From then on, not another civilised word was read in Mr Demetre’s classes, not another book opened, never a moment of silence and order. He still lashed errant boys with his new strap, but somehow it lacked the sting of the old one. He shouted and roared but no one took any notice. Boy after boy would give him cheek, refuse to do his bidding, deliberately mess things up. The class became an ongoing succession of crime and punishment, and he wearied of it before they did. Slowly but surely he began to let more and more disruptive behaviour pass, fading away until he just wasn’t there anymore. Within a month, Mr Demetre took sick leave and soon after left the school altogether. Nobody knew what happened to him, and nobody cared.
Another compulsive kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the headless horseman rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavoured to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash—he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind.
Thus Ichabod Crane failed to escape the headless horseman in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but of course I first encountered the piece as narrated and sung by Bing Crosby on Disneyland, along with many other wonders. There was The Little House gradually being swallowed by suburbia—something to which the very house in which I lived was so obviously being subjected; Susie the Little Blue Coupe and Lambert the Sheepish Lion with Sterling Holloway’s amazing soprano-like narration; that phenomenal piece of pro-nuclear propaganda Our Friend the Atom, and all manner of other wonders. Of course, it was all part of Disney’s self-promotion and he introduced it himself, layering copious segments from his many films, of which the greatest, surely, was Mickey Mouse as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice—that character’s only truly great role. This was a sequence from Fantasia, every bit of which I saw on this TV program before I ever actually got around to seeing the whole movie.
The purists may scowl but Disneyland was easily the best hour of television offered in any given week.
Out of the night when
The full moon is bright
Comes the horseman
Known as Zorro.
This bold renegade carves
A ‘Z’ with his blade,
A ‘Z’ that stands for Zorro.
Of course there was Zorro, Spanish for the fox, the whip-cracking, black mask and cape hero against Spanish oppression in old California. There were the books by Johnston McCulley, and the movie in which Tyrone Power skewered Basil Rathbone the way Errol Flynn usually did; there were several serials some of which were rather weird—the one set in modern times in which he cut a most strange figure, and Zorro’s Black Whip in which Zorro was female, which somehow didn’t seem to matter. And finally Walk Disney’s half-hour TV series which was in fact rather childish and silly but boasted the best opening title sequences since Superman’s faster than a speeding bullet