I’ve been dicking around on the internet for almost twenty-five years now. In that time, I’ve seen multiple childhood mysteries clarified by either active searches or chance encounters. Stuff that was once confined to the realm of hazy memory or dismissed as ancient fever dreams have been given names faces, titles or — occasionally — eBay or third-party Amazon listings.
It resurrected Robolar…
…pulled Mattel’s Flying Aces out of mothballs…
…and pulled a minor regional radio staple from the New Wave ether.
Despite the those (and other) flashes of validation and resolution, there was one faintly fragment of memory which continued to elude me. It was a “social issues” short for tweeners, which ran during the “instructional programming” blocks PBS affiliates used to run during school hours. Said blocks were a crazy quilt of edu-programming with odd run-times and covering a variety of subjects, and visual aesthetics which ran from pure Seventies graininess or shot-on-video surrealism.
This particular short came from the former school, and dealt with a prim teen forced to deal with peer pressure and temptation when she spends the summer with her wild child cousin. I caught it once while I was home sick from school in the early 1980s, but could only recall a few memorable bits from it.
Every couple or years or so, the memory would resurface and I’d indulge in some fruitless internet searches before resigning myself to failure. The efforts weren’t entirely productive, as I was able to determine it wasn’t an episode of Inside/Out or Bread and Butterflies, two of the more memorable PBS programs in the Seventies moral education vein.
It wasn’t much of lead, but it did help me finally resolve the mystery when the itch flared up again last night. A search for the two shows — plus “PBS” and “1970s” — turned up an ancient forum post where both were discussed alongside a similar program titled Self Incorporated. One quick tab over to YouTube, and my decades long quest was over.
Watching it again was a bizarre experience. The Ford Era fashions and home decor are a bit more jarring in 2017 than they were in 1981, and the teens that looked so grown up when I was nine now look like babies to my middle aged eyes. I can see why this short dug its hook into me, though, as it mirrored my own experiences with my rowdy North Woburn pals. We’d just hit the age where they’d begun to dabble in more “mature” mischief and I struggled with the temptation to go along with them.
I did manage to resist the worst of it….mostly, but the memories of that inner conflict lingered and somehow managed to wrap themselves up in a long-forgotten splinter of social engineering.