What it was like

One of my favorite memories is the first time I saw Casablanca. It was around 1972 and I was in a college lecture hall with around 200 other students. In those days before DVDs and Blu-Rays or even before VHS and Beta, almost no one in the big crowd had ever seen the film before.

The audience was completely into the story, and at the climax when Louis told his minions, “Major Strasser has been shot!” we all held our breath with Humphrey Bogart. At Louis’ next words — I’m not going to spoil them for the sake of the three people who still haven’t seen Casablanca — the crowd erupted in the biggest cheer I’ve ever heard in a movie theater.

The other day Facebook Memories showed me something I posted 11 years ago, in 2012: “We pulled out Raiders of the Lost Ark tonight, and it’s still true – best adventure movie ever, best hero ever, best heroine ever. Thirty (!) years later, it’s still a wonderful ride.”

I would annoy Red with comparisons like this one: “If, when ‘Good Vibrations’ was new, the radio played songs that are as old as ‘Good Vibrations’ is now, they’d be playing ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart’ from 1910 on an old Victrola.”

So of course I did the math. When I wrote that 2012 musing, Raiders of the Lost Ark was just as old as Casablanca was when I saw it for the first time.

I was born in the waning days of the Korean War, and of course I have no memory of those times. There are adults alive today for whom the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are similar — it’s history that happened before they were aware.

I think we relics from another era owe it to those young adults to try to explain what it was like. It helps me to understand, both the generation that preceded me and those that have come after, to reflect on what the world was or is like when I was their age — I’m now older than my parents were on 9/11, for example.

What movies today are as old as Casablanca was back in 1972? Schindler’s List. Jurassic Park. Groundhog Day. Feeling old yet?

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