When A Readers Digest Magazine is The Same Age as You!
In couple of days, July 30th to be exact, it will be my fifty-fourth birthday. A while back I was in an antique store in Reno, Nevada, and happened across a stack of old Readers Digest magazines and found one from July 1962, the month of my birth. I quickly perused it, purchased it, took it home, and pretty much forgot about it.
However, when boxing up books, papers, and magazines in preparation for yet another move, I came across the magazine. I stopped what I was doing and began to read several of the articles and columns. What began to interest me were two things. First, how little has changed in fifty-four years. And second, how much has changed in fifty-four years. What struck me were the issues and concerns of the time are still pretty much the same today as they were then. We as Americans have not changed all that much. What has changed is the scale, scope and dimension of those issues and concerns.
In this blog I will opine a few of the articles. Frankly, I wanted to write about all of them but that would have no doubt caused a “delete key” reaction on the part of my subscribers. So here it goes:
In her article, The Case for Chastity, the author Margaret Culkin Banning wrote, “If venereal disease is ultimately stamped out, one risk of unchastity will be destroyed.” The other risk was of pregnancy, to which she stated, “. . . She is apt to believe she is safe from conception because of certain contraceptives. . .”
Fast forward to today with the Republican National Convention still fresh in our minds and we can see how some bad ideas just can’t die fast enough. To the collective discredit of Republicans across the country, under the Party’s platform plank titled, Consumer Choice in Education, was a call to teach abstinence.
It states and I quote, “We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with abstinence education which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually.”
The article by Banning was actually first printed in 1937, and was reprinted in the July 1962 magazine. Apparently, there was popular demand for it. (Although I don’t see why as the mini skirt didn’t begin appearing until 1966. . .) At that time, I have little doubt that “unchastity” was the operating norm for pre-marital relations between a man and woman. Fortunately for us today, it is a concept being touted by a minority steering their political party pell mell into obscurity. However, as Trump has neither practiced or ever professed chastity, maybe there is hope the herd of elephants.
This article outlined how to make decisions concerning and preparing for financial events such as the need to borrow money, retirement, and college. Under “Ways to Pay for College” it states, “college costs are doubling every 15 years, roughly. Average cost to a student living on campus for a year at a publicly supported college is now $1550; at a private college, $2,300. How do you meet these charges?”
Well, knock me over with a feather . . .In 1962 the author may have thought $2,300 was a lot of money but he’s not that far off the mark. Using his projections (roughly) the average cost per year for a private college in 2016 would be $27,000. When in fact today a student can expect to spend on average $32,000 per year to attend a private college. And of course many are far more expensive, as my nephew who just graduated from Drexel can attest.
The first live program will be broadcast from America to Europe via a space satellite this summer-one of the greatest advances in communications since the telephone was invented.
In this article, Harland Manchester wrote about a launch that would soon take place of the spherical 34” Telstar satellite that would relay live American television programing to Europe. Amazingly, in 2016 there are 2,271 satellites currently circling the earth. They cover a range of functions that include navigation, reconnaissance, communications, missile detection, signals intelligence and weather.
The Telstar satellite mentioned in the article cost Bell laboratories roughly $500,000 to build. Then if you added launching the thing, it came to a grand total of $3,000,000. Today a typical weather satellite costs roughly $290,000,000 to build and launch with an addition $1.5 million per year to maintain it. THE HELL WITH PLASTICS! Ben Braddock in the movie, The Graduate should have been told to invest in communications and defense!
“Consider the savage and shortsighted work of the strip miners. In the search for cheap coal as they gouge a fair countryside-leaving only scars, rubble, and flood-control problems for future generations to contemplate. . . .”
The article was written by Harry Caudill, a former representative in the Kentucky legislature. He described the how the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was the main culprit behind the strip mining of the day. In its early years the TVA “was a benevolent agency conceived as an experiment in the rehabilitation of people and resources. With its huge dams it poured out cheap electricity which lighted homes and ran factories all through the valley of the Tennessee River.”
However, growth happened. More people, more factories, more demand, you know the story. . .
The hydroelectric dams could not keep up with demand and congress authorized the TVA to build more power generating plants. These new steam plants would not be powered by the river (there is only so much hydro available), but rather coal. And they burned millions and continue to burn millions of tons each year.
Today the TVA operates eight coal fired along with natural gas, nuclear and a few renewable energy plants. Although it is planning to shutter the coal plants in coming years due to falling demand and competition from natural gas, the damage has been done.
Greenpeace estimates that between 1930 and 2000 some 5.9 million acres of land in the US has succumbed to strip mining. And attempts to rehabilitate the land after the coal has been extracted have been disappointing. Moreover, that doesn’t take into account the impact the burning of all that coal has had on climate change.
So, as I sit here at my desk this evening, the world has passed climate line of demarcation that is 400 parts per million. The damage done the environment may not be reversible.
Sadly, the author left us with a warning that for the most part went unheeded. He stated, “If the nation’s rivers are to be subdued and its string of costly lakes preserved, the mountain slopes must be sheltered with foliage. Cheap power purchased by the ruin of vast land areas and the silting up of our precious complex of freshwater reservoirs will prove a costly bargain indeed.”
“An Englishman dining in a London supper club was observing with distaste a gay party on the dance floor doing the Twist.“Americans, I presume,” he observed to the waiter.“No, sir – English.”“Humph,” he grumbled. “Revolting, nevertheless!””
Of course “gay”, “gay party” has a much different connotation in 2016. Today The Englishman could very well be looking at two homosexual men on the dance floor of their wedding celebration.
We have all heard the expression “history may not repeat but it does rhyme.” I suppose it does. But I would also offer that there are rhythms in history and these rhythms repeat as well. In reading the articles from July 1962, I am left with a sense that the rhythm of today and the rhythm of 1962 are out of synch. Yes, many of the issues and concerns appear similar and in that respect – they rhyme. In spite of the fact that there were all kinds of concerns and warnings being raised throughout the articles, there was an underlying sense of optimism between the lines. It is an optimism I find missing from the many articles I read, and media I watch today. In contrast, when I read magazines from the mid and late 1930s, I get the impression that the rhythm of that time is in synch with rhtyhm of today. As Bible stated and the musical group, the Birds made popular, “there is a season, turn, turn, turn.”
In closing, if you are reading this on my birthday, stop by my facebook page and wish me a happy birthday. And better yet, like and share the article.