It is rather interesting to contemplate your 71st birthday arriving in just over one month. I was born 3 days after the formal surrender of the Japanese which marked the end of World War 2. Thus, I am probably one of the oldest of the “Boomer” generation, so named for the flood of children that accompanied the return of millions of young men discharged from military service.
1945 was a rare year in which to be born, having the lowest birthrate in US history. No men, no kids! As a pioneer boomer I have a unique perspective; my childhood memories span the Swing Era with Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and the Glen Miller Orchestra to Bee Bop in the early 50’s and the Rock and Roll of Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and of course the King -Elvis. I was a kid when Pat Boone was a million seller heart throb who competed with Elvis for #1 on the top 40.
They actually played music on AM Radio and still had series and dramas on the radio. I guess you could say that my generation was perhaps the last one to have the freedom to roam the neighborhood, ride their bikes to the beach (over the Santa Monica Mountains 15 miles away), get a Driver’s License at 16 and then borrow Mom or Dad’s car. We learned how to make and keep friends on our own, not through arranged “play dates”. We camped out in pup tents with our buddies in the back yard and walked to school and to the store for sodas and snacks. Unheard of today.
My high school years were about girls, dances, Friday Night Football and the Marching Band, car clubs, cruising the “Blvd” (Van Nuys Blvd in the San Fernando Valley) penny loafers and peg legged pants. My world was Happy Days played out in real life. Most of the guys wore “duck tail” hairdos (you shoulda seen mine!)
Lest you think that there was no crime, no child abuse, molestation or danger I will tell you that the crime rate in the US was almost 3 times what it is today. The difference was that we only knew what the 5 minutes of radio news every hour told us and that was not much. Mostly about the War in Korea, the Recession in ’58, etc. No internet, no 24 hour news, no Twitter or Facebook to awfulize every occurrence . If it did not happen down the street, we did not know or care about it.
Now this idyllic childhood did not take place in small town America but in Los Angeles, California; even in my youth a city of 3 million. We learned how to take care of ourselves, make and keep friends, to protect ourselves from bullies and how to avoid dangerous situations. We learned by doing, still the best way to learn anything in my opinion
I am not sure how they did it but it seemed like every student in my elementary, junior high and high school could read, write an intelligent sentence and do at least simple arithmetic. We all knew our basic US History because we took 3 years of it, plus Civics or US Government. Were there problems in school? Sure, fights on the playground, car club gang fights ( no guns, but perhaps a switchblade) but the biggest problem was high school dropouts. You could quit school at 16 and far too many did.
By the time I got my BA in History and started Grad School, the Hippie Era had arrived in LA with a bang. Hippies with long hair, serious grunge and radical politics competed on campus with the “straights” (the conservative kids like me). It was the SDS vs. the Young Republicans. Interesting time but very turbulent.
I have no nostalgia for this time but I do have a great sense of gratitude for being born into this era and getting to experience mid-century America, the Summer of Love, the Space Age and the run up to the Millennium. I am now enjoying being a “tech savvy” old guy which surprises many of the millennials that I work with.
The only things I would bring back from that time would be personal freedom, privacy, manners and civility which were very highly prized by those on both sides of the political spectrum. Was my childhood perfect? Oh, no!
Prejudice was not just prevalent, it was a way of life. There were epithets for almost every group except the one you were in and they were used in daily conversation. It was not confined to just to Black or White but to Hispanics, Protestants and Catholics, Jews, different ethnic groups even of European decent. An Irish kid marrying an Italian girl. No way! There were epithets for almost every group and they were used in daily conversation.
A Black and White marriage? Unthinkable! I knew all too well the fruits of prejudice. My mother “disowned” me for marrying a lovely young woman from Belize (then British Honduras) “Beyond the pale” she said. We never spoke again.
Was this the Golden Age that the “angry old white people” seem to want to bring back? There were a few things that we would do well to bring back but in the main there was little Gold and way too much hate, judgement and narrow-mindedness in the Baby Boomer Era.
It was a Boom and Bust time where good times and recession alternated every 5 or 6 years. Over all this “Golden Age” hovered the specter of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. We practiced Armageddon once every week as the sirens wailed and we dropped under the desk in the bomb drill. I remember asking my 8th grade English Teacher what good this would do if an Atomic Bomb really did fall. She had no answer.
The secret to being 70 is the same as the secret to being 25. You are not your body, you are your mind. If you see the world from a young man or woman’s perspective, if you still enjoy the things of youth: sports, dancing, fun, romance, sex, joy and play; then in your mind you are 25 and the age of your body becomes irrelevant. Only when you agree to become old, think old and act old will you really become an old man or woman. You really age from the inside out.
Yes, looking in the mirror can be challenging sometimes but its what’s inside that counts. When my lovely, tall flaxen haired wife walks by I feel a lot more like 25 than 70 and that will keep me a young man until I take my last breath. As long as I can write, laugh, speak and learn new things I will never grow old.
Until we are together again, be well, think well and speak well.
Rev. Dore’ Jacques Patlian, Sarasota, FL visit my video podcast library on YouTube.com/revdore