4.0 MARRIAGE, CAREER and PARENTHOOD

 

4.1 LOVE and MARRIAGE

 

My first job as a graduate engineer was at Emerson Electric in St Louis. As an engineer trainee I visited all departments of office and factory, spending some days at each department to learn the “big picture”. Passing through production control I noticed this pretty blonde in a nylon “see though” blouse. Sparks didn’t fly at first though I certainly did notice her. Her first comment, as she related to a girl friend was “He certainly isn’t my type”. It so happens that my mom said about the same thing when she first saw my dad, when they both worked at the same Emerson Electric.

 

 The year was 1950 and the war in Korea was just getting serious. The government required all manufacturers to estimate the quantity of “critical” materials, such as aluminum, copper, rubber, etc, required in the coming year. (I learned about the rubber shortage later that year when my new 1950 rocket 88 Oldsmobile was delivered without a spare tire due to the shortage of rubber. They gave me a refund of $15. I had to go buy one for $35.) I was chosen to help set up the plan and the little “smart- alec” blonde was one of my assistants. She was going steady with another guy and I was on the road to confirmed bachelorhood. She was outspoken, impetuous, gregarious and forward. I was quiet, conservative and. a general “fuddy-duddy” and considered by some as anti-social.

 

On our first date, a picnic, I gave her a black eye. (She dropped ice cubes down my back and as I stood up and turned around my elbow caught her eye.) She proudly displayed it to all our co-workers. She described our dating as an old fashioned courtship, though I didn’t know I was courting. We never went “ steady”, as in going out five nights a week together. (Better make that five evenings a week as we members of the dinosaur generation didn’t have sex until after the wedding). I was convinced I could enjoy a girl’s company and, as I learned more about her, decide whether or not to get serious. Little did I know, love comes when it’s ready, not when you ask for it. Once you are in love, logical analysis evaporates.

 

 Often I wondered which Joan would greet me, the happy, effervescent optimist, or the moody, sullen pessimist. I figured some of it was due to the menstrual cycle and some was caused by her situation. She felt obligated to her mother who was not well. Her favorite brother, Mick, who could have helped her care for her mom, was killed in an auto accident just months before I met her. Brother Bill was slightly disabled after two accidents, and her brother Buddy was disabled by encephalitis as a toddler. Her oldest brother, Vernon, was in the Air Force, and, later, didn’t even come home for their mother’s funeral. Her dad spoiled her as a child and was her hero when she was little. Now she could see him as he really was, a weak, bitter, opinionated little man. But the one she didn’t want to abandon was her mother.

 

So I tried to decide if I was really in love and wanted to spend the rest of my life with this woman whose presence lit up the room and whose scorn blackened the world. I wasn’t sure until the night she told me she couldn’t see me anymore. This prospect ended my doubt. I wanted to marry her. I told her so. But she said no.

 

At this point Ruthie B, (her mother), entered the scene. She gave her a long lecture about living a life of her own. I called Joan a few days later and she consented. My mother-in-law Ruth was a very special person. She was both intelligent and smart. She had self respect and self reliance and, and was loving and loved by young and old. She would have died a pauper rather than be a “burden” to us. She was my greatest supporter when any disagreement occurred between us. She was a convert and, as such, a very strict Catholic. She divorced Joan’s dad, who wasn’t supporting them, so she could get a job and take care of herself and Joan. Later she re-married him because she didn’t want to die a divorcee. But they couldn’t get along together so they separated again after a few months, but didn’t divorce.

 

So with Ruthie B’s help we became engaged on or about Valentine’s Day, 1953. Once committed, I wanted to get married right away, but Joan wanted to wait till her 21st birthday in December. But common sense prevailed and we were married on September 12, 1953. During the interim, we bought a small house, which cousins Charlie and Al “helped” me paint, and our parents “helped” furnish. By the way, when I told Jack Sly we were engaged he said he was shocked, stunned and flabbergasted, but he wasn’t surprised. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Jack and Betty got married a month later after a long and often interrupted “courtship”.

 

I can truthfully say my wedding day was the happiest day of my life. It was a full day with the wedding, followed by a large breakfast, followed by pictures, driving around town visiting friends, followed by something to eat, followed by an evening reception with food, drinks, live music and much visiting. My folks and, especially Ruthie B, went to great lengths to make it happen.

 

WE were married the same day as, then Senator, John F Kennedy and “Jackie” and honeymooned at the same place, Mexico. We may have seen them at Acapulco. It was a wonderful honeymoon and I wonder when it will end.

 

 

 

Statements a married man should never make;

 

 

A bachelor is a man who never made the same mistake once.

 

 

Statistics show that married men live longer than single men. Don’t ask, “is it really longer or does it just seem longer?”

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   4.2 LIFE in the FIFTIES/The LUCKIEST GENERATION

 

Most old timers spend a lot of time recalling the “good old days”. Partly they were the good old days because they were the days of our youth when we were young, energetic, alert and full of promise and naïvete. Beyond that, I truly believe that we were members of the “luckiest generation”. Newsman Tom Brokaw referred to the survivors of World War II as the greatest generation, but I think we were of the luckiest generation for the following reasons;

 

We were the last generation to grow up without T V. Why is that lucky? That meant that we were forced to entertain ourselves and learn to take care of ourselves. It also meant that we learned about life from our parents, our family, our schools and our churches. Our morals were not tainted by the “one-eyed monster”, telling us how our lives should be lived, and demonstrating that our morals and family values were, after all, obsolete.

 

In our adult years, early T V was limited. The few programs we saw were new, spontaneous and innovative, and live. Playhouse 90 was a 90 minute “stage show” written and produced weekly “ live” without benefit of “cue cards”’ scripts or “second takes”. Rod Serling’s “twilight zone” created bizarre plots that are being mimicked today. Sid Caesar’s “show of shows” was 90 minutes of original comic sketches and scenes performed, live and new, each week. Caesar’s writers included names like; Carl Rainer, Neal Simon, Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, (of MASH, etc), and Woody Allen. “I love Lucy”, “Andy Griffith” and “The Honeymooners” are still running as of the year 2003.

 

The family was intact. The family was important. It was the basic building block of society. It was the source of learning, from our abc’s to nursery rhymes to our sense of right and wrong. For most people only one parent worked. It was feasible at that time to raise a family on one income. Things like homosexuality were considered a perversion of a gift from God. Young people who openly had sex “out of wedlock” were called promiscuous, (sounds bad), and were considered indecent. Now they are called “sexually active’, (sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?) Now homosexuality and “sexual activity” are considered normal and abstinence is considered abnormal and “weird”. Movies and T V shows were based on the traditional family and justice always prevailed and the “Bad guys” always got punished.

 

We were a nation of builders and manufacturers of things and ideas. We were exporting cars to Japan, steel to Europe and technology to the world. We had a positive balance of payments. In other words we were exporting more goods than we imported, and dollars were flowing into the country instead of going from it. We were also rebuilding the infrastructures of Germany and Japan so they could compete with us in the future.

 

Our government balanced the budget on occasion, (usually the year before the presidential elections).

 

Suburbia was created. Payments on a new house for most families was less than rent on an inferior apartment. Schools, roads and “infrastructure” to support the new housing boosted the economy.

 

There was a mutual sense of loyalty between worker and manager. Labor and management were constantly contending for power, but overall they had the same goals. For a blue collar or white collar worker of moderate skills and behavior, it was feasible to work at the same company for 30 or40 years and retire with a moderate income. At the same time the income of CEO’s, athletes and other celebrities was relatively moderate. Star athletes could make more money than the President of the United States, but most athletes and CEO’s did not. (In the year 2002, the average major league baseball player made more than five times that of the president.) CEO’s might make 20 to80 times as much as the average worker. At the turn of the century, some CEO’s were taking home more than 500 times a typical worker’s pay. workers’ pay.  J S McDonnell, founder of McDonnell Aircraft, boasted, (in the 1950’s), that his salary was less than 6 timed that of his lowest paid worker. (Of course, as primary stock holder of his own company he didn’t need any salary.)

 

A visit to the doctor’s office might cost $3 to$5 out of pocket. A night at the hospital might cost$14 to $25, including many services, which now cost extra.

 

On the other hand;

 

My mother died at age 53 from hepatitis because our family doctor died and she hesitated to “break in” a new doctor until it was too late. Joan’s mother died of heart problems which probably could be easily corrected by today’s technology. For instance, my heart attack was corrected by non-invasive surgery, inflating a stint in the blocked artery. Joan’s heart attack was more severe and required open-heart bypass surgery aid installation of a pacemaker, followed by continuing medication, without which she wouldn’t be alive today.     

