Tag Archives: baby boomers

USA-Communism

We Defeated the Communists, and Then We Became Them!

My oh my!  Recently, there has been no shortage of world-wide events that have distracted our government from taking care of domestic issues.  There was hurricane Harvey, hurricane Irma, and now, once again tearing through the Caribbean, hurricane Maria.  These were catastrophic to the United States, and they totally destroyed some small Caribbean countries.   Last week, there was a ‘bucket bomb’ that exploded in a London subway.  And, much like an infant with a broken rattle, we can always count on Kim Jong-un to fire another missile anytime he thinks he is not getting enough attention on the world stage.

Because of these major events, not much attention has been given to our domestic problems. Obama Care has not been repealed or replaced.  The tax codes have not been revised.  And, have you recently heard any news referring to the federal budget?  This got me to wondering.  How is the federal government currently spending our money?  It is our money, isn’t it?  More importantly, how has the government spent our money in the past?  So, as a matter of personal interest, I have decided to compare our 2016 federal budget to the 50 year earlier, 1966 federal budget.  This was not an accidental choice, as I graduated from high school as a wet-behind-the-ears, know-it-all eighteen year old in 1966.  And, yes, I can still muster up enough memory to remember the era.  Let me set the stage.

1966

1966 was just over 20 years after the completion of WWII.  There were no shortage of veterans from that war.  They were our parents.  We fought an on-going war in Korea.  Because of what was called the ‘domino theory’ we sent military advisors to a country called South Viet Nam.  Eisenhower began this program, Kennedy expanded it, and Lyndon Johnson turned Saigon into the  twenty-third largest American city.  Little did we know in 1966 that Viet Nam would ultimately cost us over 57,000 American lives.

Our WWII ally, Russia, was now our dreaded enemy.  They became the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), which was comprised of Russia and all the countries it decided to keep in its ‘sphere of influence’ after WWII.  The majority joined unwillingly by the use of Russian military force. We had NATO, and the USSR had the Warsaw Pact.  They built the Berlin wall and shot anyone that tried to cross it.  Winston Churchill dubbed this policy of isolation as the ‘Iron Curtain.’

In 1962, we had a little dust-up in the Caribbean called the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The USSR wanted to install nuclear warheads and missiles in Cuba.  US versus USSR.  Kennedy versus Khruschev. Good versus evil.  Eagle versus the bear.  Democracy versus communism.  According to all historical accounts, it was the closest the world has come to a nuclear holocaust.

In 1963, Kennedy was assassinated.  (I was hoping I would find out who was responsible before I died, but time is running out!)

On the domestic front, the ‘baby boomers’ were entering the workforce.  As a high school graduate, there were three life choices available:  go to college, get a job, or get drafted.  That was pretty much it.  The economy was booming because there was a war to fuel it.  Just about anyone that wanted a job had a job.  As eighteen year olds, we could not wait to move away from home and become independent.  We never moved back home.

With these events as a background, how did our government spend our money?  Our GDP in 1966 was $4.12T.  The total government receipts were $689B.  Our total outlays were $708B.  (Yes!  We dealt in billions and not trillions!)  Our deficit that year was $19.5B.  Ah yes, don’t you long for the good old days now?  42% of all revenues came from individual income taxes.  Payroll taxes accounted for 20% and corporate taxes accounted for 23% of revenues.

On the spending side, 43% of all funds were spent on national defense.  But here is the biggie….medicare and general health spending was only 2% of the budget that year.  Spending on social security, unemployment and labor in 1966 was about 23% of all outlays.

In raw numbers, the Dept. of Defense got $298B, Health and Human Services got $30.1B, Social Security Administration got $109B, Treasury got $61.9B and NASA got $31.2B.  The Treasury received their money largely to pay the interest on our $1.74T national debt.  Of course there are other departments, but these are the largest and pertinent to this blog.

2016

Now we fast forward 50 years to 2016, the last year of the Obama budget.  There were only two budgets put forth by the Obama admistration in his eight years as POTUS.  Harry Reed, the senate majority leader, promised not to bring a budget to the senate floor and the ‘gatekeeper from hell’ kept his word.  In 2016, the government took in $2.99T in tax revenues.  (Yes, we got to the trillions!) 49% of these revenues came from individual income taxes.  Payroll taxes accounted for 33% and corporate taxes accounted for 9% of total revenues.  The national debt now exceeds $16.7T!

The sources of revenue did not change substantially in 50 years.  But how the revenues have been spent have significantly changed.  Remember that the defense department accounted for 43% of the 1966 budget?  Well, even with all the shenanigans going on with terrorism and wars, the 2016 budget only spent 15% on the defense department.  Wow!  Where did that money go?  The 2% of monies spent on medicare and general health spending in 1966 now consumes 28% of the spending.  Spending on social security is now 37% of the budget as compared to 22% in the past.   Entitlement programs now consume 65% of our national budget!

The raw numbers are staggering.  The Dept. of Defense now spends $515B.  The Dept. of Health and Human Services goes from $30.1B to a staggering $995B!  The Dept. of Treasury goes from $61.9B to $484B!  Much of this is to pay the interest on our growing, inflated national debt.  Not to be outdone, the Social Security Administration received a nice bump, going from $109B to $866B!  NASA, on the other hand, had its 1966 budget of $31.2B reduced to $17.2B in 2016.

I need to provide a small history lesson at this point.  Do you know what the original responsibities were of the federal government?  Why the federal government was founded?  It was founded for two reasons; national defense and international trade.  End of list.  It is astounding how the federal government got to its present size.  Back to the blog.

There are some logical explainations for these large differences in these federal budgets.  In 1966, the huge ‘baby boomer’ generation entered the work force.  They worked.  They paid taxes.  They paid into the social security fund.  In 2016, guess what?  The ‘baby boomers’ aged.  They retired and they began collecting the social security in which they paid for after about 50+ working years.

In 1966, there wasn’t any government provided health care program.  We never expected a federal health care program.  But now look at what is happening.  Obamacare happened, and it has pretty much been a mess ever since.  Everyone agrees it needs to change, but we can’t get two people in a room of 100 senators to agree on how it should change.  Personally, I think the federal government should get out of the health care business altogether, but the proverbial cat has been let out of the bag.  Unlike the old days of 1966 where we did not believe in such a thing as a free lunch, we have people perfectly capable of working that expect a free lunch.  In 1966 we were raised under the mantra that, ‘you ate what you killed.’  Now our national conscious is that everyone should eat, even if they haven’t done one thing to feed themselves.

As amazing as it is to see the differences in our budgets after 50 years, it appears this is outdone by our expectations as to what the government owes us in entitlements.  Most of these entitlements did not exist 50 years ago, and yet we survived.  This is borne out by a Health and Human Services budget that is over 30 times larger than in 1966.  (Think ‘welfare’)

During the Cold War, we spent trillions of dollars to defeat those socialistic Communists.  Russia has turned from its socialistic/communistic society.  You remember socialism/communism.  That is the economic and political theory that advocates the means of production, distribution and exchange should be regulated by the community (government) as a whole.  Our electorate has seen fit in the last 50 years to elect officials that institute welfare programs that we can’t afford,  with money we don’t have, for people who should not receive them.   We have given up our independence.  Now, with our dependence on our federal government, we have taken the place of the former USSR.   Have we become the New Socialists/Communists?

It gives a whole new context to the motto, ‘Land of the free……..’

Now

It’s a Shake and Bake Society, Baby!

During my lifetime, I have experienced, and seen, technological revolutions that can only be described as miraculous.  These technological advancements have made life easier and faster.

Let me provide a few examples of some great technological advancements, both big and small.

Do you know when the first TV dinner was created?  Do you remember who created it and what that dinner contained?  The first TV dinner was created in 1953 by the Swanson Company, thus the Swanson TV dinner which is still available today.  That first dinner was designed for a Thanksgiving meal.  It contained turkey, cornbread dressing, frozen peas and sweet potatoes.  It was packaged in the aluminum tray that was used by airline companies to serve food on their airplanes.   The cooking directions called for 25 minutes in the oven at 425 degrees.  That first meal cost 98 cents, and they sold a whopping 5000 dinners that first year!

What an advancement!  Up until that time, in our house, either Mom or Grandma had to make everything from scratch.  Because we lived on a Midwestern farm, we had animals and a huge garden.  Our Thanksgiving turkey took 7-8 hours to cook.  Oftentimes the bird was stuffed the night before Thanksgiving, placed in the refrigerator, and then someone had to get out of bed by 5:00 AM to place it in the oven in time for dinner.  All rolls and bread were baked from scratch as were the pies. Grandma’s pies were to die for!  All the crusts were made from scratch as was the filling.  No pumpkin pie filling, cherry filling or blueberry filling came from a can.  The pumpkin pie filling came from pumpkins grown in our garden.  The cherries were purchased and pitted.  The blueberries were picked in the summer and frozen until used.  I know all about blueberry picking as my grandmother made me go with her.  For the uninitiated, blueberries grow in low-lying areas and ripen about the same time as the bumper mosquito crop matures.  We had to wear nets over our heads and wear long sleeve shirts even in the summer, so as not to get bitten hundreds of times.  Unfortunately, because of the small size of the blueberries, we could not wear gloves.  Our hands became the ultimate mosquito target and we would spend almost 2 hours picking and swatting, picking and swatting to get enough berries for 3-4 pies.  It was not uncommon for a Thanksgiving feast to take three days of preparation.  Whew! What a difference from 25 minutes at 425 degrees!  (Honestly, our meals were bigger and much better.)

But the food industry was not done.  In 1969, the first TV breakfast meal was made available.  That was followed in 1973 by the Hungry Man Meal.  Do you remember who the first spokesman was for the Hungry Man Meal?  It was Pittsburgh Steeler footballer, Mean Joe Green.

