By Kasey Jachim
Today we lost a true American – someone as iconic as baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet. Today Dick Clark, America’s oldest teenager, died at the age of 82. Today I lost one of my last connections with youth and innocence.
Dick Clark and American Bandstand reminded me of all that was good in America: The Memorial Day and 4th of July parades in our small town in upstate New York. The safety of riding our bikes all through town any time of day. My dad, a US Army soldier, picking up hitch-hikers who needed rides. Earning a huge allowance of fifty cents a week and spending half of that buying penny candy that actually cost a penny. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance and Our Father in school every morning. Singing the National Anthem at school football games. Playing marbles, roller skating without pads and helmets, and practicing with my brother’s little league team. Watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, hanging out at the malt shop and ordering ‘frappes’, and watching John Glenn orbit the earth. Babysitting for fifty cents an hour, Noxema, and listening to Annette and Buddy Holly on my 45 rpm record player. JFK, school dances, and rushing home to watch American Bandstand!
I would live vicariously through Justine and Bob, Kenny and Arlene, and the other ‘stars’ who danced their way into our hearts and lives. I would watch as Chubby Checker and Paul Anka sang their way into our hearts and lives. My only concern was who was dancing with whom, who was dating whom, who was wearing what, and whether or not the singer would mess up on the lip-syncing. We imitated the clothes, the dancing and the performers while pretending to be our favorite Bandstander.
American Bandstand reminded me of the days of patriotism and innocence, pride and exceptionalism, flags and anthems, and, most of all, days when ‘Made in the USA’ actually meant something. We had leaders who instilled confidence and security. We had family and community who cared about each other and provided a safe environment for children. You could watch TV and go to movies without sex, nudity, and the ‘f’ bomb every five minutes. You had pride in your school, your church, your town and your family.
I will miss Dick Clark and all he represented. I will miss American Bandstand and my lost innocence. Most of all I will miss THAT America and all that she once stood for. I regret that my grandchildren will never experience the freedom and innocence I had growing up nor will they ever know the once-great country we honored with parades, songs, salutes, tributes, flags, and pledges. God Bless America and God Bless You Dick Clark – Rock and Roll with the angels!