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How times have changed

Posted: October 1, 2010 5:53 p.m.
Updated: October 4, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Recently there was an interesting piece of information in a popular newspaper stating that less than 10 percent of the families in the United States had a member of the family who had served in the military. If you think about the experiences of the labeled “greatest” and “baby boomer” generations then that is an astonishing piece of news.

The manner and means of communication has evolved and the impact and lessons of World War II and the Great Depression are fading because the people who experienced these times are fewer.

In the summer of the 1950s many of the men in our neighborhood would sit around picnic tables and talk about their wartime experiences. Dewitt Huckabee would tell of his paratrooper experiences in Italy and southern France. Doug Nims would talk about being a forward artillery observer in the Philippines and Bill Vinson would talk about India. Howard Shumate would not eat a banana because he had so many in the Philippines. Bob Montgomery would not eat any food that had been touched by a fly because of his experiences on South Pacific islands and Everrette Brady could recall his experiences as a bomber pilot over Japan.

One of my remembrances as a youngster was when we would visit one of my grandmothers who lived in the country. In the evening the grownups would sit in rockers on an unscreened front porch and talk while shelling beans and peas. The adults would chat and sit in the dark because the illumination would attract bugs.

Occasionally the kids would sit on the porch and listen -- the rights and pecking order for kids has now somewhat evolved -- and you would sometimes hear conversation about your grandparents' family and what times and experiences were like during the war between the states and the occupying Yankee days  of reconstruction. You would have no idea who Uncle Ned or Granny Molly was, but they would know that they would have had a colorful place in family lore and legacy.

The 65th anniversary of VJ Day recently passed and if you do the math, an 18-year-old in August of 1945, is now in their 80s. The veterans of World War II and the families they came home to are fewer. Every American was touched by World War II -- from sugar and rubber shortages, to gas coupons,  to women working in industrial jobs, and to families relocating. The greatest migration and changes in American history took place from 1930 through 1950.

The baby boomer generation, who are the children of the greatest generation, grew up on these wartime stories and those of our families coping with the Great Depression. The impact of the war in Vietnam and the significant influence of television are part of the boomer legacy.  Even today, when I hear about a kid dropping out of college, I automatically think of the military draft even though it has not been around for decades.

Unfortunately, many of our great family stories are now forgotten and lost. I only recently found out that my grandparents did not have  electricity and indoor plumbing until the 1930s and that during World War II one of my grandmothers got up at 4 a.m. to catch a bus to go work in a munitions plant which was located two hours away. She made this journey while one of her sons was listed as a MIA and she did not know whether he was alive or dead. You know of families who made similar sacrifices.

The Camden high class of 1965 recently held its 45th reunion and the classes before and after us were invited. The reunion was a microcosm of Camden and Kershaw County in the 1950s. One had to be struck by the impact of DuPont on life in this county and the significance of a religious as well as social tolerance of this community. There were attendees from near and far and their maiden names will be used.

What is interesting is that through the Internet many of us have reconnected. Delores Cole and Richard Reed both now live in Ohio, along with Jim Ring in Virginia, Diana Elliot in Maryland, Bonnie Nowlen in Georgia, Suzanne Steed and Sandra Hammond (who just returned from India, if you have a computer problem, call her) in Charleston, Sandra Cole in Alaska, and Arthur Hudson in Greenville, the jokes and stories flow frequently. Fred Deaton, who lives in Alabama, is an Internet guru and has established a Class of 1965 website and with the touch of a couple of buttons you can communicate with former classmates who live in California, New Zealand, Alaska, or three blocks away like Jackie Lyles, Pat Price, Chuck Sturkie, Barbara Rabon, Jerry Sheheen, Mary Holland or Johnny Jaynes.

In the ’50s and through the mid ’60s, Kirkover Hill was known as the “DuPont mill village” and there were quite a number of school chums who returned for the reunion. There were also many attendees from the real mill hill. At this point in our life, no one cares how big your scrapbook is or how many skeletons you have in the closet. We would most likely compliment you on your prison tattoos.

There were quite a few attendees who now live in Georgia:  Sara Lee Kelly, Donald Shapleigh, Sally Thomas, Lee Carrier, Michael Mallia and Bob Moore. Helen Harter whose father ran the Buick and Chevrolet dealerships where part of the county courthouse now sits, lives in North Carolina as does Sandra Frith and David Parker. James Williams, who is fighting cancer and one of the all-time great football players in this county, traveled down from Charlotte. There are scores of locals as well and a good time was had by all.

What is now interesting is that Internet stories, jokes, history, political observations and family benchmarks are the new picnic tables and rocking chairs. Communication through the wizardry of satellites is common and daily. Search your memory bank for a moment and think about what the headlines and stories were when the Russians launched the sputnik satellite. Those death rays from outer space were going to turn you into a crispy critter.

The sputnik was launched in 1957. Oh my, how times have changed.

Thank you for your attention.

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