Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Boy's Story: The Red Transistor Radio

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 5, Jack discovered the new sound of The Beatles and the sound of his generation, in sharp contrast to that of his parents. It was now the summer of 1967, the Summer of Love and the world's fair in Montreal.

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Jack's Red Transistor Radio: A Sony from Japan.
Photo Credit & Source: PetPeoplePlace
It was 1967. Expo 67 and Montreal's World's Fair. Millions of tourists and visitors coming to Montreal. Some were curious onlookers. Some spoke with foreign accents. Some were draft dodgers, who never left. They looked like all the other teenagers walking the streets of Park Avenue, Mont Royal, Esplanade and Rachel, near and around the large park that locals called "the mountain."

It was the Summer of Love. Couples were holding hands at the mountain. Couples were wearing cool and groovy clothes. Everything was tie dye, bright psychedelic colours and bell bottoms. And long hair, both men and women. It was about freedom. Freedom to be one's self. With little restrictions. Conventionality was out. Rule-breaking, or at least rule-bending, was in.

Jack didn't really know or care about that. He was a good student, listened to his teachers and his parents. Generally. But he knew what he wanted more than anything in the world. And he wanted it now. It was part of the package of rights and freedoms that defined his generation. Jack was nine, and entering Grade 5.

Jack saw it and wanted it. It was in the window of the local electronics store on Park Avenue, a few blocks from his house. He ran to the store once more, passing the dry cleaners, passing the many Greek restaurants, the newstands and the stores that sold pots, pans, clothes and pens. All the cool kids were carrying them around, on his street and on the mountain. Transistor radios were everywhere and Jack wanted one, more than anything.

He finally saw one he wanted, a red transistor radio. He had a plan, He would ask his mother first, who would convince his father of the importance of it for Jackaleh.

It took some doing, some convincing, pleading, crying, but his father eventually went along. What is a transistor radio? he asked in Yiddish. Mama explained, and then his father asked his friends from the Old Country, those who had older children. They nodded their heads and waved their hands, saying, "Yes, get it for the boy. He's a good student, getting good marks in school? Azoy. It will be all right, then."

It happened one Sunday. Instead of their usual trip to the mountain, his father announced that today was the day. Jack's heart was pounding with excitement. He couldn't believe that it was finally happening. He walked the three blocks to the electronics store on Park Avenue near Fairmont.

There was no one else in the store save a young couple in their early twenties. He wearing a black skullcap and an equally dark caftan, over his white shirt, which ran to the tops of his black shoes; she wearing a dark-coloured dress covering her arms and down to her ankles, and a wig stylishly made adorned her pretty face. In her arms she carried a small baby, decked out in blue. They were at the far end of the store looking at baby carriages, which the store carried in addition to household items and electronic goods.

Jack leaned in to hear the conversation, spoken in Yiddish. The couple were discussing the merits of various types of baby carriages, and whether that one in particular was the same as the one their neighbours had. "That's the one I want," the young woman said. "That's the right one." The husband nodded in agreement.

Jack understood the words and the need for the right baby carriage. He couldn't understand the clothing they wore, which seemed more than was required for the hot days of summer. It was the middle of July and 85 degrees. His father, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and his trademark cloth cap, spoke and joked in Yiddish with the store owner, a man similar in mannerisms to his father. Jack's father seemed to only laugh in Yiddish. The discussions seemed to take a long time, and Jack had to wait patiently to get the right radio.

Finally he did. When he got it in his small hands, he turned it around. It was a Sony, model TR-63, "Made In Japan." All right, then, not as good as the American- or German-made brands. But that did not matter much; Jack Millerman had his radio and he could now listen to CFOX 1470 radio whenever he wanted, even outside the kitchen, where the family radio sat on the Formica counter.

He could even listen to his transistor radio outside on the front stoop, watching all the others with their transistor radios walking by and laughing. Jack Millerman was having fun, just like all the others. Like James and Jessica and Sam and Sarah, the beautiful brown-eyed girl in his class.
Hey where did we go,
Days when the rains came
Down in the hollow,
Playin' a new game,
Laughing and a running hey, hey
Skipping and a jumping
In the misty morning fog with
Our hearts a thumpin' and you
My brown eyed girl,
You my brown eyed girl.
Life was now good for Jack, full of possibilities.

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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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