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God, how I miss the sweet innocence of days gone by.

Take me back to a time when, as kids, young brothers and sisters could walk to the neighborhood grocery store to buy penny candy and drink a 7-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola.

Growing up, it was called “dinner” and “supper”. And if you weren’t home at the agreed upon time, you didn’t eat. That wasn’t child abuse. That was the rule. The television could not be on during mealtime. We ate at five; news at six.

Now, it’s called “lunch” and “dinner”. It’s a rather informal ritual, meal time is on the flex schedule and the television is never off!

The grade school that I attended was a big, two-story brick building that was cooled by opening windows and heated by a big, coal-fired steam boiler. Huge radiators ran along the wall in the classrooms. School never let out early because it was “too hot”. Doors were locked at the end of the school day. Playground equipment was set over gravel. Swings were “slings” and the jungle gym was made from iron piping. Fire escapes were large diameter tubes that you slid down to safety. Our school security was the principal and his wooden paddle. If he needed back up; he had Fuzzy, the school janitor. Oh; by the way, we started our day by reciting “The Pledge of Allegiance” with pride.

The games were tag, hide-and-seek, kick-the-can, whiffle ball, Monopoly, Crazy Eights, jig-saw puzzles or whatever your imagination could conjure. The time of season dictated the type of sport. You know; baseball, riding bicycles, swimming, fishing in the summer…sledding, skating and building snow forts in the winter.

There were the Saturday matinees at the local theater. Admission was fifteen cents for 12 and under. Popcorn was hot and it was only a dime. A Merry Melodies cartoon would play before the feature starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Kissing was “icky”.

Cars were the size of the status they intended to project. They were huge, steel chariots with real chrome, fins, bench seats both front and back, AM radio with ONE speaker, white-wall tires and a full-size spare and engines big enough to power small towns. Station wagons could seat NINE people with no such thing as a “cross-over” or “SUV”. Give me a metallic blue, ’59 Chevy Impala…two-door. Four doors are for old fogies.

Televisions were built into cabinets and images were broadcasted in black and white. There were Saturday morning cartoons. The Three Stooges were on after school. Shows like Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, The Virginian, Bonanza (Dad liked westerns and HE controlled the TV when he was home), Leave It to Beaver, the Jetsons, Ozzie and Harriet, D*** Van Dyke, Red Skelton, I Love Lucy and The Ed Sullivan Show would be our childhood “influence” . Violence was the occasional western “gunfight” or the Beaver taking on the school bully, but under no circumstances were there any “bedroom” scenes. And when the station signed off for the night, you saw an American flag waving in the wind and heard the playing of the National Anthem.

We had Cub Scouts, school plays, church youth groups, summer league baseball, fishing derbies, Easter egg hunts, Sidewalk days, carnivals and parades to hone our social skills. If you needed to call home, you used a pay phone or asked to use a telephone-rotary dial, no less.

As a kid, I wasn’t interested in the news, unless it was sports news. I didn’t know nor did I want to know about the news at the time. I didn’t listen to it, watch it or read about it. News only extended to what was going on at school, in the neighborhood or within the family.

But that all changed for me on November 22, 1963. I was sitting in my sixth grade classroom and my teacher, Mrs. Sparling came into the room and she was crying. Then, she told us that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

What; how can that be? He had the vision to rocket our people into Space. He got the Russians to pull their missiles out of Cuba. We live in a civilized society where differences are settled by talking about it.

And an entire nation wept.

Then, just two months later in January of 1964, my brother-in-law died while at work. He and my dad were south of town using a crane with a clam bucket to dig at the city’s south lagoon. Dad was operating the crane and swung the boom into high voltage lines. My brother-in-law grabbed the bucket to push the boom out from the wires and was killed. I loved my brother-in-law so much, that I thought I hated my dad. I blamed Dad for Hayden’s death.

My age of innocence was over because I felt hate for the first time or what I thought was hate. Up until that point, I had never cried over someone else. Oh; I cried when I was disciplined and I cried when my dog, Mac, was ran over by a car, but the loss of my brother-in-law changed all of that. I cried because of a different kind of hurt.

With junior high school came more mature pursuits. News “current events” became a classroom assignment. Grown-ups talked about the news of the day. This was where they connected with the rest of the world. If you wanted to mingle with the grown-ups, you had to know what was newsworthy.

The newscasters of the day always ended their telecast with a feel-good story that was a slice of Americana served up with a slice of humility. But, then came the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Los Angeles had weathered the Watts riots. Richard Speck was captured after murdering eight student nurses in Chicago. The Vietnam War was in full swing and demonstrations against the war were a daily occurrence. The Manson murders, Kent State, Son of Sam, the deaths of rock stars Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, the Munich massacre at the Olympics, assassination attempts on Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, the murder of John Lennon, the Oklahoma City bombing and of course, 9/11 have all left an enormous impact. Rationalization is elusive.

Fast forward to Boston  (related news article here). The pain inflicted upon this historic city is pain that I can’t begin to imagine. There can be no justification for such a barbaric and cowardly act. Forgiveness is out of the question.

What I find is that you can turn off the news, but you can’t stop the hurt. Our world has become one filled with violence or potential for violence.

Through it all, I remain optimistic.


Because of our humanity, compassion, strength and courage.  When bad things happen to us, we respond by never giving up. We design plans to make us safer. We make it harder for people to hurt us. We fight the forces of evil wherever it occurs. We do whatever is necessary to keep America as the greatest nation on Earth.

But, I’ll be honest.

I’m ready for some good news.

The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

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