Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Boy's Story: The Beatles Invade The Main

Fiction Sunday

This excerpt is part of a novel, Jack Miller's Story, which I started writing more than fifteen years ago. It has undergone many changes since then, but now is in a form that I find suitable for publication. It contains biographical elements, no doubt, but it is not biographical by any means. Memory, unlike mathematical operations, does not always produce the same result.

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In Part 4, Jack discovered some things that he both liked and disliked about his parents' ways and traditions—being part of something larger and established, and yet find his own way. He also wanted to become a somebody, a professional, as his father had put it. That would give him a place in the world.

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It was the natural order of things. Parents wanting to maintain tradition, looking to the past for order. Children looking forward, holding on to just enough tradition to have an anchor in their flight to the future. It wasn't a heavy or weighted anchor, though. Children fly. Parents walk. Sometimes they trudge slowly up the stairs of life, their experiences on their back, weighing them down with memories of troubles.

Jack Millerman was acutely aware of his parents' experiences, and tsuris, as they called these problems. When he would become a someone, a professional, a doctor, lawyer, a teacher, as his father had always put it, life would be easier. 

Yet, the great divide was no more apparent than in the surrounding culture to which Jack and his brothers, their generation, easily took to and gleefully swallowed. Swallowed whole if they could. One seminal moment came on Sunday, February  9, 1964. As they always did, the family gathered in front of the large Zenith console black & white TV. It was 8 p.m., time for The Ed Sullivan Show. Appearing were The Beatles, a group from Liverpool, England, a working-class town. That's what his father had told him. These were working-class people playing music.

Jack and his two older brothers, Benny, eight, and Yosef, who would turn ten in a few weeks, bopped around for the five-song set that included “All My Loving,”  “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand. Jack’s mother looked on with pleasant amusement. Jack’s father’s only comment was Vos zogt di ya ya ya?

"It's great fun music," Jack said to his father. "She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah." And Jack kept on repeating that phrase, meaningless in many ways to his father. His brothers kept on bopping around, gyrating wildly to the music and laughing at the lyrics. The Beatles had not only invaded America. That was obvious. They had invaded the Main, and the living-rooms of the Jewish enclave of Old-World immigrants and their Canadian-born children. Their boyish good locks and easy manners of John, Paul, George and Ringo were appealing to the boys and girls of immigrants who wanted to fit in and conform to some degree to the surrounding culture.

The next day at school, when Jack walked with James to his Grade 1 classroom, Room 5, that was all they were talking about, "Did you see the Ed Sullivan Show?" "Yeah, my parents let me stay up, even though it was school the next day." "It was great."  "She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah." They were all excited, sharing a common experience, a class full of immigrants, bonded together with the music of a new generation. The future looked bright. The music was fun and positive. "The Fab Four were fab," he heard his brother, Yosef say to his friends. "The music was really groovy."

If that were the case, Jack thought it would be fun if his parents bought a stereo console, which he seen in one of his classmate's home. It was a large rectangular box that held a record player, which played both 33 rpm long-playing records and single 45 rpm records, and even the old 78s that his parents had tucked away in a box on a back shelf, high on top of the wooden stairs leading to the basement.

No Beatles for his parents. But there was always the Bagelman Sisters, Clara and Minnie Bagelman, who went by the more culturally accepted name of The Barry Sisters.  They were popular Yiddish jazz singers in from the 1940s, and were still popular with a certain crowd today. The sisters had made in big in America, and performed on the New York Radio Show "Yiddish Melodies in Swing," on WHN (Sunday at 1 pm),  which would play songs incorporating a fusion of jazz, swing and klezmer. There were many favourites, including Bei Mir Bist du Shayn, Chiribim Chiribom, Tumbalalaika and Halevai. And, of course, Yidl Mitn Fidl, starring that perennial Yiddish actress, Molly Picon.

Jack wished he had a stereo like a few of the other families had. Then he could buy records and play them. He knew what he wanted. It was an Electrohome console high-fidelity system in a wood cabinet.

"All right, class, settle down," Miss O'Brien said with a firm and friendly voice. "Let's get ready for the national anthem.":
O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
 [..].
Jack wondered if anyone else in the class couldn't quite grasp the meaning of the words.  "The True North strong and free." He liked the idea of freedom, but why was Canada called the "True North." It escaped him. And Jack Millerman wondered if it escaped the sons of immigrants from China, England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, and Germany.  The Beatles were easier to understand. "I wanna hold your hand. I wanna hold your hand. I wanna hold your hand."

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To be continued.
Copyright ©2011. Perry J. Greenbaum. All Rights Reserved.

Publisher's Note: This is a work of fiction. While the author might have been inspired by some true-life events, names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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