My Aunt Marie and Uncle Bill lived in Los Angeles. I don’t recall when Uncle Bill died, but I know that he was gone by the time I went to visit my aunt in 1967. That trip was a gift she offered to my older brother and sister and myself. I suspect it was offered to my younger brother but I’m not sure if he took her up on it. I think her rule of thumb was that we had to be 14 to go.So my parents drove me to Union Station in Kansas City from our home in St. Joseph, Mo. As I recall the train left at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night. I know it was scheduled to return at 2 a.m. but the trip back didn’t go as smoothly as the trip out and we were hours and hours late getting in.
But this is a snippet of my adventure in Los Angeles or, as my dad pronounced it in those days, “Las Angle-ees.”
When I arrived, Aunt Marie asked me if I would be interested to going to see Donald O’Connor who was appearing at The Greek Theatre. I was interested. I loved music and he was known not only as an actor but a singer and dancer. I know I had watched over and over again the great movie “Singin’ in the Rain” in which he starred with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. So I remember telling Aunt Marie that I would like to do that. Maybe I seemed reticent to her. She looked at her newspaper and said, “There’s someone called The Association that will be there that night too.”
Well, that was a horse of another color! My mouth dropped open. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. A year earlier The Association, a pop rock group, had released “Cherish” which was on the Top Ten list for several weeks and was one of the best-selling tunes for the entire year.
My aunt had never heard of The Association before, but she seemed pleased that I was so excited so she rounded up tickets and off we went to an evening in one of the foremost outdoor theatres of the day.I was able to find the ad for that show among others and I note today that the two acts seemed to be billed with equal standing. O’Connor was listed first, but the font size would indicate to me comparable attractions. Unlike today where we find one entertainer warming the crowd up for the main attraction, I couldn’t and still can’t see a corresponding set up for the evening. My conclusion was that the old people in the crowd wouldn’t want to stay up as late so they put the old person on the stage first.
The old person was Donald O’Connor. I thought he was dead old. Imagine my surprise today when I checked it out and he would have been only 42 years old when he performed that night. “Singin’ in the Rain” was released in 1952 when he was only 27.
We settled into our relatively good seats by the aisle on stage right and we had an unobstructed view of the stage. I was excited to be there. The big star of the evening for much of the older crowd was O’Connor. I enjoyed listening and watching and I felt fortunate to see him in person.I don’t recall, but there must have been some kind of intermission between him and The Association. I do recall that we had daylight for O’Connor’s act, but dusk began to set in and it was pretty dark by the time The Association kicked into gear. And my excitement grew.
But I rapidly became aghast as older people stepped over my aunt and me in their rush to get out of the place. And they weren’t quiet about it either, complaining about the “noise” and the “racket.”
Now, you kiddos who are reading this and haven’t heard of The Association before, please listen on-line to a snippet of “Cherish.” Regardless of your musical tastes, I think you’ll be hard pressed to think of this piece as any kind of commotion.
But there were guitars and drums. Those of us who have been involved in the evolution of worship in our churches know the appalled reaction from congregants when those instruments found their way into sanctuaries. Well, it was exactly the same response when The Association were paired up for an evening with Donald O’Connor.
As for me, I was aghast at how rude adults could be. As more and more of them left, my aunt leaned over and not so quietly said, “Are you sure you want to stay for this?” That just irritated me all the more. I was trying to so hard to hear and see the group and I was repeatedly interrupted. I remember just nodding my head. We stayed. She wasn’t happy. Eventually, the exodus of oldsters ended and I could sit there enraptured.
Later I recall she lectured me about the quality or lack thereof of The Association. I wanted to be respectful of her, but I do recall observing, “All of the young people who were there during the Donald O’Connor part of the show were polite when he was singing. Why were the old people so rude?”And they were.
I don’t recall Aunt Marie’s answer to that. It doesn’t matter. I know that our generational differences seemed to take over for the rest of the trip, however. She would have been over 60 by that time (probably about my age now). I would have done my best to be courteous about everything, but it’s hard for an older person to be around a younger person when they had preconceived notions about what that behavior should be. I’m pretty sure she was glad to put me on the train for the trip back to Kansas City.
It still seems incongruous to me that my parents and my aunt were willing to put a 14-year-old girl on a train by herself for a long trip like that, were willing to give me that freedom, but wanted to lecture me about my tastes in music. And, yes, my parents didn’t like my music any more than Aunt Marie did.
I will always be grateful for that adventure, for the train ride, for the concert, for my visits to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and swimming at Huntington Beach. I had my picture taken at Hollywood & Vine, long reputed to be the place where up and coming starlets hung out waiting to be discovered. It was a great trip. I know I expressed that appreciation to Aunt Marie repeatedly.
But the gulf between us had widened not only because of the concert but because of our differences of opinion about my future, my educational goals, my desire to make something of myself in the world. Ironically, Aunt Marie had made something of herself in the world. She personally knew and worked for Howard Hughes. She invested wisely and became very successful. She didn’t have to worry financially when Uncle Bill died.
One generation’s idea of success can be very different from another, especially when there are about three or four generations difference.
But what we can do is always remain respectful of both the wisdom that comes with age and the passion that comes with youth.
20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. – Exodus 15:20
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8