One advantage of attaining the status of “senior citizen” (or “old geezer” as some describe us) is that we’ve stored a whole lot of history in that remarkable computer tucked away inside our skulls. Some of us seem to lose the ability to “retrieve our memory files” as we age, but I’ve been blessed with a still fairly intact memory bank that goes back pretty far (I’ve traded good memory at age 84 for lots of back, leg, and shoulder pain, and a bit of heart trouble, but I consider that to be an acceptable trade off).
Many remarkable, history making, joy inducing, grief causing, incredulity testing, and just plain ‘what in the world happened’ events have affected all of us who have advanced beyond mere “puppyhood”. Lots of “experienced citizens” I talk with frequently can remember events in their lives that go way, way back. My earliest memory, I think, goes back to the winter of 1940/41, when my beautiful late 20’s mother pulled her just-turned-four year old son (me) on a sled out in a snowstorm around the neighborhood where we lived in Lakewood, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland). I can still recall the joy we both seemed to feel during that chilly outing. I remember that it was almost dusk, and I can still see her breath in the cold air and still feel the snowflakes hitting my face. I recall that she spoke with me; I only wish I could remember what she said. I have some memories of sitting in a “high chair”, probably long before that memorable sled ride, but the dates elude me.
My first “traumatic memory” was that “end of childhood” day when my mother took me for my first day in kindergarten. My idyllic existence was over, I knew, and I wept and screamed that I didn’t want my mother to leave me with this strange white-haired woman (Mrs. Post was her name). I caused quite a scene in Mrs. Post’s kindergarten class in McKinley Elementary school that long-ago day in September of 1941 when I wasn’t yet five, because I knew that I’d never see my “mommy” again. But the next day I was already relating to Mrs. Post, and I decided that kindergarten wasn’t so bad after all. After 80 years, I can still see Mrs. Post’s face.
Interesting, isn’t it, what our memory cells have stored away? I can still see, in my “mind’s eye”, bits and pieces of those wonderful elementary school years. One “bit” that has always “stuck out” was my cursive writing class (sadly, no longer taught in our pathetic government schools)—probably in 2nd or 3rd grade. My “mean” teacher kept “picking on me” because I couldn’t keep my practice letters inside the lines. Eventually she got so disturbed with me that she sent me to the principle’s office to get my eyes checked. I can’t remember her name, or the results of that test (or even if I got my eyes checked). I DO recall that I thought she was mean, and I didn’t like her. At least I did, finally, learn cursive writing, a skill that many of the “young whippersnappers” among us never learned in school. Too bad, because they’ll never be able to read old manuscripts, old family letters, etc.!
What about you? Where were you in some of those momentous events in our nation’s history? I can recall events during WW11, mostly from 1943 and later. I “read” Life Magazine zealously (well—I looked at the photographs and drawings) every week, when my mother brought it home each Friday afternoon (along with Look Magazine), perhaps the beginning of my life-long fascination with history. Do any of you remember the Nazi invasion of Poland in Sept. of 1939, which began WW11? Being too young, I don’t, but some of you might retain that memory. Do any of you remember the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941? I don’t, but I have met and talked with seniors who were there in person, and witnessed the attack.
Where were you on VJ Day (Victory Over Japan), the day when WW11 officially ended in August, 1945? Of course, our “friends”, the Communist Russians and their allies and “comsymps” in Washington, D.C. (a city that was—and still is-- infested with communists and fellow travelers, courtesy of President Franklin Roosevelt and President Harry Truman—and MOST presidents since them) knew that the “hot” war might have ended, but that it was to be continued under the farce known as “the Cold War” until the next “hot war”—Korea, as it turned out—could be arranged. Strangely, I don’t remember VJ Day, or even if my parents told me about it. I recall a bit of the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi war criminals, after the end of WW11, but only in sporadic bits and pieces.
