Monday, March 9, 2009

Remembering the old days (good, bad or indifferent)

A year's tuition at Harvard University cost $600 back then. The average rent was $70 a month, a postage stamp cost 3 cents and the average new house sold for $7,450.

No. I'm not talking about 1929, the year of the Great Crash and an oft-mentioned reference point to the economic tailispin we're in. I'm talking 20 years later, the year of my birth, 1949. Which means on March 17, in approximately seven days, 11 hours and 24 minutes (who is counting?), there will be no denying I am officially old.

Ah, the good old days. Or were they? I have to confess I can't recall much -- well, actually, anything -- about 1949. At this point I'm not sure I know much about 1959 either. It was a long time ago. But, compliments of brother, Dennis, Seek Publishing's, "1949, Remember When" is bringing me up to speed.

This was the year the first VW Beetle was sold in the United States, a big deal to me since it was the college car of choice for my generation. "Give 'em Hell" Harry Truman was still president. Lousi "Satchmo" Armstrong was the toast of Paris. And, along with me, out popped Bruce Springsteen, Meryl Streep, Billy Joel and Jessica Lange. Let it be noted that I came first.

It's true. This was the year that Ronald Reagan co-started in Warner Bros, "The Girl from Jones Beach," a real place on Long Island where we'd do more cruising for sand crabs than babes as kids. But no one said 1949 was perfect

It was, in fact, like every year, a mix of some good and some bad. Harvard Law School enrolled its first woman students. The first African American, William Hastie, was appointed to a judgeship on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Geneva Conventions, among other things, set standards of humane treatment for prisoners of war.

But Soviet A-bomb tests heated up the Cold War. And the New York Yankees won the World Series (forgive me, I'm from Boston now).

The biggest downer: average lifespan. Back then it was 62.9 years, which gives me just 2.9 to get deep into my Bucket List. But that was then. Now, every one keeps telling me, 60 is the new 40

I'm not sure I believe them, but then, we've got little choice. Who can afford to retire these days anyway?

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