Our Nation in A Free Fall

It is hard to watch the news and not feel afraid these days.  Division.  Political unrest.  COVID 19.  Anger run amok.  The inability to get along.  Civility lost. 

Our United States of America.

We should be ashamed of ourselves.  In the wake of the 2021 holidays, it is challenging to look back and feel good about the past two years. This is not the America in which boomers were raised. 

We’ve long been a nation of people who haven’t always agreed—which is what has made America thrive and grow.  The freedom to disagree and be okay is what we’ve always been about.  Agreeing to disagree with civility. However, we are so divided we’ve tossed anything resembling grace aside.  We’ve lost our ability to be respectful with one another. Seems we’re hell bent to be right—and at all costs.

I think of Washington, D.C. when I make these observations.  Our nation’s leaders have tossed civility aside for sensationalism—appalling comments that get them plenty of media attention.  These elected officials make unspeakable statements just to keep themselves in the spot light.  However, this sends a bad message to the nation and to the world.   

The world is shaking its head.

Think of the example government (grown adults who should know better) is setting for young people.  Young people hear these comments from Capitol Hill and perceive it is okay to be uncivil.  And we have the audacity to complain about young people?  They’ve learned this behavior from unhinged politicians with microphones.          

With all the attention being paid to foreign terror threats, we’re only now beginning to focus real attention something worse—domestic terrorism. It even exists within our military, which is enlisted to protect our nation—not do it harm.

Words that incite can do all kinds of damage.  

The decline of democracy is becoming a more serious matter for free Americans.  Democracy is in great danger and there’s doesn’t seem to be much interest in saving it.  People go about their daily lives giving it little thought. 

Apathy is a dangerous thing.

When I consider the millions of lives laid down in the defense of freedom and democracy in 240 years, it is troubling to me just how careless we’ve become with such a precious commodity.  Freedom has never been free.  People have died defending it so others to follow could breathe free for generations.   

The events of January 6th were shocking—just not shocking enough to enough of us.  Not enough was done to defend and protect our highest level of government.  The last time the United States Capitol was attacked was the War of 1812 when it was bombed by the British.  We sent the Brit’s a powerful message of defiance. 

Where is that message to those who would overthrow us today?

Like many of you, I am very concerned over what’s happening in this country.  Doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you are on.  I’ve never seen a greater divide between the two parties.  I recall a different day when our nation came first.  President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill had their differences as did Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton.  They rarely agreed.  However, they understood “compromise” and worked together to put the nation and its people ahead of all else. 

They got it done.

Badly divided, we are getting nowhere.  The two parties continue to impede each other just to be right and to satisfy their personal agendas—not to make our nation a better place.  Washington has been stuck in neutral for decades because it has become party and self first and to hell with the nation.

The message to Americans is – “Let them eat cake…” 

When are we going to become united and work together to defend democracy?

A Day At The Airport

Do you remember a time when we were driving our folks crazy and the solution was to take us to the airport?  Going to the airport was a favorite pastime in the middle of the 20th century.  Going to the airport experienced the same popularity as going to Disneyland or Six Flags, especially if you lived far away from these attractions.  At the time, flying was something of a new phenomenon though the Wright Brothers had taken that maiden aeronautical voyage 50 years earlier. 

As a nation, we were on our way to the Moon. 

Most airports had public observation decks where you could get close to the planes, see people’s faces in the windows, hear an aircraft start up, and get a whiff of hot exhaust fumes to excite the senses.  You were at one with aviation without leaving the ground.  Anytime we went to the airport was exciting to me even if it was to pick up my dad from an overseas trip.  

My aunt took the three of us, my mom, and our cousins out to Baltimore’s Friendship International Airport (Now Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport or “BWI”) to spend a day on the observation deck watching planes and living the thrill of aviation. Baltimore’s observation deck was smack in the middle of the main terminal above C Pier (now C concourse).

Today – it is long gone.

Friendship International Airport’s C-Pier Observation Deck early in the 1960s.

Prior to the Jet Age at Friendship Airport, there were classic pistonliners—Douglas DC-4s, DC-6s, the more advanced DC-7, the Lockheed Constellation and Super Connie, Convairs and Martins, and the Boeing Stratocruiser.  There were also the older tail dragger DC-3s and Boeing 247s for the shorter runs.  When it was time to fly, those big radial piston engines would fire and sputter with a whole lot of drama, then, begin to act like they could actually get a plane off the ground. 

When jets arrived at the cusp of the 1960s, it was a whole new dimension in flying.  They made a tremendous amount of noise and delivered thick clouds of black smoke. They could be heard for miles around.  While jets became a huge environmental issue not to mention unacceptable noise for airport neighbors, I loved the excitement of jets.  Ironically, I never flew on those classic radial pistonliners.  My first plane ride was on a United Air Lines Boeing 720 to the old Kansas City Municipal Airport to see relatives on the way to Hawaii in 1961. 

