Last year, I did anniversary posts for the Adam West Batman TV series and my top 10 best and worst Star Trek episodes in celebration of their 50th anniversaries. 1967 is also a great year for pop culture. Pink Floyd started off their career with Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The Beatles released their landmark Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Peanuts gang debuted on Broadway with You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. And in Tulsa, Oklahoma, SE Hinton published her debut novel, The Outsiders. It would be followed by That Was Then, This is Now, Tex, and Rumble Fish. All of these encompass what I personally call the Ponyboy saga, because he’s in all four books. (although in the “sequels”, he’s not as important as he was in the first book.
The story focuses on two gangs–the Socs (the rich kids) and the Greasers–Ponyboy, Dallas, Two-Bit, Soda Pop, and Johnny (our heroes). Most of the Greasers are orphans, with Dallas being the stand-in parent.
Ponyboy is the narrator, as he is writing the story for a school project. The story begins with him and Johnny getting in a fight with some Socs, with Johnny almost drowning in a fountain. Ponyboy kills one and they have to go into hiding in an abandoned church. Some days later, the church is burning down and Ponyboy and Johnny go in to save some children. Ponyboy makes it out okay, but Johnny has to go to a burn ward. After he dies, the rest of the Greasers challenge the Socs to a rumble for revenge.
The story still resonates 50 years later. In 1983, Francis Ford Coppola (director of the Godfather saga) made a movie starring Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, and Rob Lowe. It was actually very faithful to the book and was even filmed in Hinton’s hometown (S.E. Hinton makes a cameo in the movie). I highly recommend both the book and the movie. Yes, The Outsiders is a bit dated, but it still speaks to people like me who, like the Greasers, never really fit in.
“Nothing gold can stay” in the immortal words of Robert Frost, who Ponyboy quotes. Stay gold, my readers.