I taught 8th grade Science for 37 years. I got paid to be in 8th grade ( which is my natural age group) and blow stuff up for 37 years and nobody ever caught on to it! It was a dream job in a dream district, way ahead of its time. But, as they say, all good things must end. I broke up a fight my last year—what would end up being my last year and the reality of the changing times essentially made my decision to retire for me. The gentleman in the fight had a hunting knife taped to his leg. Bye
We moved to Long Beach Island, New Jersey in 2007: it was my wife’s dream. I joined the gang permanently in 2010 after I retired. Mostly I took the dogs for walks, enjoying the fact that I did not have to work—which I had been doing since I was 11.
I have always been a frustrated writer. I love reading: I love that people can tell a story that strikes a chord in others. A wonderful Philadelphia sports writer, Bill Lyon, once told me an appreciative audience is what a writer hopes most for. It could be for a variety of reasons but there is a connection. That’s what I wanted to try to do.
As social groups go (and grow) Boomers are now the big demographic. But, what exactly is a boomer? Who qualifies?
Those demographers (not a cursed “grapher” or a political party) might use the time frame quoted by Wikipedia (imagine, using a source that can be anonymously edited by anyone—even me!) from after WWII to the mid-sixties but the first 8 years after WWII really speak to the boomer persona. As Baby Boomer Headquarters quotes, “the 1960s is the decade that defined the Boomers” so being born in the sixties sort of eliminates you, in my mind. I figure that you are truly a Boomer if you were old enough (male or female) to get a draft notice for the “conflict” in Viet Nam that killed over 58000 Americans. The music, events, and the social changes of the sixties made a permanent impression on us. Those of us born during the "peak" boomer years were in our formative years during the sixties. There were so many changes in the sixties that how old you were during the decade greatly affected how you turned out. 1961 was a whole lot different from 1969. Those born at the early end of the Boomer spectrum (1945-1950) were in our early 20s by 1970. The deaths of President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King; the Vietnam war and related protests; and the Watergate scandal... all made deep impressions on us. Not on those born later. And, those late Boomers were never subject to the military draft!” So it is difficult in my mind to lump all the Wiki defined Boomers together.
I believe that that time period that defined us also gave us memories to recall and share—no matter where you grew up. Personally, in South Philadelphia where I grew up, going through those tough teens made lasting memories, as, I am sure, those tough teens did in Sioux City Iowa. I realized this during my Navy experiences, my choice to getting drafted and squishing through rice paddies. Four years. But, being a chicken, it satisfied my aversion to bullets. I am still trying to make up those 4 years I gave my Rich Uncle Sam. I think we true Boomers enjoy the life experiences we have had and would like to preserve them for posterity.
I sent an article in to THE SANDPAPER, the local LBI paper and the editor, Gail Travers, published it. Seeing your name in print was a blast but I actually had people telling me that they too, “remembered when.” No: they did not want to go back to those “thrilling days of yesteryear (gotta love Boomer TV) but they didn’t want anyone of our age group to ever forget those times we shared—no matter where we shared them.
I continued to write an article for THE SANDPAPER, and put together a couple of books about the times and trials of Boomers lives and aging. It has been enjoyable but in my attempt to engage a larger audience, I am now turning to the internet, the “mother of all communication devices.” My son is a computer wiz: “codes” for a large company, whatever “codes” means. He’s a good kid. He has put me on a web page and now has added a “blog.” So we will try this new medium to tell and share our stories.
In the meantime, this book is a collection of articles that were actually published by THE SANDPAPER and some that were not. They are included in their entirety: if you see things that you don’t remember in the original articles its’s because of the word count limitation. As my wife says, “I use a lot of words.” We had a lot to talk about, didn’t we?
If you laugh once, or do an “oh—I remember that” it is all worthwhile.
“What a long, strange trip it’s been.
BOOMERS RACKING UP MILES(TONES) (1/2011)
My body hurts. Not just my back, my entire body.
