Do you have a childhood memory that is so detailed, so vivid, so intense that it must be true? Yet one that if examined with 20/20 hindsight may not necessarily hold true?
On Aug. 5, 1962 — 47 years ago today — Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bungalow in Brentwood, California.
Aug. 5, 1962, was a Sunday. I was in the car with my family. We were on a trip to Wisconsin to visit relatives. We lived in Missouri at the time.
We were in Mequon, Wisconsin, a suburb just north of Milwaukee. We were driving along the Milwaukee River, which ran along Highway 57 through town. We were either going to or from Uncle Wally’s house, which was a couple of miles south, just off 57.
It must be my parents’ reaction to the news that I so vividly remember from that day. I was only 5, so I’m sure they had to explain to me that Marilyn Monroe was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Perhaps they also had to explain that a bungalow was like a cottage.
But I also remember the place where we heard the news, in a low, shaded spot along the river that ran along the road. We drove past it a few weeks ago, and it was exactly as I remembered. There’s a small roadside park there. Why does that place remain so etched in a 5-year-old boy’s memory? Did we stop there for a picnic?
Then I looked across the road. There’s a pool. Were we at that pool that day? Was it even there in 1962? I don’t remember. It’s in another park. Were we at that park that day? Was there a park there in 1962? Again, I don’t remember.
But I remember the road, the river and the startling news that Marilyn Monroe had died in her bungalow.
I looked for a while for a song that might convey that feeling. This’ll do.
“Something To Remember You By,” Wallace Johnson, 1967. It came out as a 45 on Sansu Records and is available digitally.