Those Were The Days

“We Are Not Old ”

My wife and I are celebrating our 65th anniversary in March and when we were discussing a small get-together, one of my grandsons asked, “How old are you, grandpa?” When I replied, a confused look crossed his face and in a whisper of disbelief he uttered, “Wow, that’s old, grandpa.”

When octogenarians are asked if they feel old most will say “not in the least” – in our minds we are still young – the only time we feel old is in the morning when every bone in our bodies aches, or when we look in a mirror and accept the image looking back as reality. But believe it or not, there are many perks to being around so long – we have seen history as it actually happened instead of watching incomplete documentaries of bygone years.                                                     

I was born during the Great Depression when there was just enough food to grace a table, when my siblings clothes became mine as hand-me-downs, when a quarter was a lot of money. We remember Canada entering World War Two. The next five years we saw many things rationed, from groceries to meats and even nylon stockings. I witnessed soldiers and tanks, guns and cannons, navy destroyers, fighter planes, parachutes and screaming air raid sirens that literally sent a chill down everyone’s spine. Dad sat at the kitchen table reading the daily news, pictures of sinking ships and bombed out cities and always on the front page, a casualty list. Oh but the singing and dancing in the streets, the honking of horns and the jubilation when the war was finally over.          

There were inventions and innovations that came about in the 1950s, many devised to assist our troops during the war. Canned foods, iced tea, Saran wrap and the microwave oven to name a few, and of course a dawning of the jet age. I remember ice boxes, the hula hoop, Salk discovering a vaccine to cure polio, when gas was 18 cents a gallon, milk was 82 cents a gallon, pop and ice cream a nickel and bread less than a dime. 

We wish we could forget some of the 1969’s – the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy; conversely, Woodstock, the young peoples’ sexual revolution where no one over the age of thirty was to be trusted. I experienced three tornadoes firsthand and sat on the banks of the Detroit River hearing the sounds of gun shots as the west side of Detroit burned during the 1969 riots.       

Wow indeed, in the first half of my life I have witnessed events as they unfolded; Joe Louis, Ben Hogan, Rocket Richard setting records, John Glenn orbiting the Earth, man actually landing on the moon and how we were all captivated by Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. We have seen the beginnings and endings of the Korean and Vietnam wars, the advent of colour television and to date I have lived through 14 USA Presidents and 14 Canadian Prime Ministers.                                                                                                                                      

Space prevents me from citing so many important events we have actually seen with our own eyes so, when referring to men and women from my era, we do not see ourselves as old but more so vintage, you know, like fine wine.    

By: Russ Sanders

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