Recalling The Thrill of a New Car

If you’ve been around a while, you remember the thrill of a new car when you were a kid in the 1960s. The aroma of fresh vinyl and new carpet gassing off along with glistening chrome and new paint. I remember the aroma of paint burning off of hot exhaust manifolds. The new car experience a half-century ago was nothing like today where one model year blends into the next void of the fanfare and excitement we knew growing up. Each fall, new car dealers papered up their windows and the new model year rollout was a big secret.

If you loved automobiles, you went to the newsstand to check out the new models in MotorTrend and Car & Driver – then – headed to the dealers to see the new models on introduction day. It was a tradition and a big deal in these United States. The airwaves were alive with car commercials. TV shows highlighted the new models by making them characters in the show. Who can forget the Andy of Mayberry and all the new Fords – or “Bewitched” with Corvettes, Camaros, and Chevelles. Astronaut Major Tony Nelson in “I Dream of Jeannie” always had new Pontiacs. Who could even look at the GTOs with the distraction of Barbara Eden parading across the screen?

Every fall on “Dealer Row” in each community was a festive event with an abundance of exciting teasers to lure buyers into the showroom, “What will it take to put you in a new Ford today?” Lots of goodies for the kids – free stuff. The powerful influence of spouses who wanted to replace the family car with something a little more sporty or luxurious.

It is funny to remember how guarded our parents were with a new car. No food or drink. Get your feet off the seat backs. Stop playing with the switches and buttons. The endless battle over who got the window and who didn’t. And – that dreaded roadside spanking.

By the way – our car culture is as strong as it ever was. People like being seen in new cars and trucks. They like to get them home and dress them up with accessories. Placing your hands on the wheel of a new vehicle exudes a special kind of high – motoring away from a dealership. The euphoria of a new car and the anxiety of car payments. We ride those payments out for five years, just in time to start the payment cycle all over again.

The way dealers sell vehicles and the way we buy them is changing. Automakers are slowly abandoning their dealers and opting instead for you to buy direct. There’s also abandoning volume, building fewer vehicles, and making them more expensive. This is the new automotive economics as we crest the mid-2020s. Hard to know what’s next. I’ve noticed in recent years dealer stocks are loaded with well-appointed vehicles when I’d be happier with fewer options. To order a new vehicle is a very expensive proposition.

These days, people tend to lease new vehicles. Dealers call it “Smell new every two…” Less of a commitment that way. Don’t get too attached and watch your mileage.

Now me – I’ve always bought new cars for the long haul. I think the best automotive investment is the vehicle you buy new and drive 300,000 miles for 15-20 years. Clean fluids and lubrication along with regular preventative maintenance are the best investment you can make for longevity. It remains the best way to buy a new car.

Basking In What We Didn’t Have…

Y’Know – we didn’t have much growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. We didn’t have video games or big screen televisions. We didn’t have a lot of the luxury kids have today.

Yet – we were happy.

We played ball – both kickball and baseball. We had soccer too. We rode our bikes all over the place – sometimes miles away (especially if our parents didn’t know about it). We had the woods. We played in the dirt and carved out cities and streets. We had a ball living with only our imaginations, being anything we wanted to be.

As we grew up – we had bowling, billiards, teen activities on Friday nights, movies, drag racing at local racetracks, and…..oh the concerts and great music! We had the Washington Senators baseball and our beloved REDSKINS. If you grew up in the Mid-Atlantic, you will understand the passion, insanity, madness, and loyalty to these teams. If you leaned toward Baltimore – you had the O’s and the Colts (yes…The Colts). And – let’s not ever forget basketball – The Capitol Bullets. Political Correctness changed that – and The Redskins… (The Washington Commanders? Seriously?????).

This was the beauty of living between Washington and Baltimore. You had a choice of big town hometowns – either Washington or Baltimore – and sometimes both. Depending upon how well your home team was doing, you could always switch. Redskins fans will understand that.

