Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Sept. 19, 2008

Double nickels

I turned 55 last Saturday. The family get-together was planned for Sunday, so Saturday was really quite an ordinary day, spent chauffeuring youngest daughter Katie to Gold Orchestra practice, work and an evening Culture Club get-together, unloading recyclables at Howie's and working on family history.

But although my birthday was pretty low-key, I couldn't help thinking that a birthday ending in 5 is somewhat of a milestone. So I did what I often do when I want to get some perspective on what was happening 10, 15, 50 or 55 years ago to compare it with what's happening now. I checked the Internet and Funk and Wagnall's New Standard Year Book for 1953 to find out the big events for the year I was born.

*"The Crucible," a drama by Arthur Miller, opened on Broadway in January. Oldest daughter Mariya performed in that play when she was at Riley County High School just a few years ago.

*Nikita Khruschev was selected First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March. He probably would be surprised at the turn of events which toppled the Soviet regime.

*In April, Ian Fleming published his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. The latest Bond movie based on his books will be appearing in theaters this fall.

*Also in April, scientists Francis Crick and James D. Watson published their description of the double helix structure of DNA. TV crime dramas now use DNA as the basis for their investigations.

*The town of Chemnitz in East Germany became Karl Marx Stadt in May. When Art and I first traveled to East Germany in 1991, we were confused when we saw Karl Marx Stadt on the map, but kept seeing signs for Chemnitz where Karl Marx Stadt should have been. The Germans had changed the city's name back to its original after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

*Also in May, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay ascended to the summit of Mount Everest. Hillary died just this past January.

*June 2 saw the coronation of Elizabeth II as Queen of the United Kingdom. More than 20 million people watched the BBC coverage and many people crowded around TV sets for the first time. Now most households in the United States have two or more TVs. Art, the girls and I were in England in 2003 and bought special five-pound coins which celebrated the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth's reign.

*The Korean War ended in late July. Husband Art and I recently interviewed his brother Tommy about his Korean War service.

*John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier were married on Sept. 12. The Kennedy family is still making history. Although JFK's younger brother Ted is suffering from brain cancer, he made a rousing speech at the recent Democratic National Convention.

*On Sept. 25, a hurricane in Southeast Asia claimed 1,000. Hurricanes Hannah and Ike recently hit the United States and, although not deadly in terms of lives lost, the storms wreaked billions of dollars of damages.

*The UNIVAC 1103, the first commercial computer to use random access memory (RAM), was built in October. Its RAM had 1024 locations while most machines today have more than 500 million..

*On Dec. 30, the first color television sets went on sale for about $1,175. Now color sets are much less expensive and we'll be switching to digital next February.

It was interesting to think of those events of 55 years ago and how they were connected and contrasted with today.

And when the rainy weather changed over into a glorious sunny day, I thought it was a perfect birthday.

I received a dozen cards, a few e-mail wishes and calls from family and friends. Among the calls was one from Uncle Stan and Aunt Kay in California.

"I can remember taking a picture of you reflected in the shiny hubcap of our car," Stan said. "You weren't even 1 yet." Kay, who was on the other phone, laughed at the memory.

"Now that you're older, you don't seem that much younger than us," he continued.

It was my turn to laugh. "Well, the older I get, the less old you seem to me!" I replied.

Friend Teres, who also has a birthday in September, treated me to lunch. I hadn't seen her for a number of years.

"Let's see, how old are you today?" she asked. When I told her 55, she said, "I had you pegged at about 48."

I'm not sure if she was just flattering me, but it made me feel good anyway.

Still, at day's end, of all that happened on my birthday this year and the world-changing events of 55 years ago, it was Stan's recollection of a not-quite-yet-1-year-old reflected in a shiny hubcap that seemed to stand out. It will never be in Funk and Wagnall's, but that memory and the fact he remembered was perhaps the nicest present anyone could want.

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