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Viewed history in the making

As a senior citizen, I often wonder how time flies by so quickly. Sometimes, it astounds me to reflect on how many historic and society-changing trends and events I have witnessed in what seems like such a short time.

I was born on Aug. 14, 1941, in a small hamlet called Bridgeburg in western Pennsylvania, just a few months before Pearl Harbor. Naturally, I do not remember the Japanese attack on that Dec. 7, 1941. However, as a 4-year old, I do remember V-J Day as sirens blew constantly in celebration at our nearby brickyard where my father was employed.

As a 6-year-old in 1947, I remember quite well my first day at school in a one-room school house — and yes, I walked to school, although the distance was not far.

As a baseball fan, I still remember Jackie Robinson breaking the color line.

I do, in fact, remember the 1948 presidential election between Truman and Dewey.

I recall the beginning of the Korean War in June 1950, when the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel. I also remember my father and I visiting my grandfather, giving him the up-to-date news of the war. I believe President Truman called it a police action. It did go on for three full years, and as of today, there’s still not a real surrender or victory.

Television was coming on strong by now. There was only one channel in my neighborhood, WDTV out of Pittsburgh. Sometimes you could not see the programs due to all the “snow” on the screen — and, of course, test patterns! Milton Berle and Jackie Gleason were my favorites.

It may sound strange, but I also remember the 1952 presidential election between Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson. A first was Eisenhower taking the presidential oath on TV.

I remember Marilyn Monroe was all the talk. My dad had a Marilyn Monroe calendar, and I used to sneak in to my parents’ room to steal a peek and even said wow a few times!

The mid-1950s came and the newest music was called rock ‘n’ roll, with Elvis gyrating his way through success as he rocked America, along with Buddy Holly and many more. They became instant heroes and still are. James Dean, who met his doom in an auto accident, was also a hero of the young teens. The Beatles’ music followed in the ’60s with much fanfare.

In 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik and left the U.S. subdued. I remember my science class in high school the next day after, as it was all the talk, including drawings, and when will we and can we do this, too?

I also remember the pains of segregation and at last integration, and the brave who lived it and fought for it.

I graduated from high school in 1959 and joined the Navy in 1960. My first duty station was in D.C., and our newly elected President Kennedy also arrived at the same time. I became a security guard and came in contact with many cabinet and government officials. I went to sea on two different occasions on different ships and learned a lot about myself as a person.

I do remember Alan Shepherd making history by rocketing into space in a tiny capsule and becoming our first astronaut, followed by John Glenn in February 1962 blasting into orbit finalized by a splash down.

I can remember vividly three assassinations, as people my age can never forget. A dark blow for our country.

After my Navy years, I married and eventually became part of the many employees at GM Lordstown in 1966, and was lucky and glad to retire from there. It is very painful to know now that this same giant complex is closed with nothing new in sight.

These are just a few of the times I’ve witnessed during my years. I’m sure we all have many more memories of events that shaped history.

Contact Whited at olebert1@aol.com

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