A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster
1. What’s With Mary Jane?
Since I am so youthful-looking now, you may not realize I was a teenage boy in the 50s. It was way back then, when the world was young, the geezers of today discovered girls. Not that we hadn’t noticed them before but out of the blue the scrawny kid with the pigtails, the one we teased because she couldn’t throw a baseball overhand, began to look far more interesting than as the last one to pick if you were short a center fielder.
For some reason, Mary Jane suddenly seemed different somehow and we began to regret hip-checking her into a snowbank like we did to every guy we met. Just why we noticed this indefinable change I’m sure we didn’t know at the time. It may have had something to do with our hormones, pheromones or some other kind of mones, but we starting to act goofy whenever Mary Jane was around, maybe punch another guy in the shoulder to impress her – just why we thought it would is a mystery.
What was it about her that was suddenly so intriguing, her hair? The pigtails were gone but no, that wasn’t it, her voice? Could it be her voice? She didn’t seem to giggle as much. What about her smile? Her smile seemed, I don’t know, is ‘tantalising’ the right word? Could it be her walk? No that wasn’t… Wait a minute! Yes, that was it, it was her walk. I know why too, Mary Jane’s shape was changing.
Now this is important: the 50s, as well as heralding our entry into adolescence, was also the debut of Playboy, a fine gentlemen’s magazine that could be found on the top shelf at the corner store. If we had $2, which wasn’t too damned likely, but if four or five of us emptied our pockets and pooled our money and were willing to forgo a bottle of Wilson’s Cola or a package of Nibs licorice, and could get up the nerve to go into the corner store and ask some older guy to buy one for us, could this have been the source to further our sudden interest in our center fielder’s newly-discovered attraction? Alas, we will never know, we never did raise the two bucks.
Mary Jane was becoming a woman. However she was our age, our friend, and by the code off limits to us bozos. Not only that, we couldn’t have the other guys suspecting we might be interested in hanging out with a girl. My God, the girl doesn’t even hold a bat right. But she looked so good!
However, my friends, there was one place where a teenage boy could be sure to find beautiful women – the movies.
Not just any movie would do, of course. If we wanted to see swashbuckling, we’d look for Errol Flynn. If we favoured gun fights, it was a John Wayne flick. But if we wanted to see beautiful women, we lined up for a Hollywood ‘musical’.
If it was the right movie, one that starred Betty Grable or Cyd Charise, half the boys in town were right up there in the front row. We didn’t go for the music, the clever dance steps, or the plots which were usually asinine, the boys were there for the legs.
Nothing could beat a Broadway musical in glorious Technicolor, breath-taking Cinemascope and stereophonic sound to keep a lad’s mind keen and primed for our new interest, love and romance.
There were a few exceptions like Sound of Music. That one wasn’t a ’50s musical anyway, it came along in 1965. But most of us were still in our 20s and not quite so far over the hill that we couldn’t enjoy a little spice on the silver screen. If Sound of Music was an accurate portrayal of a pre-war Austrian’s sex life, I’m surprised there are any new Austrians at all. It was a great picture and Julie Andrews was wonderful, but I think a few scenes with Maria and the captain splashing around in a Bavarian hot tub would have drawn the teenage punch-in-the-arm crowd.
The movie still shows up on TV a few times a year, usually on Sunday afternoon. They have to run it early to catch the old geezers because we have dinner at 4 o’clock and hit the sack shortly after 5 so we can be up at the crack of dawn. God alone knows why. I watch the movie faithfully every time its aired, hoping someday Maria will show us a few of the captain’s ‘favourite things’, but alas, she never does.
For beautiful women, you couldn’t beat a Gene Kelly movie. There wasn’t much sex, once in a while a peck on the cheek, but that was about it. There was no serious groping or anything exciting like that even though in Singing in the Rain Gene managed to drop in a dream sequence with Cyd Charisse dancing in a sheer bed sheet so us teenage perverts could get a gander at Cyd’s endless legs.
Cyd Charisse died a few years ago at 86. She was so beautiful even then and I’ll bet she could still dance the night away. When I read in the Toronto Star that she was gone, a tremendous feeling of melancholy swept over me. For some reason, I felt that part of my youth died with her. I know it sounds silly but I suddenly felt old.
Next week: Censorship among other things.