The Way We Played…


Winters in my native Washington, D.C. were damp and cold with those occasional record setting blizzards that sometimes shut down the area for days.  I emerged into the world amid a rare mid-March snow event that paralyzed D.C. in 1956. The unusual Nor’easter was quite the winter storm that adversely affected the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Didn’t affect me any.  I was amid amniotic bliss and evicted into the bright lights of a delivery room kicking and screaming and have been doing that ever since. Can’t say that I remember this storm at all. However, my mother did.  Every “the day you were born…” story I ever heard from my mother included a blizzard report and that snowy trip in labor to the Columbia Hospital for Women and so it went.

When I think of winter weather events when I was a kid, I get a rush of euphoria.  Don’t you? I was sitting in a warm house while my father tried to steer the family car into the driveway with great frustration.  No matter how badly I wanted to shape and shovel snow my father always had alternative plans.  I was told to stay in the house.


Hip-deep snowstorms when I was a kid gave us plenty to do once the snow stopped and our parents said we could go out and play.  Snow challenged our creativity. Building a simple four-ball snowman didn’t impress anyone and we were out of coal and carrots.  Too easy for a bully to walk up and knock over by the way.  Kids in my neighborhood had other more productive plans.  Protocol in my neighborhood was erecting a huge snow fort by a neighborhood full of kids eager to shape snow and pile it on thick and indestructible.  If necessary, you could always cop snow from a neighbor’s yard.

It was refreshing sitting inside a frozen snow fort listening to the changing acoustics of the quiet snowfall outside.   Have you ever noticed how quiet it is during a snowstorm? Snowflakes absorb sound soaking up the roar of traffic and the dull roar of screaming kids on the block.  Snowfall is a comforting quiet.  If a snowstorm was followed by extreme cold, your handcrafted snow fort got a stay of execution.  Confound it the timing of that dreaded snow melt, which was always consistent with having to go back to school. Of course, there were kids my neighborhood who had sleds.  I wasn’t one of those.  I had a sled—sort of—if there was a large cardboard box left in the garage I could flatten out and use as low-buck transportation.

Those first crisp days of Autumn were always a rush for me.  The richness of woodsmoke in the air meant Halloween and the holidays were coming.  Although I’ve never followed professional and college football, I always loved the sound of football games on the TV along with my father and uncle yelling at the screen.  There was the gentle sweetness of  Thanksgiving being prepared in the kitchen.  And, come early December, the smell of a fresh Scotch Pine Christmas tree coming through the front door.   My mother enlisted me to string the lights and fill the stand with water.  She and my sisters would handle the decorations and gift wrapping.


Maryland springtime was euphoric for those of us wrestling with cabin fever.  It was time to bust loose.  Sometimes, January would yield unseasonably mild weather with temperatures in the seventies before Mother Nature got back to the business of miserably cold wintertime.  I was always delusional enough as a child to believe spring was here even though it was the middle of January. I’d step outside hoping for warm weather only to feel the harsh sting of a cold north wind. Ground Hog Day rolled around at the usual time.  Of course, I was naïve enough to believe spring was actually six weeks away.

Springtime meant hauling my bicycle out, blowing the dust off, airing up the tires, and pedaling off to freedom.  Those first mild days offered up the sweet aroma of honeysuckle and fresh clover that seemed to grow sweeter in the cool night air.  Then, the sound of power lawnmowers and edgers.  That incredible aroma brought a youthful springtime high—the rush of approaching summer.  Warm weather was finally here and I could go cruising away from my mother’s watchful eye.


I’ve watched my 11 year-old son’s passion for video games, YouTube, and online friends wondering whatever happened to the humble bicycle, scooter, or a pair of roller skates.  When did reality become “virtual” reality?  I prefer reality.  Skinned knees versus repetitive motion arthritis and eye troubles.  Being stung by a bee versus watching Spiderman. Deafness from headphones versus deafness from the roar of loud music.

Honestly, I’ve never been into virtual reality driving and Uber.  When I was my son’s age, I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license and actually drive an automobile.  Wanderlust made me crazy.  I wanted to hit the road with no particular destination in mind.  I just wanted to circle the Earth.

When we were kids, we played Kickball, Softball, Dodge Ball, and Hide and Go Seek.  We played until dark and even after dark as long as the parents knew where we were. Coming home for the evening was timed with streetlights and even some neighbors ringing bells or blowing whistles. Those sounds meant kids were to come home.


Dodge ball appears to fallen from grace because the perception is it is a game of persecution…with victims.  Are you kidding me?  Dodge ball was about being fast on your feet – quick – a competitive event.   When did it become a game of self pity?

And what about the playground equipment we had – monkey bars, the teeter-tauter, sliding boards, merry-go-rounds, the jungle gym, swings and rope climbing.  We swung through the air and had a ball amid such a simple childhood concept – having fun.  Today’s playgrounds are so watered down with legalities that it becomes impossible for a kid to actually have fun.  Municipalities are so concerned about being sued by parents with skinned knees or a concussion that playgrounds have become extinct.  There’s no joy in any of it anymore for kid who looks at it and thinks “what the heck am I supposed to do with this?”  As a result, playgrounds are virtually abandoned today.  Children still have the same passions and desires we had a half century ago.  They would accept the risks given having something exciting to play on. Instead, all they have are electronic devices and the illusion of reality.  What the hell is that?


Back in the day, we didn’t have the electronics kids have today where imagination is done for them.  They don’t even have to make stuff up.  It is made up for them.  In the mid-20th Century, we had our imaginations and that was enough.  Although my logic may be dated, I believe imagination is important to child development and being a more creative adult.  And what about daydreaming?  When did that become politically incorrect?  Some of the best times I ever had as a child were escaping to the world of imagination in the privacy of my bedroom. I could be anything I wanted to be—an airline pilot, an architect, a policeman, a parent –  you name the fantasy.

When did the lease expire on Make Believe?

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to be grown up and in charge of my own life.  Ironic, isn’t it?  I find myself longing to be a kid deep in the seclusion of my own imagination. Seems whatever our dreams are, they always manage to outdistance us.

