Friday, November 22, 2019

"What Would You Like To Be When You Grow Up?"



September 1958 ".... I Pledge Allegiance.... "

I remember feeling very small and insignificant as I entered my new classroom on that chilly fall morning. Second grade would be much harder than first, at least that's what my older brother assured me.
As I sat at my new desk at the very front of the classroom, I was immediately aware that it was too small for me -- or was my chair too tall? All I knew for sure was that my feet did not touch the floor, and I wasn't about to tell anyone.

I looked above the blackboard to the familiar printed alphabet, A through Z. Beneath it was the script we would be expected to learn this year. My eyes followed the letters that extended the full length of the room, so perfectly formed.... how would I ever learn to write like that? My brother was right, second grade would be very hard.

My teacher took a Bible from off her desk and stood before us.
"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all ye lands..." Psalm 100 --
I remember it as if it was yesterday. We would fold our hands, bow our heads and pray for our class and for the day ahead.
"Please stand and push your chairs under your desks."
That was the only part I didn't look forward to. The boy seated behind me seemed to have such difficulty pushing his chair in without making the most ear-piercing, screeching sound, sending a chill from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. The teacher would give him one of "those looks" and continue.
"Place your right hand over your heart, and now in unison.... 'I pledge allegiance to the flag.... of the United States of America...'"

As I looked around at my classmates reciting in unison, and up at that familiar red, white and blue flag, my little heart would feel a flutter of exhilaration. Was it pride, or an overflow of thankfulness? Now we not only had the blessing of God, maker of heaven and earth on our day but were reminded once again that we were a part of a very great nation, a nation under God.
Somehow I began to feel less insignificant. It was a very secure feeling, a feeling that gave me confidence, to do my very best -- to learn that script and whatever else was in store for a big second grader.

The second-grade classroom was surrounded by pictures of some very important people. Not ordinary people -- presidents of the United States. There was our very first president, George Washington, he was also a very brave military leader and Abraham Lincoln.... I knew he was the sixteenth -- he was assassinated by a man named John Wilkes Booth. Then there was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was in office that year, 1958. His wife's name was Mamie. She had bangs and so did I, so my Dad nickname me 'Mamie'. Little did I know that the name would follow me for the rest of my life.

"... And what would you like to be when you grow up?" was the question often asked during those first years of school. Hands would dart up quickly, desperate to be the first to be called on. "Fireman! Policeman!" most of the boys would blurt out. On occasion one who had not been called on would be asked, "And how about you? What would you like to be when you grow up?"
".... President of the United States."
There would be a hush. Everyone would look over at this classmate and finally let out an "...OOOH!"
Because we all knew that presidents were very special people, and very few people would ever become president.


November 22, 1963... Sixth grade.


The announcement came over the public address system in my sixth grade classroom that our president, John F. Kennedy had been shot. There was a hush -- some tears and commotion in the hallways. My two best friends and I walked quickly home from school shaken by the news.
I ran in to break the news to my parents, but they already knew. Their eyes stared in disbelief at the black and white images on the television set; a motorcade through downtown Dallas, a slow-moving Lincoln convertible transporting a smiling waving JFK, suddenly hunched over in the first lady's lap, stricken by a gunman's bullet.
Then came word from newsman Walter Cronkite — “The president has died,” he said, before slowly removing his black-framed glasses and becoming visibly choked up. Our nation mourned, the entire world mourned with us. The president of the United States, the most prestigious office one could aspire to, the office that sets the tone of our land and the course of our nations future -- open for all the world to observe. Someone killed our president.

Something died in the soul of our nation that day. Whether a Republican or a Democrat, it didn't matter -- our president was dead.

In office
January 20, 1961-November 22, 1963



Today is the 56th anniversary of JFK's assassination.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The "Baby-Boomer" Generation—Where it really all began

Time Square, New York City—August 15, 1945—
VJ day
—Victory over Japan
The end of WWII


This is one of the most famous photographs ever published by Life magazine—V-J day in Times Square. The picture was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, who said he was in Times Square taking candid photos when he spotted a sailor "running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight," he later explained. "Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn't make any difference. I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder... Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse."

I've heard the story many times but it wasn't until recently that it really hit home—I now see this day—this moment in time— as the
"twinkle in the eye" of the Baby Boomer generation.

My mother, then a 17 year old secretary working at Civil Engineering on 39th street, was one of the girls in that crowd on that exciting day in history. The news hit—the Japanese had surrendered—the war was finally over! She walked to Time Square with several of the girls she was working with and to this day, at 85 years old, when she tells the story you can feel the excitement—the absolute relief and shared exhilaration felt by everyone on the streets of New York.

(My mother, Jean Sanatass, third gal from the right, pictured with her coworkers)

She told me that servicemen were hugging and kissing the women as they passed by—

"I was shy," she says, "but it was so exciting!"

The scene took place only a few years before my parents married, and my oldest brother Marc was born—first of the seven Baby Boomers born to my mother and father.

Marc was born at the beginning of the Baby Boom but he was not the first.
It was not until recently that I was aware that there was an official "First Baby Boomer" —the first birth in the tidal wave of births beginning in 1946. Her name is *Kathy Casey Kirsching.

I've thought a lot about our entrance into this world—at that time in history. It was a time of great hope and confidence in our country; the country had come through The Great Depression, a war that lasted six long years, bringing the nation together—through their unified support and the tremendous sacrifice of lives lost.
And now our parents looked to the future with great hope. We were welcomed—we were wanted! I was one of seven children—and that was not unusual.

So this is where it all began—but where did it go?
....just who are the Baby Boomers?

