Sunday, March 31, 2019

Not a Review, Just a Musing

Watched The Highwaymen on Netflix last night.

I liked it. The actors involved all turned in strong performances. Everyone (OK, everyone who bothers much with history) knows how the story ends, but the movie gets there well, and from a different viewpoint than previous Bonnie and Clyde pics that I've seen.

But the most enjoyable part for me was ... nostalgia.

Not for the events, really, since Bonnie and Clyde took their dirt naps 32 years before I was born.

Nostalgia for an American terrain that was fast disappearing when I was a kid and is all but gone now.

When I was a kid, growing up astride what was left of Route 66 halfway between St. Louis and Joplin, the Interstate Highway System was still a big freakin' deal. Four lanes of freeway. If you weren't on that, pretty much everything was two lanes. With pavement and ditches if you were lucky, but not always either of the two.

There's a particular gas station in the movie that I remember several of in out-of-the-way locations from my childhood. Not the brand, although the one I remember offhand was a Skelly Oil station. Not the pumps -- I remember seeing some of the older style pumps, no longer in operation, but still rusting on the islands next to the pre-digital "rolling analog numbers" pumps. But the building itself,  maybe 10' x 15', with a gable held up by two square pillars extending out over one side of the two pumps.

One of the cars in the movie has an AM radio in it. I guess having a radio at all was pretty high-end circa 1934. By the time I started driving, AM/FM and maybe a cassette player was standard (CDs as a general commercial proposition were still a couple of years away). But my first car was a year old than I was, and had just an AM radio in it (I wired up an old 8-track tape player I got for a buck at a garage sale).

In most respects, tooling around the southern Missouri countryside by car in the mid-1980s wasn't so wildly different from doing so in the 1930s that either would have been unrecognizable as an experience to someone yanked out of one end of the timeline and plopped down in the other end. Two-lane roads, country general stores and tiny gas stations with their owners' names on them, etc. Cell phones? Hah. If you were lucky, there might be a pay phone within 20 miles.

These days it seems like it's hard (or maybe not so hard, you could ask that there Internet to do it for you) to find 20 miles of two-lane road in a row, and the gas stations, stores, and restaurants at each end of that 20-mile stretch will be mostly national or regional chains.

Which is not to say that I want to go back to those old days. But I do like to visit what's left of them when I can, in real life or on the screen.

As for actual Bonnie and Clyde nostalgia, I've really only got a few bits.

When I was a kid, there was an exhibit that toured the country, claiming to be the car they got shot in. It would pull up in a town, semi-trailer with the car in it, some steps to walk in and out on, and I think it may have been a buck to get in. Was it the real car? I don't know. Looks like the pictures I've seen, complete with bullet holes, shattered windows, and blood all over the place.

Of course, I had to ask my mom about them. Bad people, she said, they shouldn't have made such heroes out of them. She was an infant herself when they got shot, but I guess people were still talking about it years later.

Later I lived in a tiny town -- Reeds Spring, Missouri -- where one of their famous shoot-outs with cops took place (there's still an annual festival celebrating that, I guess, although I never noticed it when I was there).

No comments: