Remembering Oz

Is The Wizard of Oz imprinted on your memory? I had a fresh realization of all the ways the classic 1939 movie is ingrained in my own mind when I recently explored The Wizard of Oz exhibit at The Strong’s National Museum of Play.

Growing up in the 1960s, I eagerly anticipated the annual showing of The Wizard of Oz on CBS. Running on a Sunday night from 6 to 8 p.m., the movie made a perfect backdrop for my family’s dinner in front of the black and white television. Each Sunday evening, my mom would set out cold cuts and leftovers (always cold before the advent of microwaves) on the dining room table. We’d fill our plates from the buffet and carry our dinners to the living room to eat at TV trays. On an ordinary Sunday we might watch Lassie or Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color with our supper, but The Wizard of Oz made a special variation in our viewing routine.

I recall loving the movie, especially the first half or so. Yes, the tornado seemed kind of scary, especially since we lived in Ohio where the air raid sirens went off periodically to warn people to head to the basement because of impending tornadoes. And I wasn’t very fond of the spooky trees that threw apples at Dorothy and her friends as they headed to the Emerald City. But even though I had to imagine the shift to Technicolor when Dorothy landed in Munchkinland and headed down the Yellow Brick Road, I thoroughly enjoyed the songs, humor, and camaraderie.

However, once Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion left the Emerald City to retrieve the Wicked Witch of the West’s broomstick, I would start to get creeped out. The mood grew darker, the sets grew spookier, and by the time the winged monkeys swooped in, I was primed to be terrified.  For me, the absolute scariest moment came when the Wicked Witch turned over the hourglass with its glistening sand and told Dorothy that she only had that long to live. Oh no! I’m not proud to admit it but, on at least one occasion, I chose that point in the movie to announce casually (or so I thought) to my family that I’d seen enough and thought I’d play in my room for a while. Of course I kept my door open so that I could tell when the witch had been doused with water and eradicated. Whew! Safe to go back to the living room!

As an adult, I’m long past the point of having winged monkey nightmares, so it’s fun to leave my office on an afternoon and immerse myself in those special childhood memories of The Wizard of Oz.