Posted by Kate Johnson (Contributor) on September 21st, 2017 at 1:57 pm
— This post is by our “Gal by Bike” columnist Kate Johnson (formerly Kate Laudermilk)
Where were you in 1995?
I was in a suburb in Indiana watching one movie on repeat. A movie that, dare I say, may be the most underrated bike movie of all time. Sure, Roger Ebert didn’t care for it much, but, then again, he wasn’t a pre-teen watching her life mirrored on screen. He probably didn’t have a major crush on heart-throb Devon Sawa either.
Now and Then is a coming of age film that follows four 12-year-old girls during an epic summer in a small suburb of Indiana in 1970. Seemingly the very suburb and subdivision that I would be born in fifteen years later. Their days began on bikes and ended on bikes — returning home only for dinner at dusk.
Bikes were their freedom. Their brief emancipation from their parents.
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“It seems that kids don’t have summers like the ones of our childhoods at all anymore. Is this because cars take up our landscape? Is it because technology has taken our children hostage? Are strangers just too dangerous? I’ll let you speculate for yourselves.”
Helmetless and perched atop brilliant banana-seat saddles, Roberta, Teeny, Sam, and Chrissy ride mile upon mile through the seemingly vacant Hoosier streets and country roads. Sometimes riding four abreast across the entirety of a road’s expanse without a care in the world — a killer soundtrack blaring from a mounted speaker. Their main objective is to find out how a local man buried in their town’s graveyard died. The adventures they have on a daily basis capture what it was like to be a carefree kid back when: Stealing the clothing of a group of boys at a watering hole, smoking cigarettes and sharing pops (Hoosier speak, ya’ll) with a young Vietnam vet played by Brendan Fraser, saving up for basically the coolest treehouse ever, steering clear of a real-life witch played by Janeane Garofalo, and having a run-in with a town weirdo that’s actually pretty nice make up the juicy meat of this film.
I’m often asked what it was like to grow up in an Indiana suburb. Like a lot of folks that grew up in the 90’s or before, I remember a childhood that looks very different from today. When the weather and schedule permitted, I was outside nearly twelve hours a day. I had a bike, I had rollerblades, I had legs. I was gone. No cell phone. There was a Dairy Queen a stone’s throw away, and a quick-mart where the employees knew my name and what flavor Warhead I prefered. When the day was through, I literally ghost rode my bike into my front yard, walked through my unlocked front door, and hit the hay only to do it all over again the next day. This was the reason why I related to Now and Then so much.
After re-watching this movie recently, I set out to find a comparable modern-day version and came up short. Unfortunately, it seems that kids don’t have summers like the ones of our childhoods at all anymore. Is this because cars take up our landscape? Is it because technology has taken our children hostage? Are strangers just too dangerous? I’ll let you speculate for yourselves. All I know is that I am grateful that I got to enjoy pack bike rides during my childhood while they were still en vogue. I hope that someday in the near future our kids will get the chance to live fancy-free in well-planned cities, suburbs, and everywhere in between.
Until then, we can all sit down and watch Now and Then for a piece of blissful nostalgia.
— Kate Johnson. Read more from her Gal By Bike column.
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