I don’t remember the name of the movie or the year, but I was about ten or eleven. I had gone early to the little theater in our town so I could catch the Previews; my favorite part of going to the show.
For the one dollar that was my working capital for the week I could buy my ticket, a bag of popcorn, a small drink, and a monstrously big dill pickle. With the popcorn under one arm, the drink in one hand and the pickle in the other I hurried into the theater to grab my favorite seat and get settled in for THE PREVIEWS OF COMING ATTRACTIONS. I considered it to be a bonus to the movie; it was like watching three or four little movies free of charge.
My view of the world at that time was that it was by and large a benevolent place. A school yard bully might extort your milk money from you, but a black eye and a loose tooth was a small price to pay for the satisfaction of seeing the bully avoid you in the future. My world held a occasional bit of pain, but I was unaware of any true evil anywhere around me. I took the world at its word. If the newspaper or Walter Cronkite said it was so, then it must be so.
I think it must have been the preview for BEN HUR that lit the fuse that would eventually blow up my naivety.
I had just settled into my seat and was opening the popcorn when;
THUNDERING ACROSS THE SCREEN
RIPPED FROM THE PAGES OF HISTORY
THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD
SEE – THE – GREATEST – SPECTACLE – EVER – FILMED
The swelling music, roaring crowds of what must have been a million people, Technicolor letters ten feet tall convinced me that this was ,as the preview said, THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT IN HUMAN HISTORY.
I was convinced. Hurrying home after the show I could barely contain my excitement that I alone among my family and friends knew of this tremendous event that was going to alter the face of the earth and change forever the lives of all that I knew.
Walking up the drive I pick up the afternoon paper and hurried inside to read all about it . Something this important must surely cover the whole front page. I laid the paper on our dining room table and eagerly scanned the front page. Nothing. I started again at the top and scrutinized each article. Nothing.
I was perplexed. This was ripped from the pages of history, this was the story that would forever alter mankind.
I turned the page, carefully went over the second and third pages. Nothing, not even the smallest mention. Going thru the whole paper section by section, page by page, article by article my puzzlement grew untill I turned the last page and sat down bewildered.
As the afternoon passed,I wandered around the house and out in the backyard chewing on this mystery. How could – THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT IN HUMAN HISTORY – pass unnoticed? It didn’t make sense.
At 5:30 I was planted in front of the T.V. waiting for the evening news. Surely Walter Cronkite would have something to say about it. You just couldn’t go ripping things out of the Pages of History without anyone noticing.
The familiar face came and proceeded to talk about something in Cuba, then folks were unhappy in Berlin, Farmers were doing something and unions something else, and finally “That’s the way it is”.
Nothing at all about THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT IN HUMAN HISTORY. Well that frosted my cookie. I would have to take this up with the ultimate authority, my father.
I waited untill my chores were done, supper was over and everyone had scattered and my father was alone in the living room waiting for the fights to come on the T.V. With the front page in hand I approached his chair and laid the whole thing out for him; thundering screen, history pages all ripped up, never before seen spectacle and last but not least, THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT IN HUMAN HISTORY.
My father sat me down on the footstool in front of him and explained to me about Hype. I don’t recall his exact words, but he firmly instilled in me two principles that have stood me in good stead all these years; I have never seen these two principles violated.
1: Truth almost always whispers; It doesn’t care if you believe it or not; it is still truth.
2: A lie has to shout; it has no weight of its own so it must steal the appearance of weight by volume or repetition; the bigger the shout the bigger the lie.
I do remember his words on one thing, he said; “Human history is the story of people. You can’t know the most important part in a story untill you’ve read the whole thing and you can’t read the whole thing because it isn’t finished yet.”