Where were you when President Franklin Roosevelt passed away in Warm Springs, Georgia in April, 1945, while “dallying with his lady friend” who was not his wife? I clearly remember two of my neighborhood friends coming up to me and informing me of the President’s death. I also recall that I thought they were joking, at first. But they weren’t. When I asked my mother for confirmation of their news, she verified that our president had, indeed, died that day. Whether or not my parents were saddened by his death I never knew, because they never discussed political matters with me. I know my parents never voted, and I never knew what they thought of President Roosevelt (unlike one of my university professors around 1956, who was rabidly anti-Roosevelt, and who always brought smiles to our faces when he launched into an “attack” against his “four term” Democrat nemesis.)
I vividly remember the years near the end of WW11 and right after, when TV wasn’t yet available, and people sat around an electronic contraption called a radio, listening to people talking and to the popular music of the day (which was “musical”, unlike the noise pretending to be ‘music’ today), being forced to use their imaginations as the drama unfolded. Do you recall listening to Jack Benny, The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, Inner Sanctum, Sky King, Eddie Cantor, Buster Brown and “Smiling Ed McConnell? (“Plunk your magic twanger, Froggie”). I do. I miss those old shows, and I miss the family togetherness that gathering around that pictureless box brought about.
Where were you when you got your first TV set? I vividly recall the day when my father told us that we were getting our first, deluxe, super-duper 16” black and white set in 1952. TV wasn’t a total “vast wasteland” in those years (do you remember who said that about TV? I do—it was Nixon’s Vice President Spirow Agnew). Many happy nights were spent with my sister and parents around that flickering screen over the years. Watching the good old ORIGINAL Walt Disney Show on Sunday nights was a ritual for us. (That was back in the days when the Disney Co. was family friendly, unlike today).
Where were you when the Russians launched their primitive “sputnik” satellite back in 1957? I recall being somewhat shocked that “communists” could beat the U.S. As it turned out, the Russian space effort began to soon peter out, as American ingenuity and determination decimated the Russian “space race” with us. They were having trouble feeding their people while we were landing on the moon and driving “moon buggies” around on it. Where were you on Nov. 22, 1963, when the entire country was shocked and paralyzed by the assassination of President John Kennedy? I was a young Industrial Engineer for a company in Cleveland, Ohio, and once the word came to our engineering office, this tragedy was all we discussed for the rest of the day. Seeing the national grief, and the tears of Jackie Kennedy and her kids, was devastating. Americans were assured by “our” government that communist Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin. We now know that those who believed that were gullible, at best. (If you still believe that you’re delusional).
Where were all of us during memorable events like the violent and destructive Viet Nam War protests, the Goldwater/Johnson presidential campaign of 1964 (I supported Goldwater), the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, first landing on the moon in 1969, the Challenger disaster in 1986, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Y2K “panic”? Most of us who are “experienced citizens” have a myriad of memories in the computers of our minds. When those memories die with us, how much of real TRUTH dies with them? Quite a bit, I fear. If what we’ve all observed in our adult lives regarding the seeming destruction of true history by those who prefer to obliterate it has really happened, we can be assured that, just like the lies deliberately spread since 1865 regarding the truth about the causes of The War For Southern Independence, our “truth memories” will be slowly and subtly purged by those who prefer to “rearrange” history. I hope that there will always be significant numbers of our fellow Americans who will challenge those future outrages against historical truth and accuracy that are sure to come! (And that are being perpetrated against Americans even as I write this.)
Oh, and one last thought: You young folks living today will, sadly, never know just how wonderful it was to grow up in America in the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s. Admittedly, those years were MY “good old days”, and believe me, compared to today, they really were GOOD days. They weren’t “perfect” years, of course, and people still endured problems and hardships from time to time. But the “spirit” of Americans—the camaraderie, the ‘we’re all in this together’, the realization that America was the common “melting pot” of all of us, and rightly so, forged bonds among us that are painfully lacking today. What is truly distressing to me as I contemplate my no-longer so young grandchildren, and now their children, is that for them THESE are their “good old days”. I apologize for my generation and the one right after mine because we didn’t do what we should have done to preserve our “good old days” to the best of our abilities so we could share that ‘wonderful life’ with the young people of today. But we didn’t. God forgive us—we didn’t!