But wait….there’s more!  In 1986, the first microwavable TV dinner was made available because 25% of the American homes had microwave ovens.  Microwave ovens were the next great technological leap for food preparation.  My parents bought me a microwave oven as a Christmas gift in the early 1980s.  It cost almost $500, and it took two men and a boy to lift it from the trunk of a car to my counter top.  After its usefulness as a microwave, it could have been easily converted to a boat anchor!   A BIG boat anchor!

Do you know how many years it was between the first airplane flight and landing the first person on the moon?  The first flight by the Wright brothers was in 1903.  The moon landing?  1969.  Sixty six years between airplane invention and an almost unbelievable space travel accomplishment!

During my lifetime, communication in our house went from having no phone to having a party line phone.  Yes, you could actually pick up the phone and hear your neighbors conversation.  And yes, they could hear your conversations.  Next came the invention of mobile phones.  Those first mobile phones were the size of a brick and weighed about the same as a brick.  Then we went to light-weight small pocket sized phones and now you can have a phone on your wrist!  A wrist phone just like the one Dick Tracy used in the 1930s comic books!  (Okay.  Dick Tracy had a wrist radio.)

When I was in high school and college, we were never allowed to use calculators.  That is because the first pocket calculators cost $250, and not everyone could afford them.  Remember….the minimum wage was $1.00 an hour!  While in high school, we could use slide rules.  Right now, no one under the age of 50 has the slightest idea of what I am talking about.  A slide rule was one step up from an ancient abacus, but multiplication and division could be done on a slide rule.  To show the real advancement of technology, my first pocket calculator cost $250.  When it finally broke, the exact replacement cost $59.99.  When that pocket calculator broke, the exact replacement cost $19.95.

The first computer that I bought in 1991 was a butt-kicking 40 megabytes!  I say it was a butt-kicking computer because all my competitors had 25 megabyte computers.  I was king of the hill.  That computer, monitor and daisy-wheel printer cost me $2200.  I now write this blog on an 8 gigabyte computer that cost me $600 six years ago.  The monitor and printer were extra.  My printer not only prints, but it is capable of scanning, copying, and faxing….if I knew how to set it all up.  The printer cost me less than $150.  In the late 1980s, my old boss bought a fax machine for $2500.  He was bragging about what a great deal he got because he got a free case of fax paper with the machine. Do they even sell fax only machines today?

These are just some of the marvelous technological improvements I have observed during my lifetime.  Just think of all the improvements in the medical field.  Look at the new devices that are a standard feature on an automobile that were unheard of during the 1950s.  GPS?  Back-up cameras?  Alarms?  Many of the new advancements have been for safety, but many of our advancements are popular because they either save time, eliminate work, or provide instantaneous information or instantaneous gratification.  (Who researches using encyclopedias when google and Wikipedia are available.)

But the one thing I have noticed over my lifetime is that people and society have become less patient and tolerant.  People today want instantaneous results.  They want things to happen fast.  They want things to happen faster than getting their food in a short line at a ‘fast food’ restaurant. (What a great belt-busting invention fast food has become!)  I am convinced that some people believe that Rome was built in a day.  The mantra seems to have become, ‘I want it and I want it now.’

Unfortunately, the attitude and mantra of ‘wanting it and wanting it now’ has permeated our expectations as to how our federal government should operate.  I am glad that the ‘First 100 days of the Trump presidency’ have finally passed.  How many times did you hear this:  “Donald Trump’s presidency will be considered a failure if he doesn’t (fill in the blank) within his first 100 days.”   Here were the most popular ‘fill in the blank’ items:  1.  Replace the Affordable Care Act,  2, Have a budget,  3.  Build the wall, and, 4. Provide a tax reform system.  I heard each one of these items, attached to a 100 day timeline, being touted as signifying a failed presidency if not accomplished.  Of course, these notions were mostly advanced by liberal politicians on liberal-leaning media sources. There were more ‘fill in the blank’ items, but these were the biggies.

So here is my advice…..”GET A GRIP AMERICA!”  Rome was not built in a day.  Do you really believe that these major issues, some of them decades old, could be reasonably alleviated in 100 days?  I am glad that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act was defeated early in the Trump presidency. Why?  Because, unlike the original ACA passage that was shoved down the throats of all Americans by the Democratic party without Republican input, this repeal will have the input of both parties.  I would much rather have a ‘good’ bill than a ‘fast’ bill.  But if you want to believe the media hogwash, we wanted a fast bill.

It amazes me that any Democrat would have the cajoles to fault this administration for not having a budget (it was passed recently) when Harry Reid, the Senate Majority leader for 6 years, promised to not have a budget reach the Senate floor as long as he was Senate Majority leader.  The ‘gatekeeper from hell’ kept his word.  Our government ran for 6 years without passing a budget.  (The next time you see a street corner hot dog stand, remember, he probably has a budget!  Our federal government did not.)

I am sure that with a little time, there will be tax reform for both corporations and individuals.  No one seems as concerned about building the big, beautiful wall now that illegal aliens attempting to enter this country has been reduced by over 70%.

