Wednesday, July 21, 2010

1937: A Perilous Year to Join the World

Dustin Hoffman, born in 1937, looking good

Dear George,

Today is my birthday. I was born on this date in July 1973. That was the year that the Watergate scandal broke, and Nixon tried… Oh wait! No, no – that’s wrong. I was born in 1937! I always get those two years mixed up. Anyway, the world was a terrible place for newborns to enter that year. I can’t imagine what my parents were thinking. The precursors of World War II were fully in place. The Fascists were winning the Spanish Civil War. The Second Sino-Japanese war erupted that year, with China receiving aid from the U.S. and Nazi Germany. Hitler had remilitarized the Rhineland and announced his plans to acquire “living space” for the German people. The U.S. and the world, of course, remained inundated by the Great Depression. Roosevelt was inaugurated for his second term, and 17 million Americans were out of work. On a lesser scale, Amelia Earhart vanished on her round the world flight, the Hindenburg crashed in flames in New Jersey, and the Ohio River had its greatest flood in history, leaving 100,000 homeless in Cincinnati.

Nothing’s ever a complete disaster, and 1937 had some positives. Queen Elizabeth was crowned at Westminster Abbey, and Batman made his inaugural appearance in Detective Comics. Krispy Kreme opened for business. It was a Golden Age for movies. Spencer Tracy won the Oscar for Best Actor (Captains Courageous), Luise Rainer was Best Actress (The Good Earth), and Walt Disney’s Snow White was the top-grossing picture for the year. Pop music was off the charts. The biggest hits of 1937 were Count Basie, One O’Clock Jump; Benny Goodman, Sing, Sing, Sing; and Bing Crosby, Sweet Leilani. The AP named Tennis player Don Budge the Male Athlete of the Year and swimmer Kathleen Rawls the Female Athlete of the Year. The Yankees won the World Series. War Admiral won the Kentucky Derby.

In 1937 our family lived in the second floor apartment of the white frame house at the foot of the Interstate Bridge on Ogden Ave. in Menominee. My dad, a young lawyer in the beginning years of his practice, was 29 years old, and my mom was 27. Vic and Doris had been married for five years. Decades later my dad handed me a silver dollar that dated back to those depression era times. He and Doris had kept it throughout the 1930’s and early 40’s as their financial reserve in case they lost everything. He wanted Katja and I to have it as a symbol of family security.

A pretty impressive age cohort came on the scene in 1937. Ever since I turned 40 I have been keeping track of people born that year. Here is my short list: Warren Beatty, Bill Cosby, Jane Fonda, Morgan Freeman, Dustin Hoffman, Anthony Hopkins, Saddam Hussein, Jack Nicholson, Colin Powell, Vanessa Redgrave, Billy Dee Williams. That’s reassuring to me. Aside from Saddam Hussein who has been devoured by worms, this group looks to be in pretty good shape (or at least they have access to good makeup artists).

I don’t know what to think about turning 73. In my youth I regarded 70 as ancient. In fact, anything over 50 was ancient. One’s perspective on these matters, though, seems to adjust as one grows older. Nowadays 85 looks pretty old to me, and I don’t see my same-age friends as very old at all. It does make me nervous to contemplate my numerical age, but, in fact, my mind, body, and life are pretty much the same as they have always been. I think the best advice is to take things one step at a time. So I’m going to take the sheepdogs out on a good hike. Then we’ll see what happens next.



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-Donna D (7-21): Well put day at a time.

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