Sunday, May 31, 2009

How old am I?

I’m so old
Robert A. Hall

A line in a recent column by the brilliant economist Dr. Thomas Sowell resonated with me. Sowell said, “I’m so old, I remember when music was musical.” I’ve been quoting it to friends. In a year or so, I’ll probably think I invented it. That’s what getting old does to your brain.

But it started me thinking about so many areas where the same formulation applies.

I’m so old, I remember when you could understand the words in the songs they played on the radio. And the words didn’t make my grandmother blush.

I’m so old, as a state senator I worked in an office without a computer, fax, or e-mail. I hand wrote letters for my secretary to type. She corrected them with White Out® and used carbon paper to make file copies.

I’m so old, in that office there was only one copy machine available to us, two floors down, in the Republican Floor Leader’s office. It was a Thermofax Machine, and the phrase was “burn a copy of this.” The copies curled up and turned brown in your files.

I’m so old, I remember when judges were supposed to decide cases on the basis of the law and constitution, rather than on “empathy.” In fact, I’m so old, I remember when it was considered wrong to choose a judge based on race or gender, rather than qualifications.

I’m so old, I remember when phones were black and attached to the wall. Usually one to a house. In fact, I’m so old, I can remember being on a party line. You had to listen to the rings to determine if the call was for you or a neighbor, and people listened in on each others calls. The ACLU didn’t seem to mind.

I’m so old, I remember when drunk drivers were more of a threat than people driving while phoning or texting.

I’m so old, I remember when the election of a Democrat president and Congress wasn’t a threat to our national security and defense. In fact, I’m so old, I remember the election of JFK, on a platform that we needed more missiles to defend the country from the communists. (Never mind that the “missile gap” didn’t really exist.)

I’m so old, my first two-wheel bike only had one speed, fat tires, and sounded cool with playing cards clipped to vibrate in the spokes like a motor.

I’m so old, I was sent to war in Vietnam by a Democrat president and Congress.

I’m so old, the doors in my high school weren’t locked when I went there. And there were no security checkpoints to get into the Massachusetts State House when I was a senator, despite bombing campaigns by peaceful lefties like Bill Ayers.

I’m so old, we used to take a road trip when I was a kid to Henry Yip’s Chinese Restaurant, as there wasn’t one on every corner.

I’m so old, in the Marines I wore solid green utility uniforms, not camouflage. And I even carried an M-1 rifle in infantry training. Not old enough for herringbones, however, so I guess I’m not “Old Corps” yet.

I’m so old, in high school I couldn’t have told you the difference between Marijuana, cocaine and heroin. And I’ve never even tried marijuana, let alone the others. That has produced some harassment from the “cool people.” Apparently, “law abiding citizen” isn’t a protected class when it comes to harassment.

I’m so old, I watched Hoppy and Howdy Doody on a black and white TV, that only got three stations; CBS, ABC and NBC. If the reception was fuzzy, you turned the rabbit-ear antenna.

I’m so old, I remember when a million dollars was a lot of money. Even to the government. In fact, I can remember Democrats blasting a Republican President for mortgaging our children’s future by running deficits—passed by the Democrat Congress—that were a LOT smaller than the current deficit. Okay, you don’t have to be old to remember that. But no one seems to.

I’m so old, I remember when both parties courted “moderates.”

I'm so old, I remember pulling out of a gas station because they had jacked the price to 35.9 cents a gallon. Didn't even wait until they checked my oil and cleaned the windshield.

I’m so old, I remember when the “right wing nut” was Barry Goldwater, who supported Gay rights. And the “Left Wing Intellectual” was Adili Stevenson, who reportedly said he hadn’t read a book in years.

I’m so old, I remember when the major barrier to black economic progress was white racism, rather than black crime, black gangs, black fathers deserting their children, and black ghetto culture that demeans education as “acting white.” I guess that’s a benefit of multiculturalism.

I’m so old, I remember a black waitress ignoring me at a buss station lunch counter in North Carolina. I didn’t realize there was a white lunch counter on the other side of the building.

I’m so old, I remember when if you wanted to watch a dirty movie, you had to pay for it, instead of just turn on the computer. Progress isn’t all bad. But I’m also so old, there were things I didn’t know about sex until I joined the Marines, which thirteen-year-olds now learn from their computers. So progress isn’t all good, either.

I’m so old, I remember when scientists were in a lather about “Global Cooling” (Time Magazine 6/24/74). Some blamed humans burning of fuels. Some thought it had increased tornados.

I’m so old, the first music disks I bought were two 45 RPM records. “The Battle of New Orleans” and “Venus.” In fact, I can remember when folk singers wore ties.

I’m so old, I remember that what the leftie media now calls “torture,” we called “training” at Parris Island. And I’m forever grateful for it. Smacking the recruits was considered “toughing them up” and where we were going, we needed it.

I’m so old, I remember trucks bringing milk, bread, soda and clean diapers to our house.

I’m so old, I remember dating before AIDS. Fondly.

I’m so old, my professors scared me about the “population bomb” and the massive famines and shortages that would hit the United States in the 1990s. Now the developed countries are experiencing a population decline, with only the US at the “replacement rate” of 2.1 live births per women (thanks in large part to our Mormon and Hispanic population). So my decision not to have kids might have been “green” but too few people having kids may doom civilization.

