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"Shorts, Outtakes and Rants"

Most weeks I write a column for my paper; occasionally my daughter writes one. Usually they're focused at local issues, but every now and then I come up with one that I think Spearfish Lake Tales readers would find interesting, so I post them on the Spearfish Lake Tales Message Board. Since I've been neglecting "Shorts, Outtakes and Rants" recently, I decided to repost a few of them here, like this one. I hope you enjoy it! -- Wes

1958 Friends

November 28, 2012

November is National Novel Writing Month among other things, so of course I've been working on one, not that I might not do it at other times of the year. I spent much of the Thanksgiving weekend working on a story of four college kids getting to be friends in 1958; in the story they'll stay friends the rest of their lives. (I haven't gotten that far in the story yet.)

Now, setting a story in 1958 means that I want it to sound like it's 1958, and getting the details right turned into part of the fun.

For instance, the four kids go on a first date. Where are they going to go? To a movie, naturally; some things don't change. But what movie? Thank you, Google! Bridge on the River Kwai doesn't strike any of them as a great idea for a first date movie. (OK, OK. If there are any real super movie buffs or hairsplitters out there, yes, that's a 1957 movie, but this scene is set in early 1958 and it probably would still have been in first run.)

In any case, (and that's probably not a phrase that would have been commonly used in 1958) and considering a limited selection, they wind up going to Vertigo. After the movie, one of the girls comments, "It wasn't too bad, but I don't know if I liked it." (I was surprised to learn that on some lists that the 1957 Vertigo has recently outplaced Citizen Kane as the best movie of all time. Thanks again, Google!)

But anyway, in the story the four kids have fun, and go on to other things. After all, going on a date on a Friday beats hanging around a dorm room, especially when the dorm room is devoid of some of the things some college kids would consider essentials today: things like microwaves, refrigerators, portable TVs, video games, computers, and members of the opposite sex.

They might have gone down to the dorm lounge to watch TV (almost certainly black and white) but what would they have watched? It's easy to come up with the names and some details of popular shows like Dragnet (All I want are the facts, Ma'am.) but sometimes even Google isn't a big help in telling me what night the show was on back then, so I had to be a little fuzzy about it.

During the story one of the kids buys a used Triumph roadster, an English sports car. But was it a TR-2 or a TR-3? Good question on that one too, but thanks to Wikipedia, I decided it was a TR-2. Another of the kids drives a '53 Nash Statesman -- not a first choice for a college car, but he got it from his dad for the right price (which is to say free), so he doesn't have much room for complaint. But was it a six or a V-8? Turns out Nash wasn't making V-8s in that era; I'd thought they were. The parents of one of the girls drives a DeSoto. I already knew that was a V-8, but that point wasn't necessary for the story.

The following summer, one of the girls in the story likes to wear one-piece playsuits. That helped place the story in time; I don't think I've seen a one-piece playsuit on a female older than about five in decades, although they were once popular for girls of the right age group. In my day girls were required to wear them in gym class. They were actually kind of cute, although I doubt you'll find many girls from my high school class who would agree with me. Of course, I had to do some research on that, (again, thanks Google!) to find out that they're considered retro these days, but they may be regaining popularity.

1958 was a long time ago -- I was ten -- and my memory of those days isn't very clear, so it was nice to be able to go back and research those things online. If one of those kids in 1958 was researching a story set in 1904 (the same distance back) they wouldn't have had the internet to help them. But, I'd bet that 1904 would have seemed as strange to them as 1958 is to us

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