As young boomers, we had our precious imaginations. We could mentally go anywhere and be anything. Just imagine….and remember… At 60+, we tend to want to act on our imaginations. On television – we had the greatest cartoons in history. We had “The Captain” – “The Best to You Each Morning” from actor and mentor Bob Keeshan who brought us into the Treasure House as Captain Kangaroo. We watched, listened, and learned before school. That is…before CBS decided to minimize The Captain’s influence and fill that time slot with the morning news.

In the evenings, we had great comedy and futuristic programming. There were the odd-duck sitcoms like “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Mister Ed,” “Bewitched,” and a host of others where one or two people knew the big secret. Because the future was ours to hold, there were the science fiction programs like “Lost In Space” and “Time Tunnel” to keep us imaginative and entertained. Thank goodness for great imaginations in Hollywood, which has never been short on imagination.

If you loved Westerns – there was plenty to see every night.

“The News” was….well…..THE NEWS… Respected commentators and reporters told us what happened – and without opinion and a panel of pundits. Thirty Minutes of network and give or take – an hour of local news. They reported what happened without opinion or editorializing. We had Louie Allen or Gordon Barnes with The Weather in Washington, D.C. We had Glenn Rinker and Jim Vance at WRC -TV (NBC). We had Gordon Peterson at WTOP (now WUSA). And if you wanted a good laugh along with News Weather & Sports – there was sportscaster Glenn Brenner at Channel 9. Always good for laughs and great entertainment along with the news.

I could go on…. We all remember growing up in America in the 1960s and 1970s. We couldn’t wait to bust out of our hometowns to see the world – aka George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” We sat around in our favorite cruising spots and bowling alleys – lamenting about how we could not wait to leave. And now….we are tearful with memories of “back home” where we get to relive the deep and distance past with nothing but our thoughts and that motion picture in our mind’s eye.

As the generation that changed everything about America and the world, we have our memories – and each other. Close your eyes, turn on the great music of the era, and take that mental vacation.

Were We “Gamers” a Half Century Ago?

Boomers are having a challenging time understanding “gamers” and their endless obsession with electronic video games. For example – it is time for the family meal table and you’re wondering where your child is. “Be there in a minute…” while they finish up a gaming tournament with their friends – yet the game never seems to end. Before they can come to the table, they wrapped up in a new game. In my day, we would have gone without dinner.

There was no “in a minute…”

It’s time to head off on a family vacation and there’s that half-hour wait while kids gather up video gaming equipment to load into the SUV to have at the camp site along with stacks of battery packs and headsets to keep them from losing their minds while on vacation. Can’t be without their video games and communication devices.

And forget conversation – which is always peppered with the word “Huh?” – if you even get that.

There is abundant concern these days over the obsession we collectively have with electronic devices – particularly video games and cell phones. You see it addressed all the time on talk shows and in the news. Studies have been conducted on what this is doing to society and our minds. For such a connected world – we are so disconnected. I see this in restaurants and public venues all the time. The couple texting one another or gaming while sitting across a table.

Are you kidding me?

This isn’t just about a child’s obsession with video games and cell phones, it is about a nation of cell phone “zombies” who are constantly walking into walls, light poles, and mall fountains while glaring at a phone trying to kill zombies. It can be considered a form of mental illness and emotional dependency.

We just can’t cope without our dope.

Wikipedia defines a “gamer” as “a proactive hobbyist who plays interactive games, especially video games, tabletop role-playing games, and skill-based card games, and who plays for usually long periods of time.” That would be my 14 year-old son. It goes on to say, “Some gamers are competitive, meaning they routinely compete in some games for money, prizes, awards or the mere pleasure of competition and overcoming obstacles.”

That would describe my preoccupied teen as well…

Wikipedia goes on to say, “Originally a hobby, gaming has evolved into a profession for some (those who create video games). In 2021, there were an estimated 3.24 billion gamers across the globe.” Forget it, the battle is lost. You’re never going to be able to pull your offspring away from gaming.

The word “gamer” isn’t new. This oft used word dates back to at least 1422, when the local laws of Walsall, England referred to a gamer as “any dice-player, carder, tennis player, or other unlawful gamer”, according to Wikipedia. More recently, this word has been used to describe those who participate in the playing of video games for sport and competition. This annoying trend (for those of us who don’t participate) began as electronic war games that have evolved into an endless array of challenging video games one can play with others or by themselves for hours on end.