But here is where the rubber meets the road; our society seems to have a disconnect between reality and expectation.  Because of our faster than lightning technological advancements and our fast paced society, we begin to believe that all things should be fast.  That may be true in some instances, but certainly not all.  When it comes to governing, I would much prefer ‘slower and better’ than ‘faster and crappy.’

After all, it took my grandmother over 3 hours to make one of her delicious pies from scratch.  She enjoyed making them and we really enjoyed eating them.  Sara Lee would have been easier, but my grandmother would not let us have any of that.  You were the perfect example of ‘slower and better.’   I love you grandma!  You always took care of us.

Happy Mother’s Day.

good-old-days

Were the ‘Good Old Days,’ Really That Good?

Donald Trump presidency…………….D +… Eighty something days!

There are some days when I really, really miss the good old days.  Most people under 30 have not really grasped the concept of the ‘good old days’.  The forty somethings and 50 somethings are just beginning to grasp the ‘good old day’ concept.  But trust me when I say that those of us over sixty years old have not only grasped the ‘good old day’ concept, but we are trying to grasp it so tightly that we have almost choked it to death. (And we enjoy imparting our good old day experiences on the younger generations.)

Our small Midwestern town had a drug store that had a soda fountain.  During my youth, a cherry coke could be purchased for 5 cents.  A Snickers bar was 5 cents.  There was a marshmallow/chocolate candy bar called Valomilk.  It also cost 5 cents, but it had a gimmick.  Inside each wrapper was a small cardboard disk.  Once you collected 30 cardboard disks, you sent them to the manufacturer for ten free Valomilks!  Wow!  So, in about a ten day time span, I purchased and ate thirty Valomilks. Yes….I ate them all myself because I was in my non-sharing, bratty stage of child development.   (I was also hyperactive from all that damn sugar!)  About two weeks later, I received ten free Valomilks delivered in a round cardboard sleeve.  I was in hog heaven!  And….I thought I beat the system.  I figured that if I got ten free Valomilks with the little cardboard disk inside, I would only have to purchase twenty more Valomilks to get the ten free Valomilks again.  It was my nine year old mind’s version of a ponzi scheme regarding candy bars. But, alas, the manufacturer outsmarted me.  There were no cardboard disks in the ten free Valomilks.  I only did that promotion once, as I really liked a Snickers better.

Our small town hardware store provided just about everything.  You not only were able to purchase the traditional hardware materials, but you could also purchase shotgun shells, rifle bullets, dishes, baseball mitts, toys, hot water heaters, stock watering tanks, electric fence materials…..well, you get the idea.  It was much more than just a hardware store.  All of those items mentioned were either purchased by me or my family.  Oh….the simplicity of the ‘good old days.’

I also bought the one and only bike I owned until I was over 40 years old from that hardware store. Purchasing it was simple.  You picked the one you liked from the 12-15 available boys bikes.   That large selection was only available during the spring.  If you waited, you bought your bike from the remaining dregs because they did not restock until the following spring.  Mine was a pretty red and white bike with the conventional one speed.  That one speed being that the faster you peddled, the faster you would go.  If you could afford a three speed bike, you were not only rich, but you would be branded a sissy.!

Grandma P never did have a bicycle.  Her family of six could not afford them.  She got her first bicycle when she was 64 years old.  Even though she knew how to ride, it was terrifying for her to start riding again.  Now she enjoys riding her bicycle and she rides it with confidence.  Our oldest grandson would be surprised about Grandma P never owning a bike.  He got into BMX racing and owns seven bikes!

A trip to the local A&W was  simple, easy and inexpensive.  A small root beer cost 5 cents.  A large root beer was a dime.  A hamburger was a quarter and french fries were an additional 15 cents. More importantly, the food was brought to you by a beautiful female carhop.  The owner of the A&W hired all the cheerleaders during the summer to be his carhops!  Not surprisingly, he sold hundreds of gallons of root beer every year!

The small cone at the local Dairy Queen cost 5 cents.  They had a jumbo cone that cost a quarter, but you really had to like ice cream to be able to finish that cone.  A malted milk cost a quarter and there were many available flavors.  My favorite was blueberry and sometimes an occasional strawberry.  They were delicious.  Occasionally, in order to diversify my calorie laden diet, I would order a sundae rather than a malt.  This also cost a quarter.  My two favorite sundaes were either butterscotch or hot fudge with nuts.

Because our small town was 60 miles from a major city, our choices for radio channels were rather limited.  We had two AM stations that played rock and roll that we were able to receive on our AM only radios.  Our cars only had AM radios.  It was much later before FM made an appearance in our community.  People owning FM radios were either listening to classical music or to PBS offerings. But for us youngsters, AM rock and roll was our choice and where it was at!

