Act II – Scene 7 - Plato Under the Boardwalk – Music Banned on the Beach
Ocean City High School teacher Bill Hamilton was a bit of a rebel who was popular with the students but not so much with the administration. He taught English and coached soccer when nobody considered it a talent threat to the football, baseball and basketball teams.
Hamilton owned the Rock Garden record shop on Asbury near 9th street, and hired some of his students to run it.
He also taught one summer school class in classic literature that Katie, one of the mayor's daughters attended twice a week. This was the next to last class, and it being such a nice day, instead of having the class in a classroom at the high school at Sixth Street, Hamilton had all six of his students meet him under the boardwalk at the music pier, where they moved closer to the hippies at Shriver's Pavilion as the tide came up.
For this particular class Hamilton had them read Aristotle, Socratese and Plato, especially Plato's Republic.
As they sat around in a circle on the beach, under the boarwalk, where it was out of the sun and cooler, Hamilton had Kate read a portion of the Republic that she found most interesting, and she opened it to where she had it marked and began reading: “....Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State, and ought to be prohibited. When modes of music change, he fundamental laws of the State always change with them.”
Continuing to read: “This is the point to which, above all, the attention of our rules should be directed – that music and gymnastics be preserved in their original form, and no innovation made. They must do their utmost to maintain them intact. And when anyone says that mankind must regard the newest song which the singers have, they will be afraid that he may be praising, not new songs, but a new kind of song; and this ought not to be praised, or conceived to be the meaning of the poet; for any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State, and ought to be prohibited. When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them. Then I said our guardians must lay the foundations of their fortress in music...”
Then after a pause she began reading Plato again: “Our youth should be trained from the first in a stricter system, for if amusements become lawless, the youth themselves become lawless, and they never grow up into well-conducted and virtuous citizens.”
Hamilton then noted as Peter Pan said, “This has all happened before and it will all happen again,” or as Yogi put it, “It's deja vu all over again.”
Ater a fervent and vibrant discussion and debate, the hour was up, the students kept looking at their wrist watches at the time, and looking around at all the people lying in the sun and having fun. Some of the students wore their bathing suits and were just going to join the fun.
“For next week, the last assignment for this class,” Hamilton said, “I want you to read Calvary's 'Awaiting the Barbarians” of ancient times, and discuss its relevancy today, class dismissed.
Hamilton then walked down to the beach to Silvia, the Italian law student kicking the soccer ball about, and talked to him for awhile, asking him if he would give a demonstration to his co-ed soccer team they had put together, because they didn't have enough to field a team of either sex, so they had a co-ed team, and Hamilton wanted Silvio to show them a few of his tricks.
That eventing at the Ocean City Commission meeting, the commission chambers were crowded and Mayor opened the floor to any citizen who had something to say, and there were quite a few, before they got down to business and one of the commissioners who had introduced a resolution banning live music on the beach and boardwalk a few months ago, now called for its third and final reading and a vote on the matter.
The last citizen to make a comment was Kate, the Mayor's daughter, who read the paragraphs from Plato's Republic on the threat new music posed to the State and how it should be banned, but instead of the reaction she expected, one of the commissioners said that Plato was right and that the music was bad for everybody, including those who played it.
After the resolution was brought to the table the Mayor spoke first, saying that he thought the measure went too far and was an infringement on free speech.
“This isn't about free speech,” one of the commissioners barked back, “it's about noise, and the noise pollution these kids are bringing into our lives.”
After a vibrant debate, the city attorney was asked to rule on the matter, and Mr. Bell, an elderly gentleman had to be shaken awake, as he had dozed off, and when asked to repeat the question, he said it wasn't a matter of music but the level of the noise that should be restricted.
And so the resolution was amended to ban the level of music by the decible level and the level was set so low that almost any type of music or noise would be considered illegal. A fifty dollar fine was approved and a few hundred dollars was appropriated from the budget to purchase a dozen hand held decibel meters that were to be distributed to all of the policeman that patrolled the boardwalk, with the law taking effect the following Friday at noon.
Next: Act II Scene 8 - Angleymer's Trial