If you paint the gaming obsession with a broad brush, is it really any different than the games we played as children? We played kickball and other games in the street for hours on end. We’d ride our bikes all over the neighborhood. Dinnertime would roll around and you’d hear parents yelling for their kids to come home. We had a neighbor with a dinner bell intended to round up the brood of eight children at mealtime. One gentleman down the street from us would crack a whistle with his front teeth across his tongue and lips you could hear a block away. My friends knew they’d better be front and center upon hearing the whistle or else. The former US Marine didn’t need a bell.

Our childhood obsessions with sports, bike riding, running and playing isn’t much different than what we are seeing in children today. The way they get together and entertain themselves has changed. And imagine if we would have had video games to entertain ourselves in the 1960s…. Would we be any different than kids today?

I think not…

The Aroma of Hot Coffee and a Cigarette

Boomers are likely the last generation to remember the aroma of a hot cup of coffee and a freshly lit cigarette. I live in California where smoking has been banned to an off-shore island or Las Vegas some four-hours away. The dated smell of a burning cigarette is so rare that it makes people say, “Who’s smoking?! Louise…do you smell that?”

This phenomenon comes from childhood memories of a frosty morning, freshly brewed Maxwell House coffee, a freshly lit cigarette, and the ol’ man sipping a cup of black coffee. To capture this authentic aroma, the cigarette must be just lit with a match (the sulfur in the match is important to this formula) and the coffee must be brewed in an old-fashioned percolator or on a hot stove. It must also be cold outside along with the ambiance of a freshly fired gas furnace.

The ultimate combination, of course, is the cigarette, coffee, and that first furnace firing of the winter where all the dust accumulated on the combustors over the summer begins to burn off and fill the house with the warm and cozy anticipation of the holidays around the corner.

Isn’t it remarkable what our sense of smell does to memories? Rubbing alcohol triggers memories of those polio boosters and the sting of a quick shot in the butt. The sweet aroma of clover and honeysuckle in spring. Stinky diesel fumes remind us of taking a city bus downtown. Unburned exhaust hydrocarbons from cold carbureted engines takes us back to those frosty mornings.

For me personally, I could do without ever picking up the scent of Wind Song perfume ever again along with my mother’s body chemistry. My mother wore Wind Song and it reminds me of being car sick and her holding the barf pan. Some memories are best forgotten.

How about the dense aroma of a library with hundreds of thousands of books and periodicals? And, who can forget the heavy smell of a bar, pool room, or bowling alley? Bowling alleys always possessed the smell of lane conditioner, cigarettes, and spilled beer. School buildings deliver a smell, even today, that reminds me of what a lousy student I was a half century ago.


Autumn, of course, is a personal favorite with the sweet aroma of woodsmoke and fireplaces burning all over the community. It was a smell that began to arrive around Halloween. As neighbors raked leaves and burned them, it only added to the magic of fall.

As I write this, I am reminded of the need to buy a fresh can of deodorant – I need a shower.

I’m Too Sexy For My…Compression Socks?!

This is the gorilla in the bedroom no one wants to talk about – especially men. It is time to address aging and why it doesn’t have to be so rough. The “sum gain…” day trader game of the 1980s has evolved into the “lucky if there’s no net loss…” of the new Millennium – which, by the way, isn’t so new anymore. Y2K is long over.

We are 23 years into the 21st century wondering what happened. I will tell you what happened – the passage of time… With time has come the natural aging process boomers like to deny is happening. Blame it on genetics. Pass it along to your kids and grandkids. We begin aging from the time we are born. It is said we peak somewhere in our twenties – then – the slow decline toward “old” begins unless you are taking really good care of yourself. We are big on talking about it – but not very effective at managing it.

The news isn’t all bad. With our advancing years comes a treasure trove of wisdom – that is if we’re wise enough to use it.

I see these commercials promoting “age defying” makeup and other anti-aging, memory improvement products and I break into laughter. I’ve been 30 and I’ve been 67 and 30 was better – kind of… At 67, I’m not what I was by any means. My joints hurt. Tendinitis generates its share of pain in regions where I’ve never had pain before. My “where are my glasses?” moments kicked into high gear at 65. I suffer from “profound” hearing loss from my years as an automotive writer and aircraft technician. Lots of noise in both professions.

I suspect because boomers craved those loud concerts in our youth as well as drag racing on Saturday nights, a whole lot of you suffer from hearing loss and the horrible ringing of tinnitus – especially when the room is dead quiet and you’re longing for any kind of noise.

Despite these woes, I seek to find the good in all of it. For one thing, at 60+ you’re no longer chasing the corporate ladder and feel confident of your own observations. You feel less inclined to ask others for their opinion. In fact, you stop giving a damn what others think and start relying on your own time-proven judgment. Be prepared to make stupid mistakes. You’ve been making them all of your life. I’d like to think I have learned from them and can impart this wisdom to those who are younger who may learn from my experiences.

Share this knowledge and feel good about it.

There is a wealth of good fortune to be had in old age. We just have to cultivate it. Your younger counterparts generally come to you for advice instead of their younger associates. They look to your wisdom instead of the inexperienced.

At 60+, we are less tolerant of trivial BS than we used to be – yet more accepting of things as they are. It is what it is…

In old age, I’ve come to understand the only person I can hope to change is myself instead of the frustration of trying to change others. I’ve cultivated empathy for others – which comes from experiences along the way and watching what happens to others. In our advancing years, it becomes easier to put your arm around someone who is troubled. It feels good to reach out and care for another. It is good for them and even more important for you. You’re inclined to be a better caregiver than you used to be because you understand what it’s like to be dependent on others.

Because we are the “Sexual Revolution” generation (we still believe we invented sex), we begin to wonder what happened to our sexual libido, which begins to fade as we grow older. Older couples in healthy relationships are learning sex doesn’t have to end at 60. I’ve known couples who’ve been sexually active well into their seventies. There’s the rare exception where couples are still going at it well into their eighties. And no matter how old you become; your mental libido can remain quite strong. Visit any bar, park bench, or country club and you will find men who still have “it” upstairs. The challenge is what isn’t happening downstairs.

Sexual libido varies significantly from one person to the next. Men and women alike both go through some form of menopause. Women experience the change of life to where intercourse becomes uncomfortable. Men lose the ability to maintain an erection. This varies from person to person depending on a preferences and circumstances. Libido is also affected by unending medical conditions, hormone levels, medications, your lifestyle, and relationship health. What happens outside the bedroom affects what happens in the bedroom.

Couples who have had a enduring healthy relationship to begin with have found good healthy sex doesn’t have to mean sexual intercourse. They find there’s excitement to be found in touch, kissing, oral sex, and “the tease…” Ambiance and atmosphere are everything in intimacy. The best intimacy comes from a nice evening out over dinner, flirting with one another over good food and drink, and the slow ride home. Slow down and take your time.

Make not hurry…it’s going to be good when you get there.

Older couples have come to find they like to quietly reflect and remember what it was like to be young – especially for those of you who’ve been together a lifetime. Mentally take your bride to the senior prom again. Remember what it was like to look at your handsome stud muffin in a tux. Reflect upon that first night in a hotel room or your parent’s guest room having a glorious time with your pants down and your bra off.

Loosen up, let your guard down, and worship one another. It is easy if you try – and forget about that stupid argument you had this morning.

The Family Vacations We Never Took

Boomers fondly (or not so fondly) remember family vacations. I wasn’t one of those kids. Summers passed in our household void of getaways and memories. I watched neighbors leave on summer vacations – wondering what it was like. There are a lot of you out there with the same story. Struggling single income households with little for anything else or parents who were just not motivated enough to even consider a family vacation.

Our suburban Washington, D.C. household was both – neither the cash nor the motivation to vacation.

My father was not a family man. He liked his time alone. His thing was watching the ball game and reading his James Michener novels while puffing on a cigarette and sipping on a cold can of Bud’. My mother used to refer to my father as a “man’s man…” To this day I am not sure what that meant aside from understanding he was never up for family life. That’s what I knew as a child.

