Door 4: Campfire stories

These days, news travel fast. We still get the morning paper, and we read it at the breakfast table every morning, always sharing the different sections the same way: News and Culture to Wife, Sports and Stockholm News to me, and if we see anything we think might interest Son and Daughter – who read comics – we’ll give the article to them.

Often when Wife tells me about something she read, both Son and I will have already heard it. Now, my excuse is that I’m a freelance writer so I tend to spend too much time reading my RSS feeds and scrolling down my social media timelines. Son? Well, he’s a teenager.

News hasn’t always traveled that fast. Back in the 1980s, of course, you couldn’t find a video stream, legal or illegal, to any sports event online and even the TV sports news had to use still photos from boxing matches in America.

A couple of years ago, I saw Finnish papers run stories like this: “Thirty-five years since this major TV event today! Do you remember when J.R was shot?” One of them had a line at the bottom of their story, about it having been such a huge even that the paper had even put it on their headline posters.

And it was true, they did sell papers with the news of J.R. getting shot and true to form, the poster presented the news in a nice juxtaposition between that and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev’s death.

Top of the bill: “Tonight on TV: JR gets shot”. Below it: “Reagan won’t make it to the funeral”.

However, while Brezhnev had died just two days earlier, the news from Dallas was a little bit old.

In the US, J.R. Ewing had been shot in a “Dallas” episode that aired on March 21, 1980 but in Finland, he went down on November 12, 1982 so in fact, the anniversary stories were a little bit premature, and should have been run a couple of weeks ago.

In America, the person who pulled the trigger was revealed the following season, on November 21, 1980, but in Finland, we had to wait until 1983 to hear who pulled the trigger.

Somewhere between those two major events, one day after school in the winter of 1982, I put a green BASF 60 tape in my stereo and my two index fingers on the “rec” and “play” buttons, ready to record the best new music the DJ would play on “Rockradio”.

This masterpiece took up most of the space on the tape, so I could only record a few additional songs on it. One of them was a “T.R. Dallas” single called “Who Shot J.R. Ewing?”

It was certainly thanks to the masterpiece album that I listened to the whole tape that much, but it was the catchy tune and the clever lyrics that kept me from recording another song over the JR song.

So, I’d walk around our house, and sing along to all the songs on the tape, and at one point, I’d be wondering, “Who shot that son of a Texas gun that night in Dallas town? I know he had it coming but the truth it must be found. Can anybody tell me? Who shot J.R. down?”

A couple of months later, I learned it was Kristin Shepard. It was worth the wait. And, you know, I still know the lyrics to the song by heart, too.

T. R. Dallas – Who Shot J. R. Ewing (1980)


This is the From The Desk of Risto Pakarinen 2017 advent calendar. Behind every door, you’ll find something related to the 1980s.

How does that make you feel?