The day a boomer learned who Loretta Young really was

“Back in the day.” It means different strokes to different folks but for many of us baby boomers, it means the time when we were … well … entirely different people. From the sounds of this excerpt from his new book, Nouveau Old, Formerly Cute, that describes Havertown, Pennsylvania humorist Perry Block to a tee. It’s called, “Get back, Loretta!”

Back in the day many of our generation were inspired to protest the Vietnam War and support other noble causes, and I was no exception.

I was motivated by high ideals — and the desire to meet girls and fellow protesters packing really good dope.

In this respect I was hardly alone.

One cold day in January several of us traveled to Washington to participate in a march opposing the Vietnam War. There were large numbers of young counter-cultural types everywhere. At a distance for which opera glasses would have been a blessing was a speaker who might as well have been singing opera for all my freezing ears were able to hear.

“Do you know who the speaker is?” I asked a freaky looking guy on a nearby blanket.

“Oh, yes,” he said. “That’s Loretta Young.”

Loretta Young?

Loretta Young

Loretta Young was an elegant and straight-laced actress who in the 1950s starred in an elegant and straight-laced television program called, oddly enough, “The Loretta Young Show.”

She belonged at a peace rally about as much as I belonged at a convention of North American Hunters and Trappers.

Did someone lace Loretta Young’s tea sandwich with potent acid? Had she been auditing courses at MIT taught by Noam Chomsky? Was she about to burn her bra in front of us all?”

“That’s not Loretta Young,” said a bearded gent carrying a peace sign.

“No? Who is it?”

“Coretta Scott King.”

Coretta Scott King

The widow of Martin Luther King and a prominent civil rights leader in her own right.

Coretta Scott King. Loretta Young.

“The names do sound alike,” I thought.

I had never quite realized before how many of the others around me were so much like me.

Nothing really wrong with that, but…

I pushed forward through the cold to try to see and hear as much of Mrs. King as I could.

 

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