I don’t begrudge my parents for not taking vacations. We simply could not afford them. I suspect we were like a lot of families – too cash tight to take a vacation while struggling to make the monthly bills. It was a second marriage for both parents coupled with a birth father who didn’t understand the importance of child support. Our stepfather did the best he could under very difficult circumstances. We also lacked the unity of a family who wanted to be together. We lived under the same roof but lived separate lives.

Does this sound like the life you may have had growing up?

You may be able to relate to this – or perhaps you can’t. You can choose your friends – however – you can’t choose your relatives. Never more has this been truer than in the complex relationships we have with our siblings and our parents. The emotional scars you receive in childhood can last a lifetime. Time and time again, we meet people who were brought up under similar circumstances.

This was why family vacations were so important when we were children – even if it was a short day trip to the beach or to the mountains. Family vacations were a way for families to bond and – more importantly – to remember the good times. This is undoubtedly the greatest gift you can hand your grandchildren today – especially if you never made these memories to begin with. It is never too late to make new memories in a different kind of family vacation you can take today.

Road Rage Both Then and Now…

Our nation’s highways and byways have become exceedingly more dangerous in recent times. Back in the day, the most you had to worry about was an extended middle finger or a bloody nose. These days, you’re fortunate to make it home alive.

We’ve become a nation of hot-tempered, trigger-happy souls who settle their differences with guns, knives, and motor vehicles used as weapons. Motorists are getting shot dead at the wheel with great regularity because they have somehow offended someone else with a screw loose. I’ve seen vehicles ram other vehicles or have clipped others because they were hell bent to be first. I’ve even been passed up by crazies…young bucks doing 130 in their buzzy imports on the shoulder in great exhibitions of speed. When is all this mechanized insanity going to get the attention of law enforcement? It is like law enforcement has given up and is looking the other way.

Where is law enforcement? The California Highway Patrol (CHP) used to be all over the freeways maintaining a presence to slow speeders down. People are so bold today that they will roar through a radar trap at 80 mph. With all the negative media attention, lawsuits against police departments and municipalities, tiresome paperwork, and great risk to their own lives, police officers are choosing to stay out it. Law enforcement agencies are having a rough time recruiting new police officers. The consequences for a traffic stop are too great.

I think it is time for self-reflection in all of us because we’ve become collectively dangerous. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a driver in recent years too. My anger level is high with these crazy circus stunt acts, mostly by young people who perceive life is one big video game and the agenda is to win at all costs. These acts make my blood boil, which makes me just as dangerous as they are.

So, what about that?

It has often been said your temper can cost you a fortune.

A friend of mine has been involved in a couple of road rage accidents that got him in serious trouble. Humbled by the second accident, he decided to look at his own behavior and how dangerous he had become at the wheel. My friend is a rarity because most of us like to blame others instead of accepting responsibility for our own foolishness. This is known as cognitive thinking, which means taking a closer look at how you reaction to situations.

With each of my own dangerous experiences at the wheel, I realized it doesn’t matter what the other driver does – it matters how I respond. In each of these situations, I responded with anger and rage. I was coming onto the freeway when a pickup truck tried to run me off the entrance ramp. I responded with fury and chased the guy. As he exited the freeway, I came down the exit ramp and went around him on his right. My mirror clipped his mirror without damage – but there was utter shock in what I had done.

More recently, some idiot made a lane change in front of me right across my front bumper. Enraged, I hit my high beams, which naturally enflamed the situation. He slowed down. I made a lane change across four lanes and roared past him on the right. Next thing I knew, he roared past me on the left and jumped in front of me, which was when it became scary. He wanted a piece of me – and worse yet – I was taking my wife to a surgical procedure.

What the hell was I thinking?

Not only did I scare her, but he also stayed quite close to us – side-by-side in a stare down – with no idea what was next. Imagine if he’d had a firearm or tried to ram us. That was again when I realized I was not only a dangerous driver – but also the ignition source for two instances of road rage that could have gotten us killed.

