Reflecting on a half-century
I turned 50 last week. Thatís a milestone. Heck, thatís half a century.
Thing is, I donít feel 50. My knees might disagree, but my brain still thinks Iím in my 20s and my sense of humor ó well, letís just say my jokes would go over quite well in a middle school classroom.
Every once in a while, something happens that highlights just exactly how long Iíve been on the planet. It just might take a few moments to sink in.
Some years ago, I got tickets to see Heart in Jonesboro. Iíve always been a big fan of the Wilson sisters and so was my late wife. Thing is, she died before we could see them live.
A friend of mine went with me instead, and as we were walking in to the Convocation Center (now First National Bank Arena), I said, ďMan Ö this is an older crowd.Ē
My friend ó two years older, by the way ó stopped and turned to look at me. He didnít say anything, but he did raise an eyebrow. Slowly, it sank in. All those people I was talking about were about the same age as me, all Generation X, plus or minus a few years.
It gets even worse when I look at history. A lot of things have happened in the last five decades. Most of them, I remember clear as day, as if they just happened just a few years ago.
Yeah Ö not so much.
In 1971, the year I was born, Richard Nixon was still president, cigarette ads were banned from television, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 and the first microchips began hitting the market. That same year marked the opening of Walt Disney World in Florida.
Six months after I was born marked the beginning of the Watergate crisis, when four men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office building in Washington, D.C., the same day that Okinawa was returned from U.S. control back to Japan. (On an interesting note, I share a birthday with former Japanese emperor Akihito.)
Two years after I was born, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on Roe vs. Wade, the Paris Peace Accords were signed, the military draft came to an end and Secretariat won the Triple Crown in dominating fashion.
That same year, vice president Spiro Agnew resigned amid charges of tax evasion and was replaced by Gerald Ford. It also marked the beginning of the energy crisis as a result of the Arab oil embargo.
Impeachment hearings against Nixon began in 1974 ó he would resign three months later to avoid being impeached and be pardoned by Ford.
In 1975, Wheel of Fortune premiered on television, the Republic of South Vietnam surrendered to the north and heiress, kidnapper and bank robber Patty Hearst was captured.
To be fair, I donít actually remember most of that ó the first president I remember is Jimmy Carter, of whom I used do a fabulous impression, the best one youíve ever seen from a 5-year-old.
Most of my memories begin in the late 1970s, beginning with the U.S. Bicentennial. I still have the rug marking the countryís 200th birthday. It, along with my Winnie the Pooh, my tiny wooden T-ball bat and a bronze baby shoe made into a bookend, are some of my most cherished childhood artifacts.
In 1976, the Viking 1 space probe landed on Mars, Carter won the presidential election and Microsoft became a registered trademark.
A year later, a new movie took over theaters across the country and I got to see it. Star Wars marked the first movie I ever saw on the big screen and kicked off a lifelong love of all things geek.
A year after that, the Panama Canal was returned to Panamanian control and Pope John Paul II was elected in Vatican City, a year before the accident at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant and Pioneer 11 passed Saturn and the Iran Hostage Crisis began.
Many of those events kept me glued to the television for the evening news. In our house, Walter Cronkite was the voice that brought the headlines of the day. For the details, we turned to the newspapers. At our house, we subscribed to three ó The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Standard-Democrat from Sikeston, Mo., and our hometown weekly, the Enterprise-Courier. I read them all from an early age, although I usually drifted toward sports, features and the comics before I delved into the headlines.
I didnít realize it then, but Iíd already chosen my future career, especially as the calendar turned to the 1980s.
I still remember when Reagan was shot, collecting all the available information and working out a summary, timeline and map of the incident, almost as if I was one of the reporters covering the story.
Other highlights from the 1980s include the appointment of Sandra Day OíConnor, the first female associate justice on the Supreme Court, the opening of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and Sally Ride becoming the first American female astronaut in space.
Also, the first version of Windows operating system was released, Martin Luther King Day was made an official holiday, and the Iran-Contra affair hit the news.
One of my fondest memories was Live Aid in 1985, a benefit concert featuring one of the best live performances in rock history. Queen ó featuring arguably the best frontman for any band in history, Freddie Mercury ó blew away thousands at Wembley Stadium and millions more across the world.
That same year, Pete Rose broke Ty Cobbís career hits record, only to be banned from the sport four years later for gambling.
I got my first newspaper job in 1988, writing sports for the Enterprise-Courier.
The 1990s were just as momentous, marked as they were by my graduation from high school, the launch ó and eventual repair ó of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Gulf War, and the breakup of the Soviet Union.
In 1993, the World Trade Center was bombed by terrorists,Intel shipped the first Pentium chips and former astronaut and senator John Glenn, then 77, becomes the oldest person to travel in space, 36 years after becoming the first American to orbit the planet.
The last 22 years have been even more eventful, Hopefully, most of you still remember them, so I donít have to go into detail. Suffice it to say, most of it still seems like yesterday.
I wonder how many more decades Iíll get to see ó and how many changes. I hope itís quite a few and mostly good.
Then again, Iíve been around long enough to know just how likely that is.