Life was much simpler in many other ways.  For instance, we only had three television channels, ABC, NBC and CBS until an independent station took our total to four.  As a result of this, we only had three different sources of news casts.  Each of the major networks had 30 minute time slots, followed by the local channel with another 30 minutes of news, weather and sports.  A total of one hour of news beginning at either 5:30 or 6:00 PM.  There was another half hour of local news, weather and sports at 10:00 PM. (As an aside, the networks went off the air at night and did not come on again until the next morning!  Imagine that…you millennials!)

So why am I writing about all this stuff concerning the good old days?  Firstly, I hope that sometime in the future, my grandkids will actually read my blog.  Secondly, and more importantly, I do believe life was much more simple during the post WWII years than they are today.  This is especially true when it comes to television media and its hundreds of channels.

Did you notice that I began this blog with the ‘Donald Trump presidency……D+ eighty something days.’  Have you followed all the 24/7 news channels that are headlining the following:  Donald Trump, the First 100 days?  The one thing I miss about the good old days was that after a spirited and tiring presidential election….everything seemed to quiet down as  the new president was getting acclimated to his new position and to his new cabinet.  The media took a break.  Not any more!  Do any of you baby boomers remember any other POTUS getting the following and the scrutiny of this President as soon as he took the oath of office?  What happens when the hundredth day arrives?  Is the newest headline going to be:  Donald Trump presidency….the second hundred days?  The first year? The second year?   Do they realize that his term is over 1460 days?  I have watched more White House press conferences since Trump became POTUS than I have for my entire life.  Can’t they hold two a week instead of every day?

Here is the problem and the big difference between the television media today and the television media during the good old days.  Today, we have more 24/7 news channels than we had total channels during my youth. Those news channels need something to broadcast for that 24 hour period.  When we had three total channels, the important issues and highlights were covered, human interest stories were added and that was it…..short, sweet and simple.  That was how we got our news. Today?  Well, today, just to make sure there is enough content to cover a 24 hour period, every issue is covered in depth, and deeper, and deeper, and repeatedly.  Teams of talking heads are assembled to make sure that if one talking head needs to take a breath, another talking head can chime in with a divergent opinion.  This creates dissension, which somehow must equate to ratings.  Then, if there is not enough worthy news to fill a 24/7 news cast, there are two options: either repeat what has been covered or make something up. Unfortunately, I believe more news channels are reverting to ‘make something up.’  I believe the new terminology is ‘fake news’ or ‘false news.’

What would the liberal biased television media report if they did not have Donald Trump?  What acting job would Alec Baldwin have if he could not lampoon Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live? These are almost important issues.

If you have followed my blog, you have surmised that I am a political junkie.  But since the Trump inauguration, I have ‘crossed the Rubicon’ when it comes to the news reporting about politics.  The television media has worn me down.  I find myself turning off the television and watching less and less of what is being reported.  I wish these news channels would just report the news in clear and concise terms.  But if they did that, there would only be about 90 minutes of news to report every day.  And then my dear readers, we would be back to reporting as it was during the ‘good old days.’

Oh well, the good old days are long gone.  I think I will eat my $1.49 Snickers and my $5.00 hamburger.   I’m on my diet so I will have to pass on the $3.50 malted milk.

Tomorrow is Easter.  Never forget the purpose of the holiday.  Much was sacrificed for our salvation. God bless.

Xmas

How We Celebrated Christmas in the 1950’s

Earlier this week, President-Elect Donald Trump finished a victory tour speech in Wisconsin.  At the end of his speech, he said, “Merry Christmas.  God Bless America.”

It did not hit me at the time, but then I began thinking, ‘when was the last time we heard that from an elected official?  From a president?’  I know we haven’t heard it in the last 8 years and I finally quit straining my brain to remember if we heard it from George ‘Dubya’ Bush.

Then I began reminiscing about Christmas when I was growing up in the 50s.  About our small town.  About our family.

I grew up in a small Midwestern farming town with a population of less than a thousand.  Within a 10 mile radius, there were probably another thousand people.  (Our town was so small, we had to take turns being the town drunk!)   As I was growing up, that time after Thanksgiving always, always got you greeted with a hardy “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”  Before Thanksgiving it was always, “Happy Thanksgiving!”  After Christmas it was, “Happy New Year!”  I really don’t believe I heard anyone greeted with “Happy Holidays” until I left to attend college in the big city.

Our little town tried to keep it simple with the standard, stock greeting of Merry Christmas.  We had three churches in our town; a Methodist, a Lutheran, and a Catholic church.  They all did special programs and services for their parishioners.  But the best program was put on by the high school music department.  It involved both the choir and the band playing the traditional Christmas songs. When I was in high school, I was a participant in this program.  Everyone in the audience knew the words to every traditional number that was presented.  Our town kept it simple.  No modern, hippy-crap music for us, by God!

Santa made his annual appearance…at the local movie theater.  Every child got a bag of candy and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap.  For a small town, it was a very big deal!