I’m so old, that when I was elected to the Massachusetts senate in 1972, the year I graduated from U-Mass, I could live on the $12,000 salary.

I’m so old, I can remember when Democrats described themselves as patriots. Without embarrassment among their friends.

I’m so old that I can’t think of a kid I knew in school, black or white, who didn’t have a father at home. That was considered good and normal.

I’m so old, I can remember when “poor” people didn’t have cars, color TVs or air conditioning. In fact, a lot of people who didn’t think they were poor didn’t have some or all of them either. Few kids I knew in High School had their own cars.

I’m so old, I remember when kids were expected to grow up, move out and support themselves, rather than live off mom and dad.

I’m so old, I paid for my senior prom by selling a typewrite I used for school papers. Tickets a rented tux and a nosegay did it then. No trips, limos, cruises or parties.

I’m so old, my first job was delivering groceries on a bike. And 25 cents was a good tip. I still resent the cheap folks who gave me a carton of coke bottles to turn in for 12 cents, though. I think they were fellow Republicans, too.

I’m so old, I remember when Democrats and Republicans actually worked together on legislation, rather than pretending and blasting the other side for the media.

I’m so old, that the most I ever spent on any of my five campaigns for the state senate was $19,000. And $4,0000 of that went to the caterers for two functions, leaving $15,000 for ads and bumper stickers.

I’m so old, I remember penny candy that cost a penny, fountain drinks in five and ten cent sizes, and balsawood gliders for a nickel.

I’m so old, that as a senator, I had as many Democrat friends as Republican ones, both among the senators and among my supporters.

I’m so old that as a kid I rode a bike without a helmet, I rode on my dad’s motorcycle without a helmet, I rode in cars without seatbelts and I rode in the back of pick up trucks. My cousin had a “cart,” basically a board, seat, four wheels off a doll carriage and a rope to steer with, which we rode down hills, helmetless.

I’m so old, I remember when it was an advantage to a political candidate to have served in the Armed Forces of the United States.

I’m so old, I remember a kid with a wagon, a block of ice, a scraper and a couple of bottles of flavored sugar water selling snow cones door to door for a dime each.

I’m so old, I remember when no US judge thought the POWs we captured in Vietnam deserved lawyers, trials and the protections of the US Constitution. I gather that was true in WWII and WWI as well.

I’m so old, I remember when FM radio came out, and what FM and AM mean. (In the Marines, I had a PPM Radio—figure that one out.)

I’m so old, I remember when the government was more worried about the people who wanted to kill Americans—we called them “enemies” not “adversaries”—than it was about the veterans who had defended the Republic.

I’m so old, I remember when the upper class attitude towards veterans and the military was admiration, not condescension.

I’m so old, I remember the first time I heard about “word processing” and who told me. But I didn’t think it would ever matter to me.

I’m so old, I’m starting to write rubbish about the good old days.

Robert A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam veteran who served five terms in the Massachusetts State Senate. He blogs at


  1. I totally agree with you!
    Thank you so much for your service.
    I'm 70 yrs, old and am sooo tired too.

  2. Hey Bob, great stuff I could relate to everyone of them. Since I am slightly older than you here's a few more
    I'm so old, I remember when, as 10 year olds, we rode our bikes 8 miles to Belle Island in the Detroit River, left them unlocked, changed clothes in the bathhouse, left the clothes with the bikes, had a great time and hed to be home before the street lights came on.
    I'm so old, I remember our first TV set was 7 inch round screen but we could only turn it on after dinner.
    I'm so old, I remember the family saying the Rosary every night after dinner (before TV time).
    I'm so old, I remember burning the pile of leaves in the Fall in front of our house, it was four feet high and 60 feet long.
    I'm so old, I remember my parents required everyone (all 9 of my siblings) to be home in time for dinner.
    I'm so old, I remember looking forward to voting for JFK when I turned 21, but he was gone by then.
    I'm so old, I remember when politics wasn't a dirty word, when people had respect for the others point of view but could politely disagree, when the world seemed a lot bigger, and when I thought the future would take forever to arrive.

  3. I didn't think I was that old, but I remember every one of those things you mentioned, except they weren't using M-1s anymore when I went through boot camp.

    Omigosh, I guess I'm getting old!

  4. I got to Parris Island in time to be issued sateen utilities. The rifles were M16-A1s.

    PPM -- pulse position modulation. A different way to mix information with a carrier frequency.

    But I am so old that some of the memories your list brought up nearly made me cry.

  5. im so old that i was warned early on about germs and Germans...didnt know what they were, but knew both could do you no good.
    later on, found out the German public was promised "Change" by an Austrian house painter.He got elected on "popularity" not qualification. (sound familiar?)
    i remember people usedta go to church; recite the Lord's Prayer; worry about being drafted; be generally "honest"(decent anyway;) promise til death do us part (not: until a better deal comes along); wait (happily)in line @ Ellis Island...
    yeh i could go on and on but we will leave our children's children a backbreaking debt to deal with...
    eventually, this generation will get fed up with us oldsters 'n "line us up against a wall"