Respect For The Law Ensures Order


Do you remember what it was like when we were growing up back in the day? From the time we entered nursery school we were taught to respect the rules and do as we were told.  “Single File, Class, Single File…” and “Class dismissed…”  We didn’t pour out of the classroom before the bell and we didn’t think for a minute rules were for others.  If we did, we were instructed to go stand in the hallway.  We understood the consequences of not obeying rules—and there were always consequences. At home, we were grounded for not obeying the rules. In school, there was detention or sitting in a hot classroom and missing recess. When we took on part-time jobs as teenagers and didn’t do as instructed, we were fired for not obeying the rules. I speak from experience. I was told more than once, “Go punch the clock, you’re fired…” Pain teaches. So does an empty wallet.


Rules—laws—are there to keep order in society.  Laws are good deterrents—rules to ensure consistency and predictability.  Laws are “inspiration” to do what we’re supposed to do.  However, there are always those who perceive the laws are for others—and this is where society has broken down.  Traffic laws are there for public safety.  Yet—there are those who believe traffic lights and road signs are there for others—and that’s when people are maimed and killed by red light runners.

We cannot continue to justify bad behavior and reckless disregard for the law or it all falls apart. You may not agree with the laws, however, they are passed and put into place for your safety.  If you don’t agree with the law, be tenacious and work to change the law.  Be proactive in your government.  Complaining to your buddies in a bar won’t change the law.


Baby Boomers understand nonconformity.  We were the anti-establishment generation.  We were never going to grow old.  Never trust anyone over 30.  Do your own thing.  Remember all that hogwash?  I do, with my share of aches, pains, and criticisms.  We have surely grown older and we’ve spent most of our lives doing our own thing.  That’s part of what’s wrong with society today.  We’ve been doing our own thing for decades – forgetting  how to be an integral part of society.  The price has been robust levels of self absorption we’ve passed along to our children.

We’re critical of today’s young people for not conforming and breaking all the rules when we  did the same thing!  What’s more, we’re critical of today’s young people – forgetting to ask ourselves…who raised them?  We were the generation that was going to change the world – and did.  We did change the world.  We’re more casual than the people who raised us.  Childhood was more oppressive for us.  If we stepped out of line there were consequences.  Today, we’re being so politically correct and trying to be our children’s best friends that we’ve forgotten to be parents first.

I was at a public venue not long ago and saw a young lady wearing a tee shirt that said, “The New Rule is No Rules…”  Oh really?  That works until her rights are violated or someone breaks into her home.  She will be the first to call police and insist on justice.  To have order and a civilized society, there must be rules. That’s the way it has always been.  What makes us delusional enough to believe society can function smoothly without rules and laws?

I am a middle of the road guy—liberal about some things and conservative about others.  I will go on record saying I’ve no use for either side of this heated and juvenile disagreement we seem to be having on a national level.  All this infighting is ridiculous when instead we need to be focused on law and order along with the unification that goes with being free Americans.

Late senator and presidential candidate, Humbert H. Humphrey, said it best in his speech to the Democratic National Convention in 1968, “Surely we have now learned the lesson that violence breeds counter violence and it cannot be condoned, whatever the source.”  He went on to say, “Violence breeds more violence—disorder destroys—and only in order can we build. Riot makes for ruin—reason makes for solution. I put it very bluntly—rioting, burning, sniping, mugging, traffic in narcotics, and disregard for law are the advance guard of anarchy, and they must and they will be stopped. We do not want a police state. But we need a state of law and order,” stressing there must be laws that protect citizens from harm—includes those in police custody.


I cannot stress enough those in police custody must be safe, especially if their guilt or innocence hasn’t been proven in a court of law.  Those sworn to uphold the law must also obey the law like we’re all supposed to.  What happened to George Floyd, and dozens of countless other victims of police violence, cannot be tolerated. These abuses must be policed and those who conduct themselves in this manner must be disciplined and/or prosecuted. Remember—the laws—rules—are also there for law enforcement in order to ensure no unnecessary harm comes to citizens guilty or innocent.

If everyone follows the rules and exercises proper judgment, then, no one gets hurt and each gets treated fairly.  This is who we’re supposed to be.  To ensure the safe treatment of anyone in police custody, there must be due diligence. There must be extensive screening of applicants, routine psychological evaluation of law enforcement officers; and regular, clear, concise communication from leadership to the rank and file on every level.  Body cameras must be worn and operated by all law enforcement personnel to ensure everyone has their facts straight.


On the other side of the coin, more needs to be done to keep law enforcement officers safe and heard.  The media needs to be as focused on the positives of the police as well as the negatives.  All the media is doing now is hyperfocusing on bad cops despite the fact bad cops are among the very few.  I firmly believe most law enforcement officers want to serve and protect.  What about cops who are maimed and killed in the line of duty?  I don’t hear the media talking about that much.

We need good law enforcement—period.  Without the police—you have anarchy and a society out of control.  Those who perceive we need to defund and disband police departments aren’t thinking clearly.  If you perceive we need to disband and defund the police, consider this.  Who are you going to call in the middle of the night in a home invasion robbery or first thing in the morning when you discover your car was broken into overnight?  Consider the consequences of defunding and disbanding the police.  Let us focus on both unity as free Americans and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the police.  We need them now more than ever.  And, when you see a police officer when you’re out and about, render a wave and thank them for their service to community.  The cops—good cops—could use a hug.


I like Senator Humphery’s lasting words, “And now the third reality, essential if the other two are to be achieved, is the necessity, my fellow Americans, for unity in our country, for tolerance and forbearance for holding together as a family, and we must make a great decision. Are we to be one nation, or are we to be a nation divided, divided between black and white, between rich and poor, between north and south, between young and old? I take my stand—we are and we must be one nation, united by liberty and justice for all, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and Justice for all. This is our America.”   – Jim Smart

Bowling…Back In The Day…


Dunno about you folks – but I miss bowling the way it was long about 1960.  I’m talking stinky-smelly establishments full of cigarette smoke, the aroma of lane conditioner and freshly-drilled hard rubber bowling balls, beer, and the smell of hot burgers on the grille.  There was the dull roar of conversation, people laughing and yelling at the pins, and the “whack!” of someone kicking a ball return in disgust.  Forget automatic scoring because it wasn’t around yet.  You had to actually think, know how to add, and how to keep score. There was the humble telescore, transparent score sheets, the motion of a grease pencil, and your ability to keep score. The game challenged your math skills.

Seems there was a grand opening every month somewhere.  My father was always dragging us to the grand opening of a new bowling alley around suburban Washington and Baltimore.  There was certainly the heartbreak when one of his haunts – Greenbelt Bowl – burned to the ground from a failed florescent light ballast.  Eventually, he settled in to one or two league nights week when my mother decided to corral him in.  When he couldn’t escape to a bowling league, he hid behind one of his James Michener novels or an Orioles ball game on the TV.


I grew up around bowling – bowling when millions of active league players took the game seriously.  I really am old school.  I love this game the way it was played 60 years ago.  My dad, who was an avid league bowler, had his favorites around Washington and Baltimore.  Where there were tournaments – there was my ol’ man and his bowling buddies.  He maintained a 185 average in those days.  His friend, Ted Wessel, was even better with a 195-200 average in ABC-sanctioned league play. My dad had a textbook four-step delivery.  He was a straight down and in hook player who played the second arrow on the right – solid in the 1-3 pocket.

Admittedly, my father and I did very little together.  We were not close.  What we did together encompassed bowling.  He coached me on Saturday mornings in youth leagues.  Asked me what the hell I thought I was doing out there and, “That’s not the way I taught you to bowl!!!”  We bowled together in adult-youth leagues in the summertime amid air conditioning on hot steamy Maryland summer evenings.  In the cold of winter, we watched Championship Bowling and ABC’s Professional Bowlers Tour, which aired every Saturday afternoon.  ABC’s ever constant, Chris Schenkel, hosted the Professional Bowlers Tour for most of the 36 years it was on the air.  Particularly heartbreaking was watching the ABC Professional Bowlers Tour wrap up with Chris and Bo Burton, their tears and apparent emotion, and saying goodbye. You felt like you knew them – especially after decades on the air together.


I had the good fortune of attending the 1972 ABC Professional Bowlers Tour Fair Lanes Open in Springfield, Virginia – meeting Chris Schenkel and Billy Welu. Welu was a kind gentle tall Texan who knew the game well, providing great commentary and extensive knowledge of the game.  I shook his hand, and Chris Schenkel’s, and let them go to work.  Both were very kind to a snot-nosed teenager from suburban Maryland who loved the game and was lucky enough to be there.  The lights came up, we were instructed on how to behave as an audience, and invited to applause as they went on the air.  It was a dreamy experience for a kid.  We lost Billy Welu to a heart attack in 1974. Thereafter, Bo Burton took the coveted chair and was a Pro Bowlers Tour institution until the last telecast in 1997.

Those of us who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s remember bowling centers as community gathering spots for bowlers and non-bowlers alike.  Bowling centers were cozy familiar places where you could always find a friend.  A lot of lonely souls with nowhere else to go hung out there. We all knew them.  There were the bar flies who sat in the bar and told war stories.  Lies were swapped.  Laughs exchanged.  Second hand smoke was traded.  It was the most original form of social media I can think of.  If you were a serious bowler, you hung out at the pro shop to see the latest from AMF, Brunswick, Ebonite, and Columbia.  Every summer, they’d shut the place down for lane resurfacing, equipment maintenance, and new pins.  New pins always had a high pitch ring, which made bowling louder until they were broken in.  New pins were always livelier.  They reacted more aggressively – it seemed.


I always loved the acoustics of a Brunswick house with A-Model automatic pinsetters with long wooden kickbacks and their unique heavily padded pit cushions.  They yielded a deep rumble of machines and pin action. Someone would nail the 1-3 pocket – ten in the pit – and it would send goosebumps up my spine.  Brunswick machines made a high pitch whine across the house, which was the turret belt slipping around the turret drive. The A-model machines with mechanical triggering were unforgiving of a ball thrown hard.  The ball would hit the pit cushion with so much force it would stall the machine and you’d hear “Blackout on 32…” over the P.A. system in the back.  Troublemakers would keep throwing the ball hard just to stall the machine.  Brunswick refined its pinsetter with electronic triggering and the A-2 rake delay feature.  The Brunswick A-2 was faster and more forgiving than the original A model.  It became an industry standard, which hundreds of thousands of them produced worldwide.  The bowling boom in Japan became so great Brunswick allowed Japan to produce A-2 pinsetters under license.


AMF houses of the era were different with their 82-30 model pinspotters – which sounded like a thrashing machine with their clunking, banging, and the sound of pins being distributed into the pinspotting table (rack).  The 82-30 was the world’s first commercially successful pinsetting machine – introduced in 1948.  It would take Brunswick another eight years to get its A-Model into the marketplace – then…the bowling boom was on.

When you consider the bowling boom’s great success 60 years ago, it is sobering to see where it is today.  Today – some 70-80% of all bowling boom establishments are gone.  Those houses you grew up in during the boom where your mom and dad went bowling on Saturday nights are gone – forever…  Consider that for a minute.  Every center where my father league bowled for decades around Washington and Baltimore is gone with one exception – Bowl America Glen Burnie – a cool back-to-back house with 24 lanes on each side. Bowl America in Glen Burnie, Maryland is one of the few surviving houses in the Baltimore area that were originally Colt Lanes – founded by Baltimore Colts star quarterback, the late Johnny Unitas at the cusp of the 1960s. The Colt Lanes enterprise folded, with most of the houses sold to Bowl America and Fair Lanes.


Bowling today isn’t the bowling we grew up with.  Times have changed and so has the game.  Bowling had to change to remain alive.  There are fewer establishments in any given community, which has driven the cost of bowling up.  There are more and more angles designed to get people into bowling centers, which have become more recreational centers with a huge variety of venues for those easily distracted or bored.  Billiards, video games, mini race tracks, restaurants and bars continue to draw the masses when just bowling, billiards, and pinball machines used to pull just fine on their own.  And, if you had a bad evening on the lanes, you could always stop by the bar to numb your pain.

