Mommas, don’t let your daughters grow up to be playwrights
Part One…blame it on the Son of A Pioneer
– Susan Reinhard 8/18/14
In 1954, we were the first people on our block of Johnstown, Pennsylvania to get a television set. I was 5 years old. It was black and white of course, but all of the neighbors would crowd in the living room every night the first week to see the magical box with its one channel that used shows from all 3 national networks: Channel 6, Altoona “From High Atop the Alleghenies.”
Like most American families, we were already unhappy, but, in 1954, we did not have all the communications we have in 2014. My parents, Betty and Carl had no idea what to do about it or how they got into the mess of marriage. Mom and Dad had NO idea how babies were made and married, determined to not have children. However, the only advice about Birth Control Mom could find was from Dad’s slightly brain damaged mother. Grandma had gotten pregnant 12 times with 6 surviving; and my 17 year-old-mother didn’t know that Grandma had the 2 safe weeks wrong and took her advice. Mom then churned out two kids within 18 months of marriage and was not happy about it. With the third one, a miscarriage, she finally figured it out.
Mom had enough love and attention for one child, but not for two, and I was number two in birth order and value. Kathy and I have very different memories of our childhoods. I sensed I was a mistake and was in danger. That my mother would call the Orphanage (or pretend to) when we were ‘bad’ had the desired effect on me. Being redhaired, I was told I was going to end up like my Aunt Betty Lou, (whom I later discovered had to be told that taking money from boys for sex was NOT a good thing ) who was never quite accepted in the family.
In 1954, spankings were acceptable and encouraged, so I learned to stay very still…preferably in my bedroom with the lights out while Mom patrolled the halls puffing on a Kent Cigarette and angry at the world.
And so, when the television set arrived, I tiptoed downstairs and saw the young and handsome Roy Rogers riding the beautiful Palamino Trigger to the rescue of…whoever that week…and my fantasy life began. And I was the one being rescued. It was then that I started to write little stories and draw little cartoon strips (yes, my cartoonists, from an early age I was drawing them). Roy was my first ‘boyfriend’ and the start of the years of fantasizing, a habit with which I still wrestle at the age of 64.
To be continued….