When I travel by automobile, I take the secondary roads. If you want to see what life is all about in the hamlets, villages and towns, the secondary roads are the ones which will bring you into contact with real people.
In one’s ramblings on these roads eventually you will come into a town like Peyton Place. Peyton Place is a metaphor for towns in the East, South, North and West and all points in between.
If you pause in Peyton Place, you will encounter a slice of humanity with its joys, sorrows, defeats, triumphs and secrets. Secrets seem to be part of every old community which the denizens share like the Communion cup at evening Mass.
If you linger or traverse back to Peyton Place during the year, you will experience the seasons not only of nature but of the people as well. Let’s take a few moments to peel back the pages of Grace Metalious’ 1956 tantalizing and bodacious novel based on her childhood and life in a small New England town.
When the salacious novel hit the stands, thousands of people, especially women, bought copies and in many cases hid them from their husbands and children. However, the allure of the novel had boys retrieving the hidden copies of their mothers and, in their tree houses or clubs, reading the saucy dialogue of Betty Anderson as she fastened her sights on Rodney Harrington who was in love with Allison MacKenzie, the repressed girl who wanted to be a writer with an over-protective mother who guarded a terrible secret.
When you distill the novel to its core, it is about Allison MacKenzie as she grows up in Peyton Place during the Great Depression. She wants to be a writer, and like most good writers she writes from her own personal experiences and about her town.
If you remove all the salacious scenes, it is a simple story about life in a small town told from Allison’s perspective. Unfortunately Allison, like her creator, would suffer the ills of fame, fortune and ostracization.
Peyton Place led to a film version which was puritanically sanitized. With the poorly written sequel Return to Peyton Place a second film was made.
In 1965 ABC premiered Peyton Place, the first night-time soap. It ran from September 15, 1964 to June 2, 1969. 514 episodes gave the viewing public weekly adventures of the intrigue and daily ups and downs of the denizens of a small town in America.
For me Peyton Place was my mountain hamlet. What was presented on the small screen was a daily reality in the lives of those around me.
For what Grace Metalious observed in her environs is true everywhere. Like the pages of a well-written book the lives of those around us unravel their elements of secrets, desires, hopes and dreams.
Next time you take a drive off the beaten path to a small town take a few minutes to look around. For inevitably you are standing in the town square of Peyton Place where human nature is on full display, mostly behind the closed doors of the shops, churches, schools and houses.
Allison MacKenzie, in her opening soliloquy in the film, says
“Where I was born, time was told not by the clock or the calendar but by the seasons. Summer was carefree contentment. Autumn was that bittersweet time of regret for moments that had ended and things that were yet undone. And then winter fell with a cold mantle of caution and chill. It nipped our noses and our arrogance and made us move closer to the warm stoves of memory and desire. Spring was a promise. But there was a fifth season, of love and only the wise or the lucky ones knew where to find it.”
G. D. Williams © 2013
Peyton Place Opening Credits 1957
Peyton Place’s Real Victim
Fall From Grace
Return To Grace Metalious