Maybe your body hurts, too. I’m sure it has something to do with shoveling snow, especially that day-after-Christmas-“event.”
But I remember when my body didn’t hurt after shoveling snow or some other physical activity. Maybe you do, too.
I can actually recall the day my body began hurting from doing “stuff.” It was the weekend after Thanksgiving a few years back. We were still living in Pennsylvania. We had a lovely, two-story Colonial that had interesting roof lines and that year I decided that for Christmas lights we would do something “creative” and put up those old, big “red-and-green” lights to follow the roof lines of the house. Our twins were about 10 years old at the time and used to get the biggest kick out of stuff that was different. But to do this, I had to get up on the first-level roof to hang the lights on the second-level roof. It was either that or an extension ladder, which I did not have. Plus, I am afraid of heights, and I’d rather have something solid beneath my feet.
I spent a good portion of the day hanging and testing the lights. I must admit, they looked “cool” when it got dark enough to see them (Remember when things were “cool? They still are but you have to say it with this inflection in your voice at the end of the syllable.) Spending my day on the slanted roof, shifting my weight from one leg to the other, put a tremendous strain on my legs, especially my knees.
Now I was not a big workout guy, but I was in pretty good shape. I mean I was busy teaching Science to eighth graders and had very active 10-year old twins. I had been a 28 waist most of my life up until then (I have a friend, a philosopher from the 60swho says we never get fat, we just get larger waist sizes: he’s a 46 right now) But that night my knees, especially the left one, really hurt. I told my wife.
“It’s probably because you were on the roof all day,” she replied. She is so lovely.
By that Christmas, I was listing terribly to starboard. At our family Christmas gathering, I mentioned this problem to my brother in law, who is about a year older than I am.
“You’re hitting middle age,” he said. “You’re getting old.” There it was! The answer to my problems. And he isn’t even a doctor!
By the time I actually went to see a real doctor, the diagnosis was that I had torn my meniscus and needed arthroscopic surgery, the first of five knee surgeries that ended in a knee replacement. To be honest, I probably should get the other one done, too, but now that I know what it feels like to have the surgery, I’ll put up with the bad knee. They make it sound like you’re getting a haircut---believe me, it was like no haircut I ever got. Not even my Navy haircut.
Thus began my adventures of “getting old.” As my wife tells me when I say I’m “getting old”, “it beats the alternative.” She is still so lovely.
But things began to get a little tougher to do. We got a riding mower to replace our push mower to do the grass. We got a snow blower to do the driveway. We got a leaf blower instead of raking leaves by hand.
I’m sure Webster has a different definition but according to that noted South Philadelphian philosopher, Salvatore Pescatore, getting old is when,”ya can’t do the stuff ya used to do.” For instance, there is no chance of ever being able to swoop down the basketball court, cradle the ball in your arm at the foul line, take one huge step to the basket and dunk. Also, forget the 100 meter dash record.
But there are pluses to Boomers’ aging. You have lived through some of the most amazing times. You have these memories. We all do. We shared a time, if not a space, that was unique.
I recall walking down a pier in San Diego California on my way to my first ship assignment in the Navy in May, 1968. A guy I had gone to boot camp with from just outside of Philadelphia turned to me and said, “imagine the changes that will take place in the next 4 years while we’re in the Navy, floating around the Pacific Ocean.” 1968 to 1972: Anything in your life change in those four years? Think of the last 40 years. WOW!
So now we share milestones such as retirement. And watching the lights blink on the Boulevard in the off-season. And having a sore body from shoveling snow. (I have to tell the Chamber of Commerce that I was not thinking snow when we decided to move to lovely LBI).
And, looking forward to more exciting things come this July:
Anthony DiSipio lives in Beach Haven Park and recalls Boomer memories in his book, WHEN I’M 64.
This article holds a special place in my heart: it was the first real article the SANDPAPER published for me. Thanks, Ms. Gail.