In our previous post we discussed Robert Lowell’s FALL 1961. Let’s look at another aspect of that time period—a classic Twilight Zone episode, a forgotten film, and children.
Mr. Henry Bemis is a bank teller with one solitary vice. He loves to read books or, for that matter, anything printed.
On his lunch break he retires to the bank vault to eat and to read in peace. There’s a nuclear explosion which wipes out all life in the city except for Mr. Bemis.
After he recovers from the initial shock and nightmarish realization of his sole survivor status, he realizes one paramount reality:
“And the best thing, the very best thing of all, is there’s time now… there’s all the time I need and all the time I want. Time, time, time. There’s time enough at last.”
“Time Enough at Last” on November 20, 1959 caused my fellow first graders to walk down the block to the Carnegie City Library to see if there was a vault since the First National Bank told us children to go to the library because their vault did not allow children. In the episode it was the bank vault that provided protection from death, and we were naïve about the effects of radiation.
We knew there were thousands of books to give us something to do, but would it be safe? The librarian reassured us that the basement was certified as a Fallout Shelter, and we would be protected.
Now, we know that the Fallout Shelters in public buildings were a psychological ploy to comfort the people. Radiation fallout would not have cared about schools, libraries, etc. Radiation poisoning would not have spared the children across the world.
Anyway, it was an unusual and fearful time for us elementary students growing up in the shadows of the Cold War and the ever lingering prospect of the destruction of our civilization. The Twilight Zone brought us some time to escape these vestibules of life.
In addition, some of these episodes scared us where a glass of hot milk and cookies were no comfort for our nightly repose. A hug or an encouraging word from a parent that there would be a tomorrow always helped us kids get through the school week. Of course, there would be another episode of The Twilight Zone to watch and experience.
I don’t know if Robert Lowell was a Twilight Zone watcher or reader. I am sure as he viewed his world, a glass of milk and cookies from childhood would have been a pleasant repast from the adult cares, fears and frustrations of the 1960s.
In a previous post: Ladybug, Ladybug Fly Away Home and the Cry of Innocents I reviewed the brilliant but highly neglected 1963 film Ladybug Ladybug:
We sensed the growing apprehension in our parents and teachers. Adults huddled around backyard fences and school corridors in hushed whispers, and sometimes we heard crying muffled by trembling hands over quivering lips.
Church services were very solemn. Prayers were long.
In school we practiced drills—sitting in the hallways with our heads bowed. Civil Defense hats and arm bands were visible on the streets. Bulldozers were digging holes in the ground with concrete trucks racing up and down streets as bomb shelters were built. Those who had bomb shelters bought supplies for the long haul and fortified their shelters against intruders.
Children of the late 50s and early 60s were the innocent spectators in the geopolitical drama. We could do nothing but hope and pray that if we lived to adulthood we would change the world.
Unfortunately, the vicissitudes of adult life brought its own challenges for survival. The world in 2014 may not be plagued with a threat of nuclear winter, but it is not a safe haven for millions of men, women and children who struggle against odds of extinction.
For many the “tock tock tock” of the clock is not heard because the sound of hunger, famine, pestilence and war are the new mushroom clouds of deadly despair and hopelessness in 2014. The foes of humanity are the mirrored images of us in a glass darkly where dark shadows gather on the approaching stormy night on a precipice overlooking the jagged rocks of human history.
What do our children and grandchildren see when they look at us if they take time to peer away from their electronic devices? What do we think of the world in 2014 and the future of the coming years for the young ones who will face a hostile environment of hunger, famine, pestilence, war and climatic changes?
G. D. Williams ©2014
Twilight Zone Vol. Two, January 25, 2009 G. D. Williams Amazon Review
Ladybug, Ladybug Fly Away Home and the Cry of Innocents: