In review of some old letters, I found one from Adele Graham (the wife of the former Governor of Florida). She was thanking me for sharing some notes with her that I had used in speaking to a high school reunion where she was a part. Where the notes came from I do not know, nor do I know the author but I will gladly share them with you. It takes us back to the graduating class of 1940.
“We were before the pill and the population explosion which, inexplicably went hand in hand. We were before T.V., penicillin, polio shots, antibiotics and Frisbees. Before frozen foods, Nylon, Dacron, Xerox and Kinsey. We were before radar, fluorescent lights, credit cards and ball point pens. For us ‘time-sharing’ meant togetherness, a chip meant a piece of wood or off the old block, hardware meant hardware and software wasn’t even a word.
In our time, closets were for clothes, not for coming out of, ‘gay’ meant something happy, and bunnies were small rabbits, not Volkswagens. You could buy a Chevy coupe for $659 dollars but who could afford that in 1940. What a pity, because gasoline was .11 cents per gallon.
We were before Grandma Moses, Frank Sinatra, and cup-sizing for bras. Before Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Snoopy. Before DDT and vitamin pills, disposable diapers, Jeeps and Jefferson Nickels and the Roosevelt dime. Before Scotch tape, Grand Coulee Dam, M&M’s, the automatic shift and Lincoln Continentals.
Pizza, Cheerios, Frozen Orange Juice, Instant Coffee, McDonalds, Wendy’s and the Colonel were unheard of! Motels were called Tourist Courts and we thought fast-food was what you ate during Lent. We were before FM radio, stereo, tape recorders, electric typewriters, word processors, electronic music and disco dancing.
Almost no one flew across the country and trans-Atlantic flights belonged to Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. We were before Israel and the United Nations, before India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iceland and the Philippines were independent countries. Since our graduation more than 100 countries have become independent nations. Texas was still the largest state in the union.
We were before pantyhose, drip-dry clothes, before ice makers dishwashers, disposals, clothes dryers, freezers and electric blankets. Before men wore long hair and earrings, and before women wore tuxedos and kept their fathers’ name after marriage.
In our day cigarette smoking was fashionable, grass was something you had to mow, coke was something you drank and pot was what you cooked your Sunday dinner in. We were before coin vending machines, jet planes, helicopters and interstate highways. In 1940 American schools were not desegregated and blacks were not allowed to play in the major leagues. In 1940 “Made in Japan” meant junk, and the term “making out” referred to how you did on your final exam.
In our time there were five-and-ten-cent stores where you could really buy things for five and ten cents. For just a nickel you could ride a streetcar, make a phone call, buy a coke, or buy enough stamps to mail one letter and two postcards.
The CIA was a school in Denton, Texas and if anyone had asked you to explain NATO, NASA, UFO, NFL, JFK, or IUD we would have said Alphabet soup. We were not before the difference between the sexes was discovered, but we were before sex changes. We just seemed to make do with what we had!
There have been a lot of changes since 1940 and we had a lot to do with it.”
Thanks to Mrs. Graham for her letter, for without her reminder, the writing that you have just read would probably be lost and we would all be the losers.
King Solomon wrote a few words that could well refer to this column. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity…One generation passes away and another generation comes…the rivers run into the sea yet the sea is not full…The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing … and there is nothing new under the sun… There is no remembrance of former things. . . Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come and the years draw nigh when you say I have no pleasure in them… Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments for this is the duty of man”
(Ecclesiastes chapter one and twelve).
The above writing is one of ‘three generation gaps’. The ‘needs of today’ were the luxuries of our parents and those luxuries were only the dreams of those who lived before them. Enjoy today and be generous with those who lived before you.