What Cancer Patients Don't Tell You - Part 2
INTERESTING STUFF – 7 September 2019

About the Next Generation and the Next and the Next and

While chatting on the phone with a friend recently, we noted that we often have no idea, these days, who people named in headlines are - especially young movie and music stars along with, in my case, sports stars. Some examples:

How Lizzo Does That

Trump again attacks ‘Will & Grace’ actress Debra Messing

Kaitlynn Carter Celebrates Her Birthday

Lizzo? Debra Messing? Kaitlynn Carter? I don't know who these people are and although Debra Messing's name is vaguely familiar, I'm unfamiliar with her work or what she looks like.

We are born into whatever cultural zeitgeist predominates in the place we are born. We identify with the famous, the infamous and celebrities of our early childhood. As teenagers, we were eager to embrace writers, performers, musicians and other public people who were coming to be the shared touchstones of our generation.

For people our age now – that is, elders - we don't quite know what to make of a young person who has never heard of, for example, Frank Sinatra. Even if you were not a fan, he was such a force in our youth that what do you mean you've never heard of Sinatra seems a logical question.

In my case, Sinatra was of my mother's generation but young enough that his celebrity continued a long time into my adulthood. So for a younger person today, say 20 years old, Sinatra is two generations removed from her world.

Have you heard of any important people from your grandparents' youth? I didn't think so.

A week or two ago, TGB reader, Tom Delmore, sent an excerpt from a 1993 book by Frederick Buechner who, Wikipedia tells us, is an American writer, novelist, poet, autobiographer, essayist, preacher, and theologian. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister and the author of more than 30 books.

The book today is Whistling in the Dark – A Doubter's Dictionary. For easier reading onscreen, I have re-paragraphed the excerpt that Tom sent.

I think it explains in a lovely and loving way why we so often prefer the company of people our own age and why it is necessary for the young to gradually supplant older generations as the movers and shakers in culture, the arts, business, politics, etc.

”When you hit sixty or so, you start having a new feeling about your own generation. Like you they can remember the Trilon and Perisphere, Lum and Abner, ancient Civil War veterans riding in open cars at the rear of Memorial Day parades, the Lindbergh kidnapping, cigarettes in flat fifties which nobody believed then could do any more to you than cut your wind.

“Like you they know about blackouts, Bond Rallies, A-stickers, Kilroy was Here. They remember where they were when the news came through that FDR was dead of a stroke in Warm Springs, and they could join you in singing "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön" and "The Last Time I Saw Paris." They wept at Spencer Tracy with his legs bitten off in Captains Courageous.

“As time goes by, you start picking them out in crowds. There aren't as many of them around as there used to be. More likely than not, you don't say anything, and neither do they, but something seems to pass between you anyhow.

“They have come from the same beginning. They have seen the same sights along the way. They are bound for the same end and will get there about the same time you do.

“There are some who by the looks of them you wouldn't invite home for dinner on a bet, but they are your compagnons de voyage even so. You wish them well.

“It is sad to think that it has taken you so many years to reach so obvious a conclusion.”

I don't know about half of Buechner's references in this piece. The film, Captains Courageous, was released in 1937, four years before I was born. Without a great deal of research, I cannot know how it was reviewed, if it was a success and how people talked about it as I can know with most movies of my generation.

And what in the world are A-stickers, flat fifties, the Trilon and Perisphere, along with a couple of others?

Undoubtedly these holes in my knowledge have to do with the fact that Frederick Buechner has 15 years on me, nearly a generation, so our cultural touchstones don't match up.

But his observation that we are often more comfortable with our compagnons de voyage, our age mates, answers a question or two about growing old for me.


I do recognize A-stickers, but only because I have a photo of my dad at 20 or so, standing in front of the family car that has an A-sticker on it. That entitled you to 4 gallons of gas a week; a B sticker was for businesses and meant you could buy 8 gallons a week. There was also a C-sticker, I think, but I don't know what it was for. Maybe essential personnel: doctors and so on?

Ah, according to The Google, A's were for the rank and file, B's for 'essential to the war effort', C's for 'very essential to the war effort, E's for emergency personnel, and T's (or I's) for transportation of goods.

I don't recognize most of the others, but I was born in 1950.

Well, I'm glad that you, and several other bloggers, are of the same generation as myself. And though I have 2 younger friends who are just 60...I also have one who i 80 (while I'm stuck in the middle at 77.) Having worked with seniors in "homes" I ran into lots of "golden oldies" songs...but only the very oldest remembered them. Gone are most of the "gaslight era" seniors by now. When I end up (I hope never) in a home, I hope Elvis, the Beatles, and rock and roll are being played.

The trilon and perisphere were the symbols of the 1939 World's Fair.

The reason I hate losing people I know so well, and likewise, they know me. I don't have to explain things. We have a shared past and we can take up our conversation where we left off.

We're organizing the first reunion of my 8th grade graduating class, 1965. I haven't seen most of these people since then...just different paths. What's been odd is how powerful the bond is among us as a result of that shared experience. I know just the resume version of their lives, if that, but remembering the neighborhood, the teachers, and the touchstones--the Kennedy assassination, the Beatles, the stores and parks--is a bond we share with no one else. I doubt it would have meant much during most of our lives, but now, in our late 60s, it's powerful. And poignant.

Camille has it right..the Worlds Fair..at a prewar era.
At 86 I remember it...so many firsts....sights we had never seen before.

Who would have thought we would live long enough to think of this as ancient history.

You are correct, of course, Ronni that we don't expect youngster to "get" the total conversation among us oldsters. They lack the context. But then, even though I now know who the famous people of 1900-1920 were, I surely didn't always get the context of conversations between great-grandmother and great-grandfather.

"Have you heard of any important people from your grandparents' youth?" My answer is "absolutely" - but, then - much of that knowledge was gained in school and radio. I know who these people were and what they did: Booker T Washington, Mark Twain, WC Handy, Marie Curie, Mary Pickford, Orval & Wilbur Wright, Theodore Roosevelt, JP Morgan....And I'll bet you know about most of them, too. I suspect you would immediately recognize photos of the iconic the Trilon and Perisphere.

On the other hand, although I don't pretend to keep up with teen fads (our great-grandsons are pre-teens), I do know who Debra Messing is and what she looks like. The other night, on TV, I recognized Mike Farrell (playing a judge on NCIS) who played BJ Hunnicutt on Mash nearly 40 years ago (not too bad for one who didn't own a TV during 1977-1990.) I recognize Cindi Lauper when I see her in promos, etc.

Each of us is different and remembers different things. I don't recognize the person with whom I spoke last week, but I recognized an acquaintance whom I hadn't seen in several years even though he had lost over 100 pounds and ditched his glasses.

We people are a strange lot. Oh! I was in class when the death of FDR was announced on the intercommunications system. A truly sad day.

My 80th b'day is mid-Nov. I've lost 4 of my long-time friends whom I knew since we were in our late teens. I live a good distance from my adult children, and my husband has been going through many significant changes with memory, judgment, vision, etc. I was part of a very lovely large extended family. I have outlived my relatives and friends. Recently we downsized and relocated to a smaller home closer to medical facilities. I don't have friends nor the time required to develop friendship. Mostly everyone is much younger, and it takes more time to develop good friendships when there's a generational gap. As noted above, we're not in sync. It's been difficult adjusting to my "solo" life but what has helped is my life-long love of books, nature, music, and pets. As long as I can "get around," albeit more slowly I'll be fine. I'm lucky to have great memories of family, friends, travel, and a sense of achievement to keep me company.

Nice piece.
Thank goodness you hadn't heard of many of those references!
Had me a little concerned about my memory there for a bit ;)

We just happened to have watched "Captains Courageous" last night. Great show, B&W--
4 stars, and a tear jerker. I just realized it was his legs he was talking about and not his pelvis.
Yep, in this generation I would expect what was left of him would have been hauled out
of the water in dying color for all to gasp at. Good one, Ronni. We all identify with our
peers. My "Boomer" generation just happened to be one of the larger bursts so more species
knowledge became shared. I agree with Mary and Barb. There's still a lot for all of us
to share, wherever we all end up! B

I do think we are more comfortable with people of our generation because when we mention a famous name of that era it brings back happy memories. It's a commonality that no one else can understand.
It's like being part of an exclusive family.

I'll bet when I mention the name Glenn Miller elders who were teenagers during the late 30's and early 40's immediately hear his theme song playing in their heads.

Darlene, I had an immediate reaction when you mentioned "Glenn Miller." I could hear the sounds of "Moonlight Serenade." I was a teenager in the midst of experiencing my first puppy love. He was of Irish descent w/ dark brown hair and blue eyes. He played the tenor sax. I was forever out on my porch in the summer where I could hear him practicing from his home around the corner. Need I say more? Thanks for the wonderful memory.

My local newspaper runs a daily column in two parts. First: "On this date"... which lists people celebrating (or observing) birthdays today. Most of them are entertainment figures or politicians . I recognize few... old or young. However today is JoAnne Worley's 84th. Her, I remember! Also Gov Chris Christie... 57.

The second section is "Today in History". It is disconcerting that many of the events listed happened in my memory span. Today's list has the assassination of William McKinley (1901... I'm not that old!). The 1972 summer Olympics with the attack on Israeli athletes (horrible), Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive game record (1995 nope... not a sports fan) and the 1997 funerals of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa.