From Wikipedia:
There is some disagreement as to the precise beginning and ending dates of the post-war baby boom, but the range most commonly accepted is 1946 to 1964. In the United States alone, approximately 76 million babies were born between those years. In 1946, live births in the U.S. surged from 222,721 in January to 339,499 in October. By the end of the 1940s, about 32 million babies had been born, compared with 24 million in the lean 1930s. In 1954, annual births first topped four million and did not drop below that figure until 1965, when four out of ten Americans were under the age of twenty.[1]
In May 1951, Sylvia F. Porter, a columnist in the New York Post, used the term "Boom" to refer to the phenomenon of increased births in post war America. She said "Take the 3,548,000 babies born in 1950. Bundle them into a batch, bounce them all over the bountiful land that is America. What do you get? Boom. The biggest, boomiest boom ever known in history." [2]
1951...and I was born in that exciting year. Why was it exciting? Because it was a time when our parents believed they could do just about anything! And that belief was contagious....

—we'll talk more about it in the days ahead.

*
VJ Day in New York, The End of WW II-(video)

Surrender of Japan—news reel (video)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Thirteen Years Ago Today—A Hero to Remember



This is not my usual light-hearted "nostalgic" post—though the hero I will be writing about is a Baby boomer.This memory is one I must write about today, October 25th.


It was a day much like today—autumn, sun shining, leaves covering the ground, though the trees not completely bare. Normally, a day I would consider to be among the most beautiful of all the days of the year. But this day began for me at 3am with a phone call—that call we all dread—a police dispatcher on the other end of the line.
Of all scenarios I could imagine—the one that was about to unfold, was set aside in my mind as one I could never face.
I went to bed at 11 o'clock and woke up at 1am realizing my husband Ed was still at our office two miles away. He had taken his motorcycle and gone in to fix the computer system that was down. He said it might be a long night—it had to be up and running by morning. Our employees were in the middle of a big job that had to ship the following day.
I was awakened again at 3am to the sound of a Medevac helicopter. It sounded like it was about a mile away, "Oh my God, he's not home...is this it?" I just found myself praying, "...have mercy on my husband, if this is for him, please spare his life!"

Within a short time the phone rang—the state police dispatcher,
"Is this Mrs.Walsh? Your husband has been involved in a motorcycle accident. He has some head injuries and is being Medevaced to the Lehigh Valley Trauma Center. I'm sending some officers to your house, can you give me directions?"

Within minutes two state police officers were walking toward my front door; one holding Ed's helmet and the other his back-pack and the shirt he had been wearing, shredded, in pieces. My son Chris had come upstairs and when he saw them coming started crying, holding me. "We have to be strong for each other," he said. For the first time, I started to panic.

The officers told me he had a leg injury and head injury but could not tell me how serious it was. They also had no idea how the accident happened. There was no deer, no car, he had not hit a tree; but there was glass all over the road. They were going to investigate and get back to me.

I went to see Ed in the hospital and amazingly, his injuries were not life threatening. He did, however, break his neck; but thank God it was in such a place that it did not kill him or paralyze him. He had a puncture wound to his shoulder, 50 stitches on his right knee, several broken fingers, and dislocated toes. His right side was hit pretty badly, but no broken legs.

While Ed was in the hospital he got a call from a lady, also named Mary. She was so interested in knowing how he was and how badly he was injured. He remembered very little about the accident and she told him this amazing story.

She said she runs a little drive through coffee shop a few miles from here. Every morning at 2:30 she picks up bagels for the business and opens at 4am. She said she was driving down the road which was very dark, very dimly lit and saw what she thought were garbage bags, perhaps dragged into the road by a bear. She slowed down to avoid hitting them and realized it was someone lying face down in the middle of the road with pieces of a wrecked motorcycle all around him. She pulled off the road, put on her 4-way flashers, called 911 but realized if this person stayed there he was going to be run over by a car.
As she got out of her car a truck drove by dragging a piece of the bike underneath. He stopped his truck, removed the piece from beneath it—and kept going. She said she went through thinking about how you're never supposed to move an injured person—would she be sued—but then determined she HAD to get him off the road.
She tried to talk to him, explained that he had been involved a motorcycle accident and she had to get him off the road. He told her he didn't own a bike—but his leg was injured. Somehow she had him lean on her and use his good leg to help her get him off the road. This was all happening while about ten cars flew by, none stopping to help her.
The ambulance arrived, took over and the police told her to "move on," not realizing what she had just been through. She was so traumatized she couldn't drive.

That's not the whole story...

The police determined that this was a hit and run. The glass all over the road at the scene of the accident was from a car. Ed had hit the car and smashed through the glass with his head.
Ed did recall riding down the road that night and seeing a car coming in the opposite direction—no blinker—begin to make a left hand turn right in front of him. He tried to slow down, but knew he was going to crash into him—and it was going to be bad. He was going close to 40 mph, slower than usual since it was late and he was tired and watching for deer that often crossed the road in that area. The police believe the car that hit him was yellow because there's yellow paint on parts of the bike.

Ed's bike—before


Ed's bike—after the accident

When I talked to Mary on the phone the following day she said, "I believe in God, but I don't pray very much, so please pray that we find this person! Anyone who could leave a person to die or get run over like that should go to jail!"

It is now thirteen years since the accident that dreadful night. We are very thankful that Ed has healed from most of his injuries—following the initial surgeries. 

To this day, the person who left Ed for dead has never been found.


But, as Mary wrote in the letter she sends to Ed each year at this time,


"Pray for the person who did this to you, because he needs all the prayers you can offer. He will have to answer to a higher power one day and answer for what he did."

Mary was honored by our township with an award for her heroic deed that night. She literally put her life on the line to save my husband's life.


How do you thank a person like this?
One way is to tell this story to at least one person
on this day each year—
and the deed will never be forgotten.
.....And I guess I've done that!


God bless you, Mary Hardy!