I watched an old Shirley Temple movie the other day. It was called Miss Annie Rooney, about a teenage girl who falls for a rich boy, whose parents don't approve of her. But things worked out and there was dancing and a happy ending. Not an overall memorable film, but the one thing that struck me was when she used the word “groovy.” In 1942.
To the father's bewilderment, the grandfather told him he wasn't “hep to the jive.”
Now, this was made in 1942, but I thought groovy was a word from the sixties. I didn't know it was being used long before Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders sang Groovy Kind of Love.
Apparently groovy it was a reference to the grooves in the “hep to the jive” records from Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, which got all the teenagers acting crazy with jitterbugging and lindy-hopping.
Wait, before you ask, this was way before I entered this world, but I learned it from watching the likes of Miss Annie Rooney and any one of those Andy Hardy movies. That was the era of “it” girls, hoochie-coochers and jive cats in zoot suits goin’ hi-de-ho.
Before the millennials among us start snickering about the customs of the 1930s they should wait and hear what their grandkids will say about backward baseball caps, hoodies, and 24/7 PJs. Still and all, if someone from those olden days was plopped down into the 20-teens of today they’d have completely different interpretations for words like ram, software, motherboard and Bluetooth.
When it comes to the latter, I think I’m finally getting the hang of this Bluetooth thing. I know it’s been around for quite a few years, but in a way, it still doesn’t feel right. I mean, it goes through this routine of “waiting for pairing” and then a moment later... “paired.” Who’s in control here?
This whole wireless thing got me wondering how much juice was streaming through me if I am between one end and t’other. Of course, if ol’ Nikola Tesla would’ve had his way, there’d be Wardenclyffe towers all over the place remotely beaming alternating current into our homes, cars, and earbuds.
Now, I’m not sure when electricity first came to Magdalena, but a century ago there must have been quite a competition. In addition to the K W Light and Power Company, there was also the Magdalena Coal Company which put up a power plant in 1918. On top of that, old-timers remembered the Stendel Electric Works operated by Skipp Stendel, who also sold Buicks and Chevrolets on First Street.
Anyway, Magdalena has now jumped on the wirelessl bandwagon with new digital water meters so the utility guys can just drive by and get an accurate reading of how much digital water you’ve used. That’s a far cry from the village’s sans plumbing early days when many a family who had to haul water up from Pueblo Springs. And from what I learned, some used discarded staved barrels for drinking water and it wasn't unheard of that their water might have a tinge of ale or molasses.
While we’re on the subject, this Saturday Magdalena is hosting its second annual Frontier Festival, a kind of living history event where you can get a peek into some of the old ways, and I mean older than old-school. We’re talking homesteader days. Pre-electricity days. Back when a feller was good for his word. Back when wireless might’ve meant barbed-wireless. Back when canned goods were airtights and a pack of cigarettes were called tailormades.
Speaking of a feller’s words, here we go again with more long-gone terminology. Words used on the frontier are mostly forgotten, but maybe some should come back. For instance, when something was the best, you’d say it was crack. You’d say bettermost instead of better. Daisy meant something was excellent, and you’d say you were just ducky over your best gal.
On the other hand, the 1800s also gave us some old reliables that are still around:
• Fair to middlin’
• Fixin’ (to)
• Get a wiggle on
• Hold your horses
• Plumb, as in “pert near but not plumb.”
But I digress. If the Frontier Festival - or should I say frontier whoop-dee-doo - is anything like last year’s, then it should be all it’s cracked up to be. So to speak.
Magdalena has gone through both glory days and hard times, and it perseveres, even as New Mexico is dotted with ghost towns and forgotten dreams.
All this reminds me of Dan Bern’s song Albuquerque Lullaby:
Backroads New Mexico
There's an old abandoned church
Windows boarded up
Never sees a coat of paint
Sometimes I drive by and dream
Of hearing the preacher preach...