Feb 20, 2019

The Fate of "Gilligan's Island"

What Boomer kid doesn't get all wispy and nostalgic upon hearing "Just sit right back, and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip..."

Gilligan's Island (1964-67) was an iconic Boomer tv series, part of the "lost far from home" genre, about seven people who set out from Hawaii on a "three hour tour" and ended up shipwrecked on a desert island.  We didn't care that their escape attempts were ludicrous, or that visitors managed to make it off the island with no trouble.  What counted was the adventure: they fought pirates, headhunters, mad scientists, Russian spies.  They found a Jungle Boy and a buffed surfer. 

It was a "boys only" paradise, with no girls or grownups around to spoil the fun. 

Ok, the Howells were grownups.  Sort of.

Ok, there were two girls, Ginger and Mary Anne, but no one acted all goofy around them.  They were like big sisters.

Although they paid lip service to the goal of getting off the island, it was obvious that no one really wanted to leave.  Back home they were failures, parodies of themselves.  Ginger was an actress relegated to horrid B-movies, but on the Island, she was a star.  The Professor was a polymath teaching high school science, but on the Island he was a genius.  On the Island they could shine.

There was no ongoing plot arc, as is common in tv series today, nor was there a conclusion.  The last episode of the series leaves them still stranded on the island.

But iconic Boomer tv series don't stay dead for long.  There were endless reruns, and, 10 years later (1974-77), The New Adventures of Gilligan  appeared as a Saturday morning cartoon. Most episodes involved inter-group squabbles, with an 1970s "the more you know" moral, rather than escape attempts.

The characters look considerably younger than the actors they depict.  Gilligan and Mary Anne could be in their teens, and Skipper and the Howells look barely 30.


In October 1978, I was a freshman in college,  and like every Boomer kid, I had no choice but to watch the tv movie Rescue from Gilligan's Island .  They finall made it back to civilizatioN!  Except instead of having them shipwrecked for a reasonable amount of time, the premise is that they've been on the island since 1964.  They're obviously older, well into middle age or old age, which makes their stuntwork cringeworthy.

They arrive in Hawaii to a huge crowd of well-wishers and fans (except none of their family or friends).  The moment Gilligan leaves the coast guard ship, a soldier hands him an ice cream cone.

Giving a middle-aged man an ice cream cone rather than a hefty check from the insurance company? Bogus!

 They try to go back to their old lives: the Professor to his research university, the Howells to their snooty friends, Ginger to the movies, Mary Anne to her farm in Kansas.  But it's the midst of the sex-and-sleaze disco era, everything has changed, and they're miserable. Fortunately, they end up being shipwrecked on the same island again.  There's no place like home?

Every Boomer kid watched them being rescued again in The Castaways on Gilligan's Island (1979).  This time they return to convert the island into a resort, where they proceed to solve guests' soap opera problems.  Apparently this was the pilot to a proposed tv series, with different problems every week, sort of like Love Boat and Fantasy Island

First up: a workaholic husband whose wife wants him to relax (played by Happy Days' Tom Bosley and The Bob Newhart Show's Marcia Wallace), and an unaccompanied minor (popular child star Ronnie Scribner) turns out to be a runaway.

Plus since this is a tropical island, there is some beefcake among the extras lounging at poolside.

Not many Boomer kids, now young adults, cared enough to tune in to The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (1981).  The island is still a resort, with the Harlem Globetrotters as guests, but the plot involves the villainous Martin Landau trying to get control of the valuable mineral "supremium."

Jim Backus, who played Thurston Howell III, was in poor health, so he appeared only in a cameo; his character was channelled by David Ruprecht (left) as his never-mentioned-before "son,"  Thurston Howell IV.

The last gasp of Gilligan's Island, except for in-character guest spots and retrospectives, came in 1982-83, with the Saturday morning Gilligan's Planet. The Professor can't built a boat, but he builds an interstellar spacecraft to get them off the island.  They end up spacecraft-wrecked on an uncharted planet. 


I was in grad school at Indiana University at the time, too old for cartoons.  But even if I was 10 years old, the premise seems unbearably far-fetched.

Besides, I had already seen Lost in Space.

See also: Gilligan's Island

Feb 19, 2019

The Naugy Boys

"Naugy Boys?"  Naugy shoulds like it should be a legitimate adjective, like "Brawly" or "Brawny."  When you google it, you get "Naughty Boys," which isn't at all the same thing.