Nonetheless – I always loved the magic of walking into a bowling center I’d never been in before.  For a kid in those days – thrilling.  If it was a chain establishment like Fair Lanes or Bowl America, I always liked to compare houses.  Privately owned houses always had the greatest character.  Some were pretty run down – but were long on personality.  They were typically smaller on the order of 6 to 10 lanes and generally quiet.  On a Saturday night these Mom and Pop houses drew dozens of people who had this weekly event to attend where they could connect with friends.  Bowling centers were good therapy for the lonely.  Always someone to listen and connect with.
Bowling has changed dramatically.  However – the social atmosphere of a bowling alley hasn’t.  These establishments are still around though admittedly in a different format.  Your challenge is to assimilate to a fresh environment and figure out a strategy for dragging your friends to just such a place.  Reach out and groove in for a renewed look at life. Ken-Cliff Bowling Lanes in Ardmore, Oklahoma is but one example of what’s out there for bowling nostalgia buffs looking to relive their youth.  There are countless other examples around the country that haven’t changed.

Boomer Journey…

Those New Car Introductions

We’ve lost so much ground when it comes to automotive styling. Automotive styling has changed so much since we were growing up in the 1960s. I am a diehard car enthusiast and have been since I was in my teens. However, I cannot tell one car brand, nor model, from another these days. I have to look for the manufacturer’s emblems.

Although cars and trucks have nice perks inside and out they all look the same and are decidedly boring if you ask me. And—what’s with bearded cars—that broad big-assed black beard from the hood to the chin spoiler? And, taillights that look like telephone receivers, check marks, and lightning bolts? Stop that!!! Used to be automakers had brand-specific styling where you could tell the difference at a glance between an Oldsmobile and a Chevrolet or a Ford and a Dodge. No one had to tell you what it was. You knew. And, if you didn’t your ol’ man could explain to you what it was.


Automakers crank out cars and trucks like candy makers pump out peanut butter cups and nutty crunch bars. Aside from changes in packaging not much changes from year to year because brand recognition and loyalty are important in the candy business. They’re also important in the car business. And—when sales go soft they revise packaging, advertising, and the way a model is promoted. They find a new way to tell you something new about the same old thing.

Telecommunications companies are the same way. Can you hear me now? And, who’s the creep who did away from Bran Chex? I liked them a lot and they kept me regular—and now they are gone. Someone explain this to me—regularity versus Irregularity. What does that mean exactly? Are you regular or irregular? Are you telling me because my fecal material has become like limestone and I have to work at it that I’m—well—irregular? It’s enough to give a neurotic guy like me a complex.

Getting back to cars and trucks—I think Detroit and foreign automakers are designing and building the most handsome pick-up trucks we’ve seen since the redesigned Dodge Ram arrived in the early 1990s and prior to that from all of the classics in the 1960s and 1970s. We’re getting darned handsome trucks now—but more expensive than ever, which makes you think twice about buying a new one. My 1998 Ford F-150 Super Cab isn’t the most handsome truck I’ve ever seen, but my posterior has carved a nice impression in the driver’s seat which, despite broken springs, still fits my backyard nicely. The F-150 remains a joy to drive at nearly 300,000 miles over 22 years and has been fiercely reliable.


Seriously now—who would have ever imagined Toyota and Nissan would be offering competition to domestic trucks? Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan march down Main Street and the American highway with authority. You can keep making your emblems larger and larger, Ford and Chrysler, however—larger and larger isn’t always cool. It makes your trucks look like a stinking billboard. Smaller is tasteful. So is great styling. Keep designing and building great looking trucks and your emblems won’t have to be large. Styling will speak for itself.

Detroit, Japan, Korea and Europe have all gone a similar path in terms of styling and even interior ergonomics. When I hop from one to the other in a series of rental cars throughout the year I find very little difference across the board. Different from the pack tends to be Subaru, which I believe builds some of the best mainstream automobiles and sport utilities in the world. Of course I will get arguments on this one because everyone has a favorite flavor and each brand brings something unique to the table.

I am a diehard Ford guy and will always be loyal. However, I calls ‘em as I see’s ‘em. I choose cars and trucks like I choose my politicians—based on their own merits and what I know to be true about them. It is always good to check Consumer Reports while you’re shopping for a new vehicle and examine the ratings. Beyond that, buy something that feels good to drive that you’re proud to be seen in you will enjoy owning for years to come.

Although the automakers are long on imagination, they need a fresh approach to aerodynamics, with less attention paid to the wind tunnel. Government needs to roll back ridiculous fuel economy standards because it leads to disappointing products—which began with those stupid 5 mph bumpers in the 1970s and automobiles that ran poorly because automakers had to keep up with tougher government standards.


People love classic American cars because the styling was uniquely American and brand specific. I recall the thrill of my mother rolling up in a new 1963 Ford Galaxie sedan rental car that summer. It was a simple two-door sedan with room for six. I remember hordes of young post-war parents with little baby boomers who drove new cars—Chevy wagons, Ford Fairlanes, Dodge Darts and Plymouth Valiants, Buick hardtops and wagons, Olds Vista Cruisers, and a host of other family cars.

A half century later, I don’t feel the same way about a new car. I think because new cars today aren’t like new cars a lifetime ago. Maybe I’ve purchased too many of them or perhaps they’re just mundane. I’ve watched new turn into old many times and said goodbye to my share of new cars that became tired old 200,000-mile wrecks. Back in the middle of the 20th century, automakers and car dealers made a big deal out of model year changeover. They papered the showroom windows and broadcasted “The all-new 1967 models are coming!!!” and made a terrific tease out of the event. We lusted over the new models hoping Dad would buy one. Do you remember the thrill of new-car introductions when you were a kid?

— Jim Smart


Boomer Journey…

Deep Thoughts In The Night…

I remember being just four years old, lying in my bed, with nothing else to think about but just “being” and listening to the night. It was 1960. My window was open. It was a hot, humid summer night. My screen fluttered from a light breeze. A small Vornado desk fan hummed atop my chest of drawers. We lived in a modest little rambler on a cul-de-sac butting up against the woods in Lanham, Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C.

Lanham was a quiet little community when Suburban Washington was on the grow at the cusp of the 1960s. Neighboring New Carrollton was a housing development just getting underway, waiting for the sounds of kids at play, lawnmowers, and the sweet aroma of backyard barbeques  Yet, the night was very quiet except for the sounds we hear in nature—crickets, toads, frogs, mosquitoes, the occasional barking dog, a cat fight, and other sounds creepy to a kid.


Isn’t it remarkable the sounds we hear in nature at night when all is quiet? When there’s the hush from urban noise such as cars and trucks or fire sirens, it allows us pause and think about just being. Those sounds in nature are a reminder of how long these sounds have been heard by humans throughout thousands of years of evolution. They remind us of our short time on the planet. They were there before you were here and they will be here long after you are gone. Particularly ironic is these sounds are being made by tiny creatures that are here for a much shorter time than we are.

The quiet of the night is accompanied by the ringing in our ears, which seems spiritual in scope. It is that subtle neurological feedback ringing or hissing in our ears we’ve been listening to all our lives. It’s always there even when we’re in a noisy room. When you’re a child in bed in the silence of the night, that ringing is a baffling sound no one hears but you. It wavers in tone to where you can’t tell where it leaves off and the sounds of nature begin. Have you ever noticed that and did you ever ask anyone if they could hear it? There’s no such thing as true dead silence.

It makes me think of Lucy and Ricky in “I Love Lucy” when they moved out to the country to the quiet of rural Connecticut. That first night in their country home. Neither could sleep because the steady din of city noise had given way to the discomforting quiet of the country. It was a little too quiet except for perhaps the ringing in their ears. Suddenly, there was the sound of something running across the roof of their house. Little Ricky came running in from his bedroom. The silence of the country night gave way to a little boy lamenting, “I’m scared…” Silence and just “being” was a strong reminder of their mortality—like a pilot light indicating they were still alive with all of the thoughts and fears we all have.

We really aren’t aware of our own existence until we reach ages 1-2. Prior to those impressionable years we see life in a foggy dream-like state. My very first memory, though quite vague, was an asphalt playground with forest green playground equipment consisting of swings, a sliding board, a see-saw, and perhaps a cluster of monkey bars. My grandfather and big sister were present for the memory. Memory fast-forwards to a small apartment in Hyattsville, Maryland when I was age 2. It was a hot apartment with a huge exhaust fan in the window along with the sound of my father’s jazz records on the Hi Fi. There isn’t a moment when I hear jazz that I don’t think about my father and that hot apartment.

I think those quiet moments in the night as a child were in a sense an invitation to to get quiet, centered, and at peace within. We learn this early on—then tend to forget about it as life ramps up and gets busy. We become so far removed from our spiritual core that we forget to listen to just being. When you get quiet and centered it allows you to focus on your soul, your being, and getting spiritually centered. Regardless of your religious beliefs it is good to focus on your mind’s eye, your soul, and God.

This is a moment in life when it is time to get calm, centered, and abandon that fear of the unknown. Fear not the unknown, but instead look at life as that series of chapters we’ve talked about before in Boomer Journey. You’ve survived and are living to enjoy those senior discounts you’ve long waited for. It is time to be true to yourself and what you want.

Growing older is a new chapter to embrace—to go to a place you’ve never been before. Isn’t this what we’ve been thinking about all of our lives? We’re born to this world to live and experience be the experience good or bad. If you’re feeling pain and crying real tears, it means you are alive. You are feeling. However, instead being consumed with the pain, focus on your blessings regardless of how small they may seem.

Blessings are as many and varied as you may wish. A balmy breeze on your face in the still of the evening. The sweet sound of a kitten purring in your lap. A child’s laughter a block away. A Carole King LP playing on your parent’s old and dusty stereo console. Scoring a pair of bellbottoms at an old thrift store. Discovering a childhood toy in a box in the attic you thought was long gone. And, basking in a sweet memory from your youth.

Self-awareness is the ability to look within and recognize yourself as an individual without being concerned over what others think of you. What matters most is what you think of yourself. Self-awareness is also how you know and understand who you are for better or worse, recognizing what you like and don’t like about yourself—then working on how to be a better person.

Then—stay with it and remember…we’re each a work in progress.

—Jim Smart

Boomer Journey…

Adjusting To A new Normal

I can’t help but notice the sharp contrast between when we were growing up and now. You know what I mean—common decency and a moral compass. When we were growing up, there were forms of etiquette that were expected and—in fact—mandatory. You either practiced them or else. These expectations were practiced nearly everywhere you went and were stressed by our parents, grandparents and mentors. “Please, Thank You, and You’re Welcome” were an ordinary part of life. You held the door for the person behind you and didn’t mind doing it. And—if you were really on the ball, you held the door and allowed others to pass through the doorway ahead of you. Tacky behavior and foul language in any form were unheard of. The use of foul language would get you cuffed on the back of the head.

Maybe I am old school, but I still practice the once-common courtesies my parents and grandparents taught me a lifetime ago. My grandfather on my mother’s side was the quintessential gentleman. He was a White House police lieutenant for several administrations including FDR and Truman and he did not mess around. If you asked for something and failed to include “please” and “thank you,” with your request it was like trying to get into your personal computer without a password. You always got a respectful reminder, “And what are the magic words?” My grandfather understood mutual respect because that was what he practiced all of his life. When he died, the nurses all said it was “please and thank you” until his last breath. What’s more, he passed that wisdom along to all of us and expected it to be practiced.

There was no opting out.

When I think of my grandfather, Captain Kangaroo and Fred Rogers can’t be far behind because these gentlemen were familiar and trusted sources of comfort. They taught us right from wrong and there was no grey area. It was either right or wrong.

That was my grandfather.


My grandfather and these two television mentors  would be shocked at what the world has become. Although we’ve had our share of dark moments throughout history, the world we live in today has become mean-spirited. People have tossed aside random acts of kindness. I was in a shopping center parking lot recently and watched temperamental motorists from a safe distance. People refused to wait their turn at intersections cursing and blowing horns at one another when it would be so easy to just wait their turn, or heaven forbid, actually yield to someone else.

