Friday, March 20, 2015

The Electric Company

In October, 1971, I was a two-year veteran viewer of Sesame Street. I was also, in my own mind, a veteran student. After all, I had kindergarten in my past and had only just begun my experience in first grade. I can remember secretly rushing home after school to watch my favorite shows - secretly because they were "kid" shows - and I can remember the hype surrounding the newest offshoot of Sesame Street on television, The Electric Company.

When The Electric Company came out, I was really excited. Part of this was because I loved Sesame Street so much and I knew that this new show was supposed to be for grown-ups like my 6-year-old self. But mostly, it was because I lived two houses down from The Electric Company.

My world was not yet disturbed by the reality that I lived in a tiny little piece of a massive universe. I knew that there was a little store at the corner of my block named The Electric Company and I knew this television show was called The Electric Company, therefore I knew that all I had to do was walk a few steps and I would be looking straight into the world I was seeing on my television set.

It was exciting. It felt like my own little secret - that I lived so close to the fantastical characters and situations I watched on my TV.

The picture is of the building that was The Electric Company when I was very young. The building had originally been built as a corner "Mom and Pop" grocery store. While it was The Electric Company, those big windows across the front were filled with lights. Sparkly lights. Very shiny lights. Barely lit lights. Lights that flickered like candles. Before the television show, those lights held my attention. I would stand in front of that window and become mesmerized by the lights that looked like candles. After the show started, I still stood in front of that building, but now I was looking deeper into the darkness behind the lights - searching for Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, and all the other super cool people that I knew were in there. I knew they were in there because this was The Electric Company.

In later years, the store left and this building became a hair salon, Kuttin' Korner. While convenient through my teenage years, the little building never again held my attention the way it did in the early 70s, and also never disappointed me as much as it did when I concluded that the television show was fake, The Electric Company on the corner was real. I would never see my Electric Company on television and I would never see the characters from the television within those windows.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The elevator

Last weekend, I made a very quick (less than 48 hour) trip back home to Kansas. While I was there, I took pictures of many of the places that reside within my memory. It was an interesting trip. I had a friend of mine along for the ride and because of this, I saw my town, my state, and my life from a whole new perspective. I've decided to write a blog post for each of the pictures I took while I was there so that I can remember, and so that my children will have my stories.

The first picture I will share is the first one I took upon arriving in my hometown of Hutchinson, Kansas (affectionately known as "Hutch).

Hutch has a lot of grain elevators. In fact, I'm wishing I had taken a picture of the "city" skyline, which would mainly consist of grain elevators. The one in the picture was the world's largest when it was built at 1/2 mile long. It could hold 46 million bushels. It is now the 2nd largest grain elevator in Kansas and there are larger in the world, but it is still a really large elevator.

The elevator is in a state of neglect right now. Even though it is still in use, it is no longer the pristine white I remember it being when I was young. As long as it held the spot of world's largest, it was painted regularly and was a source of pride for my hometown.

My earliest memory of the elevator is not a complete memory. The only part of the memory I can bring to mind is riding in my dad's pickup truck. He stopped at one end and I can remember somebody getting me out of the truck. My siblings are all present in my memory and the last thing I can remember is running as hard as I could to try to keep up with them.

The full story, as it was retold often by my dad, was that I was still in diapers then. He took us to the elevator so we could see how long it was. Since it was a half mile, he suggested that we run to the end and back and then we would know we had run a mile. I was the youngest of four children. My siblings would have been 12, 9 and 7. I would have been about 2. It is the first memory I have of a very strong desire to be like them. It mattered to me that I was left behind while they ran ahead of me. My father followed along behind, slowly, in his truck so that he could convince me to get back in. I probably only ran about a 5th of the length of the elevator. Dad always said I was crying that I had not been able to keep up and mad that he wouldn't let me keep going.

One of my first memories in life tells a story of a little girl who was striving to keep up with someone else, to achieve someone else's dream. If only she had known how frivolous that endeavor would be.