Decoration Day

This article has been posted before.  It has been received with a bit of skepticism over the origins of the day.  It is likely that the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War was taken up in many places during and immediately after the war, unknown to one another.  Some of these practices were reported in newspapers of the time, while others were passed down orally and written down later.  These later versions may have been supported by anecdotal evidence that is now hard, if not impossible, to prove.
Where exactly the practice of decorating graves started, and who should claim the origin is not really the point anymore, is it?  A tradition of decorating graves, and the meaning of the “holiday” are now largely lost.  This loss of historic knowledge, along with the loss of so many American soldiers, is the true sadness of the day.

Who will decorate the graves?

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. Even this tradition is starting to be eroded by commerce.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days.

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see news reports covering how Americans are hitting the road due to low gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. And the Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern women had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday (although it will fall there some years) and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

Related articles

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Decoration Day

When I first put up this article three years ago, I was surprised to receive some backlash over the meaning of the holiday we now know as Memorial Day.  The origins of Decoration Day were told to me as if there was a bit of a conspiracy over the years since the Civil War to change the day’s meaning.  It is likely that the same tradition grew up in many places around the same time. 

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. Even this tradition is starting to be eroded by commerce.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days.

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see the PBS Newshour was covering how Americans are hitting the road due to a drop in gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this drop to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. The Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern women had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday (although it will fall there some years) and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

Related articles

Hey, it’s Mr. Dick Clark!

New Year’s Eve is not the same

In 2011 Dick Clark counted down the old year for the last time.  His Rock and Roll celebrations of the New Year in Times Square, and those that subsequently copied him, are now an American tradition.  That was not all he the rock promoter and host put on his resume.  His contribution to music and television is legendary. The younger crowd may only have known him as that old guy on Rockin’ New Year’s Eve. So, I would like to introduce you to, or remind you of, that guy who helped to popularize Rock and Roll. Following is mostly the same article I wrote two years ago after his passing. The video of Bandstand Boogie at the end has been replaced with one I took at the Chicago Theater and is now on my You Tube ihjtalk music channel:

“Hey, it’s Mr. Dick Clark
What a place you’ve got here
Swell spot the music’s hot here.”
That’s what Barry Manilow told us when he turned the well-known theme of American Bandstand into Bandstand Boogie. By that point in time, Dick Clark was already an icon of American music. This was not because he made music, but because he played music. And play it he did, from coast to coast, Philadelphia (home of American Bandstand) to LA. He wasn’t serving up Mario Lanza or Ethel Merman (look them up), he was playing rock and roll, and all kinds, too.

He took over Bandstand in 1956 at WFIL in Philadelphia.  In 1957 it was picked up by the ABC Network and became “American Bandstand”. As the times changed and the music changed, so did Bandstand. Dick Clark, however, never seemed to change. As the generations rock and rolled on and on, Dick Clark became America’s oldest teenager. His boyish enthusiasm seemed to defy time and gravity. We loved him for that. It might have meant we could defy time too.

A half a generation of teenagers had danced past the bandstand before I was old enough to find American Bandstand on the American Broadcasting Company. It would be a lie to say that I did not learn what was “in” from bandstand. Each weekend we could see what other teens where listening to, dancing to and commenting on. We saw the styles that were “in” and wanted to look cool like the kids on Bandstand. We knew what records to buy and what dances to learn. Dick Clark always remained the top teenager of all the teenagers, no matter how many years went by.

In 1972 we learned to rock in the New Year while watching Dick Clark stand in the New York cold for the big count down. Generations watched as the annual event grew to a coast to coast phenomenon. By the new millennium it was performers from the freezing cold of Times Square to parties on the opposite coast. Others copied the format, brought in the big name guests, but most of us stayed with Dick Clark. He remained our favorite teen.

Dick Clark eventually entered every arena of show business. He was a game show host, video clips host with Ed McMahon, producer, promoter, creator of American Music Awards and all around entrepreneur. We welcomed him into our homes in every one of his projects. Everyone liked Dick Clark, everyone.