I can’t be certain when regard for others began to slip, however, I suspect the slide began in the 1970s when we started boarding airliners in tee-shirts, torn blue jeans, and sandals. Long about that same time, school dress codes began to fall off the rails too. That whole suit and tie Sunday best thing went away along with common decency and regard for others. Not long ago I was boarding a plane in Baltimore and watched people climbing over each other in line with no spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. One woman commented to me on how discourteous people were with each other in line, then, she promptly cut in front of me and marched right onto the plane. WTH?

We’ve lost the really important elements of human behavior—mutual respect and regard for others—and it is appalling. Presidential Candidate Hubert Humphrey (1968) said a society without order will not stand. He was right. There have to be rules, laws and mutual respect or it doesn’t work. It becomes anarchy and total unrest. However, there’s no reason why we can’t get these elements back given a little practice. It begins with two people at a time in baby steps. If you practice any action for at least three weeks it becomes habit. It can become a good habit.

I know you’re in a hurry to get into Target or Walmart—however, how many seconds would you lose holding the door for someone or allowing them to grab the last shopping cart? I’ve found the world is full of givers and takers, with most of us being takers. I believe in paying it forward in nearly everything we do and it’s so easy. If you practice paying it forward enough in your daily routine, you will be amazed at how frequently it comes back to you ten-fold. And, giving is so much more rewarding than receiving because it makes you feel whole.

—Jim Smart

Boomer Journey…

Ford’s Controversial Mustang Mach-E is a Game Changer

Ford’s sporty Mustang fun car has always been a trendsetter for the Ford Motor Company. Because Ford’s history is as unique as a human fingerprint, we’ve come to expect things from Ford no other car company has ever done. From the time Henry Ford founded the company in 1903, it was clearly different than any other car company. Mr. Ford was innovative in that he dared try things few others ever would. He pioneered the moving assembly line and produced millions of vehicles. Mass production made automobiles affordable for people and Ford made it happen.

Automobiles were no longer just a luxury for the wealthy, they became a necessity for mainstream America. Henry Ford’s vision and imagination fueled the American economic engine. He built a completely self-contained industrial empire that took raw materials and made products. His approach caught on quickly in every industry imaginable, which grew our industrial might.


In 1946 following World War II, Ford was on death watch facing bankruptcy when Mr. Ford’s grandson, Henry Ford II, took charge, hiring the legendary Whiz Kids, reinventing Ford overnight. These brilliant veterans and scholars cleaned up Ford’s bookkeeping and engineering—bringing car buyers the all-new 1949 Ford, the car that saved Ford Motor Company. There was also the new F-Series truck family in 1948, which solidified Ford’s position as a truck manufacturer. Although Mr. Ford was never easy, he was brilliant. He shook the ground and grew Ford Motor Company. Ford surrounded himself with incredible minds who understood his vision.

Fast forward to the 1960s and Baby Boomers coming of age along with the smarts of a young executive named Lee Iacocca. Iacocca’s demeanor could be compared to power braking a car. He was chomping at the bit to turn Ford from a stodgy car company to a pedal-to-the-metal operation with exciting products people wanted. When Ford President Robert McNamara left the company to become Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy Administration, it opened the door for Iacocca to let Ford’s hair down and don a racing jacket. Iacocca became a Ford vice president and head of the Ford Division.

Iacocca called Ford’s new era “Total Performance” and so it went. He took the Falcon carline and gave it a fastback roofline along with a convertible and optional V-8. The full-size Galaxie got a fastback roofline and an incredible line-up of powerful V-8 engines. It was time to pull back the stops and aim for the winner’s circle. Ford was going racing again. Iacocca was a visionary who gambled on what he believed would work. He pinned his career on baby boomer trends. He saw a market for an affordable sporty car that could be built on an existing platform priced at roughly one dollar per pound. What’s more, he had to get it done in 18 months. If it failed, he’d be on the street. In the end, Iacocca’s gamble became the 1965 Ford Mustang, which was introduced April 17, 1964. Mustang answered the call of a growing marketplace that did not yet exist—the pony car market.

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People bought Mustangs for reasons they could not even fathom. For some, Mustang was a second car. For others, it was a third car because people just had to have one. Mustang has always been a carline that has evolved with the times. With each major design change traditional Mustang enthusiasts have lamented the changes. It was too large. It was too small. It looked too Japanese. It didn’t have enough power. You name the grievance, traditional Mustangers have had it. Some introductions have been more successful than others. Regardless, Mustang has been the company’s largely successful flagship for approaching six decades because it has kept up with the times.


Although the downsized 1974-78 Mustang II gets a lot of rotten tomatoes from enthusiasts, it was the right car at the right time. Ford sold over a million Mustang IIs in four years. Someone surely liked them. And honestly, Mustang II was a terrific car to drive. It was a vastly improved Mustang from an engineering standpoint with great vibration and road boom isolation. It was comfortable. And, it had a very solid feel and handled well. There were a lot of good reasons to buy them. What’s more, Mustang II kept a great name alive. Mustang only got better with time and commitment.

1974 Ford Mustang II

Despite its great success through the years, Mustang is facing something of a crisis in declining sales figures. The same can be said for Chevrolet’s Camaro and the Dodge Challenger/Charger. All are pony cars and sport sedans facing critical change in the marketplace. Fewer buyers want pony cars. Ford has always gambled the house for what it perceived would be successful and the Mustang is no exception. When the Mustang faced extinction in the late 1980s a gutsy Ford executive, John Coletti, presented Ford management with a plan to save Mustang and get it back on the beam on a shoestring budget. The result was the 1994 Mustang, which resembled the original classic, built on a Fox-4 platform.

The All-New Ford Mustang is revealed in Times Square

Mustang’s retro look is cool, however, Ford has found retro doesn’t sell. The redesigned SN-95 1994-04 Mustang had broad appeal. However, it wasn’t breaking any sales records. In 2005, Ford tried the retro look again with the S-197 Mustang. It started off well, however, sales went into a freefall. The same can be said for the 2015-19 S550 Mustang, which started off strong, but has gone soft over time.

