This morning, I was sitting at “Bubbles,” the local launderette, doing the laundry (I know, it’s a long story!) and reading “A Curious Man – The Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe it or Not” Ripely,” when it hit me! I was born (and grew up in) the most fascinating time in the last 100 years!
Okay, to all of you Generation X (Y/Z), Millennials or whatever it is you’re called… hear me out! Yes, every generation has some cool and noteworthy things that set it apart from all the others… but Holy Shit, my generation had it all!
I was born in 1954. Think about that… really let it seep in… 1954! Can you even imagine?
When I was a kid, we played “OUTSIDE.” Every kid in the neighborhood played outside from morning, until the street lights came on, going home only for lunch and “supper.” Your Mom had no idea where you were, but she knew exactly where you were not. For example, I was not allowed on the “woodsy” side of Bell Pond. I could go to Green Hill Park, but only with a bunch of kids. I could not go near “The Nut House.” Sorry, that was the unofficial name given to the “Belmont Street Home for the Mentally Ill.” (we were not politically correct back then) I could go to Our Lady Of Fatima Church, but not to Lincoln Street. The point is, we were given autonomy and we didn’t abuse it (most of the time). We were trusted and we respected the boundaries, at least until we hit the teenage years.
As a special treat, on a Saturday, my Mom would take me to lunch at the “Auto-mat.” This was a cool, fast food “restaurant,” where fresh food was put into a large machine wall (from the back) and patrons, would insert coins, open a sliding door (on the front of the machine wall) and take out their food! It was a whole wall, full of little, square, sliding doors; harboring tasty treats like banana cream pie, rice pudding, Sloppy Joe’s, tuna on rye, PB& J! It was heaven!
Another treat was going to get gasoline with my Dad! I’d get to sit in the front seat his big ol Chrysler, without a seat belt, and without a care in the world! We get to the “filling station,” and a guy in a uniform would come to the driver’s window and my Dad would say, “Fill her up.” While we sat there enjoying the glorious smell of gasoline fumes, the guy would wash the windows, check the air in the tires and ask if we wanted him to look under the hood! Before we left we got our Green Stamps and I usually got a piece of gum or candy. Worked for me!
And how fun was it to pick up the one telephone, in the whole house (usually a wall phone in the kitchen) and hear people strangers) talking on it? It was totally cool! It was called a “party line,” which meant you shared your telephone number with another household and got a reduced rate. If you were really good at it, you could pick up the handset and listen to an entire conversation, without them knowing it! Always good, when you were bored.
I remember when we got our first color TV! It was about as big as a Volkswagen Beatle and weighed a 500 pounds. I’ll never forget, the first night we had it, watching Batman and Robin in COLOR!!! Some of the neighborhood kids stood on our front porch watching through the living room window. I ruled the world that night.
While getting ready for school, I’d hear footsteps in the back hall and the sound of milk bottles clinking together. If I went out fast enough, I got to see the friendly Milkman in his white uniform, wearing a white cap. He’d hand me the milk and take the old bottles away. “Thank you Mr Milkman… Bye!” Once a week, in the late afternoon a horse drawn cart (I’m not kidding!) would go up my very residential street, in my medium size CITY, selling fresh vegetables. And in the summer, after supper the Ice Cream man would come… What was his name? Tony? Angelo? (He too wore a uniform!)
When Mom and I went to Filene’s or Denholms (local department stores) we’d take the elevator… and a lovely, man, in beautiful uniform, with brass buttons (Yes… I too am seeing an alarming trend here!) would ask, very politely, “What floor, please?”
When I was 9 we had the “dreamiest” President in all the world. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was handsome, sexy and charismatic, even to me! I’d watch him on the color TV with my Mom and we’d talk about how cute he was and how much we liked Jackie’s suits and matching hats! I remember the day he was assassinated like it was yesterday. It was the first and last time I ever saw Walter Cronkite, shed tears while on the air that night as my whole family watched the evening news in horror.
When I was 10 the Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show. I remember sitting 4 inches away from the screen and crying. When they played Shea Stadium in NY a year later, I was hysterical. Speaking of music, OMG! We had the best bands! Just a taste of what I listened to… The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Velvet Underground, The Who, The Birds, Buffalo Springfield… Not to mention Motown favorites like, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles… The list goes on and on.
When I was 14, Neil Armstrong walked on the fucking moon! Or did he?
Then it all got crazy… The Cuban missile crisis, Marilyn Monroe dead, the Viet Nam war, a Buddhist Monk sets himself on fire, the march on Washington, Matin Luther King has a dream… Martin Luther King dead, Malcolm X assassinated, Robert F Kennedy assassinated, Manson murders, Jimi Hendrix dead, Janis Joplin dead, Kent State shootings, the Beatles broke up, Jim Morrison dead, terrorist at the Munich Olympic Games, Ted Bundy goes on a killing spree, Elvis dead, John Lennon dead… why do I have the tune “The Day the Music Died” in my head?
On the other hand, I was also around for: the invention of the laser, the birth control pill, Andy Warhol exhibited the Campbell Soup Can, segregation, Twiggy, mini skirts, the E astern Seaboard Blackout, the founding of the National Organization of Women (NOW), VCRs were invented (Yeah, I know… what’s a VCR?), Roe versus Wade, Nixon resigned, Test Tube babies were possible, PacMan, Sally Ride, computers, car phones, Nelson Mandela was freed, the official end of the cold war, the internet is created by Al Gore. ; )
And there’s plenty more where those came from… because it all happened in the last 50-60 years!
I was fortunate to grow up in an age of innocence, but had to quickly assimilate a new world of technological advancements and human transformation. I believe we as humans are on the cusp of another transformation… and I for one can’t wait to see what’s in store for us!