There was such an aura of excitement about flying in those days.  The roar of raw low bypass turbofan engines instead of the howling low-octane hairdryers we have today.  Jet travel back in the day was aviation on the edge.  Boeing 707s, Douglas DC-8s, and the Convair 880/990 jets just didn’t have enough power.  There was just not quite enough thrust to get all that china and silverware “pie-in-the-sky” stuff off the ground.  That made a takeoff with maximum fuel load from Baltimore to San Francisco a white-knuckle experience. Well into the takeoff roll, we began to wonder if the darned thing would fly.

Those early jet age Boeing 707 “water wagons” left a trail of black soot in the air long after they were gone.  They were nicknamed “water wagons” due to their water/ethanol injected Pratt & Whitney turbojets, which needed help making thrust.  Water to cool the intake charge.  Ethanol to aid combustion.  If you were in the back of a 707 in those days, the exhaust roar was deafening.  It was unsettling to a first-time flyer.  My mother saw glowing hot embers coming from the jet exhausts and poked my father in the ribs—“What’s wrong with the engines?” She just didn’t understand and hung on tight.    

Where I grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. we had three airports—Friendship at Baltimore, Washington National on the Potomac (I am an old school born and raised Washingtonian, I refuse to call it “Reagan” National) and the new Dulles International Airport out in rural Virginia.  National and Friendship had the best observation decks and viewing locations, which brought planes up close and personal.  It was an exciting time to be alive. 

Washington National Airport’s vast panoramic observation deck put you nose-to-nose with Eastern’s classic Electras, DC-9s and 727s.  They’d push and you’d hear the air starters go to work spinning Pratt & Whitney’s vintage JT8D turbofan engines.  They’d whirl on the starter—ignition on, then fuel, followed by the concussive light-up of a vintage fan jet. For a guy like me, it was thrilling. 

It was a huge rush to hear them and they made an incredible amount of noise.  To me, it was a symphony—so moving.  A friend of mine said it was like hearing a baby cry when they’d spool those old Pratts off idle power to get the plane moving.  The raw sound of jet power. Two miles away down the runway at National, you could hear those Pratts clear their throats and begin their roll down the 6,800 foot runway. At times on a hot day with a full load, 727s and DC-9s struggled to get off the ground and passed right over you if you were sitting in the parking lot on Gravelly Point.  

Futuristic Dulles Airport, designed by Architect Eero Saarinen, was state of the art at the time where you had the main terminal—in fact the only terminal—where mobile lounges gathered passengers and hauled them out to the aircraft parked a half mile from the terminal.  Mobile lounges were great idea in theory, and terrible from a standpoint of logistics and maintenance.  In time, planners would find it was easier to add concourses to Dulles and ditch the mobile lounges.

Airports today have lost that romantic demeanor they had 60 years ago.  As high jackings increased in the late 1960s, security was stepped up to screen passengers and well wishers.  In time, observation decks were considered a security risk and a nuance to airport management and the FAA.  Baltimore’s fabulous observation deck was closed in late 1976 when “The New BWI” was announced.  In due course, Washington National and Dulles followed suit.  The best you could hope for was a road or a dirt lot near the airport.  The events of September 11, 2001 made it even tougher to watch planes. You can’t get near an airport without being asked to move on by airport security.

I’ve got to hand it to the British. They’ve never let the threat of terrorism foil their passion for airport viewing. They amass in great numbers at airports all over Britain and watch planes with the same passion they watch trains. Because the Brits have the best intelligence in the world along with security cameras all over the place to watch the action, citizens have the freedom to keep a great pastime going. The same cannot be said here in the United States. We are willing to sacrifice freedom for the illusion of security, which cannot be guaranteed in any society.

I long for the good old days of observation decks, noise, and smoke when the Jet Age was unfolding and the future was ours to have and to hold.  Cool classic videos on YouTube just can’t capture the thrill of airport ramps in the 1960s and 1970s.    

The Captain…Our Mentor and Grandfather

Imagine a children’s program that capitalized on the relationship children shared with their grandparents—and its host and advocate for children—Bob Keeshan.  He instinctively understood the needs of children and launched a children’s morning program on CBS in 1955 dedicated to making children feel safe, entertained, and understood. 

Keeshan was a born mentor and an intuitive grandfather figure.  His programs were solely committed to entertaining kids and finding the humor in everyday experiences from a child’s point of view.  They were also planned and orchestrated around teaching good solid moral values—something so lost in society today. 

Captain Kangaroo was Bob Keeshan and Bob Keeshan was Captain Kangaroo – who played himself for three decades.

I parallel “The Captain” with my own childhood history.  Like most of you, I grew up with Captain Kangaroo every weekday morning before school while consuming a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes – “The Best To You Each Morning.”  Mornings were also spent with my grandfather, who made us feel safe and loved. 

