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A Long Time Ago…

I just decided to attend someone’s 50th wedding anniversary next month, and it got me thinking. The most indelible memory of the “Summer of ’61” is without question the building of the Berlin Wall. But some of the events 50 years ago were especially important to me.

A lot of my free time (and school time) was spent in movie theaters. There was one theater in Saarbrücken that could show 70mm prints, the Gloria-Palast on Trierer Straße, across from the (now defunct) main post office. It had a screen big enough for the projection of those super-wide films. I was convinced at the time that 70mm was the movie format of the future (Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey were impressive examples). Well, you know how that turned out: Movie theaters shrank instead; they gave way to multiplexes and people watch movies on their cell phones today. The building that housed the Gloria still stands; there are apartments today, but if you check it out in Google you can recognize the triangular shape of the original theater.

One of the most memorable 70mm films I saw in that movie theater was the 1961 West Side Story. It was so colorful, so modern, so sad. I may have seen it more than once, but I remember clearly that for the longest time I moved the buckle of my belt to one side of my jeans – just like Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks (played by George Chakiris). Needless to say, this style choice was met with a lot of ridicule from my peers.

Another cultural event was the 1961 birth of the serial science fiction hero Perry Rhodan. I first became aware of the series during my weekly visits to my grandmother in a hospital in nearby Völklingen. I had to take the train and passed a train station kiosk with magazines, newspapers, and lots of those weekly installment novels – mostly romance or crime, not science fiction. I noticed Perry Rhodan and got hooked. I found the story line very exciting and continued reading the weekly installments well into the two hundreds. Today, there are over 2,600 installments, a Facebook page, and Spiegel Online featured the so very important Perry Rhodan golden anniversary.

There were of course other events as well: The people I’m going to visit got married; TWA showed the first in-flight movie ever; John F. Kennedy was sworn in as president; the beautiful “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” premiered. They didn’t have the same impact on me, though.

To make it easier for you to think back to the Summer of ’61, click on the music player below.

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And if that’s not enough nostalgia for you and you happen to be in Los Angeles or New York, William Shatner (“The Shat”) hosts free outdoor screenings of his documentary The Captains: today in the Hollywood Forever Memorial Park and on July 30 at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in NYC.

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3 Responses to “A Long Time Ago…”

  1. Shirley says:

    Fifty years ago I was in junior high school and was just coming into my awareness that the world extended beyond my immediate family and friends. I’ll always have special feelings of John Kennedy as “my” president. At that time I was living in Ohio where I grew up, today I live in the land of surfers in California so the sound of Brian Wilson is perfect.Time flys by so quickly but the important thing is that the good memories linger.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Shirley, thanks for reading. Even though the saying goes that “if you remember the 60s, you weren’t there,” I have memories of quite a few formative events. Over the years, contacts with friends from those days have actually deepened and we get together during my annual visits to Germany – or they come and visit me in SoCal. What a trip it’s been.

  2. EP says:

    I feel like certain vivid memories, especially from childhood and youth, are more than just memories. In a way, we never really age past a certain point. Biologically we do, of course, but we tend to remain stuck in the time of our youth. I can only speak for myself, but in many ways I’ve remained like that sixteen-year-old kid I was in high school–despite of what I see in the mirror.

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