Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Back To The Future
I have already talked about some of the things I have seen change in my lifetime. Today not everything will be a change but many were historic and some shocking.
Probably the most outstanding thing was the space program. There were comic books and radio and television programs about humans traveling in outer space. Pure science fiction. Or was it?
When Sputnik was launched the United States was frantic. We were experiencing the Cold War. We were not too far removed from World War II and the Korean War. There were air raid shelters and air raid captains who were supposed to guide us to safety in case of an enemy attack.
We had fire drills in school. We also had air raid drills. When the air raid siren sounded we were to "drop and cover". That meant dropping to the floor under your desk into a sort of fetal position but with your face and body toward the floor. Then you covered your head with hands and arms. You remained in that position until the "all clear" was sounded.
I have read how so many children were traumatized by "drop and cover" drills. I was a child. I thought it was great fun. Children cannot comprehend consequences of viotent acts. All parents can do is teach them what to do in case of a violent act and deal with the fallout later.
But back to the space race. The US and Russia both kept launching rockets and planning for manned space flights. It was an exciting time. Our schools did not have televisions so we could not watch the launches at school. School would close on launch days so we could watch from home. And we did watch. It was exciting.
Eventually there were too many launches to allow us to have the day off school so they were limited to only the more important ones. Animals were launched and finally came the time when there were manned flights.
Finally I got to see a man actually walk on the moon. It was like something from a movie.
I vaguely remember some of the McCarthy hearings from television. I was very young. McCarthy was a senator who believed that Communism was not only a threat to our country but that we were infiltrated by Communists and Communist sympathizers. He chaired the Senate hearings on unAmerican activities.
The McCarthy hearings rapidly turned into a witch hunt. People who testified at the hearings came from all walks of life. They may or may not have been guilty of any charges. A lot of people lost their jobs and were blackballed from being rehired elsewhere. It would be nice to have a reliable means of revisiting that time to find out what was true and what was not.
I watched the first televised debates between two presidential candidates when John F Kennedy and Richard M Nixon opposed each other. Kennedy had a charisma that showed on camera. Nixon did not seem as comfortable. Kennedy won the election.
There have been 12 presidents in my life. I remember all but Truman. I was just a little too young.
I am not Catholic but the process of choosing a pope fascinates me. There have been 7 popes since I was born.
When I was a child most homes had an automobile. We call them cars. We still walked most places. Everything in the little towns I lived in was too close to bother with driving.
Back then cars were built sturdy and to last a long time. They were very large. They had one long seat in the front and the same in the back. There were no seat belts or air bags. The steering wheel was huge. Tires were not as sturdy as they are now so there were a lot of flat tires.
Gas stations could fix those flats. They also did minor repairs. Most of those older cars could be repaired with a screwdriver, pliers, and a bit of wire.
Gas stations also offered full service. When you stopped for gasoline they washed the windows, checked under the hood for oild and water levels. They checked the air pressure in the tires and filled them if needed. All as part of the regular service and all FREE!
Gas was not free. But it was inexpensive. My father used to fill the 16 gallon tank and hand the attendant $2.00 and get change back.
Once a new gas station opened in town. It was right across the street from the existing station. There was a price war. For the longest time gasoline was 6¢ per gallon. Wouldn't that be nice now? And we still got full service.
Now cars do not necessarily need gasoline to operate. We have electric cars and hybrids that use both gas and electricity. They are working on cars that will hover above the ground instead of rolling along.
Penny candy was the joy of my life. For a penny there were many items you could purchase. KitKats came in a little 4 piece package. You could get a piece of bubble gum. There was a whip of licorice either red or black. Pixie sticks. Gumballs. Jawbreakers. Tootsie rolls. Suckers or lollipops. A child's handful of jelly beans or candy corn. You get the idea.
Soda pop was 5¢ and you got 1 penny back when you returned the bottle. It only came in bottle then.
Candy bars were 5¢ and my mother complained. She said they used to buy a big chocolate bare for a nickel and there would be enough for all of them to share.