Few things exceed the love I shared with my grandparents more than a half-century ago—particularly my grandfather, Lt. Paul W. Proctor, who enjoyed a career with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and White House Police for three decades.  He served under several presidents dating back to the 1920s, retiring under Harry S. Truman in 1947 after suffering a heart attack.  He retired to Arlington, Virginia across from Fort Myer where he’d lived out his life with my grandmother until he passed peacefully in 1966.    

My grandfather had a kind, gentle demeanor much like The Captain.  He calmly explained things to my sisters and me in ways we could understand.  He was extraordinarily patient with us even when we were acting up.  He was also no-nonsense.  He never once spanked us.  However, when he glared across a room at you and instructed you how to behave, you did exactly what you were told. He was firm…but long on love. What’s more, the values he taught us live on today in each of us. We’ve never forgotten what our mentor instilled in us.

Keeshan was no nonsense too, especially in his advocacy for children.  Later in life, he voiced great concern over the violence in children’s video games.  Of course, not enough people were listening as witness some of the violent video games I’ve seen lately.  Keeshan once said “Violence is part of life, and there is no getting away from it,” adding, “But there is also gentleness in life, and this is what we have tried to stress on our shows.”  Captain Kangaroo’s Treasure House was a place where children could come and feel safe even if they were living in unspeakable conditions.

We need more Bob Keeshans in our world today—those who look out for kids who set a proper example.  We’ve evolved from being a kind and respectful society to a disgusting appalling social climate where it has become fashionable to be trashy, rude, and insulting.  I ask what’s to be gained by being rude and insulting? 

Time for a long look at ourselves.

Captain Kangaroo taught us common decency despite raining ping pong balls, Bunny Rabbit antics, and the practical on-screen practical jokes that made of us laugh a half century ago.  It was all meant in good fun.  The ability to laugh at one’s self.

Though it is impossible to believe today, Keeshan was just 28 when he launched Captain Kangaroo.  It was those big deep pockets like a Kangaroo pouch that inspired the name Captain Kangaroo.  As time passed, Keeshan’s advancing age made it easier to play the part.  He was such a convincing character that people, especially children, believed he really was Captain Kangaroo living in the Treasure House.

In his biography, “Good Morning Captain,” he said his youngest daughter, Maeve, visited the set and sat in the Captain’s lap. When “The Captain” returned to the set void of his on-screen costume, Maeve said, “Daddy – Daddy, you just missed Captain Kangaroo!” 

That’s how good he was at portraying his role.

This holiday season and a dream I recently awakened from recently inspired me to recognize Bob Keeshan in Boomer Journey.  The valuable things he taught us so long ago need to find renewed purpose for children on the morning screen.  I firmly believe children haven’t changed much since 1955.  What they’re being taught has. 

I think as time went on dwindling advertising dollars overcame The Captain’s purpose on CBS, which whittled this show down to 30 minutes, then – canceled it in 1984.  CBS had lost morning market share to the other networks and needed a quick fix.  Baby Boomers had come of age and Captain Kangaroo lost its core audience. 

Yet, children needed a continuing mentor like Bob Keeshan. 

Captain Kangaroo aired on CBS for 29 years spanning 1955-84.  It swiftly became an institution for children and adults alike and for three decades.  When CBS canceled The Captain in 1984, PBS quickly picked it up and ran it until 1994.  As long as I live, I will never forget the Captain Kangaroo theme known as “Puffin Billy” written in 1934 by written by Edward G. White and recorded by the Melodi Light Orchestra.  It had a soft gentle lighthearted feel that still rings in our heads 60 years later. So do the memories of our own Bob Keeshan—Captain Kangaroo—who will forever live on in our hearts.

Good Morning, Captain… 

I Still Believe in Santa Claus

Whenever I step outside, get a whiff of woodsmoke, and feel the crisp frosty air, I warmly remember Christmas growing up in the 1960s.  I miss the aroma of a big fat Scottish Pine Christmas tree and the rush of coming down the stairs to a living room with all sorts of goodies—the rush of Christmas Morning.

Baby Boomers remember the magic of a mid-century Christmas.   

I never gave up the dream—the fantasy of Santa Claus.  I still believe…  “Miracle On 34th Street” is a good example of why we must never stop believing in Santa Claus.  Santa Claus is fantasy and folklore.  He doesn’t physically exist.  However, he continues to exist in our hearts and in our minds.  The Department of Defense still believes.  Even NORAD deep in Cheyenne Mountain tracks Santa’s journey across the globe while also watching over our hemisphere for the bad guys. 

Christmas euphoria began to wane when adults started telling us there was no Santa Claus.  “Now, Honey, you do know there’s not really a Santa Claus…” my mother told me around age 9.  I was naïve.  I believed in Santa Claus.  Her words were unsettling, especially months after telling me Santa came through the apartment door. 

I loved the fantasy of Santa Claus—out there in the night under the stars braving the elements making sure we all got our presents— “And to all…a good night!!!” with a smile.

Who else does that but Santa Claus?