My age problem (82) in this is compounded by having spent the first 23 years of my life in different European countries. It wasn't until my children grew up over here that I discovered American children's books and rhymes and songs.

But it is useful in answering the daily Jeopardy question in the New York Times. My Texas husband gets half of them and I can usually pick up the rest!

I got in my 17 yr old grandson’s car last week and his playlist included Michael Buble, Frank Sinatra, Patsy Cline, John Denver and The Carpenters. :) Oh...and Debra Messing stars in a sitcom called Will and Grace. She looks just like Lucille Ball. :)

Just like Erika W. above I grew up in a European country and, at 79, I don’t have the same memories as my peers in the US. I remember bombing over Paris, the Gestapo coming to our apartment. Later walking to the Champs Elysees with my mother on Liberation Day then also listening to Charles de Gaulle in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. Then in 1961 watching this same de Gaulle riding down with John F Kennedy. I remember talking to Edith Piaf at work. Going to the Paris Olympia in 1958 to listen to Billie Holiday (an American jazz singer.) There is no one here to share this with – if I mention it to younger people they look at me as if I were an archaic relic.

But then I spent all of the 1960s in San Francisco and there are more of us front that hippie time. Many are in a converted commune in Tennessee and I enjoy going there and enjoy reading their news. I was surprised though when my cat sitter came to my home as I had a CD playing Janis Joplin. I told her my husband used to know her and the cat sitter had never heard of Janis – I could hardly believe it, but then, like you I don’t know Debra Messing and the others.

After reading this and being grateful to my parents (z”l) for what they taught me or what I learned from being a child born in the late ‘40s (and with little clue of today’s pop culture) I read, in the 9.9 New Yorker, an article entitled “The Gay Genealogist” by Rebecca Mead. It’s about playeright, Matthew Lopez & “The Inheritance” using “Howard’s End” as a vehicle. Not unlike a book by young(er than I) neighbors about the history of gay life in America (“We Are Everywhere”). When we don’t pass history along we ignore so much. Me? Grateful for my love of big band and a knowledge of so much. And I’m fine with not knowing what now is.

Like Cop Car, I know who Debra Messing is -- from Will & Grace (which I only watched once or twice) and from another very much underappreciated TV musical called Smash that got unceremoniously canceled after one season. So I can only conclude: Cop Car and I must be MUCH younger than you are! (Ha ha). But anyway I read your message loud and clear -- I hardly ever know who they're talking about in the Arts section of the NY Times anymore.

Jimmy Fallon is a great talent and terrific late-nite show host. But I no longer watch his show because most of his guests I have never heard of. Hip-hop artists and many of the new movie "stars" whose movies I wouldn't go to have no meaning for me. And, while I consider myself "hip to the new lingo", sometimes it's as if Jimmy's guests are speaking something other than English. It's as if I they have purposely designed the show so that I won't watch it.

Hahaha, Bruce.

Is that a win for us?

I agree with others who seek/prefer same age grouping. We're one another's witness of those times. its influences on our life and the attitudes and feelings that formed us. And that we chose.

Tom at Sightings - Contrary to your conclusion, "So I can only conclude: Cop Car and I must be MUCH younger than you are!", at age 81, I am a little older than Ronni.

For some time when younger folks asked what my occupation was they seemed impressed to learn I was an information officer with the U.S.Forest Service. That led me to tack on: "My 15 minutes of fame an appearance on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite." I stopped adding that when the responses started to be: "Who is Walter Cronkite?" (Actually, it was only about 5 minutes, anyway).

Perhaps it won't be long before some responses would be: "What is CBS?"

I grew up on black and white movies because a local TV station showed them. I was familiar and a fan of so many movie stars from the 30s, 40s & 50s. I was familiar with performers like Jimmy Durante and Ethel Merman because they appeared on variety shows in the 60s. I was familiar with older music because of Dad and those variety shows.

My frame of generational references starts with the Beatles, the Kennedy assassination and so on. Pop culture, like so many things (grocery shopping) today, is fragmented. Some younger people are familiar with older TV shows and movies because of Nickolodeon and local programming like MyTV but most do not.

I attend a lecture series where one of the presenters is Steve Darnall who has an old time radio program called Those Were the Days. I never grew up listening to radio but I was familiar with some of early radio's programs like The Shadow because they were so popular. I enjoy listening to his show.

Perhaps my generation is the last generation to have that cultural knowledge of our parents generation.

I have lots of friends of my own age - 60s - but also have mates who are much younger, in their 30s. I don't really have any problem with much younger people and getting on with them. In fact, I find their mental thought processes are often much more flexible and interesting than those of some of my peers. There are, of course, times when your peers are the ones you need to be with but I am generally stunned by how many people of ANY generation don't know much outside their own sphere. Being curious is very helpful, no matter how old you are.

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