For those of us who grew up watching Dick on all of his programs, we felt a certain satisfaction in his longevity. I think this largely had to do with the fact that he never seemed to age. No matter how many decades rock and rolled by, he did not age. It was as if he was Dorian Gray and had a portrait of himself aging in some attic. By god, if Dick Clark did not have to grow old, maybe we didn’t have to either. We rooted for his ongoing success so we could go on too.

Then, at long last, the unthinkable happened. Dick Clark had a stroke. OMG, if Mr. Dick Clark is getting old, does that mean those of us who watched Bandstand a generation or two ago are getting old too? How can this be! In 2004 we did not rock in the New Year with Dick Clark, but the network brought on one if its old stalwarts, Regis Philbin to host the countdown. Regis? How can they bring in Regis? After all he is as old as …uh…Dick Clark? Yes, that was it. It was a reminder that we were all getting older.

The following year, Dick Clark worked tirelessly to get back to the countdown. They brought in Ryan Seacrest, rather than Regis, since Ryan actually knew rock and roll, to host the show. Dick was there to man the countdown but something was wrong. He grew old. It is like it happened over night and it was the big wake up call for all of us American Bandstand kids. We must be getting old too. It was painful to watch as Dick struggled to get out the words. It was our own pain, however, realizing that the years had been racing by. Instead of seeing the triumph over a massive stroke by an American legend, we saw our own mortality staring back at us. Americas’s oldest teenager was just old and we were so sad to see it.

When there were only three national networks and there were not endless hours of television to be filled up with stuff, Dick Clark popularized the music that teenagers coast to coast were hearing on their top 40 AM radio stations. While not all parents would have liked it, he gave us good entertainment, no shock, no vulgarity, no reality crap, just good entertainment. Generations of American Bandstand, The Dick Clark Show, the $25,000 Pyramid, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, the American Music Awards, endless movie and television shows by Dick Clark Productions stand as tribute.
“We’re goin’ hoppin’ (Hop)
We’re goin’ hoppin’ today
Where things are poppin’ (Pop)
The Philadelphia way
We’re gonna drop in (Drop)
On all the music they play
On the Bandstand (Bandstand)”

Decoration Day

When I first put up this article two years ago, I was surprised to receive some backlash over the meaning of the holiday we now know as Memorial Day.  The origins of Decoration Day were told to me as if there was a bit of a conspiracy over the years since the Civil War to change the day’s meaning.  I am convinced the meaning has changed, but I stand by the well documented historical facts concerning the Day.

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. At least families have gathered together.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days (probably a topic for some New Year’s blog).

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see the PBS Newshour was covering how Americans are hitting the road due to a drop in gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this drop to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. The Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern ladies had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

Related articles

Decoration Day

When I first put up this article last year at this time, I was surprised to receive some backlash over the meaning of the holiday we now know as Memorial Day.  The origins of Decoration Day were told to me as if there was a bit of a consipiracy over the years since the Civil War to change the day’s meaning.  There is no doubt that the meaning has changed, but I stand by the well documented historical facts concerning the Day.

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on a Thursday. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. At least families have gathered together.
Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in cities whose names start with the letter D (Detroit, Dallas and Denver). Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changes this year since Dick Clark will not count down the final seconds and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days (probably a topic for some New Year’s blog).
When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see the PBS Newshour was covering how Americans are hitting the road due to a drop in gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this drop to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. The Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.
When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern ladies had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.
The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday, Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”
My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

Related articles

Hey, it’s Mr. Dick Clark!

Hey, it’s one year onward…

Last year at this time, media mogul and television personality Dick Clark passed away. His contribution to music and television is legendary. The younger crowd may only have known him as that old guy on Rockin’ New Year’s Eve. So, I would like to introduce you to, or remind you of, that guy who helped to popularize Rock and Roll. Following is the article I wrote last year. The video of Bandstand Boogie at the end has been replaced with one I took at the Chicago Theater and is now on my You Tube ihjtalk music channel:

“Hey, it’s Mr. Dick Clark
What a place you’ve got here
Swell spot the music’s hot here.”
That’s what Barry Manilow told us when he turned the well-known theme of American Bandstand into Bandstand Boogie. By that point in time, Dick Clark was already an icon of American music. This was not because he made music, but because he played music. And play it he did, from coast to coast, Philadelphia (home of American Bandstand) to LA. He wasn’t serving up Mario Lanza or Ethel Merman (look them up), he was playing rock and roll, and all kinds, too. As the times changed and the music changed, so did Bandstand. Dick Clark, however, never seemed to change. As the generations rock and rolled on and on, Dick Clark became America’s oldest teenager. His boyish enthusiasm seemed to defy time and gravity. We loved him for that. It might have meant we could defy time too.
A half a generation of teenagers had danced past the bandstand before I was old enough to find American Bandstand on the American Broadcasting Company. It would be a lie to say that I did not learn what was “in” from bandstand. Each weekend we could see what other teens where listening to, dancing to and commenting on. We saw the styles that were “in” and wanted to look cool like the kids on Bandstand. We knew what records to buy and what dances to learn. Dick Clark always remained the top teenager of all the teenagers, not matter how many years went by.
In 1972 we learned to rock in the New Year while watching Dick Clark stand in the New York cold for the big count down. Generations watched as the annual event grew to a coast to coast phenomenon. By the new millennium it was performers from the freezing cold of Times Square to parties on the opposite coast. Others copied the format, brought in the big guests, but most of us stayed with Dick Clark. He remained our favorite teen.
Dick Clark eventually entered every arena of show business. He was a game show host, video clips host with Ed McMahon, producer, promoter, creator of American Music Awards and all around entrepreneur. We welcomed him into our homes in every one of his projects. Everyone liked Dick Clark, everyone.
For those of us who grew up watching Dick on all of his programs, we felt a certain satisfaction in his longevity. I think this largely had to do with the fact that he never seemed to age. No matter how many decades rock and rolled by, he did not age. It was as if he was Dorian Gray and had a portrait of himself aging in some attic. By god, if Dick Clark did not have to grow old, maybe we didn’t have to either. We rooted for his ongoing success so we could go on too. Then, at long last, the unthinkable happened. Dick Clark had a stroke. OMG, if Mr. Dick Clark is getting old, does that mean those of us who watched Bandstand a generation or two ago are getting old too? How can this be!
In 2004 we did not rock in the New Year with Dick Clark, but the network brought on one if its old stalwarts, Regis Philbin to host the countdown. Regis? How can they bring in Regis? After all he is as old as …uh…Dick Clark? Yes, that was it. It was a reminder that we were all getting older. The following year, Dick Clark worked tirelessly to get back to the countdown. They brought in Ryan Seacrest, rather than Regis, since Ryan actually knew rock and roll, to host the show. Dick was there to man the countdown but something was wrong. He grew old. It is like it happened over night and it was the big wake up call for all of us American Bandstand kids. We must be getting old too. It was painful to watch as Dick struggled to get out the words. It was our own pain, however, realizing that the years had been racing by. Instead of seeing the triumph over a massive stroke by an American legend, we saw our own mortality staring back at us. Americas’s oldest teenager was just old and we were so sad to see it.

When there were only three national networks and there were not endless hours of television to be filled up with stuff, Dick Clark popularized the music that teenagers coast to coast were hearing on their top 40 AM radio stations. While not all parents would have liked it, he gave us good entertainment, no shock, no vulgarity, no reality crap, just good entertainment. Generations of American Bandstand, The Dick Clark Show, the $25,000 Pyramid, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, the American Music Awards, endless movie and television shows by Dick Clark Productions stand as tribute.
“We’re goin’ hoppin’ (Hop)
We’re goin’ hoppin’ today
Where things are poppin’ (Pop)
The Philadelphia way
We’re gonna drop in (Drop)
On all the music they play
On the Bandstand (Bandstand)”

Decoration Day

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on a Thursday. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. At least families have gathered together.
Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in cities whose names start with the letter D (Detroit, Dallas and Denver). Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changes this year since Dick Clark will not count down the final seconds and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days (probably a topic for some New Year’s blog).
When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see the PBS Newshour was covering how Americans are hitting the road due to a drop in gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this drop to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay a wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. The Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.
When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern ladies has already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.
The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday, Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”
My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

Hey, it’s Mr. Dick Clark!