It is the goodness in the Santa Claus fantasy why we should continue to embrace and believe. It’s important for each of us to follow as a matter of practice.  Santa Claus is about giving without expecting anything in return.  That just isn’t human now is it?  All that hard work around the world without so much as a thank you. Each and every year, he just keeps coming. 

WTH? 

Santa Claus understands the true spirit of giving and has for centuries.  It is about paying it forward and feeling good about one’s self.  What about that?  I’ve never felt completely right receiving but have always enjoyed giving.  Makes the heart feel good to hand someone a gift or do something nice for someone that makes their life better.  The joy in their eyes.  A simple thank you or a hug—acknowledgement—for the good you’ve done for someone else.

In order to prove this out, do something nice for someone without them knowing it came from you.  That’s the real beauty of paying it forward.  Paying it forward is simple gestures of kindness without anyone really knowing where the kindness came from.  I was at breakfast with my sister years back when a homeless man came in and sat down across the aisle from us.  We decided to pay for the man’s breakfast—without him knowing where it came from.  That was true paying it forward.  It felt good to set him up with a warm meal to get him through the day.

We both recognized our blessings and concluded it was time to give back.  It was time to share our good fortune with another soul in need.

Christmas is surely about the birth of Jesus and the good that He did in his time here.  However, the spirit of giving should cross all religious faiths.  It is healthy to give and to share.  It does the soul a lot of good.  When you’re nestled in the warmth and peace of your home, acknowledge your good blessings and ask what you may do for others. And while you’re at it, thank God for all the goodness you have.  You will be astonished at how it comes back to you. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Everyone…  

Leisure World…What Happened?

For all the idiosyncrasies of boomer life, and it gets mighty complex, we’ve been a generation of work-a-holics.  Time off?  Forget it.  Too much to do at the office.  Most of us have spent our adult lives with our noses to the grindstone.  Like our parents, we’ve been a hard-working generation of worker bees. 

However, our parents knew when to quit at 5 p.m., come home, watch Walter Cronkite, and tune into Gunsmoke or Perry Mason.  They also understood the value of the weekends and vacations—the priorities of downtime and chores around the house. 

We never got that message let alone put it to practice.

Baby Boomers have been compulsive overachievers—mostly in the interest of amassing material goods along with our own self-worth.  We like to pound our chests and show the world what we’ve accomplished.  We’ve done that via McMansions, vacation homes, boats, and more vehicles than we even need. This has long been a measure of who we believe we are. Yet, how much quality time have we spent with our kids and grandkids?

Career has always been important to me.  I fell into journalism purely by dumb luck and chance.  Because I wanted to be aircraft mechanic with the airlines, I enlisted in the United States Air Force, Military Airlift Command (MAC) to both serve my country and get my FAA certification to work on commercial jetliners. 

When I got out of the USAF, the house was full—with plenty of airline mechanics in house and no room for anyone fresh out of the military. To add insult to injury, there was the PATCO strike when President Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers, which effectively grounded the airlines for a time in 1981.  I believed being an airline mechanic was my destiny.  I’d spent four years in the Air Force preparing for it and pursued it with great tenacity. 

The sound of crickets…  It was not meant to be.

I found while working for a regional airline and later a poultry processing company, bending wrenches on jets and heavy trucks wasn’t what I really wanted to do.  I didn’t like working in the heat and cold in all kinds of weather not to mention the challenges of staying awake on grave shift.  In my spare time, I started writing for automotive magazines because I loved cars. 

My future was about to change.  

I knew I loved automobiles and found I loved writing. It became an obsession.  One chilly January morning, I received a call from a Florida based car magazine I had been freelance writing for.  They wanted to offer me a job.  More shocking yet, they offered me the editor’s chair of their flagship magazine because I was Ford Motor Company historian and knew a lot about the subject. 

What the heck did I know about being an editor let alone writing for a living?  This newly founded publisher was the launch pad for a career spanning 40 years.  The job lasted two years when I was fired for perceiving I knew more than my bosses.  I had a lot to learn about publishing and getting along with people.  Unless your name is on the building, you’re not always going to get your way and must find a way to get along or find yourself on the curb.  Career pursuits took me across the continent to Los Angeles where I’ve been ever since.

If you’re like most boomers, change has long been an integral part of your career.  Mergers, poor fit, difficult bosses, impossible working conditions, undesirable transfers, demotions, and a host of other variables have altered our career directions more than once. 

We’ve been there.  We’ve survived. 

And now, it is time to hang up our spurs and get into a new groove called retirement.  Because I am very passionate about writing and photojournalism, I will probably never retire because I love what I do.  However, I’ve had to—for the good of my family and friends—slow down a bit and come out of my office to join humanity.  Like most of you, I’ve no idea how to slow down and smell the roses because this is something I’ve never done.  While I am parked on the sofa watching Andy Griffith or Dick Van Dyke, my mind is abuzz with things I should be doing.  I’ve no idea how to relax.  Call it conditioning…

Retirement communities were conceived and built for the leisure generations—our parents generation – and ours.  Only that didn’t happen.  Baby Boomers are working longer and aging in place due mostly to better healthcare and terrific medical advances.  As a result, we’re burning more midnight oil than our parents did.  Our parents also knew how to save.  We’ve never been a generation of savers, which has forced a lot of us to continue working. If you have to continue working, work at something you love doing.

COVID 19 has created an abundance of jobs employers are having a tough time filling. Young people have become choosy about what they will and won’t do for a living. This means opportunity for aging boomers. We’re reliable. We show up on time. We work hard. This means job security because employers know they can count on us.  

How to slow down and live more with all this time off?  I don’t have an answer for you.  However, we generally do what we want to do.  If you love what you’re doing for a living, never give it up.  Keep on keeping on and make no apologies.  Working and purpose mean survival whether you’re earning a living, doing volunteer work, or taking care of the grandbabies.  Main thing is to keep going.           

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King’s Immortal Words

It has been more than a half century since Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the hot summer sun before thousands of people. We still hold the dream…to judge people by the content of their character…not the color of their skin. In August of 1963, we had a long way to go.

We still have a long way to go.

We’ve given racism plenty of lip service in six decades.  However, we haven’t done enough collectively to make it a word no one needs to use anymore. What is with racism and why are we struggling? There’s so much in the news that indicates we still have a serious problem with racism. A unarmed black man was ambushed in Brunswick, Georgia by three white men because he was jogging through their neighborhood? Justice was served. Three men are in prison.

That won’t bring a young Ahmaud Arbery back to his loved ones.

We still aren’t practicing mutual respect in the human race. We continue to be unkind to one another. You see it in the media and on the street. Racism and Anti-Semitism, to name two troubling issues, went underground and for a long time.  They just weren’t discussed to any degree. However, both have boiled under the surface like a pan of hot water left on the stove. 

Dr. King’s death at the hands of a white assassin on a hotel balcony in 1968 stunned Americans, but it wasn’t enough to jolt us into real change. It has been through the valiant efforts of the tenacious few there has been any change in nearly 60 years.

I think of Rosa Parks, a lone patriot who exhibited the courage to fight for equality by sitting in the “Whites Only” section of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. That one step – an act of non-violent protest and defiance – took monumental guts. Or the gentlemen who sat at a “Whites Only” section of a drug store soda bar in protest took unending courage. He put his own life at risk to drive home a point.

The Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 staged by the late Congressman John Lewis and Dr. King was a turning point toward the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and later the Voting Rights Act of 1965 It was a bloody journey and a turning point for blacks in America. So many hurdles have been overcome since against discrimination, yet it continues to manifest itself across America regardless of the sacrifices made by courageous souls then and now.

There are those in power who wish to reduce or eliminate voting rights for those who struggle getting to poling places. They want to abolish the Voting Rights Act one state at a time and they’re rather bold about it. A number of states are taking it upon themselves to do away with voting rights for all and make it only for a few. This is not who we’re supposed to be, folks. Each and everyone of us in all our colors and beliefs should have access to voting, especially if we are disabled and cannot get to a polling place, and especially if you are poor and don’t have the means to get there.

Do you see the angle here?

Racism remains alive on Capitol Hill in Washington and in select states across the land. Equality remains elusive. We still aren’t there, especially when legislators effort to prevent the people from voting. You can take out mailboxes and make it more challenging to vote. However, you will not stop the masses from voting who are determined to be heard. People with the will are going to find a way to vote.

Freedom has never been free. People have always had to fight for their freedom – and knock down those who would take it away. Millions of lives have been sacrificed in the name of freedom and the elimination of oppression. We were founded on this principle in 1776. That concept remains true today. We have to continue to stand up and fight for Democracy and equality.

Karl Gregory at the Levitt sales office in Bowie, Maryland in 1963.

I grew up in the suburban Washington, D.C. community of Bowie, Maryland – which was a hot bed of protests by both whites and blacks in 1963 when a black man—Dr. Karl D. Gregory—tried to buy a new home from developer Levitt & Sons in the “Belair At Bowie” community. He was denied the opportunity.

He and so many others… 

Like Levittown, Pennsylvania, which was a predominately white community with its share of racial tensions, Belair At Bowie was also a “Whites Only” suburban Washington housing development by Levitt & Sons.  Company President Bill Levitt perceived selling to blacks would hurt home resale values and drag the planned community down. He was concerned whites wouldn’t buy in a community where blacks could also buy. His copout to the protests was other developers were doing it too and that was just the way business was done.

How many home sales did Levitt lose choosing to go with the flow?

Protests at the Belair At Bowie sales exhibit in 1963.

It wasn’t until 1967 with the Fair Housing Act that Levitt & Sons, which had been sold to ITT, welcomed blacks to buy new homes in Bowie. Bill Levitt died in 1994 at the age of 86 after the deal he cut with ITT years earlier ultimately rendered him broke.

For some…it was justice.

When we take a snapshot of Bowie, Maryland today, Levitt’s perception of blacks and resale values was a bit askew.  The sky didn’t fall and Belair At Bowie didn’t evolve into a slum.  Instead, it has thrived, with home resale values the highest they’ve ever been. The average Bowie home sells for $500,000+ today in a healthy housing market.  What’s more, they sell right away because people want to live there.  African Americans encompass 56-percent of Bowie’s population today and the community has never been more diverse.

There is peace in the Belair At Bowie community today.

We must shed our dated logic about skin color and religious beliefs to become a true melting pot where we can comfortably blend and become a unified United States of America. We will all be better off.    

The Boomer’s Love Of Classic Cars

Boomers were born to love cars.  We are the post-war generation that grew up in suburbia with the modern automobile.  We love the nostalgic rides designed and produced in the middle of the 20th Century.  Do you remember when showroom windows were papered and we waited in great anticipation of the new models?  We couldn’t wait to crack open mainstream car magazines to see the new models. 

The paper came down and shiny new rides were positioned strategically across the showroom floor under banners and lights. Buyers flocked in by the thousands. Car haulers and dealer back lots were always good for a sneak peek at what was hot off the assembly line.  We’d walk the back lots and take in the rush of Gotta Have It Red.

I remember Ford’s sporty Mustang introduction the evening of April 16, 1964 on all three television networks.  A herd of wild horses galloping across the screen with the spirit of the American West followed by those dreamy Walter Mitty commercials.  Buy a Mustang and rewrite your life—and it did!  Mustang was an affordable sporty car priced competitively with Falcon, Comet, Valiant, Barracuda, Chevy II, and Corvair. We got style for less money.

Mustang had the market advantage because it had virtually no competition until the Camaro and Firebird arrived in 1967 three years later.  Barracuda remained little more than a rebodied Valiant in several body styles.  AMC’s Javelin and two-seat AMX sports car were hot competitors for 1968. Despite the competition, Mustang continued to outsell everything in its class.     

There was nothing like Mustang in the marketplace in 1964 with the exception being Studebaker’s high end “Avanti” luxury sport coupe, which was priced way out of reach for most buyers. Few could afford one. Friday, April 17th, Ford dealers rolled out Mustang priced under $2,500. Buyer enthusiasm was unequaled.  There hadn’t been anything like it since the Model A and T. 

People snapped up Mustangs just to have one.  We bought them because we just had to be seen in one. We’d profile in front of downtown store windows just to see ourselves in the window glass driving one. Mustang was a huge rush of euphoria. Ford anticipated 100,000 Mustangs that first year.  It sold nearly 600,000! Demand for Mustangs was so extreme Ford had to tool up two more assembly plants in California and New Jersey to satisfy demand.

Ironically, Iacocca had a tough time selling the “Sporty Ford Car” concept to Henry Ford II, who wasn’t interested in marketing exercises that could potentially cripple the company financially.  Remember, at the time Ford was still recovering from the Edsel fiasco.  Ford ultimately agreed and gave Iacocca the go ahead. 

However—if it flopped, he’d be out the door.

Mustang is but one example of the love we have for automobiles.  The 1955-57 Chevys are iconic automotive love machines.  The same can be said for Camaro, Chevelle and Nova.  Over at Pontiac, GM’s outlaw performance division, there was the brute GTO and luxurious Gran Prix. Olds followed suit with the 4-4-2.  Even Buick, GM’s upscale luxury car division, brought us the high-end Riviera and mid-size GS sport models with powerful Nail Head V-8s. 

Chrysler delivered the most powerful muscle cars from Detroit—all but unbeatable in drag and stock car racing.  Automakers competed in all forms of racing to convey a message of performance.  What won on Sunday sold on Monday.

Cars have been an integral part of boomer lifestyle since we were coming of age in the late 1950s. We just can’t help it because this is who we are. We couldn’t wait to get our driver’s licenses and counted the days. We spawned the cruises and hung out at the drive ins on Friday and Saturday nights. A good many of us cruised the main drags in cities and towns from coast to coast. We ventured out onto Airport Road to see who had the fastest cars. Summer evenings were spent washing and polishing the cars we loved most.

If you’re truly fortunate, you still have your first car and continue to treasure it today. If you’re like the rest of us, you have memories of that first car, which is long gone and but a memory. And with any luck you will find another one just like it.

An Angry Nation’s Lonely Eyes

I was just watching an episode of “Leave It to Beaver” when it struck me how much we’ve changed in 60 years.  When people met one another in those days, it was “How do you do?” as if anyone really cared how you were doing but they asked anyway. If you were troubled and in tough times, people were happy to hear it though they’d never admit it. Misery has always loved company—then and now. 

Human nature hasn’t changed much in nearly 60 years.  However, human conditioning and how we respond to situations has.  We’re not as kind and thoughtful as we were when Wally and the Beav’ were growing up on television.  Punching out a flight crew member was unheard of.  Violent outbursts in supermarkets where people got hurt just didn’t happen.  Talking back to a police officer…are you kidding?  Ambushing the elderly on the sidewalk for their groceries got you disciplined—it was just bad karma and never tolerated.

