This past week I celebrated my eighty-fifth birthday.
Ridiculous. I am still sufficiently mentally astute to be able to figure out that means I was born in nineteen hundred and thirty-five. Almost a century ago! Lately, I have been reflecting upon the growing similarity between the world in the thirties and the present time. The decline in manners, morals and mores all seem reminiscent of that great collapse of civilization that the acme of German culture unleashed upon the world.
In 1935, the gathering storm was already visible on the horizon. Adolph Hitler was Chancellor of Germany and leader of the Nazi party. He was re-arming illegally, contrary to the Treaty of Versailles, had introduced conscription and passed the Nuremberg laws, that deprived Jews of their citizenship, even before he began his systematic murder and worse of the world’s Jews. The German mob was elated and intoxicated by the smell of blood and a substantial part of the world enjoyed the show. Neville Chamberlain was assuring the world of "Peace in our time". Hitler was laughing, fortunately, Churchill, the 'War Monger', was not!
Most Americans wanted no part of a European war, seventy percent of the population were isolationist and were happy to boost their recovery from the depression selling arms to the British. It was only when they were attacked at Pearl Harbor that they became directly involved.
But, they made their own uniquely American contributions!
Although Mickey Mouse is a little older than me, he did not appear in his first colour movie until 1935 in a short called “The Band Concert”. Shirley Temple, the first woman I fell in love with, was dancing down that immortalized staircase with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in what is probably the first ‘mixed racial’ dancing duet -and one of the most gifted performances I have ever seen.
Julie Andrews, Elvis Presley and Woody Allen were all born the same year as I.
Amelia Earhart was flying around the world solo, before she vanished in 1937 somewhere in the Pacific, never to be seen again.
The song “Blue Moon”, written in 1934, the year before I was born, was still popular when I was a teenager going to Tennis Club dances and I still know all the words! I still occasionally hear it broadcast on the radio.
Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by a couple of alcoholic guys who had found a way to beat the habit. I’m proud that one of them was a physician.
The Volkswagen Beetle was launched by the most anti-semitic nation on earth. Henry Ford followed closely behind on both fronts, both the ‘folks car’ and the antisemitism.
Penguin Paperbacks were first released making quality literature available to the public at affordable prices.
Other important things were going on in the US. Frank Sinatra began his singing career as a member of the Hoboken Four. Number one on the Hit Parade was Fred Astaire singing “Cheek to cheek” from the film Top Hat. Number three was Shirley Temple singing “On the Good Ship Lollipop”. Just Listen to it!!
And at the movies, the Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were big hits. I remember my father taking me to see it. Just him and me. The boys night out!
I could go on forever, but I remember the aphorism, “One man’s treasures are another man’s junk.” (I use the word ‘man’ in its most innocent connotation). I am also aware of how easy it is to bore folks!.
So here I am, ‘85&stillalive’ still blathering away and mildly wondering if in 2035 anyone will be interested in reading any of this guff. Or if there will be anyone around to read it.
As if it mattered. Go figger!
The decline continues.