A Few Of My Favorite Things – An Old Card

5 09 2012

My reputation is that of the ‘keeper’ in my family, the one who keeps way too many things, you know the one with the overflowing closets and the oddest keepsakes.  The one most all  the relatives shake their heads about and cluck over “… whatever in the world was she thinking to keep this silly old thing?” And while I don’t have the first dollar I ever earned  I do have the first Social Security card I ever received.

Back in 1953, when I was still 13, my grandmother wanted to take a small summer  vacation from her job as dishwasher and chief doughnut and biscuit maker in the little cafe in our country town but she didn’t want her boss  giving away her job in the mean time. As always my grandmother came up with a practical solution to her dilemna that we both thought just about perfect.  Come summer  I’d be out of school and while I was not a cook by anyone’s good measure I could wash dishes quite well. The thought of a real job and it’s possibilities made me almost giddy; real wages, thirty-five cents an hour, for a set amount of hours every week.  For three whole weeks.  It was going to be a great summer.

 In 1952 a Kansas hero who’d  grown up in Abilene less than 30 miles from our town was elected  President.  Irving Berlin wrote a song for him.  We wore his ‘ I like Ike‘  buttons.  Heck, we felt like we practically knew him and Mamie.

Folks were in a patriotic mood that year, Ike was going to end the war in Korea and bring our boys back home. We’d had enough losses. In many places that November people lined up at the polls before dawn on their way to work.  Ike won by a landslide.  His inauguration the next  January was followed by “the most elaborate inaugural pageant ever held”, a two and one half hour  parade that included three elephants, Alaskan dog teams and an atomic cannon named  ‘Atomic Annie‘.  The country was closing the door on the old war era and walking right into the cold war era.   Later that year Stalin died, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, Swanson sold it’s 1st TV dinner, the 1st TV Guide was published as well as the 1st James Bond novel  and the 1st Corvette hit the road.  CERN, NASA,NATO,NORAD and a National Highway System were established that year.  In a darker turn GE announced  it would fire any worker who was a communist, Fidel Castro and his brother were  setting the stage for the Cuban Revolution and the CIA sponsored  a panel to discuss UFO’s.

Holding that old card  in my hand it would be easy to fall prey to the nostalgia that the memories of being 13 in that time of such great enthusiasm conjures up. We were full of optimism, the world was full of possibilities, we expected to work hard and succeed, we liked Ike and every good patriotic thing he stood for. Looking back now, through these adult eyes  sharpened  with the cynicism of  time and hindsight, I know the McCarthy hearings  are coming, that polio is not yet down for the count, that the cold war will continue till the 90’s,  that  school desegregation and civil rights  will come only at a high price; and that many things that look like progress are really just another  retreat in disguise.  Our world changes and we make accommodation. My old card could not be used today because it carries the stipulation ‘not for identification’.

None the less progress  was made that was real, that  endures.  The Cold war ended, the Salk vaccine stopped Polio cold and many other childhood diseases are rare.  We have a wealth of devises not even imagined then. In so many ways we are blessed with success beyond our  dreams.  Today the  Americans I know remain  full of optimism towards the promise of the future, believing in the best of  the ideas that unite us  but perhaps not quite  as naively as that long ago teenager.

And they still like Ike in Abilene. This summer they showed that love with another parade.

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