"Our series is set in a framework of morality." - Dr. William Ayres on his controversial sex education program for nine year olds, the New York Times, April 13, 1969.
"Our only disagreement is on the depth he went into masturbation and the details of human intimacy." -Arnim Weems, Assistant San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools, The San Francisco Chronicle, August 21, 1968
Back in 2006, about a year before Ayres was arrested, we happened to be speaking to a San Mateo child psychiatrist who dropped what we considered bombshell information; in the 1960's Ayres had his own sex education television series for little kids on KQED in San Francisco. This came as a shock to us, because when Ayres had been deposed for his first molestation civil suit in 2004, he didn't mention his sex ed series. Not a peep. He did not forget to mention, however, every last tiny little office he has ever held for every last association for the last thirty years. (Does anyone but Ayres really care that he was once upon a time the treasurer for the Northern California Regional Organization of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry?)Gee, we wondered, now, why wouldn't Ayres bring up his sex ed series to the victim's civil lawyer ? Could it be because there might be something he didn't want us to know about the series?
What this San Mateo child psychiatrist had to say to us about the sex ed series called "Time of Your Life" only piqued our interest: "It was disgusting," the child psychiatrist told us."It was way too graphic. There was one scene where Ayre pushes his fist through the sleeve of the sweater to demonstrate how the foreskin retracts. It was so over the top I couldn't watch it after the first episode. It was like he was using the program to procure children."
We decided to try to find anything we could on this series. Alas, there was nothing on Google, and even James Day, the 88 -year -old founder of KQED couldn't even remember the series. Finally after speaking to 16 former employees of KQED, we finally found a tech guy who remembered the show and that it had been controversial.
Eventually, we were able to locate in our local library dozens of news stories on microfilm from the 1960s about the controversy on "Time of Your Life" where many parents are quoted as saying that Ayres' series was "pornographic."
But we couldn't get our hands on a copy of the darned program itself. KQED didn't have any copies and neither did any of the PBS affiliates around the country. Eventually, we just gave up the search.
However, the following year, about a week after Ayres' arrest, we got a call from a librarian who was in charge of the KQED archives in California. The good news was that she had located a copy of the program, but the bad news -- at least to us -- was that she was turning it over to KQED , who would then decide whether to make it available to the public.
Unfortunately, the people over at KQED absolutely freaked when they realized they had a series on their hands by someone who had just been arrested for pedophilia and had his medical license suspended by the Attorney General of California. They were very, very touchy, and did not want to show the series to anyone. It was clear they were worried about being seen as guilty by association.
This made James Day, the founder of KQED and now living in New York City, mad. He saw KQED's unwillingness to show the series as a form of censorship, and he got into the act and wrote to the brass at KQED, urging them to show "Time of Your Life."
And finally, after eleven months, KQED relented. They rented a screening room and aired several episodes of Ayres' 15 part series to a correspondent for this blog.
Naturally, we were very curious to see the episode where Ayres punches his fist through the sleeve of a sweater.
This, we learned, took place in an episode made in 1968 called "Male."
The Dr. William Ayres who appeared in this black and white episode was 36 years old, much thinner than he is these days, but still, as the camera panned on him sitting in a chair on a stage, he comes across as a hulking presence. He reminded us of Truman Capote, only much taller and with more hair.
Also featured in this episode was Ayres' co-star, the perky Marilyn McCurdy, a principal of an elementary school. She looked to be in her thirties and she wore her hair in a flip. She was made up with heavy eyeliner- the way women were in the late 60s, and she had a very lively way of talking.
What bothered us was that there were five little kids sitting with Ayres and McCurdy - two adorable boys and three girls. Fortunately, Mrs. McCurdy has assured us that the boys were students at her school and they were never patients of Ayres.
How was Ayres' manner on television? Depressed. Glum. No affect. Clinical. Cold. Detached. Slightly melancholy. And for most of the show Ayres avoided looking into the eye of the the camera. And at one point as he was talking in his dead voice, he stared down at the floor and started to pick lint off his socks.
There were a lot of anatomical drawings of naked boys on the wall. Pointing to one of the pictures, Ayres said, "Little boys get a lump under their nipple that gets sore. Sometimes this makes boys worry that they are turning into girls!!!"
The publicist for KQED - a male - and this correspondent exchanged a "Huh ?" look. during the airing of this episode, the publicist kept shaking his head and laughing in an embarrassed way, not believing what he was hearing. For the life of us we couldn't figure out what having a lump under the nipple had to do with sex education. This correspondent couldn't help wondering if Ayres had ever used this sore nipple line on one of his victims...
As for the infamous fist-through-the-sweater scene, it was as bizarre as we'd been warned it would be. It's the only time in the episode where Ayres actually comes to life. All of a sudden the camera zooms in on Ayres who is standing with a sweater draped over his shoulder, like a matador. Then as Mrs. McCurdy talked about circumcision in her perky voice, Ayres rapidly punched his fist like a fey boxer through the turned up sleeve of the sweater. It was obvious he was really getting into demonstrating how the foreskin on a penis retracts, and he repeated his fist through the sleeve act several times.
This was all so embarrassingly weird to watch that at one point the publicist from KQED covered his face with his hands. We were cringing, too. We felt bad for the kids who had been subjected to this stuff back in the 1960s, delivered by a psychiatrist who pretended to care about educating children, but instead in his cold and clinical way, was just grooming them for his own selfish purposes.
James Day, the founder of KQED died on April 24, 2008 at the age of 89. We want to remember him here for his enthusiasm and considerable efforts in helping us to finally view "A Time Of Your Life"
We also wish to thank KQED for their efforts in converting the old episodes on video for updated viewing, and for renting a special screening room for us.