The merchants went out of their way to make Christmas special.  We had two big events a year in our town, the first was a Midsummer celebration that is still held on the third weekend of June.  And, coincidentally, Christmas is always around the third week in December, exactly 6 months apart. The local newspaper would have a Santa with reindeer picture, which was the foundation of a coloring contest.  Every kid would color the picture, submit it to the paper, and then wait to see if they were one of the top three finishers in their age group. I believe the age groups were 5 to 12 years old.  Even if you were not the winner in your age group, it was a big deal to see your name in print.  (The big prize was seeing your name in print.  There were no participation trophies!)  The winners got prizes.  Some of these prizes were cash!  The winner would get two whole dollars! Today, two dollars would not get you two candy bars; but in the 50s, that would get you four trips to the movie theater with soda and popcorn!

Each merchant would place ads in the newspaper with entry forms for a drawing that they were having in their store.  There were about a dozen entry forms taking up a whole page in the paper. Our paper was a weekly, so these entry forms appeared three times before Christmas.  Everyone, including my family, would meticulously fill out each entry form and deliver it to the sponsoring merchant.  For a small community, these drawings generated a lot of ‘buzz,’ and a whole bunch of local sales for the merchants.

Our town had about a dozen pair of street lights through the commercial area.  These lights were the old mercury-vapor lights which always had a slight orange tinge to the otherwise bright light.  At Christmas, the local electric company would string cable across the street from one street light to its corresponding partner across the street.  They would then run green garland and lights up each lamp pole to the top.  Then, they ran green garland across the street draped from the cable.  This garland was not lit.  The crowning touch was the face of a big illuminated jolly Santa right in the middle of the street.  The same decorations were on a dozen pair of poles, about 50 feet apart.  One night, I drove into town.  The streets were empty.   There was  light fluffy snow falling to the ground on a windless night. The street lights were casting their ‘orangish’ hue on the falling snow.  Between that, and the lit posts, the lit Santa faces and the store front decorations….it was magical.  Not bad for a town so small that the city limit signs could have been located on the same post.

Here is a big change between today and the 50s; Christmas did not begin until after Thanksgiving! Even in the big city, no Christmas merchandise or decorations were displayed until the day after Thanksgiving.  Our small town followed that unofficial rule diligently.  Now, I am seeing Christmas decorations and merchandise in October.  There is nothing quite as sobering as hearing Christmas carols on Musak on October 1.  I know this has been done for commercial reasons, but don’t you think it detracts from the holiday and the purpose of the holiday itself?  Its the same principle as the last election campaign season. Too long.  Its over.  Good riddance.

Christmas was very special for our family.  The biggest focus was on our Christmas tree, and we had some really beautiful trees.  By trade, my dad, Big Daddy G, was an automobile body work repairman.   Dents, dings and crashes were his specialty.  Big Daddy G was a Picasso when it came to painting cars.  He carried this talent to our Christmas.  He would flock our fresh cut trees in his paint spray booth.  When he flocked a tree, it looked like snow had fallen on it.  He got creative for many years, but I remember one year and one tree in particular.  He bought a Norway pine tree with the long needles, took it to the shop, and flocked the whole tree in a very light blue color.  It was gorgeous!  Then, it was decorated with red and green ‘bubbler’ lights.  Bubbler lights were about three inches long and the thickness of a pencil.  Once plugged in, they would heat up and create bubbles that gently ran from the bottom to the top in some kind of liquid.  With the addition of silver tinsel, the customary glass bulbs and the crowning expensive glass ornament……….this tree was spectacular!  I would pay $200 to have a color photo of that tree today. Unfortunately, all photos were black and white and I have not seen any bubbler lights for over 50 years.  Maybe they were radioactive or cancer producing, but they sure were pretty.  When the tree came down, the ornaments, especially the crowning ornament, were all carefully packed and stored as they were not only expensive, but were all very fragile glass.

Of course our family had Christmas gifts.  And I, being a hellion in training, would search out the aforementioned gifts, find them, open them, play with them, and then wrap them up again.  All of this without anyone being any the wiser.  I was really good at expressing surprise while opening the gifts at the family gathering.  I started all this larceny at the ripe old age of 6 years old, and continued until my teens.

The two worst ‘Christmas snoops’ in the family were by mother and my grandmother.  In retrospect, they were both worse than the kids when it came to wanting to open the presents early.  The anticipation of what they got almost became an obsession.  They would both pick up a package, look at it to see if they could see through the wrapping paper for a clue to the contents, and then shake the package to see if there would be a ‘tell-tale’ sound.  This procedure was begun about two weeks before Christmas, but generally about a week after I had already played with and re-wrapped my gifts.  One year, Big Daddy G bought my mom a very expensive coat.  It was what she needed and what she wanted.  Before wrapping the gift, Big Daddy G placed a small bell into the box.  It drove my mother crazy!  She picked up that package and gently shook it at least 50 times before Christmas trying to figure out what it was.   It was hilarious and provided the rest of the family with much entertainment.  Not to be outdone, the following year my uncle and I decided that grandma needed a lesson, too. I had gotten Lincoln logs for Christmas a previous year.  The Lincoln log container was a round cardboard cylinder with a metal screw top.  So we took this container, filled it with broken glass, wrapped it,  put a tag on it saying it was from Santa for Grandma, marked it ‘extremely fragile’, and put it under the tree.  We knew the ‘extremely fragile’ marking was not going to stop Grandma from shaking that present, and we were right!  Both of us perpetrators were in the room when she picked it up and shook it for the first time!  The sound of the broken glass and the corresponding look on her face was priceless!  It was funny as hell and my uncle and I had to leave the house.  We were both suffering from a very strong fit of laughter to the point of producing tears in our eyes.