Surprise -- it's the short form of Naugatuck.

Apparently Mrs. Naugatuck, the housekeeper on the iconic 1970s sitcom Maude (Hermione Baddeley at the end of a long career),was named after a real place.

And what a place!

Naugatuck, Connecticut, founded in 1701, was a quiet farming community until Charles Goodyear built his rubber factory there,and tires started spewing out of assembly lines.  Then came Keds sneakers, Naugahyde (artificial leather), chemicals (chiefly sulfuric acid), safety pins and other "notions," beach rakes, candy bars, and yogurt.   One can almost smell the smoke bellowing from a hundred factory smokestacks. 

All of those businesses are gone now, leaving Naugatuck cleaner: the air quality is consistently "good," although the river is still frightfully polluted. But there are no more industrial draws.   The major employers are Wal-Mart, CVS Drugs, McDonald's, and the public schools.

Naugatuck clusters on both sides of the Naugatuck River, with scattered housing developments and shopping gallerias with large parking lots that must have been factories once.  The closest I could find to a downtown was the aptly-named Rubber Street, which contained (heading west from the river) a huge parking lot, the police station (Top photo is a sample Naugatuck police officer), Advance Auto Parts, Rite Aid, Dunkin Donuts, and the Portuguese Club.

Portuguese Club?  Are there that many people of Portuguese ancestry in town?

20% of the population!  Naugatuck also has a Portuguese Consulate. a Portuguese Mayor, and two Portuguese restaurants.

For sightseeing, there's Naugatuck Green, with churches on the north and south sides, the Town Clerk on the east, an elementary school on west, and the Soldier's Monument in the middle.  Kind of scenic.

And the Tuttle House, a historic mansion.  Well, built in 1881, which is just yesterday in New England.

But let's get back to that Portuguese population.

Naugatuck High School does not offer classes in Portuguese, but it does have a lot of swimmers.

The team name is "The Hounds."

 Here's a Naugy boy consulting with his coach.

Grammar School Beefcake

You thought I meant 10 year olds, didn't you?

In the United States, "grammar school" is an old-fashioned term for "grade school," or more technically "elementary school," for kindergarten through sixth grade (roughly age five to twelve).

So I was surprised to see this photo of Bolton Grammar School boxers.  Those guys don't look twelve years old to me.

Turns out that in Britain and Commonwealth countries, a "grammar school" teaches the Sixth Form, the final three years of your pre-university education (ages 16-18). Most grammar schools have merged into comprehensive secondary schools, but some with a particularly prestigious history remain.  They are roughly equivalent to the elite boarding schools of the U.S.

Now, let's ├ępater les bourgeois, frighten the horses, and give Mrs. Grundy a conniption by looking at grammar school beefcake.

1. The Bolton Grammar School Manchester, founded in 1516, is now just the Bolton School, and admits kids from infancy through Sixth Form.  Alumni include Sir Ian McKellen.

2. Burton Grammar School, London, founded in 1520, moved to Friars Walk, then Bond Street, then Winshill (aren't British street names colorful? they beat the endless Elms and Mains in the U.S.)

 It became part of the comprehensive school system in 1975.

3. Bishop Vesey's Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, founded in 1527, is currently a Sixth Form College.  Alumni include Robert Burton, author of Anatomy of Melancholy, and gymnast Hamish Carter.

4. The Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, founded in 1562.  It achieved Academy Status in 2011, and prides itself on its A-Level results, with many graduates placed in Oxford and Cambridge.

5. St. Olave's and St. Saviour's Grammar School, London, founded as two separate schools in 1562 and 1571, now admits both boys and girls.  Old Boys include John Harvard (who founded Harvard University), novelist Lawrence Durrell, and martial artists Nick Osipczak.

6. Brisbane Grammar School, Brisbane, Australia, founded in 1868, enrolls about 1700 boys age 15-18.  It has an open admission policy.

7. Ipswich Grammar School, Ipswich, Australia, founded in 1863, is highly selective.  It enrolls about 1000 boys.

8. Trinity Grammar School is an Anglican-run day and boarding school in Sydney, founded in 1913.  Among its alumni is Kenneth To, who won 6 medals at the 2010 Youth Olympics and was the 2012 Overall Male winner of the FINA Cup.

9. Christ Church Grammar School is not actually in New Zealand.  It's an Anglican-run pre-primary to grade 12 boarding school for boys in Perth, Australia.

Old Boys include water polo stars George and Andrew Ford.

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