A song that immediately transports me back to the summer before my sophomore year at GHS is “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer.” Nat King Cole’s tune made the top 100 list of 1963, but I just remember it seemed to “fit” the feeling of late summer – those mellow days between the county fair and Labor Day.
Long before I left teaching in 2010, however, there was little time for laziness or haziness or mellowness during that last stretch of August. My view was decidedly school-centric, but moving the first day of school to some date before Labor Day changed the calendar equation. These days Champaign County schools open their doors for students in mid to late August, although I have relatives down South who started school almost two weeks ago.
By the time the Ferris wheel has been dismantled, the last steer has been auctioned off, and the expanse between Henry Street and Powell Avenue once again stands empty and quiet, area marching bands and athletic teams have already spent enough time in practice to be game ready. Kids have their back-to-school supplies – thanks to the recent tax-free weekend; teachers are setting up classrooms and organizing lesson plans; and parents are trying to nail down child delivery and pick-up schedules.
Even though the lazy and hazy parts of Cole’s song no longer seem to apply, the crazy component abounds. Just as Labor Day once signaled the beginning of school, it also marked the start of election campaigning. Not so many years ago, presidential candidates emerged from their midsummer conventions and duked it out for a couple of months before citizens made their official choices – that is, in the same calendar year.
In this century, however, politicians with highest-office-in-the-land aspirations fling their hats right and left a good 18 months before Election Day. With 24-hour news outlets, robo calls, and millions of Twitter accounts, the electorate must endure year-round campaigning. Regardless of my personal politics, I want to be a responsible citizen and an informed voter. However, this premature jockeying for position and the weekly polls as well as the silliness that passes for substantive issues have already exhausted me – and I won’t be casting my vote until late next year.
In another faint nod to tradition, sometime after Labor Day new television shows will debut; and returning programs will air new episodes. Subjected to their incessant promotion, I have become fixated on the number of shows with one-word titles. I guess it is not such a recent trend. Who can forget programs named after characters, including “Seinfeld,” “Columbo,” and “Lassie,” or for locations such as “Dallas,” “Vega$,” and “Smallville”?
For every super brief title, of course, there is a longer-than-average one like “How I Met your Mother” or “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” When I was a kid, “Have Gun, Will Travel” was part of the Saturday night viewing lineup right along with “Gunsmoke”; this totally accurate memory stems from the fact that my mother was a faithful follower of Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty.
Some one-word titles provide viewer convenience by stating the topic of the show; there can be no confusion about “Friends” or “Taxi.” Occasionally, however, I have been misled: “Fury” was not about anger, “Elementary” is not about school, “Bones” is not a medical drama, and “Monk” was not set in a monastery.
What I have found concerning during these end-of-summer commercials is the impact of those single words. Still in reruns are programs with admittedly positive titles; “Charmed,” “Glee,” and “Cheers” come to mind. “Reign,” “Empire,” and “Allegiance” suggest control and power issues, that may or may not be negative. But I shudder to imagine what I might experience from these doom-and-gloom-and-worse named shows: “Scandal,” “Revenge,” “Trauma,” “Deception,” “Betrayal,” and “Crisis.” I guess I will just stick with a few new shows – “Heartbroken” for my sad days, “Limitless” to nudge me into optimism, and “Grandfathered” for my Boomer moods.
Interspersed among provocatively-negative program titles and all-politics-all-the-time viewing fare on my television screen are a couple of ads that give me pause. Long considered a marginal farm girl by my father, I still have a fair knowledge of bovine basics. I find mildly amusing the commercials in which a cow has become a regular member of the family; she sobs on the little daughter’s first day of school or delivers a toast at the older daughter’s wedding. But I must call out the yogurt brand whose spokes-cow delivers the company message – in a male voice.
Then there are those SUV commercials in which daycare-bound tots choose the vehicle with onboard Wi-Fi in order to watch movies on their individual tablets. I must ask, whatever has become of vacationing kids watching the passing Americana landscape – or perhaps indulging in a rousing game of Slug Bug?
And I will certainly be driven directly off the crazy cliff if one more TV weather forecaster predicts: “…sunny skies for your Thursday.” It is not just my Thursday. I am reasonably sure that everyone else will enjoy Thursday’s nice weather right along with me. And I really do understand the meteorological terms of “wind chill” and “heat index”; I do not need dumbed-down rephrasings such as “feels-like temperature” or “real-feel temperature.” Please…
Oh, Nat, if you could just somehow bring back the lazy, hazy days of your song before I go completely crazy…
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976 to 2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn- Gymnasium in Springe.