So, what has happened that we’re so furious with one another?

America has always been compelled to dissect itself.  When there’s a troubling news story from anywhere across the land, we pick it to pieces.  We want to know what could have been done to prevent it.  And honestly, we like bad news—when it happens to others.  It makes us feel better about our own lives. 

Bad news also makes us angry.

I’ve never seen the political environment any more toxic than it is now.  Political confrontations turn into fist fights, shootings, riots, and other forms of incivility. Left versus Right.  White versus anyone who isn’t. Christians versus the Jewish faith or any religion that isn’t.  Vaxers versus Non-Vaxers.  Mask versus no mask.  Crazy conspiracy theorists versus normal logical thinkers. 

By nature, humans want things to be better.  We all want a better quality of life.  We want leadership genuinely interested in a better America.  Leadership that will unify the nation.  That’s not what we have now on either side of the aisle.  It doesn’t matter which way you lean politically, leadership in government gets a failing grade.  There’s no oversight where there needs to be oversight, and too much oversight where there doesn’t need to be any.    

Corruption in government has never been worse.  The intent is to divide and conquer strips us of our freedoms.  And television?  Purely more and more ways to get into your pocket and deliver less and less.  Commercial interruption has become the biggest insult.  The media doesn’t even demonstrate a tasteful way to segue into the endless stream of really awful commercials. 

If I wasn’t paying for television, I wouldn’t care.  However, I am paying for it—and it angers me.  I can walk away from the TV to a lengthy bathroom break or a snack.  Fifteen minutes later, there’s yet another pharmaceutical lifestyle commercial with happy people enjoying hot air balloons or playing cards. 

Television isn’t about you the viewer—it is about keeping stockholders and fat cat network executives happy and profitable.  They’re happy to give it to you—and without a kiss.  Think about this the next time you’re watching another stale commercial for Eliquis or Liberty Mutual.  Does anyone really understand Liberty’s message?  I don’t…  They’re all making billions—at our expense.  I know wise people who’ve sworn off television. They don’t even own one anymore.

America has become more and more oppressive over time and people are angrier.  The vaccine/mask debate is one large issue.  Those who invite protection and those who refuse.  A science issue—disease prevention—became political and long on conspiracy with abundant misinformation. Those who insist on the vaccine and masks are angry at those who refuse.  Those who see vaccines and masks as a threat to their freedom makes them angry.  It is a deep divide. 

Common sense versus none. 

Anger has become worse in post-2008.  People lost their homes and their careers with the crash in 2008.  Many are living on the street.  Life is generally more unsafe with mass shootings and domestic terror in a place where people used to feel safe. 

Anxiety – and anger – are high. 

Good paying jobs and careers have given way to service wage nothing jobs.  The quality of life in many communities has deteriorated due to uncontrolled immigration and bank-owned investment property.  People have become like caged rats.  They’ve become frustrated, mean, and angry.

Anger is high because things aren’t getting any better.  Failed leadership is why things aren’t getting any better.  We have elected “leaders” interested in but one thing—themselves. Oh sure, there are good solid people in government who care and who want it better for Americans.  And then – there are self-absorbed politicians who are only out only for themselves. 

They will never put America first.

As long as we have government that perceives it is accountable to no one, you will have out of control corruption and the masses will be angry.  People are uptight—fearful—of politicians they cannot trust.  The only power you have is to run for office yourself and change the world—and casting your vote. 

Let no one take away your right to vote.

Better leadership and a better quality of life with opportunity for everyone will cool the anger.  You can count on it.     

Shopping – A Lost Art

Do you remember the thrill of wandering the aisles and displays in department stores?  Even if you couldn’t afford it, it was exciting and fun to touch it and dream.  One of my most favorite places in the world as a kid was SEARS. 

You name it, SEARS had it.    

Of course, there was the classic SEARS Christmas Wish Book, which accounted for huge sales numbers come the holidays.  We’d explore the Wish Book hot off the press, smell the sweet aroma of fresh ink, then, take our imaginations to SEARS for a closer look at the real thing.  What a rush it was to touch something you saw in the catalog on display for the touching. 

Sometimes, the real thing was disappointing. 

Then, there were always moments when we were distracted by our parents who wanted us to try on shoes.  The darned things were always too tight.  The same could be said for clothing that was either too loose or too tight followed by, “Awe Honey, you will grow into them…” or “I think you will like this…” when you hated it with a passion.  No kid wants to try on clothes.

I believe I was an old soul trapped in a kid’s body.  Most kids looked at toys.  Me—I was always in the home improvement department looking at plumbing fixtures and kitchen cabinets—dreaming of home ownership as a grown up.  I loved anything to do with home improvement.  I got high off the smell of fresh cut lumber.  I also had a thing for lighting, electrical hardware, and Christmas lights.  The colors and types of bulbs were enchanting to me.  In those days, there were so many types.

