How The World Wags
By Dave Kiffer
No, I wasn't one of those early baby-boomers who matured watching her mature on the Mickey Mouse Club Show. I was a late baby boomer and the TV shows I remember were Davy Crockett and Andy Griffith (not to mention the Banana Splits, F-Troop, Gilligan's Island and the Monkees, but let's not get into that!).
Living in Ketchikan in the late 1960s lead to an odd New Year's Eve ritual: The midnight KATV beach movie. As odd as it seems, there were several consecutive years in which the local cable TV station played old beach movies on New Year's Eve. I particularly remember "Ride, Ride the Wild Surf," "Beach Blanket Bingo," and "How to Stuff A Wild Bikini."
It was probably the wacky juxtaposition of Alaskans huddled around their TVs on one of the coldest nights of the year watching teenagers "live, laugh and love" on the beaches of Southern California that appealed to me. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the buxom beach babes in skimpy attire.
Maybe it was just the sheer joy of being able to stay up late because my Mom and Dad thought it was okay to ring in the new year properly. Normally I had to be in bed by nine and that led to many nights of sneaking back down the stairs to peer over the bannister into the living room as my Dad watched "Combat," another of my favorite shows.
Funny, it seems like New Year's Eve was a bigger thing in those days. Sometimes, we'd light sparklers. Sometimes, we'd sing Auld Lang Syne (not that I had a clue what that meant despite my family's partial Scots heritage). Sometimes we'd turn on the Canadian station (our only live broadcast) to catch the fireworks or whatever from the New Year celebrations in Seattle or Vancouver
More often that not, Mom and Dad would just go to bed after the clock struck 12 and I would be left alone with Annette and Frankie and a cast of goof balls, gidgets and kahunas who made Bob Denver (Gilligan and Maynard G. Krebs) look like Albert Einstein.
Nowdays New Year's Eve means struggling to keep my eyelids awake long enough to reach to midnight and to hear someone fire off a few pop bottle rockets in the neighborhood or maybe scream "yahoo" at the top of their lungs because they managed to stagger safely into another new year.
Perhaps the only recent New Years that seemed to take on that mythical status I remember from my youth was 2000. I mean how often to you get to say good bye to a year, a century and a millennium all at once. When I was a kid I used to always enjoy saying "see you next year" to my friends on the last day of school before Christmas break. Imagine how gnarly it would have been to say "see you next millennium!"
I guess the best part of all those old New Year's beach movies was that they were really educational. I learned a lot from those movies. It wasn't quite the same a learning everything you need to know in Kindergarten (where I learned that despite having her back turned Mrs. Kienel could still pick out my voice from the chattering herd and suggest I 'let someone else talk for a change'), but then I was a little ways past Kindergarten at that point.
I learned that Blondes were dangerous. Annette was a brunette and it always seemed like some blonde was putting the moves on Frankie.
I learned that brunettes hate to be ignored. Frankie always seemed to ignore Annette at some point in the plot and she would turn her attention to another suitor which would make Frankie jealous.
I learned that men with facial hair were usually bad. The guy that Annette would fall for would be a little "older" and have some sort of facial hair (goatee, Van Dyke, never a full beard, that was too sinister). That would make him "mature" and somewhat dangerous. In the end, it would turn out that he was bad or had bad intentions toward Annette. Either way, Frankie would whip him in a fight or a surfing challenge or something.
And I learned that nothing
brightened up a tense scene than suddenly breaking into song.
This was - of course - long before I learned in West Side Story
that the real way to settle turf wars was for gangs to break
into "edgy" modern dance moves (yes kids, this predated
Michael Jackson's Beat It and it was way, way, way before he
turned into Diana Ross). It was kinda fun that the surfer beach
"gangs" would settle their differences by dancing to
Most of all, I learned that there really was a world outside the confines of our fair Salmon City. I learned that some places have beaches with sand (not rocks and barnacles) and that some places have endless summers where there is more real than liquid sunshine.
I guess I was literally transported by the wild party scenes in those beach movies. I eventually ended up leaving K-town for college in Southern California. But that is - of course - another story.
Happy New Year.... and kawabunga
dudes and dudettes!