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This week's movie topic is all about Your Childhood Favorite.

Starting when I was about 12 years old, a Saturday afternoon ritual began in my family. My parents would give me and my two younger sisters $1 each and drop us off at the Park Theater in Gardena (a neighboring city) for their Saturday afternoon matinee double feature special. With that single dollar, we had enough money to buy a ticket, a snack, and a drink.

My parents weren't the only ones thrilled to get rid of their children for a few hours on Saturday afternoons. The theater was always packed with kids ranging in age from about 5 or 6 to 14 or 15. It wasn't unusual for me and my sisters to find friends from school at the theater, so we always had someone to hang out with while we were there.

During intermission, the owner of the theater held a drawing and gave away 5 prizes: a bicycle, a camera, a pair of movie tickets, and two items from the concession stand. All the kids held onto their ticket stubs in anticipation of that drawing. I won a camera once, and my sisters won things like a free hotdog, a free drink, and free candy. Those definitely were the days!

Our Saturday movie day was made all the better if one of the two films playing was about Billy Jack.

One Saturday, during our Christmas break from school, and probably planned for parents to do some shopping without having to worry about or deal with dragging their kids along, the theater held a Billy Jack marathon -- three movies starring our favorite half-breed former Green Beret. We kids were thrilled!

Billy Jack was our hero. His character shaped my understanding of what a hero is and what a hero does. He still does -- Billy Jack is still my hero.

"One Tin Soldier," the theme from The Trial of Billy Jack

"One Tin Soldier" is a 60s era anti-war song written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. The Canadian pop group Original Caste first recorded the song in 1969. The track briefly reached limited popularity locally and reached Number 34 on the American pop charts in early 1970.

"One Tin Soldier" tells the abstract story of a hidden treasure and two neighboring peoples, the Mountain People and the Valley People. The Valley People are aware of a treasure on the mountain, buried under a stone; they send a message to the Mountain People demanding those riches. When told they can share the treasure, the Valley People instead decided to take it all by force. After killing all the Mountain People, the victors move the stone and find nothing more than a simple message: "Peace on Earth." Ironically, the valley people destroyed the treasure in pursuit of it.

The Billy Jack connection:
Jinx Dawson of the band Coven sang the song at a 1971 session with the film's orchestra as part of the soundtrack for the Warner Brothers movie Billy Jack. Jinx asked that her band, Coven, be listed on the recording and film, not her name as a solo artist. This Warner release, titled as "One Tin Soldier: The Legend of Billy Jack," reached #17 on Billboard's Hot 100 in fall 1971, only to be pulled from the charts as it was moving up by the Billy Jack film producers due to legal squabbles over the rights to the recording. The full Coven band then reluctantly re-recorded the song for their MGM album. Thus the MGM album containing a second version of this song displayed their whited-out faces on the cover, contrived again by the film's producer Tom Laughlin. The recording then hit the charts again in both 1973 and 1974 near the end of the Vietnam War and the release of the film The Trial of Billy Jack. The Coven recording was named Number One All Time Requested Song in 1971 and 1973 by the American Radio Broadcasters Association. A slightly different version recorded by Guy Chandler (titled "One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)") charted in summer 1973 (Wikipedia).

The films:
  1. Born Losers (1967)
  2. Billy Jack (1971)
  3. The Trial of Billy Jack (1974)
  4. Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977)

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8 Responses
  1. kayerj Says:

    interesting post, I loved reading about your Saturday movie day's. What fun. I do have to admit I've never heard of Billy Jack though. If you want to wander down my road I’m home.

  2. Unknown Says:

    ...Listen children to a story, that was written long ago...

    One of my favorite songs. You want to know that I've never seen Billy Jack. I wanted it and Netflix didn't have it. But I just looked and they do, so I'm moving it up!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    How interesting this is. I love reading all of this. I hadn't heard One Tin Soldier in so long. Excellent. You outdid yourself on this :)

  4. Terry Kate Says:

    wow new to me.
    I will definitely be checking it out on my netflix!
    Terry - My List
    Romance in the Backseat

  5. The Bumbles Says:

    Wow - I could totally see how those films would be like a magnet for kids. That song was so 70's - loved the video. Why is he a Tin Soldier? Do tell! I remember being dropped off at the movies with packs of my friends when we were pre-teens - those were the days eh?

  6. Billy Jack, Good Film
    One Tin Soldier, Good Song

    You talking about your going to the Matinees brought back so many memories for me, Thank you for sharing.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Wow you got all that for a buck? I could count on both hands how many times I had been "out" to a movie by age 18!

  8. betty-NZ Says:

    Wow! One Tin Soldier and Billy Jack sure bring back some memories!

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