There was a soda fountain at the drug store. One of my favorite treats was a phosphate. Phosphates are carbonated drinks made right at the soda fountain. You could choose any one of the delicious flavored syrups (also used to top sundaes) and that would be the flavor of the phosphate.
If you lived in town milk was delivered 6to the house. It came in milk bottles with little cardboard inserts at the mouth of the bottle to close it. When my children were small I had milk delivered but it came in cartons. I do not know if home delivery exists any more.
The saddest thing I have observed is the loss of freedom to be a child. We would be outside from the time we woke in the morning until it was time to be home for the night. It was safe to wander all over town or through the countryside. Nobody would bother us. Children now have to be wary of every person they encounter. Sad
I had an excellent education as a child. Now pay attention. There were three grades to a room. The teacher in the room taught all three grades. She taught all subjects, reading, writing, arithmetic, history, art, and recess. Often she was also our music teacher. She escorted us to lunch and made us mind. We learned at school. There was NO HOMEWORK.
I still do not believe in homework. And now teachers have specialized classes. Students with similar abilities are placed in the classroom. It seems to me that teachers could, oh I don't know, maybe teach. Then there would be time to play after school because that is a valuable part of their learning experience.
Music has changed so much. I came in at the end of the big band era. I really do not remember it but I listen to some of the big bands and love the music. Rock'a'billy and rock and roll were what I listened to when I was young. My parents liked country music and I do too. My family listened to classical music too. I have to be in the mood but it is called calssical for a reason.
The English invasion changed the way we viewed music. They took rock and roll and the blues and turned our music world upside down. Then came disco music. Now hip hop but I am seeing a return of some of the older styles coming back.
Clothing styles. Oh my goodness. When I was little women were very modest in their clothing. Most women wore dresses all the time. The hem of the skirts fell below the knee. Little girls wore short skirts with lots of petticoats. When I was a teenager miniskirts were the rage. And little girls skirts became longer.
There were sack dresses with no shape, mini skirts, maxi skirts, the little black dress, muu muus, caftans, sleeveless, strapless, spaghetti straps. Permanent press fabrics made ironing easier and sometimes even unnecessary.
I have seen terrible things happen. The Viet Nam War, the Gulf wars, terrorism running rampant. I watched the endless reruns of President Kennedy being assassinated. The drum cadence from his funeral will be in my head forever.
I was actually watching television when they were transferring Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby jumped out of the crowd and killed him. There was nothing on TV for a week that did not deal directly with the assassination.
I saw the Challenger explode after take-off with seven crew members on board. I heard the astronauts when the capsule caught fire on the launch pad.
The World Trade Center suffered from an explosion in one of the underground parking lots of the World Trade Center in New York City. A truck with explosives made of fertilizer blew up at the front of a government building in Oklahoma City. I was just home from work and had dosed off on the couch when I woke up just in time to see the second airplane fly into the World Trade Center the day it collapsed and the whole world became fearful.
That was the day I called my sister. We worked together and rode to and from work together. I asked her if she was still awake and if she had her television on. She said yes and no respectively. Her question was a moderately disinterested why. I said, "Somebody just declared war on us!"
Children go to school with weapons and bombs intending to kill as many people as possible. People go to the movie theater with automatic weapons and open fire People shoot stab, beat, and bomb at an alarming rate today. We live in an increasingly violent society.
When I was a teen-ager Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Carol Ann Fugate went on a killing spree. They killed her whole family and then traveled across Nebraska and Wyoming. Charles Manson and his followwers were found guilty of killing a total of seven people in California. The list goes on. It is just too sad.
My own children were raised in a large city. I always hated it there but a person goes where the work is. I told them of growing up in a part of the country where people are polite. If you walk down the street and encounter another person you both smile pleasantly and say, "Hello." People say please and thank you. If you need assistance you can get it. If someone else needs assistance you offer it.
I am not certain they believed me. A few years ago one of my sons moved to this area. He loves it here and recently told me he cannot believe how friendly and nice people are.
I think there is one more amazing changes in me. Stay tuned.