Reality Intrudes Upon Laverne And Shirley

by Kevin Burton

   Shame on me for this, but there was a time when I believed every word of the song from Laverne and Shirley.

  That show ran from 1976 to 1983 on ABC. It was a big hit for its first few years, a spinoff from the very popular “Happy Days.” It was the third rated show in its first year, second the next year, then number one for two years running.

   In 1976 the show’s theme song, “Making Our Dreams Come True,” by Cyndi Grecco hit number 25 on the Hot 100. 

   Some of the lyrics:

“Give us any chance we’ll take it
Read us any rule we’ll break it
We’re gonna make our dreams come true
Doing it our way
Nothing’s gonna turn us back now
Straight ahead and on the track now
We’re gonna make our dreams come true

Doing it our way
There is nothing we won’t try
Never heard the word impossible
This time there’s no stopping us
We’re gonna make it

On your mark, get set, and go now
Got a dream and we just know now
We’re gonna make our dreams come true
And we’ll do it our way, yes our way

Make all our dreams come true

For me and you”

   The lyrics sum up neatly the way I looked at myself and our group of kids at the Ohio State School for the Blind.

   I was so naïve in those days that if the song hadn’t come along, I would have had to write some version of it myself. 

   In my view, everything was there for the taking and it was as easy as singing a song.  I should be and am happy that I was blessed enough to sit in that mindset at least for a time.

   But I know better now. 

  I think of “doing it our way” and I picture beer bottles on the assembly line at the fictional Shotz Brewery when characters Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney worked on the show.  No, you will not make your dreams come true in life, you will not do it your way.  Largely, events will carry you along inexorably toward your end, like the bottles on that line. You might come away with an illusion of having done it your way.

   It was a book about television that triggered these latest Tuesday thoughts on music.

   I just read “Sitcommentary: Television Comedies that Changed America” By Mark A. Robinson.  He covers 40 shows and talks about what the characters and subject matter added to the country beyond the confines of their individual 30-minute plots.

   Laverne and Shirley was not as groundbreaking as say M*A*S*H or All In The Family. But it did speak to the independence of women.  
   “Laverne and Shirley lived modestly but independently, seldom depending on anything but their own resourcefulness to make ends meet,” Robinson writes. “Remembering that the show was set in the late 1950s at a time when young single women were discouraged from living independently and seldom did, Laverne and Shirley was demonstrating a world of independent women, a faction of society that most definitely existed but was rarely explored in entertainment.”

   “Even the show’s theme song evoked a spirited embrace of independence and drive,” Robinson wrote. He said it “smacked of liberation and a pioneering spirit.”

   He called the characters Laverne and Shirley “determined and undaunted.” But as I sang their song in the 70s, I was just happily clueless.   Clueless in Columbus. 

   “Making Our Dreams Come True” holds a singular, bittersweet place in the soundtrack of my life.

   As I wrote this I was missing my blind school reunion.  It is now 50 years since I started attending OSSB, 41 since graduation.

   I was not at the reunion because of the virus pure and simple.  Covid 19, and the uncertainty and misinformation surrounding it, has hampered my ability to gage risk and reward.

   Maybe my missing another reunion is the real source of my melancholy. Maybe I just had a bad, perplexing day the day before. Maybe both are true.

   Maybe that “never heard the word impossible” kid still exists in me, but I’m too gutless to tap into him.

   Maybe my assembly line analogy from Shotz Brewery is a smokescreen for my not having made more of the opportunities I have had in life. Maybe I should take a timid step out of the 70s and into the new millennium. Maybe I think too much.

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