Monday, March 14, 2016

On having been alive for three-quarters of a century

On Friday I will be 75 years old.

Mainly, I can't believe it.

There's simply very little else to say. But I will give it the old college try.

How did old age get here so fast? Wasn't I 33 just the other day? And why do I still feel 20 on the inside but look so decrepit on the outside? No explanation is possible.

My dad, who was born in 1906 and died in 1967, used to marvel that in his lifetime humans had gone from traveling on horseback to traveling on rocket ships. Changes during my lifetime have been no less remarkable.

When I was a boy I played with a Slinky and a ViewMaster Steroscope and a Radio Flyer wagon and a rubber ball attached by an elastic band to a wooden paddle. I even played with pots and pans and cardboard boxes and egg cartons and a fruitcake tin filled with buttons. Today's kids, God bless them, have to be entertained constantly with Xboxes and Wiis and Play Station 4s and iPhone6s with Instagram and Twitter and who knows what else. I shudder to think.

It's a different world.

I remember the days before television. I remember when there were no computers. I remember having a single phone for the entire family and it was connected to the wall by a cord. It didn't have pushbuttons or even a dial. It had a crank that you turned to get the operator's attention and then you told the operator what number you wanted to reach and that number had four digits. I remember having no hot and cold running water or an indoor toilet or sink or bathtub. I remember pulling on a rope to haul the drinking water out of the well in a bucket. Later on, I remember when there were only three television channels and the set was a 12-inch Philco and it carried programming from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. only. The rest of the time there was only a test pattern. I remember 45 rpm vinyl records.

I remember hula hoops.

I remember feeding chickens. I remember riding a horse. I remember picking blackberries. What today's kids will remember, in the cities at least, are drive-by shootings and drug deals and gang wars.

I remember when a man's word was his bond and a handshake was as good as a promise.

I remember when gasoline (petrol to you Brits) cost 19 cents per gallon. I remember the first year my dad earned over $5,000 and he did it by working six days a week and a lot of overtime. I remember that my first month's salary with IBM in 1965 was $650 before taxes, a veritable fortune at the time.

What I remember are days that, unless there are atomic wars or a series of natural disasters that reduce everything to rubble, will never be seen again.

I wish I could be around to hear what today's kids will remember when they are 75.


  1. I am only nine years your junior and never had to get water from a well with a bucket we had a pump an electric one. We didn't have refrigerators or egg boxes.

    Happy Birthday for Friday.

  2. Happy Birthday for Friday.
    Some of your memories match mine. In my first job I was paid $0.26 cents an hour. And felt rich.
    I have no wish to be here in seventy-five years time though. And wonder whether the world will be.

  3. But in the end it is who we are that matters - not what is happening in the external world. Dear Bob, I send you my best wishes on the occasion of your seventy fifth birthday and hope that you continue to live your remaining years in good health and good humour. It is still a long way to the terminus and there are many changes left for you to witness.

  4. Many happy returns for Friday.

    I had a conversation with my dad only yesterday when he reminisced about the many deprivations of life when he was a youngster. It is hard to imagine a life without electricity or indoor plumbing, but then it dawned on me that my own children must find it equally hard to picture my own childhood. Plus ça change.

    I am very impressed that your dad travelled on a rocket ship though.

  5. I join the others wishing you a very happy birthday for Friday dear rhymes, mostly because I doubt I'll be home to come on here and wish you the best of wishes then. This is a lovely post, so touching. You don't seem fen close to seventy five to me, for you have a young spirit, and a joyful one at that. *kisses his cheek* - Michelle X

  6. Thank you, everyone, for your good thoughts and birthday greetings.

    Adrian, we didn't have a refrigerator. We had an icebox with a pan underneath that filled with water that had to be dumped out on a regular basis or our kitchen floor flooded. Not having a sink, we dumped the pan in the yard.

    Elephant's Child, I do fervently hope the world will be here in 75 years.

    Yorkshire Pudding, it is not a long way to the terminus for me, Terminus being the original name of what is now the city of Atlanta. Just a hop, skip, and a jump.

    Shooting Parrots, I fear I have unintentionally left the wrong impression as my father never travelled on a rocket ship.

    All Consuming, I don't seem close to seventy-five to me either, except when I happen to see myself in a mirror.

  7. Hey, Old Timer, or "Dad" as John Wayne would have called you in his old Westerns.

    “I remember that my first month's salary with IBM in 1965 was $650 before taxes, a veritable fortune at the time.”

    A week?! I feel faint! That’s a good bit over $30,000 a year! I doubt that most people, in the South at least, make that much today. On my first full-time job as a teacher in 1973, I was making not much over $5,000. Of course, Mississippi was the lowest paying state in the nation (which might explain why there’s so much stupidity down there), but still, what a difference, and to think that you started work over eight years earlier! When you started at IBM, I doubt that the minimum wage was over $1.25, which is what, forgive me for saying it, it might still if Republicans have their way, because I don’t remember them ever not vehemently opposing each and every increase in minimum wage by claiming that it would cause mass unemployment.

  8. PS “we didn't have a refrigerator. We had an icebox with a pan underneath that filled with water”

    The ice being delivered, probably, at least that’s how it was in rural Mississippi. I don’t know just when we got electricity, but I think I was around six, and I’m but a wee little child of 67. I even remember mule-driven wagons and the neighborhood gristmill. If there was any good in growing up in Mississippi, it’s that I got to see the end of a way of life.

