Friday, August 2, 2013

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

I found this quote in the first book I picked up to look through today at Logos:

What a wonderful life I've had
I only wish I realized it sooner.
-- Colette

It kind of dovetailed into a comment I heard recently, that someone here in town had referred to the "Sykes Dynasty."  My heavens.  I had no idea!

But I started to think of all the things I have lived through in my 70 years, some good, some bad, some historical.  As I was walking back to the desk, I spied this book.

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It's filled with photos that Life magazine thinks are the best from its history to that point.  It got my brain working, looking at how many people and events and gadgets I remember.

candlestickhone.jpg (4325 bytes)Take the telephone, for example.   When I was in grammar school, we had a heavy black phone with a receiver that sat on a cradle (my grandmother had the candlestick kind where the earpiece hung from the side of the phone).  We had a party line in the early days and I liked to eavesdrop on whoever was on the party line.  San Francisco also had telephone numbers that started with words, like Juno, Prospect, Tuxedo, Luxor.  The first two letters started your phone number and five numbers followed it.  We eventually got a single party line and I don't remember how long it was before I had a push button phone...that may not have come along until after Walt and I were married.  When cell phones came along, our first one looked like something out of Get Smart, like holding a shoe to your ear,  Eventually we got flip phones, like Star Trek communicators and now we both have the Android phones, which look like faux iPhones.  

We used to have to be careful of long distances charges, which I could (and did) rack up with regularity.  Now we can call just about anywhere at no extra charge with our cell phones.

My very first typewriter was a portable that fit inside a little suitcase so I could take it anywhere.  Then I got a big office-sized typewriter, then an electric typewriter, then an electric typewriter with interchangeable keys.  Now I have a computer and can even write messages on my cell phone. 

My first computer had no disc drive.  My first "real" computer had a whopping 60 mg of storage.  Now I have 250 gigs plus TWO external hard drives, one of which is a terrabyte.  I had my first modem before there was an internet that could be easily accessed.  I remember when Jon Lee first installed Mosaic on my computer and I saw my first web page.  I remember learning HTML because there was no WYSIWYG program available.

I remember the McCarthy hearings (not well, but I was aware of them), the gay witchhunts in San Francisco (not too far where gay weddings are now performed).   I photographed the Free Speech demonstrations, knew Mario Savio, and remember when the windows on Telegraph Avenue were boarded up for fear of broken windows.

I remember the horror of November 11, 1963 and that surreal week end, remembering at the time that I had just seen President Kennedy live in a car passing by Newman Hall about a month before. That car was a covertible too. Presidents don't ride in convertibles any more.

I remember how frightened I was when Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were killed...and nobody who lived through that time has not stopped to wonder at least once what life in this country would be like today if the two Kennedys and Dr. King had not died.

I remember how hard I campaigned for LBJ, working with Scientists and Engineers for Johnson, a group which was determined to keep Goldwater out of office.   In retrospect, I wonder if we were right...  But I cast my very first vote for Johnson and was thrilled when he won.

I remember the violence at Kent State and how shocked we were that national guardsmen would fire on unarmed students.  And I remember demonstrators putting little pink carnations in the barrels of rifles aimed at them.

I will never forget that we landed a man on the moon in 1969 because I took a picture of each of the then-3 kids with the newspaper headline, and Paul is a baby in a baby seat.  He was born in 1969.

Our first TV set was a black and white Muntz that my father bought in the early 1950s.  The first program I ever watched was Life with Luigi.   My mother never missed Bishop Fulton Sheen or The Loretta Young Show.   My father always watched boxing, loving particularly the heavy weight matches. I remember that the TV day ended at midnight with a recording of the Star Spangled Banner while a flag waved and then it went to a test pattern until the morning.

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We didn't have a color set until Walt and I had kids.  I remember Ozzie and Harriet, Howdy Doody, Laugh-In, Star Trek (the original series), Ed Sullivan, and the last episode of M*A*S*H.

I used to make all of our bread by hand, kneading it on the bread board and scaring the dog when I slammed it down to work the gluten better ... and I now have a bread machine.

I remember beatniks in North Beach in the 50s and hippies in the Haight Ashbury in the 60s.

I remember watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and the funeral of Egypt's Nasser and far too many political figures lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC.

I got to shake hands with Judy Garland and Tipper Gore and got a kiss from D'Oyly Carte's leading patterman for many years, John Reed (a favorite of mine). I went to an opening night party at Sardi's, where I met Theodore Bikel and Piper Laurie. 
And apparently I am a part of a local Dynasty.  Who knew?

I was also starting to read Tom Brokaw's "Boom," today, which is his look at the 60s.  He describes himself as straddling two generations, the boomers of the 60 and the traditional families of the 50s.  I feel the same way.   I missed being in the "boomer generation" by a few years, so there is not really a demographic for me.

When I think of the big and little changes that have taken place in the world during my lifetime, it boggles my mind to think what my mother has seen in her 93 years.  Good lord, no WONDER she has memory problems!


Harriet said...

I remember "Life With Luigi" on the radio. "Dear Mama Mia..."

I call myself a pre-Boomer, as I think that marketing now targets Boomers and has forgotten those who came before. Remembering is a lost skill, because there's an app for that.

phonelady said...

my mother loved theodore bikel and piper laurie . You must have been thrilled to meet them . and Judy Garland my goodness . My aunt was an air line attendant (stewardess they were known as back then )and she met elizabeth taylor and unfortunately she and richard burton were both very drunk and loud . Of course at that time the press would have never printed anything like that , like they do now . how the times have changed .

phonelady said...

I often wonder what the world would be like also if both kennedys had not been murdered and M.L. KIng . I wonder if our country would be in such a shambles , I myself seem to think it would be a far better world now . Oh my gosh my aunt and my mother both voted for goldwater and never heard the end of it from her brothers.