Thursday, April 21, 2011

I remember when ...

4/13/11 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

I remember when …

Recently, as President Obama began putting his re-election campaign together he did a little reminiscing. I was interested in his remarks that began “I remember when …”

First, the president reminded his audience that it wasn’t too long ago that he was still paying off his student loans. People could relate to that. And then he endeared himself to every workingman and woman when he added, “I don’t pump gas now, but I remember what it was like pumping gas … I remember the end of the month (paying bills) … I remember that.”

We all have memories like that, don’t we? At the time of hardship, we sometimes don’t think we are going to make it through. In my younger years, I could get pretty dramatic and think that some circumstance was the end of the world. Now I know better. And the older I get, the more often I find myself reflectively saying, “I remember when … ”

I remember when … my first paycheck at a 40-hour a week job was $32 (after taxes). Today no one could get by on that. But I was still living at home and going to school so that amount of money was doable. In fact, I saved enough from each paycheck to eventually pay for a beautiful wedding.

I remember when … I lived in Los Angeles where the skies were blue and the streets safe. As a young girl I confidently rode the buses and streetcars clear across town and back all by myself.

I remember when … those same streets erupted in flames during the Watt’s riots in 1965. By that time I had moved out of L.A.

I remember when … the Brooklyn Dodgers came to L.A. and took up residence at Chavez Ravine. I remember the smell of the hot dogs, the crack of the bats and announcer Vin Scully’s “Forget it!” home run call.

I remember when … I thought that two people in love could conquer the world with or without money. I got that one wrong. It takes love and money to make the world go round!

I remember when … I was pregnant with my third child in four years. Those were years of exhilaration and exhaustion. Some days I thought I wouldn’t survive the grind. I thought that my life would forever consist of diapers, formula, sleepless nights, rocking chairs, ear infections and sweet baby kisses.

I remember when … I learned that time isn’t static; nothing is forever. One day my babies were chubby little cuddlers and the next they were long and lanky school kids. Suddenly they were out of the house and we were empty nesters. Wow. How did that happen?

I remember when … I thought that “30” was old. In fact, the only birthday that I seriously mourned was the day I moved from 29 to 30 years old. Silly? You bet. Little did I know that life had only just begun!

I remember when … I went to the grocery store with a $20 bill and brought home 4 large bags of groceries to feed a family of 5 people. I bought everything on sale or with a coupon. Del Monte corn and green beans were 5 cans for $1; tomato sauce was 10 cans for $1; ground round was 69¢ a pound and bread was 20¢ a loaf at the day-old store. A chocolate bar was a treat to be divided five ways.

I remember when … I thought that if we could just earn $10,000 a year we would be rich. We finally got there but by that time inflation had eroded the dollar. We were still behind but we always got by.

I can remember when … being a millionaire meant that you were not just rich, you were really wealthy. It meant that you could not only afford a mansion on the hill but another one in Palm Springs and a yacht in Florida. Today, monetary wealth is measured in Billions and billionaires buy islands.

I remember when … tragedy seemed to stop time in our world. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was my generation’s first rude awakening. The horror of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995; the twin towers terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and each and every war (whether declared or not) all took their toll.

I remember when … a man walked on the moon. Our entire extended family had gathered at a restaurant in Marina del Rey to celebrate a birthday. Suddenly the voice of Neil Armstrong and his grainy image came up on a television in the bar. His thoughtful words, “One small step for man and one giant step for mankind” still resonate today.

I remember when … decades later, the Space Shuttle Challenger (1986) and Columbia (2003) disintegrated into flames at take off. I questioned: was the exploration in space frontiers worth the loss?

Last week as I was driving through Cottage Grove, I was reminded of changes in the around town during my 23 years here. Places and people that were once vital parts of the community have either moved on or are now gone forever. We are a town in flux.

I remember when … Uncle Bud Betz’s Chevrolet was known all over the state for his “Don’t you buy no ugly truck!” commercials. Tilly’s Top Hat Pies served the best pies ever. Bill Whiteman reigned as mayor; women could buy dresses at the Hub and Elsie’s Fashions; Hoovers and Self-Selecto shoes sold everything from fancy dress shoes to motorcycle boots.

Memories and times of reminiscing add richness and perspective to life as I age. They remind me of what is and isn’t important. Truly, nothing tangible lasts forever, only the memories.

I’m sure President Obama would agree.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

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