“Hey, it’s Mr. Dick Clark
What a place you’ve got here
Swell spot the music’s hot here.”
That’s what Barry Manilow told us when he turned the well-known theme of American Bandstand into Bandstand Boogie. By that point in time, Dick Clark was already an icon of American music. This was not because he made music, but because he played music. And play it he did, from coast to coast, Philadelphia (home of American Bandstand) to LA. He wasn’t serving up Mario Lanza or Ethel Merman (look them up), he was playing rock and roll, and all kinds, too. As the times changed and the music changed, so did Bandstand. Dick Clark, however, never seemed to change. As the generations rock and rolled on and on, Dick Clark became America’s oldest teenager. His boyish enthusiasm seemed to defy time and gravity. We loved him for that. It might have meant we could defy time too.
A half a generation of teenagers had danced past the bandstand before I was old enough to find American Bandstand on the American Broadcasting Company. It would be a lie to say that I did not learn what was “in” from bandstand. Each weekend we could see what other teens where listening to, dancing to and commenting on. We saw the styles that were “in” and wanted to look cool like the kids on Bandstand. We knew what records to buy and what dances to learn. Dick Clark always remained the top teenager of all the teenagers, not matter how many years went by.
In 1972 we learned to rock in the New Year while watching Dick Clark stand in the New York cold for the big count down. Generations watched as the annual event grew to a coast to coast phenomenon. By the new millennium it was performers from the freezing cold of Times Square to parties on the opposite coast. Others copied the format, brought in the big guests, but most of us stayed with Dick Clark. He remained our favorite teen.
Dick Clark eventually entered every arena of show business. He was a game show host, video clips host with Ed McMahon, producer, promoter, creator of American Music Awards and all around entrepreneur. We welcomed him into our homes in every one of his projects. Everyone liked Dick Clark, everyone.
For those of us who grew up watching Dick on all of his programs, we felt a certain satisfaction in his longevity. I think this largely had to do with the fact that he never seemed to age. No matter how many decades rock and rolled by, he did not age. It was as if he was Dorian Gray and had a portrait of himself aging in some attic. By god, if Dick Clark did not have to grow old, maybe we didn’t have to either. We rooted for his ongoing success so we could go on too. Then, at long last, the unthinkable happened. Dick Clark had a stroke. OMG, if Mr. Dick Clark is getting old, does that mean those of us who watched Bandstand a generation or two ago are getting old too? How can this be!
In 2004 we did not rock in the New Year with Dick Clark, but the network brought on one if its old stalwarts, Regis Philbin to host the countdown. Regis? How can they bring in Regis? After all he is as old as …uh…Dick Clark? Yes, that was it. It was a reminder that we were all getting older. The following year, Dick Clark worked tirelessly to get back to the countdown. They brought in Ryan Seacrest, rather than Regis, since Ryan actually knew rock and roll, to host the show. Dick was there to man the countdown but something was wrong. He grew old. It is like it happened over night and it was the big wake up call for all of us American Bandstand kids. We must be getting old too. It was painful to watch as Dick struggled to get out the words. It was our own pain, however, realizing that the years had been racing by. Instead of seeing the triumph over a massive stroke by an American legend, we saw our own mortality staring back at us. Americas’s oldest teenager was just old and we were so sad to see it.

When there were only three national networks and there were not endless hours of television to be filled up with stuff, Dick Clark popularized the music that teenagers coast to coast were hearing on their top 40 AM radio stations. While not all parents would have liked it, he gave us good entertainment, no shock, no vulgarity, no reality crap, just good entertainment. Generations of American Bandstand, The Dick Clark Show, the $25,000 Pyramid, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, the American Music Awards, endless movie and television shows by Dick Clark Productions stand as tribute.
“We’re goin’ hoppin’ (Hop)
We’re goin’ hoppin’ today
Where things are poppin’ (Pop)
The Philadelphia way
We’re gonna drop in (Drop)
On all the music they play
On the Bandstand (Bandstand)”