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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Does your 'era' define you?

I'm not much for astrology or similar sophistry intended to define a person by when they were born.  However, I do believe that who a person turns out to be is, at least in part, influenced by the era during which he/she came into the world.

Here's a little list I whipped up (call it a meme, if you must) where you can jot down as much or as little era-related data about yourself as you wish.  Your results (or at least the search for the results) should prove interesting.  Mine sure did:

Year you were born: 1961

Generation: 'Baby Boomer'

One or more national leaders that year: JFK (U.S.), David Ben Gurion (Israel), Nikita (no, not 'La Femme') Khrushchev (USSR)

Other big names of the day: Martin Luther King Jr., Roger Maris*, Yuri Gagarin, Alan Shepard, Joseph Heller (who publishes a book with a catchy name)

News headlines from that year: Cold War, Mercury (rocket) program, Freedom Riders, Bay of Pigs, Cuba goes communist, Hemingway dies of 'lead poisoning', Mad Magazine points out that 1961 is the first year since 1881 that looks the same when viewed upside-down.  Barbie gets a boyfriend named Ken, The Marshall Plan expires after having distributed more than $12 Billion in aid to help rebuild Europe, setting a high, but by no means unachievable, goal for an as-yet-unknown people called 'Palestinians' (although without the need for a successful return on investment).  Over in Berlin the Soviets start building some sort of wall...

Books from the crib: 'Curious George', 'The Cat in the Hat', 'Horton Hears a Who', 'Green Eggs & Ham', 'Madeline', 'Babar the Elephant'

Cutting-edge technological of that era: Mercury Space Rockets, Televisions (still mostly B & W, but color is catching on), U-2 spy planes, Polaroid 'Land' camera's that spit out 'instant' photographs, transistor radios that fit in your pocket

Not-so-cutting-edge technology of the era: LP 'vinyl' records, home movies and vacation slides on real film (along with requisite projectors for both), friends footwear divided evenly between Keds and PF Flyers.

Omni-present then... but missing in action now:  Those little round yellow plastic thingies you used to play 45 RPM records, Davy Crockett 'coon skin hats, roller skates that weren't 'in-line'

Odd things in your baby albums:  Cloth Diapers with big pins, Men wore geek glasses and crew-cuts, and women wore cat-eyes and Jackie-O hairdos.  Everyone smoked around babies.

Smells that take you back: Noxzema, popcorn, suntan oil, salmon croquettes

Sounds you were raised on:  Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary, The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Beatles

The electronic babysitter (TV and/or radio): Andy Grifith Show, Leave it to Beaver ("... and Jerry Mathers as 'the Beaver!"), Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, My Three Sons, The Patty Duke Show ("But they're cousins... identical cousins...")

Earliest memories: Standing in my crib with music seepin' through the wall (just like in Paul Simon's tune "Late in the Evening"), watching my mother brush her long hair (100 strokes every day!)

Leave us with a quote"Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you're in diapers, the next day you're gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house, like a lot of houses. A yard like a lot of other yards. On a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back...with wonder."  (This is the last line spoken by Kevin Arnold at the end of the final episode of 'The Wonder Years'.

[Unlike other treppenwitz content which is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without my permission, this one can be passed along freely.  Sure, I'd love a hat-tip and a link... but I know how that stuff goes.  Enjoy!]

Posted by David Bogner on September 3, 2008 | Permalink


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Happy birthday!

Posted by: shira0607 | Sep 3, 2008 2:25:42 PM

good year that '61.
I still miss hippies.

Posted by: weese | Sep 3, 2008 3:06:00 PM

I've got a few years on you but all of the things you mention were all too familiar.

Why, David - is it your birthday? No, it can't be...I recall that would be 23 June...but whether it's birthday-inspired or not, your nostalgiablogging brought back some pleasant memories.

FYI, "those little round yellow plastic thingies you used to play 45 RPM records" were called "spiders." I know I have at least one hiding in the basement somewhere.

Posted by: Elisson | Sep 3, 2008 5:33:52 PM

david - this was so much fun. read my answers here http://hadassahsabo.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/does-your-era-define-you/

Posted by: Hadassah | Sep 3, 2008 5:46:29 PM

Oboy... I'm a little older than you Dave. Uh, okay, by 9 years, There. Happy now? ;-) But I'll add to it.

First memories- riding my racer in livingroom in Paramus- right through the big front picture window... Riding in the car with my dad. The door flew open, and I remember dad's lightning-fast grabbing the seat of my pants...

Sounds of my sister in her crib across the room waking not just my mother and father up, but me too... (We moved to Englewood not long after that).

