Babysitting by Willard

One of my favorite posts on the entire Internet — an excellent piece titled “If 70s Moms Had Blogs” — takes me hilariously back to the long-gone good-and-bad old days of the 1970s.  I’m somewhat of a nostalgia addict, so posts like this just tear me up and take me down thought avenues that can last for days.

I never imagined my childhood was how Victoria Fedden describes growing up with a 70s mom in the above post… UNTIL TODAY, when, while watching the movie Willard, I was hit with the distinct memory of seeing it for the first time as a kid at a movie theatre.  Yes, a kid.

The memory goes like this:  I somehow heard of this movie Willard, about an Willard posterawkward guy who makes friends with rats and trains them to do his bidding.  The movie poster said something about how it’s the one movie you should not see alone.  It featured a tall lanky blond boy actor and showed images of one particularly creepy scary rat with glowing threatening eyes.  Naturally, this movie seems like it would be irresistible for any kid.  Okay, maybe not.

The poster says you should not see it alone.  It doesn’t say you shouldn’t see it without your parents.  I don’t remember how it went down, but somehow it turned into an opportunity for my parents to drop the kids off at the Willard poster 2theater to see Willard while they killed a couple hours at my aunt’s house a short drive from the cinema.

This might seem pretty lax now, what with “helicopter parenting” and over-scheduled, over-protected and heavily-monitored children, but it didn’t seem even remotely weird then.  Besides, it had a “GP” rating (remember “GP ratings”?)  So kids got breaks from their parents as much as the other way around, and we were no worse for it (on second thought, I can’t make that assertion with 100 percent certainty, but let’s just say…).  I do know at least one person who was permanently scarred by the scene where Socrates breaks Willard’s heart.

The point is, as is the point of most nostalgic reminiscence, that it seemed like a simpler time when parents had no idea what the hell their kids were doing while they were “out playing,” or it was not unusual to leave your un-chaperoned, underage kids to be babysat by Willard Stiles at a suburban movie theater without being reported for negligence. There may have been no fewer threats to kids at that time, just maybe different ones than we have now.  Evil rats notwithstanding.

In many ways, the 70s were a frightening time.  We were immersed in a culture of Pop Tarts, roller skates, turquoise appliances, the-exorcist-posterconjunction junction, station wagons, and 2001, the disco.  Besides conjunction junction — which is its own category of Awesome and not scary at all but must be mentioned — that’s some pretty scary stuff.

And remember, we were still two years away from the release of  The Exorcist.

About Traveler

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.”
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