When sales figures fall well below 100,000 units annually, a car company has tough decisions to make. Recently, Ford unveiled the new Mustang Mach-E electric sport utility vehicle, which was both exciting and disturbing to the Mustang masses. Traditional Mustangers hate it for its name—MUSTANG. Those ready to embrace Ford’s future are thrilled with it. They like the idea of an environmentally responsible electric vehicle from Ford Motor Company.

If you’re a baby boomer who feels like Ford has passed you by take heart. It is time to make way for the coming generations who will have buying power in the years ahead and keep the Mustang name alive. To understand Mach-E you must first become familiar with why it happened. Mach-E didn’t start out as a Mustang derivative. It began as Ford’s first real electric car—not a hybrid. As development of the Ford electric car ensued the team concluded the car lacked soul. It was a terrific electric vehicle, yet it just didn’t have the image it needed to have to be a game changer and sell like hotcakes.

What Ford’s electric car had going for it was a great team. Team Mach-E is a delicate balance of generations who love the Mustang’s great legacy yet know where it needs to go to remain alive. The team consists of millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers. Ford stylists sharpened their pencils and infused Mustang styling into the Ford SUV electric vehicle, which was when it came alive and had soul. It was an addition to an already proud family of exciting pony cars.


Where is the Mustang going from here? I will wager a prediction the traditional Mustang pony car will change with time because it’s not practical. People ask me why I don’t have a new Mustang in the driveway. My answer—because the Mustang isn’t a practical vehicle for me. My F-150 delivers on hauling capacity and comfort. My 1967 Mustang is plenty enough Mustang for me. Although I have nothing concrete from Ford to go on, I envision a Mustang SUV and a corresponding electric 2+2 pony for the time being. For us Mustang traditionalists, that’s a tough one to chew but I think inevitable due to changing moods in the marketplace.

You need to see Ford’s “Making The Mach-E,” documentary: (

which explains how the new Mustang Mach-E SUV came to be. Although Mach-E is disturbing for a lot of traditional Mustang old timers, it indicates where the market is going whether we like it or not. Ford put a lot of thought into its first electric vehicle. As you can see in this well-done Ford documentary, what people want is changing. Young people are less interested in the traditional Mustang pony car and more into practical function and protecting the environment. Even long-time Ford insiders have had to examine a changing market and where the Mustang market is going. Unless Ford pays serious attention to the development of exciting electric vehicles it will be left behind.

—Jim Smart


Boomer Journey…

Growing Up In The Jet Age

It is surely something how we travel by air today—so casually—like we’re getting on busses in our torn blue jeans and ratty old sweat shirts, scarcely noticing we’re leaving the surly bonds of Earth. How many passengers don’t even notice we’re taking off and experiencing the miracle of flight at 560 miles per hour? We don our laptops, cell phones and favorite reading material and never give the flying experience another thought. People close the window shades and hunker down for the “bus” ride. We cross the continent in five hours and take it all so for granted. We can jet around the world and be in Australia or China in 18 hours—and we complain about how long it takes.


I remember a different day and age… My first airplane ride in 1961 was aboard a United Airlines Boeing 720 jet from Baltimore’s Friendship International Airport to the old Kansas City Municipal with my parents and sisters. We stayed with family in suburban KC over Christmas long enough to catch the flu before the next leg to San Francisco and onto Hawaii where we would live for a year.

My mother recalled our trip out over the dark Pacific. She was shocked the pilot didn’t tell us we were about to take off. Thrusting us into the night sky was a new Pan American Boeing 707 with obnoxious Pratt & Whitney turbojet power that rattled windows around Travis AFB, California. She looked out the window in horror to observe sparks coming from the engines, not understanding we were on water/ethanol injection to give us more thrust for takeoff. She grabbed the armrests and held us up all the way to Honolulu. When we landed in the early morning darkness there were hula girls there to greet us and place Hawaiian lays around our necks, welcoming us to Oahu.


Ah—the magic of jet travel in the early 1960s. We were in snow-covered Kansas City that morning. In the wee hours of the next morning we were in balmy, tropical Hawaii headed for our new home in Pearl City Highlands. A whole new experience awaited us. When it was time for us to return to Washington, D.C. that fall, we boarded a chartered Trans International DC-8 jet to Travis AFB, California, then, over to San Francisco International to catch a United Airlines DC-8 to Baltimore via Denver. For a snot-nosed six year-old like me, it was exciting, but exhausting. I used up a lot of air sickness bags.

In those days, people dressed up to go flying because it really was a formal event. You dressed appropriately and acted with dignity. At the cusp of the 1960s, we had a new young president—John F. Kennedy—and the air was alive with promise and hope. We were going to the Moon. People very quickly got used to the thrill of smooth high-speed jet travel and the amazing phenomenon of speed, getting there fast and taking it slow—enjoying a vacation or visiting relatives.


In those days, the first words out of the mouths of those at your destination was, “How was the plane ride?” or “What do you think of the new Boeing 707?” It was an exciting time to be alive—especially for a kid. The wonderful world of Walt Disney magic and fantasy came alive when you left the ground. The future was ours to have and to hold. We were on the rise in the post-war years.

Today, jet travel is a rather “ho-hum” routine. People pour onto jetliners like cattle and fight for bin space. China and stainless flatware have been replaced with plastic packets of Lorna Doone cookies, Fritos and a drink. As recent as the 1980s, I remember a meal and a light snack to keep us content on long transcontinental flights. Airline travel in the United States in 2019 is more like riding in a cargo plane like a herd of cattle and people with comfort dogs rather than the elegant “pie in the sky” experience it was a half century ago.

It is remarkable how far we’re come in 100 years. One hundred years ago, we were running around on dope and fabric aircraft and flying was for the daring and wealthy. Aluminum aircraft construction didn’t really arrive until the 1930s. Jet travel came shortly after World War II. By 1969, we were on the Moon. Brain power, tenacity, and a lot of thrust, is what got us there.

Our own Boeing 707 revolutionized jet travel, followed by the Douglas DC-8 and Convair 880/990. Our good fortune was Britain’s misfortune. The Brits were first with the Comet jetliner, which experienced a series of fatal crashes—dooming the Comet forever. This series of accidents gave Boeing the edge with the 707. Boeing sold a lot of them as did Douglas with the DC-8. Convair’s super-fast 880 and 990 jets got you there quickly. However, the Convairs were limited at 80 seats, which made them impractical for the airlines, especially when fuel became expensive in the 1970s.

