Friday, February 7, 2014

The adventure of life goes on

Ah, youth! Betty circa 1946
1/15/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

“The adventure of life is to learn.
The purpose of life is to grow.
The nature of life is to change.
The challenge of life is to overcome.
The essence of life is to care.”
William Arthur Ward

Today’s column is a bit self-indulgent because it’s my birthday week. I’m celebrating 75 years of living and learning by taking a look back at what the world was like in the year I was born. I was born on a Friday the 13th, 1939. Some say that day is unlucky. I beg to differ. Sometimes attitude helps make your own luck.

So it's true, I've been lucky but I’m also blessed. I was born to birth parents who for some reason couldn’t keep me. I spent time in orphanages and was finally adopted when I was six years old. As a child, I always had a roof over my head, food to eat, education and wonderful friends. As an adult, I have had love, purpose, a fabulous family and priceless friendships.

Yes life has been an interesting challenge. But I’ve followed my heart and been here-there-and-everywhere! I couldn’t ask for anything more. Still, I have questions. What happened in 1939 besides me? Well, as I learned, it was a tense time in this world.

The Great Depression was grinding down the USA. The Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Grapes of Wrath” described in graphic detail a family that lost their farm and livelihood and traveled to California looking for hope. That era surely resonates with those who lost jobs and housing and hope in the Great Recession of 2008.

In April 1939, The New York World’s Fair opened. A bullet shaped time capsule weighing 800 pounds was buried and not to be opened for 5,000 years! Yes, you read that correctly. In the year 6939 it will be opened along with the one buried in 1964.

Rumblings of World War II were beginning in Europe. On September 1, 1939, Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland. That was considered a prelude to the beginning of the war. Germany earlier had annexed Austria and invaded Czechoslovakia and Italy’s Mussolini invaded Albania in April. War was coming.

Joseph Stalin was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in both 1939 and 1942. They chose Pope Francis as Time’s Person of the Year in 2013. Journalists are an interesting bunch.

In sports, the New York Yankees won the World Series Championship (again). The Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants 27-0 to win the National Football League championship. And the NCAA Basketball Champion was…wait for it…Oregon!

Compared to the late 20th century, 1939 was an entertainment era of innocence. Today our movies and music bombard us with graphic violence, sexuality and profanity. “Swearing like a sailor,” as the old saying goes, simply didn’t drive the media like it does today.

However, here’s an interesting bit of movie trivia: Clark Gable’s line at the end of “Gone with the Wind,” when he said to Vivien Leigh, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” was voted the number one movie line of all time by the American Film Institute in 2005.

Many wonderful movies were released in 1939. They included: Goodbye Mr. Chips, Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Wuthering Heights. Each film was an incredible work of art but Judy Garland’s “Somewhere over the rainbow” is still bringing hope to broken hearts today.

Actresses wore more clothes in those days. These “hot” movie stars and fashion icons of 1939 strutted their stuff in swirly dresses with shoulder pads, hats or (gasp!) two-piece bathing suits: Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Greta Garbo, Betty Grable and  Hedy Lamarr (famous for her sarongs).

So what else was going on in 1939? Aviation progress was in full swing. The Sikorsky helicopter was invented and the first commercial flight over the Atlantic had people talking. Einstein wrote a letter to FDR about building an Atomic Bomb. Sigmund Freud died and a major earthquake in Chile killed 30,000 people.

Television was in its infancy. It made its debut at the World’s Fair with the first presidential address by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The New York Times reported that the broadcast was received in strategic locations and the pictures were clear and steady. It would be another 10 years before it was widely available to the masses.

Of course, I was a newborn. I don’t remember anything about 1939. I do remember the 1940s as the time when my grandfather held my hand and walked me into my new home and later into school and my first grade class; drinking milk and eating cookies after school; playing hopscotch; listening to the radio and reading under the covers at night by flashlight; looking forward to summers in the mountains and wondering what life would hold for me.

By the 1950s I was tall and lanky, a serious student and violin player. I dated, got my first job, went to college, married and started a family. The 1960s and 1970s were the best. They were all about the changing ages and stages of a growing family: church, school, clubs, dancing, parties, swimming, music and sports. Mostly they were fun!

By the late 1970s we were well established in business and volunteer work. Soon it was the 1980s and the kids were off to college, getting married and starting their own families. And for the last 25 years Chuck and I have had great adventures here in Oregon.

Looking back, I can honestly say that I have no regrets. Life is good. It’s not easy but most adventures are meant to be challenging. If the object is to learn, grow, care, serve and dare—I’ve done it all—and then some.

Praise God for these 75 years of endurance and joy!

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

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