Young people these days want to know how we even survived without video games and electronic media.  I’ve carefully explained to my teenage son in those days we had our imaginations.  We had no idea what a video game was because they didn’t exist.  I did enjoy electric toys.  You flipped a switch and they sprung to action with motion and flashing lights.  I loved those tin battery-operated airliners with lighted cockpits and navigation lights.  There were plastic propellers that whirled around.  They roared around the floor, stopped, loaded and unloaded, and went on their way. 

If you had a dog, motorized toys drove them crazy.

I’d walk into SEARS and head for the bicycles.  I was nine and I wanted one badly.  Christmas Morning 1965, there it was in gleaning red and chrome, leaning on a kickstand amid our living room.  I couldn’t wait to attach it to my backside for a spin around the block.  It had working lights and baskets.  I later added a generator lighting set with a headlight and red taillight for battery-free performance.

Online shopping is certainly convenient as witness the success of Amazon and other online retailers.  SEARS could have been Amazon given vision and the application of technology.  CEO Eddie Lampert didn’t see the point.  SEARS is all but dead.

However – the memories are not.

There’s no substitute for the touch and feel experience of brick-and-mortar shopping.  How many bad online purchases have you experienced because you couldn’t touch and shake it?  The shipping is too expensive to send it back, which leaves you stuck with it.  I say let’s get back to brick and mortar shopping when the stores are quiet and you can see and touch what you’re buying.

If you’re retired, avoid the crowds—take a weekday morning and go browse the stores just for the entertainment value and dream factor.  Chances are good you will find what you’re looking for and experience the thrill of touch—and spending.   

The Miracle of Space Travel

Do you remember how we marveled at space travel growing up?  In the early 1960s, we gathered around the TV to watch the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo launches in our quest for space supremacy over the Soviet Union (Russia).  In school, we watched together in auditoriums and in classrooms to behold these launches and take in mankind’s first real footsteps in space.  For young impressionable baby boomers, it was awe inspiring.  It was a big deal for us.    

On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy spoke before 35,000 Rice University students – which inspired us to get to the Moon before 1970. When he was assassinated November 22, 1963, it bolstered our determination to get to the Moon.

“We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon…We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

John F. Kennedy

Kennedy inspired a Nation.

Space travel, no matter how we choose to minimize its relevance today, remains a dangerous business and not for the faint of heart.  Only a few aeronautical professionals have been in outer space. Yet, if you ask the average American the names of these courageous few, not many even remember their names. This is how routine space travel has become – for those who’ve never been in outer space nor experienced the rigorous and exhaustive training it took to get there.

How many are up there now in the International Space Station? Human lives in space orbiting the Earth 24/7/365 making our world a better place – yet – who notices? They pass overhead largely unnoticed. Once we’d landed on the Moon, Americans lost interest in space.  The Apollo launches went unnoticed until Apollo 11 when it was time to land on and stand on the surface of the Moon.  The entire world chimed in to watch America’s greatest feat.

We’ve gotten careless with our greatness. Sloppy… Have we come so far that leaving the surface of Earth has become no big deal? I think of the Space Shuttle missions, and others, that built the International Space Station enabling us to do extensive research in a zero gravity environment in the life-threatening world of outer space. Missions in space have brought us technology we’ve come to take for granted. Every time you pick up your cell phone, sit down to a PC, or use your GPS, the space program contributed to these conveniences.

In the entire history of space travel, the United States has lost 20 astronauts, which is remarkable when you consider the very dangerous nature of space travel over more than 60 years of leaving the surly bonds of Earth. How many of you can identify these lost astronauts by name and mission?

I thought so…

I cannot name all of them either.

Shuttle Challenger disaster in January 1986 where seven were lost. Shuttle Columbia, the first in space, was lost years later in a reentry accident where another seven astronauts died.

I think of those lost in our space program who risked their lives for the advancement of mankind. The greatest risk was to space pioneers like John Glenn and Alan Shepard who took great risks into the unknowns of outer space. These men survived to see space again and again. Others, such as the Challenger Seven, weren’t so fortunate who never even made it into space when failed SRB seals ignited the shuttle’s main fuel tank at 60,000 feet. All were lost. Shuttle Columbia years later would fail upon reentry due to missing tiles, killing the seven souls on board.

Apollo 1 crew White, Grissom, and Chaffee.

Apollo 1 in 1967 with astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee never made it into space. During a systems test, there was a short circuit in a 100-percent oxygen environment that touched off an immediate flash fire killing the three.

My son, just 13, has no interest in watching a rocket launch. He’s never known a world where we had not yet been in space. He’s never experienced the thrill of a rocket launch into the mysteries and unknowns of space. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, watched with great fascination as we ventured into space for the first time. We were hyper focused on that journey to the Moon and couldn’t wait.

It is high time we get young people interested in space travel and make this a mandatory part of their education. They need to get excited about space as we head for Mars and back to the Moon. The journey must continue.