the times

We are pre-boomers, born in 1943 while WWII was still going on. Wait - how can that be? Men were away at war. Here's what we know:  Many of our fathers were farmers and deferred from the draft. Others had flat feet or some other physical reason they were turned down.

Most of us were unaware how hard the first years of our life were, at least for our parents. Rationing included sugar, coffee, cheese, canned milk, meats, canned fish, shoes, fuel oil, kerosene, gasoline, tires, cars, bicycles and stoves. The Great Depression was just ending, although WWII-related businesses boosted employment. The average house cost $3,600, annual wages were about $2,000, a new car cost about $900, a gallon of gas 15 cents, a bottle of Coca-Cola five cents.

Our president was Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower became Supreme Allied Commander, German chancellor was Adolf Hitler, Italy's prime minister Mussolini, Stalin in Russia, Winston Churchill UK prime minister. Wikipedia's list of prominent persons born in 1943 doesn't include any of us, but hey, we kept good company: Politicians Bill Bradley, John Kerry, Oliver North, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Newt Gingrich, cultural figures Robert de Niro, John Denver, Janis Joplin and sports stars Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe. The "Pay As You Go tax" bill was introduced that year, but evidently, nobody's ever heard of it.

Those early years passed blissfully unconsciously for many of us - to the point of thinking back idyllically every time we see the poem, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." And we didn't even have kindergarten! It's amazing we survived considering how unregulated we were. How green were we anyway?

Three of us spent all 12 years at Union Star's school. Wayne, Junior and Linda entered Miss Stratton's classroom together, proudly sitting in little red chairs up front.

Our elementary years saw us grow like this. Dress code for girls insisted on skirts - no pants or jeans allowed. Eventually, we left our Slinkys, Hula Hoops, Barbie dolls and Etch-a-Sketches to go on to high school.

Those of us who were Trojans 50 years ago didn't think much about whether the significance of our mascot was the cause of the downfall of Troy (as in Trojan horse) or a major condom maker. We were just enthusiastically Trojans.

Nor were we very concerned about world events, although our senior play was aptly "A Rocket in His Pocket." Our freshman year was when Russia launched Sputnik, in 1961 Alan Shepard Jr. went for a 20-minute ride in space and President Kennedy asked Congress for $531 million to put a man on the moon.

Lots of things were happening our freshman year 1957. See headlines. The late '50s also saw: The first known human with HIV dies in the Congo. Xerox launches the first commercial copier. Elvis Presley is inducted into the Army. The microchip was invented to be sold by Intel. The word Beatnik becomes fashionable to describe the Beat Generation.

Chubby CheckerOn to the early '60s: The first inflight movie is shown on TWA. OPEC (the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) is formed. Birth control pills are creating a sexual revolution, oddly timed with the introduction of the first disposable diaper (Pampers). Chubby Chequer and the Twist start a new dance craze. Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in one game.

In 1960 the Civil Rights Bill passed, which didn't rock our boat much. We had no blacks, no Jews, no Asians, no Muslims in our school. There were a few Catholics among us, but they were quiet about it, since there was no Catholic church in the community. There were four protestant choices for the 411 Union Star population.

In 1957 troops had already been sent to Arkansas to enforce anti segregation laws. In '61 White Freedom Riders tested the United States Supreme Court decision that racial segregation in public transportation was illegal by riding racially integrated interstate buses into the South, some attacked and beaten by white supremacists supporting segregation. On Feb. 1, 1960, four black college students began a sit-in protest at a lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., where they'd been refused service.

The 1961 Kennedy inaugural speech admonished "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Charles de Gaulle was leading France, Konrad Adenauer Germany, Nehru India and Khrushchev Russia. Barack Obama was born.

Our graduating year saw the first direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, when 400 Army Special Forces were sent to train South Vietnamese soldiers. The cold war continued to worsen with the USSR testing very large bombs and masterminding the wall separating East from West Berlin. America sent troops to Germany, and Americans and Russians glared at each other across the border. Due to this uncertainty, many Americans built backyard fallout shelters in case of nuclear war. Not so much in the midwest. We didn't even practice "duck and cover." The Bay of Pigs American-financed anti-Castro invasion heightened tensions.

Popular music included “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles. Not many of the top movies came to our little movie house in Union Star, but West Side Story, The Parent Trap, The Guns of Navarone, The Absent-Minded Professor, 101 Dalmatians, Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Hustler were big at box offices. We were much more likely to be watching these favorites on TV: Wagon Train, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, Red Skelton, Andy Griffith, Candid Camera, My Three Sons, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the Twilight Zone.

In 1961 a new house cost an average of $12,500. Average annual income was $5,315. A new car cost $2,850. Gas cost 27 cents a gallon, a pound of bacon 67 cents and a dozen eggs, 30 cents.

This was the year we donned caps and gowns and marched solemnly around the gym - undoubtedly with more pomp than circumstance – although mindful of our legacy, we did leave a class will. Our school days at Union Star left a lot of memories.

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