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Liz Ciancone

October 12, 2010

MS. TAKES: Sure way to draw a host of blank stares

TERRE HAUTE — I am still learning. Just the other day I learned that if you get old enough, nobody knows what you’re talking about.

We were checking out at a local restaurant and the cashier was a cute young lady. She offered me a coupon which would entitle me to $5 off admission to the upcoming Shrine Circus. A high point of my childhood was a trip to the Tom Mix Circus. But when I mentioned my last circus experience, I drew a blank look. “I bet you are too young to remember Tom Mix,” I ventured. Her nod and continuing blank look confirmed my suspicion.

“Well,” I attempted to explain, “Tom Mix was the Roy Rogers of my generation.” Not only a blank look, but a quick look around to be sure she was covered in case I turned violent.

She smiled, tentatively. “You don’t know Roy Rogers either, do you?” I said. Another nod and a look of relief when I sighed and headed for the door. I was afraid to mention Gene Autry. She might have called 911 to alert them to be on the lookout for a nut case.

Sometimes it doesn’t even require that many years to perplex the young. I was only a couple years out of college when I mentioned “Wrong Way” Corrigan to my English class. There is, believe me, nothing to compare with 30 blank looks. I explained who Douglas Corrigan was and it precipitated a class discussion on air travel. How I tied that into English class I no longer remember.

There seems to be an almost-general fear of history in any field. (Except sports, where it seems possible for almost any male over the age of 15 to rattle off the earned run average of every pitcher since Cy Young.) I am reasonably sure that few folks, even those devoted to a study of movies, recall (or NEED to recall) that Claudette Colbert played Cleopatra well before Elizabeth Taylor. Some of them won’t even remember Elizabeth Taylor.

I got a lot of that from my sons, especially when it came to music. I extolled the skills of drummers Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa and they knew only Keith Richards. I have no idea who will be remembered by my grandchildren. There IS the generation gap, of course.

Oh well, it’s almost Christmas and when the radio plays “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” these kids will remember Gene Autry — or will they?

Liz Ciancone is a retired

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