By Dan Smith
I was among the thousands of people who showed up to watch the implosion of the Ormond Memorial Hospital a while back. My wife Lana more or less dragged me along, but once there, I was happy that I had agreed to come. I had never seen an implosion and it came off just as expected. Loud and dusty with a lot of crumbling masonry.
As I stood there among the curiosity seekers, I was reminded of Dobie Gillis. I suppose I should explain to you youngsters who that is. Back in the late 1950s when television had three networks and was still trying to find its way, someone came up with the idea of a show about high school kids. At that time it was a revolutionary idea. Teenagers were a part of many hit programs like "Father Knows Best," "The Life Of Riley" and "Ozzie and Harriet," but the real stars of those shows were the adults. Teenagers were portrayed as younger clones of their parents in look, attitude and dress. In "The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis," there were several actors in their late 20s portraying teens in high school. They were the lead actors and actually not too different than the teenagers in those other shows. Most wore clothes just like their parents and had hair just like their parents. Most, but not all.
One character on that show who seemed to march to a different drummer was Maynard G. Krebs. Maynard was labeled a "beatnik," or one who chose a more rebellious lifestyle.
Maynard wore a tattered sweatshirt that showed several prominent stains, a hat that had been stylishly cut up and heaven forbid, a goatee. In those days, kids never had facial hair. Their fathers didn't and neither could they. Maynard was a free spirit who never went to school and never worked and somehow managed to get by. His best friend was the star, Dobie Gillis.
By now you are probably asking, just what this has to do with the Ormond Beach implosion? Well, in almost every episode, Dobie would encounter his friend Maynard and ask how he had spent his day. Maynard's stock answer was that he had been downtown watching the wrecking ball take down the old Barlow Building. At that time I was 14 or 15 years old and I couldn't imagine anyone spending time watching the demolition of a building, but I loved that he did it. As I watched the show, I couldn't identify with Dobie or any of the other boys. I saw myself as Maynard G. Krebs. As it turned out, he prepared me for the free-spirited lifestyle that I embraced in the late '60s. When the "tune in, turn on and drop out" movement hit America, I had already been schooled by Maynard.
Sometime in the middle 1980s, I was on a late night flight from Chicago to Orlando to see my father, who was then terminally ill. Lo and behold, on the same airplane was the actor Bob Denver. Yes, the same Bob Denver who gained much fame on "Gilligan's Island." I had to go over and say hello. I am certain that most fans who approached Mr. Denver had a comment about his role as Gilligan, but I told him that Maynard G. Krebs had changed my life. At the mention of Maynard, I saw a definite twinkle in his eye.
"Thank you for remembering," he said. He died in 2005.
As the big cloud of dust arose where the hospital had been, the crowd cheered. I couldn't help it but as I walked to the car I began to whistle the theme song to "The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis." Thank you, Mr. Denver.