It is important to recognize our own weaknesses in all of this. A positive way to look at this is how we respond to others while at the wheel. We respond with rage because all most of us see is a vehicle. We don’t see the person inside. We would never respond with rage to their faces.

Back in the 1960s, the National Safety Council used to run campaigns and the words, “Watch Out For The Other Guy…” Never more has this been more important than it is today because we have greater distractions and a lot more people on the road. Before you react at the wheel – get calm and think about the consequences.

Remembering The Magic of Spring

There’s a reason for springtime much as there is a reason for three other seasons. Perhaps you live in a part of the country where it is virtually impossible to tell the difference from one season to another because you live where it is mild most of the time. Although Southern California has two seasons – cool and hot – the change of seasons is very apparent in the changes in foliage. We actually have autumn here – in December at the cusp of winter.

Forget seeing New England colors here.

If you live in Florida, there are two seasons – warm and muggy and hot and sticky with a chance of mosquitoes, gnats, and love bugs. When I lived in Central Florida in the 1980s, I was there long enough to wonder what winter felt like. You knew winter had arrived with the rich aroma of woodsmoke from fireplaces up north.

At its coolest, Florida feels like springtime.

A rare exception to warm and muggy in Florida was January 1986 when Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing the seven on board. It was a bitter cold Florida morning with temperatures around the 20-degree F mark. Unusually cold, prompting the day’s headlines. I was headed across Tampa Bay on the Howard Franklin Bridge to St. Petersburg when Shuttle Challenger exploded in my rearview mirror 120 miles away. It was then I realized just how cold it was in Florida. I think most will agree it was too cold to launch that morning, and with catastrophic results.

I am an East Coast boy lost in a place called California where I have been for 30 years. You become spoiled by the abundance of pleasant weather here where the sun shines most of the time. However, there isn’t a day when the sun doesn’t come blazing through the bedroom window when you long for a cloudy day with rainfall. And, when you live on the desert, the sun breaks the horizon early and sets late unless you live in the shadow of mountains.

Being Washington, D.C. born, I miss the magic of spring when trees and flowers begin to bud where the sweet smell of clover and honeysuckle permeate the air. The springtime Cherry Blossoms around the Potomac give our Nation’s Capitol an extraordinary ambiance unlike anywhere else in the world. When you’ve spent months inside in the warmth protected from the cold, those first refreshing days of spring are intoxicating. You feel alive again.

In my youth, my friends and I would load up our cars and head for Ocean City, Maryland in what are now classic cars – Chevelles, Mustangs, Roadrunners, GTOs, and a host of other mid-century marques. In those days, these classics were just old cars to us. We never even considered air-conditioned rides because that would rob you of horsepower. We headed across the Chesapeake Bay bridge and cruised Route 50 to Maryland’s Route 404 to Rehoboth and Ocean City. Spring had arrived and hormones were flowing. It was a wonderful time to be a teenager coming of age.

And this is what spring was all about in our youth. It was about coming alive amid second chances and a fresh start in a new year. Summer was right around the corner and we couldn’t wait.

Lost In A Childhood Daydream…

Ever find yourself lost in a childhood daydream – at 65? When we were kids, we’d daydream about the future. Today, we daydream about the past – our childhoods. Imagination is remarkable because it can take us anywhere we want to go.

I love daydreaming – closing my eyes and reflecting upon a cold winter night 55 years ago, gazing into the darkness through frosty glass dreaming of the future, wondering what was out there waiting for me. I’d stare at the streetlights and think of how lonely it must have been out there in the cold. Lights in neighbor’s windows, wondering what was going on in there. Was there peace and happiness or was there chaos and unrest?

Troubled homes…

I’d watch our neighbor’s power antenna start revolving on its motor drive and wonder what they were watching. In those days, we had four channels not including UHF – Channel U. The power of that antenna didn’t mean much because there was so little to watch – yet we enjoyed TV even more than we do today.

We didn’t have cable TV then.

