Fragmented Memories (The Wrap Up)

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

5. Jane, Tarzan needs your bra.

There wasn’t much sex in the serials. For one thing, the whole audience was 8 or 9 years old. A hero kissing a girl could cause a riot and pulling the heroine’s top down would be completely unacceptable and what was worse, unappreciated. A topless woman wasn’t necessary anyway. If Johnny Weismuller was in the Tarzan movie he had bigger boobs than any starlet in Tinseltown – a bit of an envy problem for Jane no doubt.

In feature films the Bowery Boys and the East Side Kids were big box office draws in the ’40s and early ’50s, but they were starting to fade a little since the ‘boys’ and the ‘kids’ were all 50 years old and looked every second of it.

There was no sex at all in the Bowery Boys movies. There was always a dude named Gabe who was a year or two older and getting married. Plus he wore a suit and a tie for God’s sake. The last I time I saw Gabe was in 1988. He was being pushed around the Bronx in a wheelchair and he still hadn’t made it to the altar. But that was it for the sex stuff. If Leo Gorcey ever had any type of relationship with a girl, it would have been an excuse for him to get her alone and whack her over the head with his pork-pie hat.

I could never keep the Bowery Boys and East Side Kids straight since Leo Gorcey was in both of them. He was Muggs McGinnis in one and Slip Mahoney in the other. His mother was always the same sweet white-haired Irish lady. In retrospect, his identity may have depended on which Irish immigrant his saintly old mother was sleeping with that week. 

That was the Saturday afternoon matinee in the 40s and 50s. Five hundred kids all running around screaming and throwing popcorn boxes. Whenever there was a spook show on, the john would be jammed to the doors with dozens of little nippers hiding in there until the scary part was over. When Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein, there were so many kids crowded in the boys can the only place left to pee was in some other guy’s pocket.

I hope they still have Saturday afternoon matinees in the big city. I doubt it, but even if they did it wouldn’t be the same. For one thing the kids in the audience probably carry guns. I’m sorry to say they would probably be too busy playing video games or texting the guy beside him to watch Huntz Hall (Satch) shaking in his boots while some ghoul chased Slip Mahoney down the street trying to slap him silly with his own pork-pie hat.

My dad took me to a matinee once (just once) after he came back from the war. I was such a jerk, probably hid in the washroom, or under the seat. On the way home he dropped off at the Armouries and tried to re-enlist.

A few months ago I watched a Flash Gordon movie one night, really late, probably on my way to the bathroom for the third time. I won’t say his rocket ship didn’t look quite real but you could see the strings holding it up. Why did I never notice that when I was a fan? Well, I do know why, it’s because we wanted to believe and even if we didn’t, for 25 cents we watched five cartoons, a serial, a feature cowboy movie starring Lash Larue, plus a box of popcorn what else would a kid want to do on a Saturday afternoon?

Eventually we outgrew the matinees. Overnight we stopped being snotty-nosed little kids and became men of the world, bon vivants if you will. Some loony running around in his long underwear no longer turned our cranks and we began to notice little things – like Sabu the Elephant boy’s hair was greying at the temples and Jungle Jim was using a cane. Besides, we had discovered something far more interesting – women.

In the meantime, there were nudist magazines for sale at some of the seedier bookstores. If we needed to keep abreast of the current fashion in nudist swimwear they were for sale if we had two bucks, which we still didn’t, and were over 6’ tall to reach them, which I wasn’t.

Nudist magazines were always wrapped in cellophane to cut down on teenage browsing. The distribution companies also had a tendency to place bright red price stickers over the more popular spots on the cover girl’s anatomy. On the rare occasions we lucked out and found an edition, usually dog-eared and torn beyond recognition, we were quick to notice that nudists in the ‘50s had no sexual parts below the waist. Either that or the publisher had an airbrush.

Apparently, nudists do nothing during the day but sunbathe, play endless games of volleyball or hike up and down the forest trails. If I had to think of the easiest job in the world, it would have to be the entertainment director at the Tanbottom Nature Camp. We were all looking for summer jobs, but not once did we ever see –

 Summer Help

Young men needed, must be well-endowed

Must possess a keen interest in trees and volleyball.

And that’s it!

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