Our family was small.  We all got together, aunts. uncles, cousins, grandparents on Christmas eve for food, eggnog and other liquid libations.  Christmas day was for each individual family.  Even though our family and our town enjoyed the ‘Santa’ tradition of Christmas, it was never forgotten that the purpose of the holiday was the name of, and the birth of Christ.

I miss those days.  My small town is no longer small.  We don’t have the flocked trees with bubbler lights and fragile ornaments anymore.  Two dollars doesn’t get you into four movies.  The older relatives are gone.  My, how things have changed.

But there is one thing that I can do that immediately puts a smile on my face and reminds me of  the Christmases of my youth……………

“MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!”   “MAY GOD BLESS YOU, YOUR FAMILY, AND AMERICA!”

Grandpa T

 

 

baby-boomer-parenting

How the Heck Did We Get Here: Blame it on the Baby Boomers??

I am sitting in my office scratching my head about the upcoming election.  How did we get to this place where neither candidate is trusted or believed, and a large number of citizens are considering a third party candidate just to avoid voting for the two primary party candidates.  Our country has become a country of entitlements, political correctness, and media manipulation.  I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I think my generation contributed to this mess.

I am a baby boomer.  Most of the time, I am proud of being a ‘seasoned senior citizen.’  We baby boomers were born between the years of 1946 and 1964.  That would make the oldest of us 70 years old, and the youngest would be 52 years old.  In some respects, the younger generations would consider us ‘overly seasoned’ or perhaps, ‘fossilized.’

Our generation was the first that had a name.  We were those people born immediately after WWII. Take a bunch of war veterans and mix them with a bunch of women that haven’t had a real date in years, and BOOM, the world experienced an explosion of births.  Our parents were a tough bunch. They all lived through the Great Depression.  Then, as teenagers and 20 somethings, they fought and won WWII.   Tom Brokaw later referred to them as the ‘Greatest Generation.’  They knew of, and sometimes experienced the atrocities of WWII.  Immediately after WWII, we were back in Asia fighting a war in Korea.  It became apparent that not all countries wanted world-wide peace.  At the same time, numerous countries were conducting nuclear bomb tests.  That warm relationship between the US and Russia during WWII was not all that warm.  The possibility of a nuclear war hung over us for most of our childhood years.

This made our parents a rather tough bunch.  We were taught the difference between winning and losing.  We did not receive any ‘participation’ trophies.  We were instructed in ‘bomb drills,’ in the event of a nuclear attack.  Our teachers were always right and were always respected.  Any deviation from good behavior resulted in punishment.  In my case, I got spankings by my mom and five ‘beltings’ by big Daddy G.  I deserved every one of them.  This was not considered child abuse, it was considered parenting.  There was no pretense that our parents were going to be your ‘best friends.’  They were going to be disciplinarians, and they filled that role marvelously.  (My dad was not my friend until I was in my 30s.)  We were taught to be independent and to work hard.  Being blue collar was not a stigma.  It was instilled in us that if we wanted something bad enough, we could obtain it through hard work and diligence.  Anything was possible!

Every school day was started with the Pledge of Allegiance.  We sang our national anthem with fervor. Then, as we got older, we were called upon to represent our country in another war….the Viet Nam conflict.  Many volunteered or were drafted and performed their duty to fight in a war without a genuine purpose.  To this day, the best explanation for fighting this war was the ‘domino theory.’  That theory was the belief that if one country fell to Communism, then others will fall to Communism.  But Lyndon Johnson took this to the extreme by committing over 500K troops to Viet Nam.  He made Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) the 23rd largest American populated city in the world.  Over 57,000 Americans were killed in this war, with hundreds of thousands more suffering psychologically from what they had experienced and from the way they were treated once they returned home.  Americans believing they had served their country were now being spit upon and called ‘baby killers.’  Many lives were lost, and many more minds were destroyed because of this war.

So there you have it.  A very brief description of what formed and what affected the lives of the baby boomer generation.  What was my purpose for relating this information?  Well, because of the way we were reared, we, as a generation, decided not to be as strict and structured as our parents on our children and our grandchildren.  We became adherents of the ‘live and let live’ theory.  We became more concerned about ourselves and our families to the point of missing the gradual changes to our society.  And now, as I look back at the way our country has evolved since my childhood, I want to publicly apologize to Generation X, Generation Y (Millennials), and Generation Z as to how the Baby Boomers have failed you.

