CHARLOTTE, NC: One of the few gifts of ALS, if you can call them gifts, is that the affliction slows the pace of living and allows time to focus and reflect upon the past. And time for reflection and life at a slower pace is something the average American rarely experiences.
But the operative term here is “reflect.” Not “dwell.”
Earlier this week I received a picture of our high school senior dinner from the mid-1960s, and it set my mind wondering about the transitions of generations.
Ours was a time of serious growing pains for the country. Much long overdue good was the result, but the metamorphosis was frequently painful and ugly.
It made me wonder if every generation has a similar experience or whether we were, in some way, unique. For us, World War II is, largely, just another part of history, much as 9/11 is for our grandchildren today. In that sense, it aroused my curiosity about how outside influences affect the world and its future.
Our generation was the last to grow up listening to the radio the same way we watch dramas and sitcoms on television today.
In fact, we invented the TV dinner.
Life was more innocent then.
Not naive. Just less complicated. There’s a huge difference. In the simplest of terms, it translated to “respect.” Phrases like “Yes sir” and No, Ma’am” were commonplace rather than ignored.
“Happy Days” wasn’t a television show, we lived it.
Yet, living in the immediate aftermath of WWII made us all too aware of the A-bomb as no other generation had been. Every school kid knew that crawling under our desk was no protection against an atomic inferno that would incinerate everything for miles around.
We dutifully did the drills anyway, even though we had all watched those massive fireball mushrooms rise into the sky on TV during the tests. Innocence or naïveté?
The 60’s was a time of powerful and extreme transition.
The country was growing up and, like it or not, we were forced to grow up with it.
“Happy Days” yielded to assassinations; President John F. Kennedy, civil rights warrior Martin Luther King and Senator Bobby Kennedy to mention a few.
John Wayne gave way to Timothy Leary and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. If A-bombs were a fear, F-bombs were forbidden, especially in mixed company. Woodstock became the ultimate protest. Folk music was all the rage chock full of idealism and political commentary
Ed Sullivan brought rock star Elvis Presley to television but only with the stipulation that he would be shot from the waist up so his “obscene” gyrations were not on camera. Innocence or naïveté?
In the 1960s James Bond was the epitome of cool, suave, sophisticated toughness. Comic strip detective Dick Tracy had an amazing futuristic two-way wristwatch radio which seemed like the ultimate science-fiction gadget.
All of which, and so much more, begs the question, do other generations face, and deal with, similar transitions or were we unique?
Knowing what is important to every generation
It’s rather like writing your autobiography in that you know yourself so well it becomes impossible to separate the essential details from the trivial. It takes an outsider to do that, someone who can step back and be objective. Therefore, it is reasonable to ask whether we are too close to the subject to be honest about it?
Not long ago, I watched a 90-minute tribute to Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018. Laugh-In ran for six seasons, from 1968 to 1973, and it was the Saturday Night Live of its day in that many of its stars became huge celebrities, the best known of which was probably Goldie Hawn.
The show was a fast-paced joke-fest of one-liners, puns and popular catch-phrases of the day such as “Sock it to me,” “You bet your sweet Bippy” and “Veerrry interrresting.”
Added to the mix of actual footage from the original show were popular comics of today with their flashy array of four-letter words and angry commentary.
What struck me, however, was how hysterically funny the original bits were when compared to the contemporary humor with all the linguistic freedoms of today. Now and then Laugh-In would walk to the edge of good taste, but it never crossed the line. Double entendre, absolutely. Mild suggestiveness, certainly. But through it all, the show was clever and laugh out loud funny
Not so with the so-called wit-throbs of today who are so insecure that they are incapable of getting a laugh without resorting to vulgarity spiced with crude language under the guise of “free speech.” Innocence or naïveté?
Perhaps I am over-thinking this, but in my world, I choose subtlety and cleverness every time. So I continue to probe and ponder the world of transition and transformation among the generations and truly wonder if perhaps our lessons of life during the 60s were truly as special as I believe they were.
ALS allowed me the opportunity to look into that mirror and to “reflect.”
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Read more of Bob’s journeys with Living with ALS and his travels around the world
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Lead Image: Dennis Sunderlin, Richard Pryor, Jamie Pryor & Bryon Pryor eating dinner off of TV trays, ABT 1960. Photo courtesy of the Pryor family –