money, as there would surely be more of these new-fangled machines along the way.
After a delicious breakfast and unique entertainment, I felt a whole world better.
In fact, there was only one or two more times during the trip where I had a crying spell about Mike.
It was a wonderful trip--this was also the year that we went a ways into The Grand Canyon and had a wonderful visit with fellow Hoosier, Red Skelton, after his Las Vegas performance!--but we never came across any more of those new-fangled machines, even though we made it a point to eat only at truck-stops unless there was some place that we'd rather eat at for one reason or another.
When we arrived in Los Angeles, I told my folks that I didn't want to stay in just some average motel just off of the crowded highway--that I wanted to stay near the ocean.
It seemed as if I'd remembered such a place from when we'd been there eight years before in 1961.
Probably a combination of memories made at the tender age of eight and deterioration with the passing of almost a decade, we found that the motel wasn't as glamorous as I'd remembered it, and the only thing we liked about it was that it was cheap and close to the ocean--even though the room we were in didn't afford a view of the same.
As we began putting stuff in our room, a near-by dog (sounded like a German shepherd, though we never saw the dog to know for sure) began a territorial "Bow-wow-wow-growl!"
I thought this was hillarious--though my folks told me to control my laughter or I might provoke this monster to actually come after us.
We decided to look for a place to eat.
As we left our room, my mom made the remark that we should find as many things to do as possible until bedtime so that we wouldn't have to spend any more time than necessary in "that awful room."
The dog chimed in "Bow-wow-wow-growl!lllllllllllllllllllllll!!!" and I was acting as if I'd swallowed a feather.
We first checked out a lovely-looking restaurant that was built very close to the ocean--but did we want to pay the ultra-steep prices just to look at the ocean, especially, when it was getting too dark to see it anyway?
We saw a cozy, brick restaurant--looked as if it had been made out of a house--called The Malibu Inn amd decided that it was worth checking out.
The inside was really neat (walls covered with autographed pictures of celebrities who had eaten there in the past, and a general feeling of warmth and coziness), the people seemed nice, the food smelled delicious, and it turned out that we were also favorably-impressed with the right-hand side of the menu.
Music was playing in the background--and we suddenly noticed where it was coming from: one of those machines! And we hadn't even been looking for one!!!
My folks gave me a dollar, and I selected Nancy Sinatra singing These Boots Are Made For Walking.
This--and the other videos we saw--were more like clips of performances rather than someone acting out songs, but it was still really neat to watch.
For the return trip, Uncle Finley--who had been able to get some time-off from the barber shop where he worked (Nameless Barber Shop on Geary)--rode back with us, and we all kept our eyes peeled for truck-stops that might have music machines.
When we got to St. Louis, we were on the lookout for the first place but never saw it.
One day, I walked down towards The Baby Farms addition and saw a trucker named Charles McNew, Jr. (whose son, Charles McNew III, I'd been hopelessly sweet on a few years before) working on his rig.
"You go to a lot of truck-stops, don't you?" I asked him--and he told me that he did.
I told him about the music machine and asked him if he'd ever seen anything like this before.
He told me that he hadn't paid it much mind--just noticed that there was a screen with people dancing on it--but that he'd been in a truck-stop just a few miles away called Shady Acres that he thought had something like I was describing.
I was so grateful to him for the information and could hardly wait until my folks got home from work to tell them the wonderful news.
We drove to the truck-stop, a hole-in-the-wall on State Rd. 67 a little ways south of Pendleton. It didn't exactly look apetizing, but we decided to order some pop after being told that they, indeed, had one of those machines.
This one didn't look like the other ones.
Instead, it looked like a conventional jukebox--which it was, with only a small portion of its buttons playing songs that had videos to accompany them.
The videos were projected onto a screen like you would show home movies and school movies on.
But they were three for a quarter!!!
I was thrilled!!!
Break Away by The Beach Boys
Sugar Sugar by The Archies
Sally Had A Party by (I forgot).
Break Away was accompanied by a woman sorting IBM cards. The idea was that she was working, but her mind was on all she was going to be doing after her workday ended.
At the very end, one of the straps of her sundress kept slipping down exposing skin but no breasts or anything.
Other than not having The Beach Boys as part of the video, I thought it was a pretty good--especially as a third of what I was getting for a mere quarter.
I was expecting to see an Archies cartoon when Sugar Sugar came on. Instead, there was this lady in a micro-minidress and tall boots gyrating to it while licking on her two suger cubes (one in each hand).
Finally, Sally Had A Party came on, and this other woman dressed about the same as the previous one except she was wearing a helmet at the first of the video, came speeding up on a motorcycle wearing this dumb expression on her face.
She dismounted, took off her helmet, and just stood there doing a gyrating dance throughout the entire song.
So far, we hadn't seen anything offensive and really weren't expecting to.
These weren't the videos with the actual celebrities included in them, but, at least, it was a form of that cool machine first discovered in St. Louis and was only about ten or fifteen miles from home!
We'd probably come back frequently and watch more videos.
Then, this one guy got up, flashed a grin in our direction, and made his selection.
We thought he was being helpful and wanted to show us the very best of the videos.
Wild Side Of Life began playing, and the video showed the inside of a bathroom with someone behind the beveled glass door of a steamy shower stall.
Soon, we could see that the person was wearing nothing but her birthday suit--which became even more apparent to us when she stepped out of the shower.
She went into her bedroom and writhed around while she dried herself off in a seductive way. At the end of the video, she got one of those dumb-looking come-hither expressions on her face.
By then, there were several men at the table with the one who made that selection, and they were all staring at us with ornery grins on their faces.
We got up--adverting our eyes from them--paid, and, looking straightforward, exited this sorry dump, got in the car and left!
Almost 33 years have passed since the summer of 1969.
Sadly, there are now music videos out that would make even the ones we saw at Shady Acres look like a book of nursery rhymes in comparison--and the audience the makers aim for are our youth.
I once asked Mike what his favorite pop song was, and he told me that it was Touch Me by The Doors, even though he was always bursting into a beautiful rendition of the opening of Dean Martin's Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.
Although other activities caused me to delay this by a day, I'd originally started writing it yesterday.
But I could see that I had to put it on the back-burner, because I not only had an appointment for Jane to give me a haircut, but I was also engrossed in helping to make preparations for Christmas In July.
To find out more about the latter, go here:
and, after reading it, click on the link to the site I've included within the body of my review.
You'll be blessed when you read about this project!!!
Anyway, I'd gotten a good start on the story but, then, decided I needed to take a break from it and go out to shop for some packing boxes, toys, etc.
As usual, I had the radio tuned to my favorite oldies station--and, not long after I left the house, the DJ played Touch Me.
Another Epilogue written on March 22, 2007: I hadn't remembered why I had put this story into cold storage when it was so meaningful to me. However, after reading through it, I found the answer: For some reason, the bottom part of it had vanished. I'm going to continue now to the best of my ability to remember.
To make a long story short, when Mike's favorite song was playing on the radio, the sky suddenly was ablaze with one of the most wonderful wall-to-wall sunsets that I've ever seen--and, somehow, I knew that this was one of those evenings that Mike was painting the sunset!
I had waited a long time for such an evening!
I know that, just knowing this much and not being there to experience it, people reading this might see this as only a coincidence.
However--after reading the sequel to this--there is no mistaking that this was, indeed, what had happened!
Please go here and read the sequel:
One more thing...I had come here to get this story to bring comfort to friends who had just lost their mother/grandma today. I had found this cNote that was a sympathy card with a sunset on it.
Right after deciding to share this story, I suddenly realized that tomorrow would have been Mike's 54th birthday.