We Boomers need to apologize for the level of entertainment on our televisions and our movies. In our youth, all movies and TV programs were appropriate for all ages.  We did not need a rating system designating P, PG, R or anything else.  I am not a wilting flower, but it is difficult for me to believe the amount of profanity, sexual innuendo, sex, violence and gore that has permeated our entertainment.  Parents of today need to realize that your children are seeing this garbage and they are being affected by it.  How could they not see it?  It is on at prime time on numerous channels. Instead of having three good TV channels like when I was young, we now have hundreds of bad channels.  Look at how few good comedies we have today.  We had many while growing up.  Reality shows and cop shows seem to be the general format of TV today.   Garbage entertainment really began in the late 60s and early 70s.  TV was still somewhat regulated, but the movie industry had taken a definite turn for the worse.

Our Boomer generation invented the computer.  This led to the popularity of PC’s and laptops in every home. Technology is marvelous for all it can do.  But as one pundant has surmised, home computers have become a ‘pipeline for pornography.’  Do you think people are being affected by that?  Coupled up with violent video games, do you think our children are being affected by it?  I am not quite sure how we could have stopped this garbage, but I will apologize anyway.

I apologize that we appointed a Supreme Court that overturned term limits on federally elected officials.  Yes.  Legislation was actually passed during the Clinton administration limiting term limits, only to be overturned by the only organization without them…the Supreme Court.   Now we have career politicians and all the graft, corruption and personal enrichment that are a result of it. Decisions are being made every day by our elected officials for personal gain without regard for what is best for the country.

Our newspapers, magazines and TV news at least attempted to appear impartial during elections held in the past.  This year?  The gloves have come off with such notable organizations like the New York Times and the Washington Post not even attempting to hide their support of Hillary Clinton.  In previous elections, news organizations would show their support for a particular candidate in an editorial.  Not now.  They show their support by smearing their candidate’s opponent.  The latest is the release by the New York Times of Donald Trump’s 1995 tax returns which show a loss of over $900 million being carried into following years to reduce any future tax burden.  The crime here is not Trump’s taxes and carry-over as that is perfectly legal and by IRS statute allowed.  The real crime is the publishing of his taxes by the New York Times.  They claim that they received them in the mail. Yeah. Right.  Any CPA doing such a thing would lose their license to operate.  I believe the IRS themselves did it.  This is the same group that targeted conservative groups prior to the 2010 mid term election.  In particular, the Tea Party movement.  Who would investigate this matter?  Well, the FBI.  That same group that let Hillary off the hook for emails even though the FBI director’s brother provides legal services to the Clinton Foundation.  Sound fishy?

Isn’t it a shame that most of our printed media has reduced itself to the level of the National Enquirer?  In some instances, the National Enquirer is more believable.

Do you trust the government?  During the 60s, when the unemployment rate was reported, it actually meant the number of people who were without jobs that wanted them.  Today’s unemployment rate has been reported at less than 5%.  I assure you, this is for purely political purposes in an attempt to show how wonderful our economy is faring before this election.   In fact, the real unemployment rate is just under 10%.  Why?  Because so many people have quit attempting to find work.  But wait….there’s more.  Do you know how many households in America do not have anyone working?  Over 22%!  Yes.  Over 22% of the households do not have a breadwinner.  How are they surviving?  Working for cash?  Welfare?  How wonderful does our economic picture appear now?

Do you like our current policy of allowing anyone to use any bathroom depending on what sex they feel like on that particular day?

So, as I look back on my life, the goal I have always had is that I leave the world a better place than when I entered it.  My generation of Boomers has failed.  We have made mistakes.  We allowed the country to become so liberal, so politically correct, so dependent on the government and so militarily weak that it is not the same country of our youth.  We have taken free speech to such an extreme that we now have public disrespect for our flag and our national anthem being considered heroic. Yet, only 1% of our citizenry has served in the military to protect our country and our freedoms.  We now have groups of people attacking and killing our police because they think they are ‘entitled’ to do so. We have had deadly Islamic terrorist attacks on our people.  We allow people of unknown origin to enter this country every day without having any idea of their true purpose in coming here.  Many times, it is not to assimilate like previous immigrants.

I want to make a plea.  I know many people who are not enamored by either candidate.  For their personal beliefs, they are going to vote for a third party candidate.  That has been tried before with disastrous results.  Rather than giving George H.W. Bush a second term, Ross Perot siphoned off  enough conservative votes to give Bill Clinton the presidency without having received a plurality.  Do you want to vote for the Libertarian candidate who did not know what an ‘Aleppo’ is, or could not name his favorite foreign leader?  If you like the policies instituted by the present administration, by all means you should vote for Hillary Clinton.  If you truly believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction, then do not waste your vote on a third party candidate, hold your nose and vote for Donald Trump.

I am considerably older than those members of Gen X, Y, and Z and here I am apologizing for the direction our country has taken in the last 60 years.  My fervent hope is that in 30 or 40 years, you will not be writing a blog apologizing for the bad decisions your generation has made and suffering from the consequences of bad decisions.