Georgia had shown me the dark service stairway a few days earlier. Shifting the beach towel and radio I was holding to firmly grasp the roof door’s latch, I gave it a quick turn. My reward was a loud click and a flood of bright sunlight.
The roof was flat, covered with small pebbles. I found a spot to spread my blanket and laid down. Sunbathing wasn’t one of my favorite things to do, especially alone, but I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Today was my day off. All my new friends were working. Turning the radio on, I closed my eyes.
The sun was warm, but a cool breeze kept it from being unpleasant. A song l liked began to play. A man’s voice mournfully crooned, “In the year 2525, if man is still alive, if woman can survive, they may find…”
I had graduated from high school during the first week of June. Two weeks later I moved to Wausau where I planned to attend summer school and work as a nursing assistant. Those were the things I’d planned. What I hadn’t planned was meeting a man who swept me off my feet and feeling unable to finish taking the summer school chemistry class.
My parents must be told about the class. I’d taken it because I was planning to attend college in the fall. The song on the radio continued, “In the year 3535, ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies. Everything you think, do and say is in the pill you took today.” Obviously, college was not going to happen for me if I didn’t take the chemistry class and pass tests.
Sitting upright, I looked around. I liked the song, but today it too closely matched my dreary sense of impending doom. What was in my future? Were my decisions today the right ones for the years to come?
In the five decades since that song was popular, every time I hear it, I instantly remember laying in the sun on that roof top, the smell of suntan lotion and my feelings of dismay over changing plans.
Popular songs exert a terrific tug on listeners’ emotions. In my childhood I felt safe and happy when I heard “Poor people of Paris” and “Summer Place”. Hearing them now reminds me of my happy childhood.
Songs magnify emotions, especially when they are in sympathy with the listener’s feelings. Those songs make the feeling grow bigger than life. Many a girl in high school with me cried after being dumped by their latest boyfriends when they heard “Breaking up is Hard to Do” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons or “It’s my Party” by Lesley Gore.
As I neared high school graduation, recreational drugs were beginning to stream into Central Wisconsin communities from surrounding large cities. I knew girls that openly stated that they’d like to try some. At the time the song “Crimson and Clover” played on the local radio station often. Hearing it always made me think how distorted a drugged mind would be.
When I was newly married and having my first baby, the local radio station often played Lee Marvin’s bear-rumble voice tunelessly singing, “I was born, under a wanderin star…” He didn’t want to settle down. At the time I was making the biggest commitment to settling down that a person can make. I was bringing new life into this world. “Snow can burn your eyes, but only people make you cry. Home is made for coming from, for dreams of going to…”
The song “In the Year 2525” provided dystopic predictions about the distant future at a time I was worried about the immediate future. Hearing that song now, is like finding a bookmark that opens to the first pages of my life immediately following high school graduation.