  9. Snowbrush (1), yousimply must learn to read more carefully! No, my first MONTH's (not week's) salary with IBM in 1954 was $650 before taxes, or $7,800 per year. Before that, my monthly salary in the U.S. Air Force as an Airman First Class was about half that. I felt very rich indeed as a new civilian. UNIVAC in Minneapolis was offering $9,600 annual salary, but a major with whom I worked recommended that I go with IBM because, he said, IBM hired "cream of the crop" people and kept them, and continued to train them in the latest technology, whereas other firms like UNIVAC paid a better starting salary, but didn't provide training for their people at the time and in two or three years would let those people go and replace them with newer recently discharged military programmers who had received their training in the service. It was some of the best advice I ever received.

    Snowbrush (2), Yes, a 25-lb. block of ice was delivered weekly, I think, by Foy Curry, one of the town's racists who owned a grocery store and a teenage hamburger hangout with large plate-glass windows on which he had painted in very large letters "WE DON'T SERVE N****ERS".... I remember mules too, and cotton gins and kids coming to school barefoot who were kept out of school during cotton-picking time to help. And I know, as I'm sure do you, the difference between pickin' cotton and pullin' bolls, and that a person's hands can get stained black when gathering pecans.

  10. Whoops, that should have said "with IBM in 1965" instead of "with IBM in 1954"...Sorry.

  11. "Snowbrush yousimply must learn to read more carefully"

    What did you say? Something about simplicity, or was it about being careful with eggs? I am careful with eggs. If a person lives as long as I have without noticing that eggs break easily, it doesn't sound good unless he's like Einstein and so smart that a lot of details escape him. Say, I'll bet that's how I am! I knew you wrote about money, so after noticing that, what does the rest matter? It's not like I thought you wrote about giraffes, or was it zebras that you posted a photo of? Yes, that was it, nude zebras wearing toupees while recreating Shermans' march across Georgia, only without the guns and firestarters.

    "And I know, as I'm sure do you, the difference between pickin' cotton and pullin' bolls, and that a person's hands can get stained black when gathering pecans"

    I knew about pecans, but not cotton. Pulpwood hauling and truck farming were much bigger deals in my part of Mississippi than cotton. For some reason, my mother decided she and I should go out and pick cotton one day, but I have no thought that we lasted long or went back, and there weren't a lot of cotton fields around anyway.

  12. Snowbrush (if that is your name), it isn't nice to try to confuse an old person. I'm sure I said nothing about eggs, and the zebras were definitely clothed. One other thing, Georgians don't find Sherman's march amusing.

    You have to lay off the Oxycontin or Dilantin or Kerosene or whatever is causing you to hallucinate while responding to blogposts. Words are important, so try to read more of them.

  13. Wow, I don't know what was more interesting...your blog post or all the comments!!
    WONDERFUL post! I am 56 years old and feel like I was born out of time. The things of the current age can't hold a candle to the simple joys of yesteryear! I sometimes feel homesick for a place & time I've never been to/in, but then I remember that this world is not my home and I'm just on my journey to get there!
    Happy happy birthday to you, my friend. I hope God blesses you and Ellie both with many more years to share with us!

  14. Pam/Hilltop, thank you the birthday greeting, which is still on time for two more hours. We went to Olive Garden tonight to celebrate. I had Chicken Marsala and Ellie had Ziti with Parmesan Shrimp. Scrumptious! And then they served me a little piece of Chicolate Mousse Cake with a candle on it for my birthday. It has been a great day and even the weather Cooperated this year for a change. I hear you about being born out of time - I often used to say that I would have made a great late Victorian, but now I am glad I was born when I was. How else would we all have become cyber friends?

    1. Correction: Chicolate should be Chocolate, of course.

  15. Happy belated birthday! I was fun reading all the things you remember – some are the same as mine. I think the farthest I can remember is being in my baby buggy in Provence with my grandparents during the war, then after that going down in the cellar in Paris during a German air raid warning. I also remember singers would come and sing below buildings in Paris and we would send them, through our 6th floor window, some coins. So many memories … But your salary at IBM was grand – when I started working in San Francisco in 1962 as a purchasing clerk I made $350 per month and you know, some months I forgot to cash the check as I spent so little (rent was $45 a month, near Nob Hill, split with my roommate.) I’ll be 76 next Saturday, March 26, and I guess we’ll also go to some restaurant (since my husband won’t remember it is my birthday, or what month it is for that matter …)

  16. Thank you, Vagabonde, for stopping by my blog once again and for the happy birthday greeting. This year I received 3 cards in the mail, 1 greeting via Facebook, and 2 on the telephone, and even a few in person, but more here on this post than any other source. I suppose of necessity my circle grows ever smaller simply by my outlasting many who used to be part of it, but I find that I appreciate the blog friends more and more as time goes by. I do hope you will continue to post and drop by after you move to Nashville.

  17. Happy Belated, my friend. Fun to see so many of your grandkids and hear of their adventures!

  18. Thank you, LightExpectations, for your birthday greeting! I don't mind at all that it is "belated"'s good to see your name appear once again in Blogworld. I have thought of you often and offered prayers on your behalf.