July 01, 2014 | 04:46 PMAging. It’s something that can no more be avoided than trying to outrun your shadow. It is always there and it never goes away, ever.
To make the occasion even more poignant, we “celebrate” the arrival of a “new year” while the old one slips into the past. For the young this is hardly noticed. For them, it is only a momentary interruption in some aimless revelry or other.
Not so for those who have come to realize that there are far fewer “new” years than the growing number of “old” ones rising up behind them. In fact, we elders begin to join a group that no longer has to ask for the “senior discount.” The cashier simply assigns it, without thought.
So, how exactly does one generation become distinguished and set apart from those for whom “age” is just a meaningless abstraction?
The answer? When the following list makes perfect sense to one, but not the other. The line of demarcation between the two reveals a youthful anticipation, largely oblivious to history, on one side and those who are consigned to the lengthening shadows of wisdom on the other.
1. A fully equipped new car was one with a radio, heater and whitewalls. And the cabin temp was controlled by opening or closing the vehicle’s windows, with hand-operated “cranks.”
2. The Rose Parade was viewed on a state-of-the-art 21-inch TV, in living black and white.
3. Gasoline sold for 33.9 cents per gallon. Cigarettes were $3.50 per carton and a 7-ounce bottle of Coke was a nickel.
4. Men shaved their faces, not their heads. Women were the only gender that wore earrings.
5. You could announce that “it was a man’s world” to an audience of women and still leave the room alive.
6. Baseball season ended before football began. Football ended before basketball started. And basketball was over before opening day.
7. Milwaukee County Stadium was the newest and most modern ballpark in the major leagues.
8. The highest paid player on the Packers was Paul Hornung, who earned $18,000 per year.
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9. The most talked about moment in entertainment history took place when Elvis Presley performed on the Ed Sullivan Show.
10. A husband and wife could not use the “P” word to describe the condition of a mother-to-be. “With child” was OK, or perhaps, expecting,” but not the “P” word.
11. The only powerboats on Lake Geneva were hand-built mahogany Chris Craft inboards. Tiny 5- to 10-horsepower outboards were the preserve of fishermen.
12. There was no charge to go swimming in the summer, and beaches were not fenced in. And a ticket to cruise around the lake on the Marietta or Louise would set you back $1.50.
13. You could walk the entire shorepath and never see even one sign warning about the legal consequences of “trespassing.”
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14. The only way you could tell what kind of haircut a football player had was when he took off his helmet.
15. “Father Knows Best’ was a weekly TV show and did not begin the feminist movement. In fact, it was considered an accurate reflection of the “ideal American household.”
16. If you wanted to watch TV at all, you needed an antenna.
17. Making a “long-distance” telephone call meant you first had to ring-up the operator, on a phone that had a dial and did not move any further from its base unit than the length of its cord.
18. First Class postage stamps cost a nickel. Air Mail was another two cents. You could still get a penny postcard and the post office was open every day, including Sunday.
19. Recorded music came in two sizes: LP and 45 RPM.
20. The most popular way to capture important events in full motion was with an 8mm movie camera, using KodaChrome color film, made by Eastman Kodak.
21. If you were willing to wait 60 seconds, you could have an “instant” black and white photograph taken with Edwin Land’s Polaroid camera.
22. Grace Matalius’ book, “Peyton Place,” was banned in Boston.
23. The Lake Geneva Theater had the Midwest premier of “Bridge on the River Kwai,” the winner of that year’s Academy Award for Best Picture.
24. If you traveled by automobile, you did so on two-lane roads. There were no such things as expressways. And the posted speed limit over open stretches of highway was between 45 and 55 miles per hour, on many roads.
25. “Three on the tree” did not refer to a group of monkeys cavorting at the zoo, but rather the way you shifted your car from one gear to another.
26. When you vacationed abroad, you enplaned on a PanAm or TWA flight. You were lofted away on either a Lockheed Super-G Constellation or a Boeing Strato-Cruiser. Both four-engined, propeller-driven aircraft. The time to Paris from New York was approximately 13 hours.
27. If you were “caught” with an older sibling’s copy of Playboy, you tried desperately to explain yourself by making the weak argument that the magazine had really great articles.
28. “Fershluggener and “What, me worry?” were the constant refrains printed in each issue of a new publication, aptly named for the time we lived in: “Mad.” And for some reason the iconic “personality,” Alfred E. Newman, bore a striking resemblance to Britain’s then very young Prince Charles.
As Andrew Marvell said, “And at my back, I always hear time’s winged chariot drawing near ...”
I do not know if it is entirely appropriate to get all excited about a “New Year” in my age group, or if it’s simply more prudent to be happy that there may be another one to marvel at.
Gordon Ammon, a longtime lakes area resident, has written a book entitled “Snapshots: The Cold War and Eisenhower Years in Williams Bay 1947-1961.” It is available for $25 by contacting Ammon at email@example.com. A DVD is included. The book is reproduced on an order-by-order basis.