After 54 years, the world stops turning

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 16, 2010

My son’s voice on the other end of the line was not a surprise but what he said was totally unexpected.

“I just heard on television that “As the World Turns” is going off the air after 54 years,” he said.

There was silence between us and I’m sure that memories of Mama filled his quiet just as they did mine.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The last time I watched “As the World Turns” was Jan. 13, 1995. Mama and I watched it together as we had done so many times over the years. Mama died the next morning, Jan. 14, 1995. She would have been 76 years old the next day.

I have never watched “Mama’s soap opera” again.

I have never heard that familiar “Doooom” again. I haven’t heard the announcer say, “As the Woorld Turns” nor seen the world turn on its axis at exactly 12:30 p.m. My heart just won’t let me do that.

For so many years, Mama’s world “turned” around her “soap.” No matter what was going on in the world, it had to wait until after “As the World Turns” went off. Mama’s world stopped “As the World Turns.”

Mama and Dora, the wonderful lady who worked for my great-grandmother, my grandmother and Mama, too, were addicted to the soap opera.

“What would y’all do if the bus to heaven came by while ‘As the World Turns’ was on,” I asked one day.

“We’d ask if there’d be another bus,” they laughed and said.

Just how many of those 54 years Mama watched “her soap,” I don’t know. But pretty close to all of them.

When it first came on television, we didn’t have a television. However, Mama’s sister, Eleanor did. Aunt Eleanor got Mama “hooked” on “As the World Turns.” Mama could find all kinds of reasons to visit her sister but the real one was to watch the soap opera.

I never heard Mama mention wanting anything except a television so she could watch “As the World Turns.” Luckily, Daddy had gotten tired of walking down to my grandmama’s to watch wrestling so he “gave in” and brought home a brand new television on a rollaway stand.

The men from the electric company came and put up a towering antenna that we had to go outside and turn, by hand, to get the stations to come in. Later, we got a “rotor” box that set on top of the television. All we had to do then was mash the lever one way or the other and we could turn the antenna from inside the house. That was an amazing thing.

After we ate dinner every Monday through Friday, Mama would hurry us to wash the dishes so she could sit down and enjoy her soap. She would sit on the end of the sofa and lean in to the television and take in every word. If the house had caught on fire, she would have kept sitting right there until her soap went off.

Mama wasn’t the only one who watched “As the World Turns.” Mommie, Aunt Jeanette and a whole bunch of Brundidge ladies’ lives became entwined in the Oakdale world of Chris and Nancy Hughes and their family, friends and foes. They talked about Bob, Lisa, Kim, Penny, Judge Lowell, Ellen and that mean Dr. John Dixon and so many others like they were members of their families. They rejoiced at their good fortunate and shared their sorrows. They worried about their troubles and probably prayed for them, too.

Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t get involved in the lives of the Hughes family because I did. Mama kept me up to snuff every night at supper during school and, when I went to work at Yellowstone National Park, she often wrote me of the latest happenings. But actually, you could miss the soap opera for three months and then pick right up where you had left off. It actually moved in “real time.”

Once while at Yellowstone, Mama wrote that Jeff had gotten killed in a car accident. I was heartbroken thinking it was one of my brother’s best friends. Three pages later, I figured out it was Jeff on Mama’s soap opera.

“Mama,” I wrote back. “Tell me right off the bat when you are talking about people on ‘As the World Turns.’ You scared me so bad my heart hurt.”

For a long time, Mama’s soap was a 30-minute program. Then it went to an hour.

“Just more time for the world to turn,” she said.

After my own world stopped turning on that cold January day in 1995, I haven’t allowed myself to watch Mama’s soap. Those were times that Mama and I shared and I want them to stay that way. Just between her and me.

So, when that final “Dooom” sounds sometime soon, it will bring to an end 54 years of “As the World Turns” but not for Mama and me. Memories last a lifetime.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor. She can be reached at