Monday, February 17, 2014

It's Not Even Past

I've noted before the serendipity and the coincidences that I've noticed when I've been engaged in writing about my childhood in a necessarily fictional way.  One of these was a specific episode of a TV show I remembered, that turned out to be broadcast on the date I had already selected to write about myself as a child watching these Saturday morning shows.

Something like that happened again.  I had returned for a few weeks to this project, writing mostly about fifth grade (when a number of things started to change in my life and family), but also revising some previous chapters, especially fourth grade stuff.

I had finished all that, more or less forced back to job work, but also feeling mostly depleted with a bit of juice left for starting again (I did sketch out the opening for 6th grade.)  It was weeks afterwards that I found myself on YouTube and, possibly inspired by the Ovaltine I've been spooning into my espresso and milk to make a kind of fortified mocha,  I looked up the Captain Midnight tv show from 1950s Saturday mornings.

There used to be several entire shows posted, and a few years ago I watched at least one.  Those are gone, but there is a new one posted, in HD (it says): a 1955 episode called "The Arctic Avalanche."

So I watched it, not recalling anything about it until near the end.  At that point in the plot, Captain Midnight has been captured by a spy who has strapped him to a dogsled, intending to take him to a waiting submarine.  But Captain Midnight manages to get on his Secret Squadron communicator to Icky flying above, and orders him to backfire the engines to create an avalanche, to trap the spy.  But he would also been snowed under.

When the avalanche starts he tips the sleigh on its side.  Icky contacts him--he's still alive.  He's created an air pocket inside the snow.  Later he explains that in survival training you learn to create an air pocket with your arms, and this was a way to make an even larger one.

Now this I do remember, and it touched on some forgotten aspects of childhood.  I remember noting this technique, because I was interested in general in ways to deal with unforeseen and dangerous situations, to protect myself and others.  That it was a "neat trick" was also appealing.

Yes, it was part of that desire to be competent in the face of danger.  It made me think of those duck and cover drills we had especially in the early grades, which were never very convincing as a way to survive atomic bombs.  This made more sense, though I had no idea how it worked (or now, even if it does.)  So I was thinking about what to do in unusual but threatening circumstances, and so, about avoiding injury and death.

There was also the more specific matter of snow. We had some big snows in those 1950s years, and throngs of kids on sleds went careening down nearby hills, a course that crossed two streets and in its last and steepest section, meant crossing a wooden bridge over a creek.  I was 8 going on 9 when this show was broadcast--I'm not sure I was sled-riding yet, but I was certainly playing in the snow.  I'm sure I was warned to be careful.  So danger was on my mind, though I reveled in being out in the stuff.

After I saw this show, I went back to what I'd written (not in this iteration) about the winter of 1954-55, and I had written about that sled-riding course.  I even mentioned a pilot-style leather cap I had with a visor, which reminded me of Captain Midnight (though possibly an earlier version.  This one wore a fairly silly looking football helmet.)  So it was easy to refer to this episode as part of my thinking then.

What's most interesting to me is how seeing this episode opened another window to how I viewed the world as a child, when I was looking for clues on what the world was like and how to deal with it.  Looking to heroes like Captain Midnight.