• Last modified 931 days ago (Nov. 3, 2016)


I sound like my grandfather

We have entered the month of my 70th year. Seventieth! Seven decades! Good grief, how could that have happened? I should confess right up front that I am glad to have gotten this far. Truly, I am. However, being here also is a game changer.

Much of what I remember about my life makes me pretty darn good at playing Trivial Pursuit. However, looking at old photos, visiting with my cousins about our early years and sharing memories, seeing old newsreels or magazines often brings me up short. I can remember those things so well. How could I be looking back 20, 50, or 60 years? Those days seem like just last week.

We were a generation poised for change —more so than the generations before us. We were the Baby Boomers. Having the musical, political, technological, and social change we did was a huge part of our lives. However, other things that seemed at the time to have a huge impact now seem minor.

I remember listening to the radio for news, sporting events, comedy and drama. We lived in northern Illinois then and my dad was a Chicago Cubs fan. I would sit with him and listen to Cubs games. We did not have television. He would tell me what the announcer was talking about and eventually I could see it. To this day, I can listen to a sporting event on the radio if I have to and it is just like sitting there watching it. That amazing radio brought games right into our home. We did not have to go to Wrigley Field.

However, when I was in grade school we got a black and white TV. I remember television test patterns, when the television world shut town at midnight and not whir back to life until about dawn the following day. I remember the Mickey Mouse Club, Gene Autry, Pinky Lee, Cisco Kid, I Love Lucy, the Perry Como Show, and Father Knows Best. We did not envision color TV. We did not envision “streaming” live events on a computer. Black and white TV — with no remote control — was simply the best.

I remember picking up that heavy black telephone receiver, hearing a voice say, “Operator,” and reciting the number I was trying to reach. Did the operator listen in? I do not know; I never thought about it. Now I do not even have to talk on a phone, the word “text” has become a verb, and a hacker can find out everything I have ever said to anyone on a phone when I was not really talking.

My mother had an ironing machine and ironed all of our sheets, pillowcases, and curtains. Coal was shoveled into a chute fastened to the foundation of our house. It rolled into a furnace room in the basement. My dad would shovel the correct amount of coal into the furnace to keep us warm. My parents were proud to be owners of such a modern home.

I always wore dresses to school — every day. That is what girls wore when I was growing up. Even after I graduated and went off to college that was the dress code. The first time I cut off a pair of blue jeans to make shorts—cut offs—my mother told me I could not wear them outside the house because “everyone” would think they could not afford to buy me proper summer shorts. When pantsuits hit the racks in the early 1970s, our fashion world changed forever. Now the Kardashians share everything with the world and their mother does not care what “everyone” thinks.

All of those changes in lifestyles, entertainment, fashion, home ownership, convenience, and a hundred other things, seemed at the time to be the best we could hope for. Each improvement looked like it would be the last. We finally had it all. What else could be out there to improve our lives or make us realize we were not at the top of our game?

Now I am about to become a septuagenarian. Whew. I used to hear people like my grandfather talk of all he had seen and done, and the changes that had happened in his lifetime. Now I know what he meant.

I must say, youngsters, it is amazing to look back, it really is. Happy birthday to me.

—susan marshall

Last modified Nov. 3, 2016