Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | July 14, 2010

Ringside Seat V: The Dead Decade

As a high school kid growing up in the early 1970s, I remember thinking about the 1930s as a fascinating time period—far enough removed to be exotic, but close enough to be remembered, at least by the generation or two before me. Back then, the 1930s were 40 years ago! Think of it: 40 years! That was a long time ago. As a 14- or 15-year-old kid, 40 years backwards would be 25 years before my birth; and at 15, I had already been around a long time—or so it seemed at the time. I couldn’t imagine 40 years hence; I would be 45 years old! I couldn’t even fathom 25, let alone 45. Thinking about such things would be to enter the realm of science fiction.

In the 1970s, there were still a lot of active people around who figured prominently in the decade of the 1930s. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939, was still writing decisions in the 1970s and well on his way to becoming the longest-serving Supreme Court justice in history. Howard Hughes, who was still alive—though not very well—in the 1970s, was a flamboyant aircraft engineer and aviator in the 1930s. Hughes was something of a daredevil, setting airspeed records with his Hughes H-1 Racer in the mid-1930s. He died a paranoid recluse in 1976.

And then there are so many Hollywood and entertainment stars from the 1930s who were still very active in the 1970s, among them Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, even Groucho Marx. I still remember seeing many of these old movie icons appear time and again on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show during the 1970s, and—in some cases—even into the 1980s!

In the 1970s, the 1930s was quite a reach back, but was nonetheless still reachable; there was still some meat on the bones of the 1930s. Not so today. The 1930s is now a dead decade, remembered only by a few who were children or very young adults at the time. None of those who defined the age are alive today. Even the 1940s and 1950s are quite close to extinction, and the 1960s and ’70s are to 2010 what the ‘30s were to the ‘70s and ‘80s.

There are still many icons of the 1960s running around today, but they are an aging lot. The youth of the 1960s have now become the old guard, standing watch over their decade until such time as they are summoned by the last chapter of their historical record. Even the picture of iconic 1960s youth—i.e, the Beatles—has now faded with age. Do you remember Paul McCartney musing about old age in his song “When I’m 64”? McCartney turned 68 in June; and Ringo Starr turned 70 just last week! The other two Beatles are, of course, no longer with us, as is the case with many other movers and shakers from the 1960s.

I still remember seeing veterans from World War I marching in Memorial Day parades back in the 1970s—more than 50 years after the close of the war. There is now only one US veteran from “The Great War” still alive, and he is 109 years old. In 2010, it is a difficult thing for World War II veterans to assemble and march in these parades. Those still alive are all in their late 80s or 90s. Korean War veterans are in their 70s, and even the boys of Vietnam now look like old guys as they near retirement.

It will not be long now and the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s will become dead decades. Even the 2010s will one day become a dead decade. But if you are reading this now, that won’t really matter to you.

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Responses

  1. Haven’t you heard? 50 is the new 40. We’re WAY too young to be dreading our own personal “dead decade.” You remind me a little of my daughter as a child–always moping and miserable through the entire month of August because “back-to-school” was at hand. A ticking time-bomb.

    TICK. TOCK. TICK. TOCK….

    Don’t waste the entire decade whilst dreading its demise.

  2. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “My reporting of my dread is greatly exaggerated.”

    I am actually something of an optimist, but I can see where you would see me as a hopeless pessimist from the last few posts—that was not intentioned, but it is apparent as I re-read the posts.

    Actually, it is all just reminiscence on my part, not really meant as a commentary on hopelessness. I am enjoying life now perhaps more so than any other time of my life!


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