Boeing’s massive 747 jumbo jet in all its forms has made the world smaller and more accessible. Newer equipment, like the Airbus A350 and Boeing’s 787, have made flying more efficient and quieter. Flying today is considerably better than it was in the Jet Age though we tend to romanticize the era.

When I hop on a jet today, I realize the real magic of jet travel is gone though more efficient and quiet. Yet, for me personally I’ve never forgotten the remarkable experience flight is. I hear the engines power up and the flight experience begins. Next thing I know, I am high above Los Angeles headed out on course. What an incredible experience flight still can be given our passionate attention. The world is outside your window waiting to be seen.
— Jim Smart

Never Lose Sight of Your Dreams…



As boomers crest our sixties and seventies, we are reflecting back on our lives, what we’ve accomplished, what we haven’t, and what we hope to do in the years ahead. A half-century ago, we were the anti-establishment generation committed to never growing old and never trusting anyone over 30.

Don’t know about you, but I haven’t been under 30 in quite a while.

A lot of us have had good lives surrounded by family and friends who love us. We’re proud of our success on personal and professional levels. There is also a good percentage of us who’ve been divorced at least once and have hopefully found happiness the second or third time around. Others have had our share of unpleasant memories. Maybe you’re very much alone and wondering what happened—feeling like life has passed you by.

You don’t have to be alone and life doesn’t have to pass you by.

When you’re feeling lost and alone it is important to have goals and some kind of plan for yourself. Without goals and dreams, we wither away and expire. Although we each have an expiration date, it’s a good idea to go at life like you’re going to live forever. What about your dreams, those things you’ve wanted to do all of your life but never found the time or had the money to do them? This is where you have to think outside of the box and reach beyond the limitations you’ve lived by for most of your life.


Dare to try something you’ve never considered doing before.

If you’ve never attended college, maybe you should now. It’s never too late to learn something new and just imagine the thrill of fresh knowledge. Perhaps you attended college and never finished. Now is the time to pursue your degree majoring in a subject in which you’re passionate about. Forget a practical degree like Business Administration or English. Pick a subject in which you have great passion.

Have you ever considered teaching or mentoring young people? Have you ever played a musical instrument? Maybe you never have. Remember the great American novel you were going to write 50 years ago? Well, what about that?

Volunteer work is in abundance out there because so many organizations need help and support. Hitch your wagon to a trustworthy cause such as Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross, ASPCA, or Homes For Veterans just to name four organizations that always need help. There are thousands of others, both local and international, that can use your talents and your heart. When you volunteer, it’s an opportunity to meet people and cultivate new relationships. There’s a lot to be said for working together for a common good. As you do for others and give back, you feel better about yourself.

Organizations that serve Veterans do so much good for those who’ve gone out there, defended freedom, and made the world a safer place. So many of our Veterans are sad, shaken, and brokenhearted from what they’ve been through. They could use a friend in you. Veterans of Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf wars, and even World War II could use your face and your heart—someone to listen who cares what happens to them.

I personally have a passion for the elderly who could use good company and the gift of chatter. I also have a love of children. There are so many of them out there from broken homes with messed up parents and devastating memories who need to know they are loved and accepted. They need a place where they can feel safe and recover from what they’ve been through. There’s such a shortage of people who can befriend the very old and the very young. Time to step up and make a difference in their lives.

If you’re surrounded by family and friends who love and admire you, count your blessings and thank God for the good that has come your way over a lifetime. If you’re brokenhearted, sad and very much alone, look for a fresh purpose and go after your passions and dreams no matter how weak you feel in your heart. There’s a lot of good out there waiting for you.
— Jim Smart

Boomer Journey…

Confound It Those Darned New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions never seem to come to fruition. Oh sure, we proclaim our plan for the coming year at the stroke of Midnight and start to work on it when the sun rises—or do we? Oftentimes it becomes the following Monday, then, next Saturday and it fades from your mind only to surface around Midnight of the next New Year’s—and the next. Take heart, you’re in good company. Most of us struggle with the same thing. It isn’t so much about a New Year’s resolution, but instead procrastination over the things we really don’t want to do, but feel like we have to. Guilt is what brings these New Year’s resolutions back every year.

scrabble resolutions

Here’s my justification for copping out on New Year’s resolutions.  Feel guilt over the things you should feel guilty about and banish this unnecessary and evil monster from the things you shouldn’t. “I’m going to lose weight…” is the easily the most common New Year’s resolution.  Maybe we should strive to be healthier and not focus so much on the scale.  This is especially important as we grow older because no one wants to spend their twilight years in a wheelchair or in a nursing care facility. Staying at home and being able to navigate under your own power is always better than depending on someone to take care of you. Go play with the grandkids. Dance around the family room. Take a walk around the block. Baby steps. You will get there.

We often set unrealistic goals at the dawn of the New Year. Resolving to take a trip around the world when you’re on a limited income isn’t a realistic goal. However, it can be a good long range plan if you can put money away for a rainy day. A more realistic plan is to tour the country, your state, or your community ideally at “see” level, where you can view the world from your car and be able to stop and take in the scenery. If you’d rather fly to a place you’ve always wanted to go, investigate airline travel packages that include hotels and rental cars. Look for the best deals and great service. What’s more, you want a terrific experience after you land.

Maybe you’d like to spruce up your home, which is looking rather dated these days and hasn’t been renovated since the disco era. Time to ditch the velour sofa and that Early American living room furniture purchased from the Monkey Ward when you were 30 and it was all you could afford. That dusty old console TV just doesn’t measure up to an affordable flat screen. And, my friends, sell that 8-Track player and collection of tapes on eBay and opt for a Google Home, which takes up less space than the 8-Track. Do things that make you feel good about your home. Even a good through housecleaning can improve your outlook on life and it’s free.

Easily the best New Year’s resolution is to resolve to be kind to others even when your heart isn’t in it. Reach out. Smile. Say hi to others. Check on a neighbor. Call a friend you haven’t talked with in a while. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution we can keep.

Happy New Year…

—Jim Smart