When I was growing up, I’d say I read Tom Swift books from the library. That wasn’t exactly true. I checked out 1950s books about the atomic age adventures of Tom Swift, Jr. and a 1990s reboot. Tom Swift, Jr. was an inventor and tech genius extraordinaire who had far out adventures with atomic age technology. His dad was a supporting character as the CEO of Swift Labs. Little did I know, he’d had adventures of his own, adventures that had started the whole Tom Swift craze all the way back in 1910.
The original Tom Swift series was forty children’s books published between 1910 and 1941, and the first of twenty-five of which have fallen into the public domain. Colonial Radio Theatre recently adapted the first of these, Tom Swift and His Motorcycle.
In it, Tom Swift lives with his inventor father Barton Swift in upstate New York. Tom repairs a motorcycle and plans to drive his father’s patent plans as well as a model of his father’s latest invention to the attorney’s office but is waylaid by a gang of robbers who steal the invention. Tom ends up trying to get them back and foils the robbers.
This story is a basic boys adventure story, the type which was so popular for much of the twentieth century but made accessible for modern listeners. It paints a picture of a transitional time in American history as technology such as the telephone and the motor car were making inroads but weren’t universal particularly not in Swift’s upstate New York stomping ground. The story highlights that these technologies were like the wifi hotspots and natural-gas powered cars of their day, so it’s a fascinating look at their era that I don’t think I’ve seen explored in any modern works.
Tom (Colin Budzyna) is the perfect hero for this sort of story: loyal, honest, and a compulsive tinker who has to fix anything he sees that’s broken.
The play is well acted and charming with some dialogue that’s unique and unintentionally hilarious to twenty-first century ears. One character is constantly prefacing his sentence with phrases beginning with, “Bless my-” such as, “Bless my liver….” and “Bless my very existence.” That gives it a nice period feel.
Overall, this is a fun treat. Colonial took an obscure and less-remembered book and has skillfully brought it to life, creating a play that’s enjoyable for both kids and those who remember what it was like to be kids. In doing so, they manage to capture a less remembered era in literature and America History. And Bless my iPod, that’s an accomplishment.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
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