Today, I think of that frosty glass and wonder what that same spot is like today. What would it be like to sit in that same bedroom on a cold winter night and take in how different the place is in the here and now. Back in the mid-1960s, I’d pop Herb Alpert onto my portable photograph and listen to the Tijuanna Brass, wondering what Los Angeles was like. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 29 years and have passed the old A&M Studios on Le Brea Boulevard dozens of times in three decades. It has often been challenging to make the connection between what I heard on those TJB albums and the old Charles Chaplin Studios at that same address.

Los Angeles is so very different than my native Maryland and Virginia. I sit at my desk wondering what the Mid-Atlantic is like today. It is surely quite different than it was 55 years ago.

Life is one big irony after another. We always long for where we are not. We are here and we want to be there. Wanderlust never really dies. It keeps mankind on the move. As I slip into my twilight years, I think less about wandering and more about staying close to home. It is the vulnerable nature of being older, and remembering what it was like to be young.

Everything New Is Old Again…

Do you remember the post-war building boom of the 1950s and 1960s with the sound of hammers, construction machinery, and the smell of fresh cut lumber? This was what we did as kids for entertainment aside from kickball, hide-and-go-seek, listening to records, and watching “Popeye & Friends” after school. We messed around on construction sites and found new and innovative ways to get into trouble.

The parents would round us up to go look at new model homes and wander construction sites. Looking at model homes was a great American pastime a half-century ago. It kept kids occupied and out of trouble – that is if you didn’t wander beyond ropes across the doorways or potty in a dry toilet.

Remember that? It got your hand smacked.

I grew up outside of Washington, D.C. in the Maryland suburbs in the 1960s. Housing developments and apartment complexes were popping up all over the place. In my hometown of Bowie, Maryland, there was developer William “Bill” Levitt and the Levitt & Sons organization that changed the rural landscape overnight.

Levitt bought up rural farmland all over the mid-Atlantic to develop self-contained all-encompassing planned communities where homeowners could go to housekeeping, raise kids, enjoy life, and feel safe. He provided swimming pools and tennis courts along with dedicated locations for places of worship and public schools. If retailers weren’t available locally, Levitt provided shopping facilities. Levitt even opened the Belair National Bank because area banks weren’t willing to locate “way out there in Bowie…” Bowie was a 30-minute drive from Washington! The masses (and businesses) followed and rural Bowie became suburban Washington.

Bill Levitt was more civic minded than most developers of the era. He respected the area’s history where he built communities and retained historical integrity. Levitt’s “Belair At Bowie” community was built on a 1700-acre estate known as “Belair” just south of Bowie proper. There was a 18th century mansion and horse stables to name two assets on the property. He allowed the City of Bowie to annex all that land, which helped the city’s tax base with more than 9,000 homes built in nine years. Levitt sold the Belair estate to the City of Bowie for one dollar in 1964, which became historical museum. What’s more, Bowie, Maryland was the fastest growing community in the United States in 1966.

An unpleasant sidebar to this history lesson was the policies of real estate developers at the time – including Levitt & Sons. Blacks were not permitted to buy homes in the Belair community in the 1960s. Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it wasn’t until 1968 when Levitt & Sons, then owned by ITT, dropped this policy. Today, Belair At Bowie remains a racially diverse community with robust real estate prices.

I remember the excitement of a new home – the aroma of oil-based paint and building materials gassing off. Not good for your health but we took a deep breath anyway. In due course, the smell of a new home wore off along with the magic.

Proof everything new becomes old again.

I remember the thrill of moving into a new Levitt home in 1965. It was a traditional Levitt Cape Cod and I had my own room upstairs away from everyone and everything. What made it particularly exciting was it was Christmastime in a new home, and it doesn’t get more magical than that. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” aired for the first time that December.

It was an exciting time to be a kid.

Of course, the years passed, I became a man, entered the military, and moved on with a life of my own. Decades passed and my hometown became a distant memory. Life has done that to a lot of us who remember a different time and the innocence of the place where we grew up.

I returned to my hometown a few years back and it reminded me of older communities located closer to Washington along the District Line. Those pre-war neighborhoods looked so “old” to me when I was growing up. When I returned to Belair, it affected me the same way. Belair had grown old.

Isn’t it remarkable the way the passage of time affects each of us?