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On a recent evening, after an enjoyable dinner with friends, we all sat down to watch an Abbott and Costello "greatest skits" video. After an hour of simple, sweet-fun slapstick, our 23-year-old daughter asked: "Why don't they make this kind of film anymore?"

As I opened my mouth to answer, reality swept over me. There isn't a simple answer to this question. I could think of about two dozen reasons to give her, but I expect she didn't want a lecture on the decay of moral fabric in our society or the art of "pushing the envelope" or a synopsis of the American Civil Liberty Union's recent activities. I realized it was a rhetorical question, but I wanted to tell her how very much I agreed with her.

My husband and I exchanged looks and sighs, each knowing the other wanted to dive in and try to explain away the sleaze that passes for entertainment today.

We wanted to help our children see what we had as children: heroes, movie stars, morals, respect for others, neat clothes and clean fun.

How could we briefly explain that, in our day, we wore dresses to church, men removed their hats in elevators and parents could give their children a dollar and send them off unescorted to the local movie theater, knowing they would be safe and entertained for an entire afternoon. And when the movie was over, the children would be playing Ivanhoe or Robin Hood, not Chuckie or Freddie.

How could we make them see through our eyes? If you don't grow up with it, you just don't feel it. We try, though, every day of our lives, to instill our values into our daughters.

All parents make mistakes -- we certainly made our share. But there is one thing we are proud of. We monitored everything our girls did, watched, read, said and learned. They resented it, predictably, in view of the fact that they couldn't compare notes with their friends about the most recent bloodbath in the movies or who was sleeping with whom in Hollywood.

To them, drugs were Dimetapp and Vicks Vaporub. We were parents, not pals. They grew up as courteous, respectful, thoughtful, independent young ladies who are proud of their family ties, not ashamed of them.

They are drug-free and proud of that, as well. They attend church regularly and look forward to traditional Sunday dinners with extended family.

Day-to-day parenting is difficult enough without the garbage bombarding our society every day. Enough already. When are the movie studios and recording artists going to get the message that they have won the censorship battle but are losing the morality war?

We can fight this so that the next generation will have a chance to experience what we had as children -- innocence until the last possible moment.

I knew that our lifelong, hard-fought battle was won when, after asking that question, my daughter looked up at us, held up her hand to stop us answering and said: "Never mind, I know the answer."

I will go to my grave with pride.

JERRIE DAVIS lives in East Amherst.

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