In 1929 the world was a very different place then it is now. Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run. The Graf Zeppelin started its first round the world flight. Herbert Hoover was ushered into the White House, and phone service was installed at the same address. “Wings” won at the academy awards. Chicago mobsters carved their niche in history less than a month before March 4th, guns blazing on February 14th; better known as the “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre”. The Chicago Bears were known as “The Cardinals”. Communism was morphing from Marxist theory in Russia eventually becoming Stalinesque totalitarianism, and Fascists held the reigns of power in Italy. The Stock Market reached new heights, followed by the infamous “Crash of ’29”, in October. The Cubs were in the World Series (which they lost to Philly 4 games to 1), and would not return to same for a number of years. On a lighter note, the first game of BINGO was played, in December. And the first “official” nudist organization, in the US, was formed on December 5th.
The average income was almost $1600.00. The medium price of a new house was approx. $7200.00. Gas was around 25 cents a gallon, and a new car could be had for about $650.00. Cows parted with their milk at 14 cents a gallon. Bread was 10¢ a pound in 1929 Chicago. Butter was 56 cents. Round Steak was 51 cents a pound. The “Roaring Twenties” ended with quite the hangover; the “Great Depression” had begun.
“Hey Edward R Murrow! What are you espousing on this humid night in June?”
“Well, it is Father’s Day after all …”
“So go make a gluten-free pineapple upside down cake, like your sister did. Or go out and have a good chunk of prime rib with some horse-radish on the side, with a good table wine.”
“… and I thought it might be interesting to compare the world you arrived in, to the world as it is now, some nine years after you took your leave.” “Ouch!! What was that for?” I felt the white blinding flash one gets from slugging down a ‘Slurppie’ too fast. It could only mean one thing. Dad was back, and his aim with metaphysical ice cubes, via his scotch filled tumbler, was as accurate as ever.
“Just because I am outta sight, does NOT mean I am outta mind. Or that my aim is off, for that matter.”
“Sorry Dad, I know had you any other choice you would still be with us if you could. Even after nine years, sometimes it is hard to say ‘since you died’; even if I am just typoing.”
Dad took a drag off his ever-present cigar, and I noted he was sporting a Dominican. “Is this a new smoke you have brought to fog up the corners of my mind with?”
“Why yes it is. Thought I would try something a bit different. But getting back to your comment just before that, I understand. But it did give me an excuse to fling a cube, and that’s kinda fun.” Dad chuckled, “You think things are really all that much different now, than they were back then? Although I would not have remembered it, being newly arrived and all; but before the Depression hit we would have been pretty comparable to how things are today, before the current President assumed power. Most folks thought we were in for hard times, but there were still lots of folks who did have jobs. The world was changing, Russia was having internal struggles, Fascism was on the rise in Europe. For as much doom and gloom there were still those who were saying things would improve. And yes, I know in the end it took a World War to get our economy back on track.”
“I guess what I am trying to get at, is even with the tough times most folks faced during the Depression, we got by. We lived our lives as best we could, longed for better times, and made the best of the times we had.”
“To be fair, you, your sons, and future grandsons, have to deal with dangers we only dreamed of. But the challenges, and the evils out in the world are still basically the same, as those my generation faced. They may have different names, philosophies, or what have you. But at the end of the day, evil is evil. The longer one waits to stop it, or tries to appease it instead of dealing with it directly, the more it is going to cost in the end. To use one of your own favorite quotes ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’. I guess the real question is, when are folks going to wake up.”
“Sheesh, that is about as strong as I have ever heard you talk Dad. You always seemed so “roll with the punches” when it came to world events and such. At least that was what we saw as kids.”
“Well, that was all you were supposed to see as kids.” Your mom and I felt strongly about this country, but I don’t believe we ever intentionally tried to panic you kids. Do you remember the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’?”
“Yes I do. But I don’t remember either you or mom being at sixes or sevens over it, at least not in front of us.”
“Exactly!” But that doesn’t mean we weren’t concerned about what was going on. Your mother and I couldn’t see any point in getting you kids panicked over something which we had no direct control over. We didn’t have a cabin in the mountains to go to. We didn’t have money for a fallout shelter or supplies for same. So the best thing we could do was to keep calm and see what direction things went. With luck, we might have enough time to make it out to where your grandparents were. Allowing, or promoting panic wouldn’t have helped anything.”
“After that, it became a case of watching the news every evening, shaking my head from time to time, over the steps our government was taking to address the ills of the nation and the world. Still, back then, we had some level of trust in the government. Perhaps had we known where the path we were being led down was really going to, we would have said or done something.”
I guess what I am trying to say son, is you, and more importantly your children, and their children, are going to have a tough time of it. But it wouldn’t be the first time mankind has had a hard row to hoe, and it won’t be the last time. Despite all the praise out there for my generation taking care of business, be it raising a family, or going off to meet our enemies in the field of battle, more often than not we got through it all by the grace of God, and more than a little luck. Your generation has the same DNA, as do your kids and their children, that my generation had. No more, no less. At the end of the day, if all the bs is tossed aside, the present, or any future generation, has it in themselves to be “The Greatest Generation”.
We were not perfect. Neither is your generation, or the kids. But you all have it in you to meet, and beat any advisory, if you all put your hearts and minds to it. That is about the sagest advise I can give you. Don’t honor us so much for what we faced, and even so much for what we did. You can truly honor us, if you try your best to remember what things we did right, return to the values we held (or tried to hold) which resulted in a better society…a better nation, and do your best to see these are something you can pass down to your kids or grandkids. Even if you stumbled, and fell short, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep trying to improve. It’s when you give up that the evil, not only in you, but in the world at large, gets a little closer to achieving its goals.”
Dad actually blushed a bit after saying all that. I was a little surprised too, for my father was never one for rants, long-winded or otherwise. As he took a hearty swig from the tumbler at hand, and busied himself relighting the cigar, I smiled.
“Things must really be coming to a head, and not in a good way. That was more concern than I have ever heard from you before, Dad.”
“I can’t tell you what the future brings, way beyond my pay grade, but one way or another things can not continue the way they are now. But I am sure you know this. I did think Father’s Day being tomorrow and all, a little clarification might be in order. Don’t make us out to be anything more, or less than we were, and don’t sell yourselves short either. And maybe, just maybe … “The Greatest Generation” will be looking down upon yours or the next generation, saying; ‘See, look at that! They remembered all the important things after all, stuck it out, and did just fine!’ ”
With that, Dad took one last swallow of his Scotch, finished off the cigar, sending a smoke ring toward the top of my frontal lobe, smiled and said “Have a good Father’s Day!”
I wished him the same, “Wish I could give you something Dad”
“If you remember half of what I said today, that will be enough son.”
With that, he left as quickly and quietly as he had entered. Alone with my thoughts, I went to sit and think about what was said. And still I could not help thinking that his generation ended up doing so much more with less. Where my generation, at least so far, has done so much less with more. On the other hand, time has proven Dad right more often than not. I hope his gift faithfully follows this trend.