Back When I Used To Walk Miles To SchoolSaturday, December 31, 2011
I was never ever bored by any of the stories my grandmother used to tell me of her childhood and that of my mother’s and other relatives. Each retelling seemed to be fresh.
As we (Rosemary, Hilary, Rebecca and Lauren) watched on Saturday night Ralph Nelson’s 1968 film Charly with Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom I put the film on pause and asked Rebecca, “Do you know my personal connection with this film?” Her quick answer, “Can it wait until we finish the film?” told me that my story would not impress her in the least.
I told her that I had both photographed Cliff Robertson and also Rod Steiger. Of the latter she knew I was talking about Steiger’s connection to Norman Jewison’s 1967 film In the Heat of the Night. Rebecca had seen the film after having read the book by John Ball at school. Her comment on Steiger and Cliff Robertson was, “Nobody in school would know who either of those actors is.” I attempted again, “Well I have photographed most of this city’s mayors including the present one.” That was met with absolute silence. Mayors must not be high up in the agenda of Rebecca or her contemporaries of grade 9.
I persisted and told her that back in 1968 I had watched with Rosemary in our Mexico City apartment, Neil Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for man…” As soon as his boots had firmly compressed the moon’s moon (certainly not earth!) we switched off the TV and drove to the Cine Polanco to see Charly.
It was sometime in the late 80s that I had the opportunity of taking pictures of Cliff Roberston in Whistler. He smiled when I told him my story.
But the evening with Charly last night was not entirely a lost one. There were no confrontations with the teenager at the table and the teenager’s contribution to the wonderful apple pie that Hilary baked (the latter made the crust, the former the apples) was appreciated by us all. I helped myself to a very large second helping of the pie.
In the first ten minutes of the film Rebecca cried as Charly’s unsympathetic and cruel work mates made fun of his stupidity. At one point Rebecca said she did not want to watch. But the presence of the beautiful Claire Bloom (we had enjoyed her weeks back in a family viewing of Chaplin’s Limelight) may have kept her interest. I drove them all home in what was the last Saturday night family dinner of the year. I was content to realize that without the girls knowing, they were well in their way of knowing of the importance of Rod Steiger and Cliff Robertson even if being blasé about our city’s mayors may be understandable and even justifiable.