The other day I was wandering around the video store in search of something to rent that would appeal to Main Lady and that I could manage to sit through. Main Lady's tastes run to Out of Africa (1985), A Passage To India and Rabbit-Proof Fence. I enjoy The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. Is there any wonder why it takes me so long to find a suitable DVD?
As I wandered about in my futile quest for the Holy Grail I noted a boy of about 10 pestering his father over film selection. The precocious little snot wanted to rent an R rated film that incorporated gratuitous sex and violence in conjunction with some poor schmuck in a rubber monster suit. Dad wasn't buying his offspring's arguments, finally stating that no means no. I applauded old Dad for his diligence. Here was one young fellow that was unlikely to clutter the rear seat of a squad car in six years or so.
Being bored, it occurred to me to wonder just why R rated films were displayed within easy reach of someone who was not allowed to watch them, which is easy: Money, that's why. Then I wondered just where a patron would go to find a G or PG rated film, how many there were and even if there were any at all. Back when I was a precocious little snot of ten unbelievably fortunate years we didn't have R rated films, we had the Motion Picture Production Code. We didn't even have DVDs; we had books, some of which could get pretty racy. I remember this one time when I showed Mom something I found on the book rack...
To put things into a little perspective here, let me remind everyone that Mom lived through the great depression. It wasn't any fun, but those who did it learned a few things about hard work and personal responsibility. Mom then put herself through college by working all summer and attending classes the rest of the year. Well sir, one fine day Mom came home from school with a book tucked under her arm that she was required to read for English class. The book was Look Homeward, Angel and her mother took one look at it and wouldn't allow Mom to read it. Mom's old married with three children aunt read it and told Mom what the book was about to Mom could pass her exam - she got a C, which wasn't like her. Mom was 22 years old and attending college when this happened. My point here is that Mom's family continued to look out for the welfare of their children even after the children were adults, which kind of says something about the family. Spiritual and moral well being were important to them, and Mom inherited this characteristic.
Mom taught me to read. The public school system wasn't getting the job done (they failed with my brother Shotgun Bob as well) so when I complained that I wanted to learn to read, Mom naturally started teaching me. She was aided and abetted by her mother, Grandma Schoolteacher, who really did teach elementary school and who did not allow any child to fail anything in her classroom. Hard work and diligence, you see, could make up for most anything. Grandma Schoolteacher taught me to write as well, and then I was turned loose on an unsuspecting public school system. Anyway, having learned to read I would happily devour everything I could get my dirty little hands on, and that's when I discovered the book rack at Lane's Drug Store.
Lane's was a local chain that no longer exists today. If it did, it would be a Walgreen's competitor. Right up front next to the magazine rack there was a moderately sized rack of paperback books all priced at 40 cents or so. So I'd get 50 cents from Mom and buy some good science fiction like Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint, The Beast Master and The Eyes of the Overworld. Everything went just fine until one day I was attracted by the cover of a book right at eye level.
Being a little curious about just what a "private hell" might be and why a half naked lady was on the cover, I waited around until Mom came to collect me before showing her the book and asking.
The offensive volume was removed from my hands and I was escorted out to the car and instructed to wait while Mom went back inside to talk to the manager. I don't know what Mom said, but I couldn't find the book again, Mom wouldn't tell me what it was about and Dad remained quiet when I related the whole business to him over breakfast. Eventually I was told to drop the subject or else.
I don't blame Mom for giving the manager at Lane Drugs a good look at just what "private hell" might be along with a lecture concerning literature that's suitable for public display. What I wonder about is this: If we had more censorship for children, would the quality of the United States eventually increase? I kind of think it might, but censorship would have to extend to advertising and I'm betting that anything that restricted advertising would immediately be challenged under freedom of speech. Not that anything like this would ever actually happen, but what if it did?