Saturday, February 01, 2014

Little Boxes

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same. - Little Boxes, Malvina Reynolds, 1962

I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,
But it's all right now, in fact, it's a gas!
But it's all right. I'm jumpin jack flash,
It's a gas! gas! gas! - Jumping Jack Flash, Jagger/Richards, 1968

I'd always believed that "Little Boxes" was written by Pete Seeger. I should have known that such a clever song was written by a woman! No offence to Pete, a man who never craved the limelight.

I only discovered that Malvina Reynolds composed the song when I checked the lyrics today -  thinking about Pete Seeger who died last Monday in New York.

End of an era.

A mere six years between "Little Boxes" and "Jumping Jack Flash". Between the gentle, almost self-effacing Seeger, and the bold rebellion of Jagger. Who would have thunk it?

I can actually remember where I was when I first heard  "Little Boxes". I was with my father in a car on the way to the Sir Colin MacKenzie Fauna Park - otherwise known as the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary.

It was on an access visit. My father was driving, and left-wing socialist that he was, he referred to the wild-life sanctuary by its correct name, "The Sir Colin MacKenzie Fauna Park". That's what he was like. Having never learned to read and write until he was a grown man (a big thank you to the Saint Augustines Boys' Orphanage), he prided himself on getting things right.

Of course none of the gray looking people on the streets of Melbourne had a clue as what he was talking about. "Sir Colin MacKenzie Fauna Park" indeed!  A lover of the proletariat by political conviction, my father could never quite cope with the working class in the flesh.

Bill lived in New Zealand and my brother and I, in Australia. It was in the gray years of the fifties, that extended their dull influence to the early sixties in Australia.  The country we expats now call "OZ"  - being run at the time by a political party several degrees to the right of the American Tea Party that was to come later.

Of course we never made it to Healesville to see the koalas and kangaroos. My father, like me and my brother, had spatial dyslexia, and couldn't read maps or find his way out of a box. He drove round in circles, passing little boxes all the same. I remember he kept stopping to ask the gray-looking pedestrian pedestrians of Melbourne's outer suburbs, "Can you please direct me to Sir Colin MacKenzie Fauna Park?". He said in his best Sir Laurence Olivier British upper class actor voice. Olivier, his hero.

Tim and I cringed. We cringed a lot in those days. When to be accepted one had to be normal. When to have divorced parents was definitely not.

We were access visit, latch-key kids.  Now I think of it, we were ahead of our time!

I was going to write about Greek ruins in Northcote, and how it is so annoying when customer service people ask what sort of day you are having...

But  listening to "Little Boxes" did me in.

Thank you Pete Seeger.

It was because of you Pete Seeger,  that we were able to grow out of our "boxes".


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, Kate, are you going to take me down memory lane today. You know my background through your sympathetic reading of my scratchings in AA. Yep, being the poor kid who has no connections wasn't a barrel of laughs. But we survived, bailed out of Oz through necessity and 'gave t a go' in the Excited States. And it weren't 'arf bad luv! When I think of the 'might have beens', I rejoice.

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