“Come and listen to my story of a man named Jed.” For those of you who are old enough to have watched The Beverly Hillbillies, the first sentence of this column has probably already triggered …
“Come and listen to my story of a man named Jed.” For those of you who are old enough to have watched The Beverly Hillbillies, the first sentence of this column has probably already triggered your brain to remember the rest of that show's theme song. So besides important information such as passwords, birthdays and where you parked the car at Walmart the brain also has the capacity to store bits of information that are seemingly recalled without notice.
Over the years brainiac scientists have used multiple studies to figure out how the brain works. They found that the brain has many components and each one has a specific purpose, many pertaining to memory. Sensory memory is the first type used to store items in the brain.
It quickly stores the memory of what you see, hear, smell and touch. For example, you turn on the television just in time to see the New York Jets score a winning touchdown. Your brain then decides whether to send that memory to the areas capable of storing short-term or long-term memories.
Before it gets stored, that sensory memory is wiped out when the referee rules that the wide receiver was not in bounds. Then you wish there was a way of erasing your memory of being a NY Jets fan.
“So no one told you life was going to be this way.” With all the sensory input that you have stored there seems to be an unlimited capacity to retain the themes from television shows whether they are lyrics or just music. The memory of the theme from the show “Friends” also comes with the images of the cast splashing around in a fountain. Although filmed in California, the exterior of their apartment building was filmed at 90 Bedford Street in New York's, Greenwich Village. The show ended in 2004 but every day fans show up to take pictures of that building. Then they show them to their friends saying, “Remember this place?”
In one case many of us have also retained a theme that is nothing more than a whistled tune. A small-town sheriff is walking with his son to the fishing hole. Filmed in black and white, the whistling continues until the announcer says “The Andy Griffith Show” as the son, a young Ron Howard, tosses a stone in the lake. It is a good memory bringing back feelings of simpler times. If the tune is in your brain, feel free to whistle it now.
Another popular category of television theme memories is instrumental. One instrumental memory conjures up the beautiful scenery of Hawaii. You may find yourself humming the theme from “Hawaii Five-0”. Another popular memory from that show might pop up when you see a police officer and you quietly say to yourself, “book ‘em Danno.”
“Flintstones, meet the Flintstones”. Animated shows also provide a bunch of possible involuntary memories. You do not have to be at the Museum of Natural History or a rock quarry to find yourself thinking about the theme song from “The Flintstones”.
Research shows that involuntary memories, ones that randomly pop up are not often triggered by a current sensory situation. Some research has shown that the average person has at least one a day. I think of my involuntary memories as the brain's way of entertaining me. I would rather be walking down the street thinking about the theme song of “Cheers” than suddenly remembering my locker combination in high school.
That brings us back to ol' Jed Clampett. One thing always bothered me about that show's premise. When Jed shot into the ground that caused all that black gold, Texas tea to pop up, he became a millionaire. The Clampetts lived in an impoverished hollow in the Ozarks. I do not think his kinfolk would have said “Californy is the place you ought to be.” They probably would have hoped he shared the wealth or at least gave them indoor plumbing.
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