4.0 MARRIAGE, CAREER and PARENTHOOD
4.1 LOVE and MARRIAGE
My first job as a
graduate engineer was at Emerson Electric in
The year was 1950 and the war in
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
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
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?”
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
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
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
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
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.”