Monday, October 11, 2010

Girl on Porch, Boy in Tree

Yesterday, since I had these guests coming for Thanksgiving, I had to clean up a bit, ( a bit more than usual, anyway, which isn't saying much) and as I did so, I played the 'radio' on the television for background. Galaxy, the stations are called. My two favourite channels are Swinging Standards and Jukebox Oldies.

40,50's 60's, love songs all the time. But, most songs that have ever been written are love songs, aren't they? (Unless they are spiritual songs.) Singing is a mating call, after all.

So listening to these iconic songs (played on a loop on these stations) is not only a trip down memory lane for me (although I'm sixties girl and my memories start in that decade) but they are also a trip back to a time when my hormones were raging.

One favourite song is Boys in the Trees.

With this tune Carly Simon paints a vivid picture of adolescence and the active nature of boys' adolescence and the passive nature of girls' adolescence, who are 'sentenced first to burn and then to freeze' as the boys play in the trees. (This was clearly before video games.)

I have to wonder if Flora Nicholson, 16 in 1908, when my story Flo in the City (based on the letters of ) begins, ever had a boys in the trees moment. I'm sure she did, but with variations. As I have written in this blog, young people in Edwardian times were repressed, and sexuality and sin were so intermingled in girls' minds, it's hard to imagine what detours their sexual energy had to take to be expressed. And, yet, love and courtship was still the main theme of the novel, as novelist Gertrude Atherton wrote in an essay in the Delineator in 1913.

And adolescents didn't have songs back then to listen to over and over on their transistor radio or to play on their bedroom phonograph as they pined over some basketball star at their high school who was going out with the local beauty, a Ford fashion model.... Talking machines were just being introduced and these were expensive. There were popular songs, of course, and most of them love songs but many felt these songs to be louche (is that the word?) which is why Edison had to try to convince mothers to let the talking machines into the home, that they were 'good wholesome fun'... In his adverts, mothers looked like muses, in flowing robes, their hair unravelled down around their shoulders, their children, like disciples, gathered around them.

A lot of these silly love songs from the 1910 era were associated with the Vaudeville circuit. Remember, the good ladies of the Montreal Council of Women's Immoral Materials Committee felt that Vaudeville was very low-brow or as they put it 'of a very ordinary tone.'

You can listen to some of the popular 1910 songs here: I doubt they'll bring back memories, but they were fun

Anyway, I have a scene were Marion gets all hot and bothered watching a strong man wrestle snakes at Dominion Park (who wouldn't?) Maybe I will have a boys in the trees moment for Flora, as she sits on the porch, maybe featuring actually boys in homage to the very beautiful and very talented Carly Simon.