I’ve always loved history, and when I was a kid, I was enamored of the period surrounding America’s War of Independence.
It began, I think, when I read the children’s novel Johnny Tremain. It’s about a young teen in Boston who is caught up in the events that lead to the American Revolution.
My interest in that time period heightened when I began watching a TV show called The Young Rebels. It was about a group of four teens/young adults who single-handedly fought off the British Army’s attempts to infiltrate Philadelphia and its environs.
From time to time the Rebels had help from General the Marquis de Lafayette of France. I think my first crush was on Philippe Forquet, who played Lafayette in the show. I recall that he had a charming French accent and a pair of dimples that went on for days.
Rick Ely (whose brother Ron played Tarzan in his own TV show) starred as Jeremy, the leader of the merry band of patriots. Alex Henteloff played a brainy, Benjamin-Franklin-like character who was always inventing explosives or contraptions to harass the British army with. Louis Gossett, Jr. played a brave ex-slave, and in a few episodes Hilary Thompson played Jeremy’s sometime girlfriend.
Together, Lafayette and the Rebels blew up British munitions depots, blocked British cavalry troops from crossing rivers, thwarted the King’s messengers from reaching their commanders in time to summon help. By the time the show went off the air, I was convinced they had single-handedly won the War of Independence for all Americans (high school history classes subsequently corrected that belief).
It was a lot like The A-Team (a TV show that came along twelve years later) set during Colonial America, but with wigs and waistcoats.
I loved that show, and I especially loved the character of Lafayette.
But it should be known that I wasn’t the only one with a crush Lafayette. America love him, too . . . the real Lafayette, that is.
And when Lafayette returned to the United States in 1824, American’s rolled out the red carpet for him.
Newspapers published adoring tributes to him.
Cities erected monuments in his honor.
Banks printed his image on money.
Communities held banquets and balls and welcomed him to every event as if he were royalty.
Lafayette’s image was everywhere, from playing cards to cigar boxes.
But when I think of Lafayette, I don’t think of those images; I still think of the lasting impression a young actor named Philippe Forquette made on me when I was young. I still remember how a TV show helped ignite my love for our country’s history at the time we were fighting for our independence.
In fact, the show helped ignite my love for history of all eras, and I’m fortunate to be able to share some of the historical bits and bobs I’ve collected along the way in the blogs I write.
Tomorrow is America’s birthday, and in honor of the day, I think I’m going to reread the book that started it all, Johnny Tremain.
What about you? Was there a television show, book, or movie that made an impact on you when you were young? Please share your thoughts!