 

 Grandpa Walsh was nearly blind for several years because of cataracts. There was no affordable surgery in those days. Aunt Mary had cataract operations, one eye at a time, each followed by weeks of recovery, requiring the wearing of thick glassed for the rest of her life. My cataract surgery was “out-patient”, took about a half hour per eye, and included insertion of a plastic lens, which allowed me to get by with reading glasses only.

 

 On the other other hand; Doesn’t this prove that ours is the luckiest generation?

 

Violent crime was low. I realize that such crimes were “under-reported” by today’s standards, but we were not afraid to walk the streets at night or leave the doors unlocked during the day. Consider this; Drug-related crimes were virtually non-existent. Drug use was limited to “gangsters” and some musicians. The word “ terrorism” had not been invented yet.

 

On the other hand: The ever present threat of nuclear war was a form of terrorism that was inescapable and affected every plan we tried to make for the “future”.

 

There was a sense of propriety, of manners, of respect for the rights of your neighbors. Most “gentlemen” did not use foul and abusive language in public. Commercials for children’s cartoons didn’t say things like “will he save his ass”? T V heroes were not seen “naked” in bed with a different partner in each episode.

 

On the other hand;

 

Words like “nigger”’ “dago”, “hebe” and “spic” were commonly used. Jackie Robinson was a major league baseball player, but as a spectator at the old Sportsman’s Park, (where the Cardinals played), he would have not been allowed in the grandstands, but would have to sit with the “coloreds” in the right field pavilion.

 

There was a sense of recognition of good and evil.  A sense that we are responsible for our own actions A President of the United States, caught having sex in his office would not have first denied, then referred to his actions as “Inappropriate”. A murderer who killed a housewife in her own home would not apologize to her survivors by saying “I’m sorry for the stuff that happened”. (This is a direct quote from a murderer in Kansas). A mother would not sue McDonalds for making her boy overweight. A woman would not be awarded $28 billion because she “couldn’t stop smoking”, in spite of 50 years of warnings and threats. Road rage virtually never resulted in homicide.

 

Dress was more formal and more “appropriate”. Yes, it was too formal. At a “family”

Restaurant, moderately priced, sometimes a “gentleman” was expected to wear a jacket and tie. (Or one would be furnished for him).  People put on their “Sunday clothes” to go to church. They did not go to church in cut-off shorts and “flip-flop” sandals, or two piece outfits with their navels showing. Children were expected to behave out of courtesy to their neighbors. Five year old children did nor eat popcorn and candy in church. Often children’s tantrums were diverted to the nearest rest room and appropriately handled. Adults did not go to weddings or funerals in sweats, shorts or jeans.

 

True patriotism prevailed. Our government was perceived to be honest. Harry Truman was not a genius, but if he didn’t like something he didn’t dance around the subject, he said something like “it stinks”. We may have been more naïve, but government agencies did not publish reams of  “disinformation” as they seem to do today. Political conventions were a means to nominate a candidate, not a “coronation” for a candidate who already has bought enough votes to be nominated on the first round. The concept of, “who raises the most money gets elected”, did not apply. The police were perceived to be our friends.

 

Sports were sporting events, not show business.  Events were played for the benefit of live audiences. Events were scheduled for the convenience of (live) spectators. A football game used to last two hours or less. Now they take three and a half hours, primarily due to commercial interruptions. I could go to see a Cardinals game with 75 cents, no reservation required, sit in the bleachers, have a couple 50 cent beers and converse with the “fans”. Now, to take a family of four to a game, with a few refreshments, can cost $150 or more. When you have a $250 million contract for one player, someone has to pay the price. Today sports are multi-billion dollar show business events, scheduled for the convenience of the T V networks and always must result in one team being number 1 in the country. Anything less is failure for the fans, coach and team. Football bowl games had names such as Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Sugar Bowl. Now we have a multiplicity of bowl games with games like MasterCard Alamo Bowl, Outback Bowl and Continental Tire Bowl. (As I type this I am watching a football game at the Edward Jones dome in St. Louis, Formerly the TWA dome, till TWA went under.) Is there a hint of commercialism here?

 

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Quoted from the Reader’s Digest, Aug. 2003;

 

Nancy Reagan tells the story of how President Ronald Reagan was challenged by a college student who said it was impossible for Reagan’s generation to understand his.

 

“You grew up in a different world”, the student said. “Today we have television, jet planes, space travel, nuclear energy, computers,…”

 

Taking advantage of a pause in the student’s litany, Reagan said, “You’re right. We didn’t have those things when we were young. We invented them.”

 

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