Eisenhower catching grief over something called a "U-2" flown by someone named Francis Gary Powers...

Much loved and looked forward to 6&1/2 hour train rides from Newark to Altoona Pa. to spend two summer weeks with paternal grandparents.

Followed by "end-of-summer" visit to maternal grandmother in Rhinebeck NY- who as long-time "Superintendant of Entries" virtually ran the Dutchess County Fair whose run coincided with my week there. (I mean, if you entered anything from an Hereford cow to a floral display, you had to go through Grandma Ruth. She was a piece of work. No fan of then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller- that "damn liberal"- and once when his helicopter ran late. she jokingly offered that maybe someone had "shot it down...").

TV? "Sea Hunt", "Crusader Rabbit" & "Northwest Passage" (two Saturday morning staples- the second led to a long infatuation with Kenneth Roberts historical novels which still resonate). Yes, "Gunsmoke" too, but with Chester and no Festus... When slightly older, allowed to stay up late on Friday nights to watch Jack Paar's "Tonight Show."

Lest I forget- "Wonderama" with Sonny Fox on Sundays, Sandy Becker, and "Uncle" Fred Scott. (I mean, Channel 5 was IT!!). Oh, and the WMCA "Good Guys". 'Nuff said...

Being slightly bummed that my folks got rid of the 1956 Chrysler Windsor Deluxe six months before getting my driving learners' permit- and learning to drive on a 1961 Ford Falcon with a 3-speed "on the steering column" stick shift...

First salient "political awareness" moments: Sharing a lot of classmates' relief over the Six Day War. The next year- MLK's and RFK's assassinations. Later that summer watching the Chicago cops throw teargas at and beat the cr*p out of anyone and everyone outside the 1968 Democratic Convention, being visibly and verbally outraged, and realizing that for the first time, my parents weren't objecting to my venting as we saw it happen.

Seeing a big ad during the summer of 1969 in the Sunday NY Times Arts & Leisure section for some kind of big festival at a place called "Woodstock."

And, finally, insisting to my parents throughout high school that no, I had no interest in pursuing music/trumpet as any kind of major career. While at the same time playing in what we used to call a "soul" band that gigged throughout Harlem and Bronx on Fridays/Saturdays until 4am... Yeah, right... We know how THAT turned out...

Sorry we weren't together on a bandstand during your annual summer visit Dave- All my best to Zahava and the kids...

Mike S

Posted by: Michael Spengler | Sep 3, 2008 6:04:25 PM

No time to do the full meme, but here's one thing I remember: Our record player had this cylindrical plastic doohickey that fit over the spindle in the middle. This gave us the ability to stack a bunch of '45's without having to use the plastic yellow "thingies". We lost the cylinder when I was 5 or 6, and I was devastated.

And anyone under 30 reading this probably thinks I'm speaking a foreign language. I'll be happy to explain it to one of them if he/she can teach me to use an iPod. :)

Posted by: psachya | Sep 3, 2008 6:05:18 PM

I remember riding across New York and all the way to Florida on the shelf in the back window of the family car. During my entire childhood, I never had to wear a helmet.

Posted by: David Bailey | Sep 3, 2008 6:18:45 PM

I was also a child of 1961, born on the other side of the pond. One of my earliest memories was "Listen with mother" coming from the radiogram in the corner of the living room. Oh yes, and the bedroom wallpaper of my friend Linda - cartoons of the Beetles.

Posted by: Noa | Sep 3, 2008 11:05:03 PM

La Femme Nikita and The Wonder Years--2 of my favorite shows.

Posted by: Baila | Sep 3, 2008 11:08:56 PM

I've just added my own on my blog, complete with a hat-tip and a link.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Sep 4, 2008 12:05:28 AM

"Mad Magazine points out that 1961 is the first year since 1881 that looks the same when viewed upside-down. "

Puh-leeze. I noticed that on my own (rotational, or "odd," symmetry). Try figuring out when the *next* such year is going to come around... :o)

We had a "zip-line" in the back yard; called it a monorail... surely they would be outlawed these days, along with everything else we played with and on. My whole family would have been imprisoned by CPS. And I had a blast, cigarette smoke, gin-and-tonics, pinochle games and "tripoli" games and all.

To get to Angel's baseball games, we would drive the 90 or so miles in the back of dad's pickup, four boys wrestling under a blanket to keep warm. As one of the two youngest, I always got the dreaded "outside" seat, near one of the panels.

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Sep 4, 2008 12:52:28 AM

What is a record player. ;)

Posted by: Jack | Sep 4, 2008 10:07:11 AM

Button Moon and We are the World.

Posted by: Rami | Sep 4, 2008 3:17:20 PM

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