Today I turned 63.

In our culture age is suppose to be a secret. How will we know what 40, 50, 60 or 70 looks like if we keep our ages secret? Those ages sound old but might that not be because we have not learned to associate them with healthy, fit and mentally active people?  For people searching, for a job or a man or woman “who likes long walks on the beach”, there is certainly value in not biasing someone against us before meeting us, by revealing our age.  An old woman in my town, a shopkeeper of a tiny old-fashioned toy store, just celebrated her 99th birthday. People in the community held a party for her in front of her store. In her thank you note to the community, she thanked everyone, and I quote, “hope that we may celebrate next year on my 100th birthday.” In the photo of her in the newspaper, she did not look a day over 85!!  Seeing her filled me with hope that I may still be riding my bicycle at 99!  A person of 99 years must look back to their 60’s as their younger years. I have looked at photos of my grandparents when they were in their 60’s and thought how young they looked compared to how I remembered them in their last years of life.  I think of the sixties as being the infancy of my elder years. It is all a matter of perspective. A friend of mine just turned thirty and was feeling rather old. To me he is a  young man, wise beyond his years.  I do think it will be a bit strange to me when my children reach their thirties.

Age does not make a person a has-been. I am living history, just as we all are. Commercial television first made its appearance in 1949, the year before I was born and did not make its appearance in my home until several years after that, much to the dismay of my father. Universal polio immunizations were given in 1956. I knew that it was a big deal from hearing my parents talk about it.

In the town of Port Washington, New York, where I lived until just after I began first grade, I and every child walked to school independently, without a hovering adult. My grade school years were filled with total freedom of movement.  I do not recall reporting my whereabouts to my parents. No one did. We knew what time to be home for meals and that seemed to be enough for every child’s parents.

During my grade school years, we had “duck and cover” drills, where we would crawl beneath our desks and cover our heads with our arms, and coats, if they were available. As an eleven year old I recall the concern from my father about the Cuban missile crises. A sixth grade friend of mine knew about the SALT talks (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty). My eleven year old self was blissfully ignorant of such things.

At twelve, I marched in my small town to the tiny African Methodist Episcopal church around the time of the larger march on Washington. In 1964, I was 13 when the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. What I remember from watching the Beatles was my brother calling the family to come down to the playroom to see me hysterically crying  along with all of the other girls that I saw on television. I understand mass hysteria having lived it!  Marijuana had not yet reached my town when I was a teenager in the 1960’s, alcohol was the available drug and the drinking age was eighteen. I did not know anyone until I was 23 who smoked pot.

In 1965 I attended boarding school in New Hampshire. There was no school van. The expected transportation was to stick out one’s thumb. Once a teacher filled his car with kids and gave us a lift to a near by town. In addition to the three students and teacher on the front bench seat there were kids sitting on kids’ laps on the back bench seat and two or so kids in the large trunk. It was unusual for a car to have seat belts back then. I dimly remember being stopped by the police. Some of us had to hitch hike back to school. The school, of course, now has a school van.

I went to France in the fall of 1968

Dinner on SS Rotterdam

Becky at 11 Rue hanneloup, Angers Me at eighteen with 16 year old Amanda Taylor from England and eighteen year old Rose from Rhodesia. They lived with a family on the second floor of the house. I lived with the Tesson Family who owned the house and lived on the third floor. Madam Tesson was very stingy!

Crossing the Atlantic on the SS Rotterdam. We had assigned tables for Breakfast,lunch and Dinner. My dinner companions were Charloote from Paris and Le Havre and a couple from Belgium. Notice the ashtray. We all smoked after dinner. I think that it so disgusting now!

.

Having heard about the student protests in Paris in May of 1968 and coming from a small sleepy town, my eighteen year old self thought that Paris was the best possible place to be. To my parent’s relief it was quiet on the streets of Angers,                                                                where I first lived for four months, and Paris where I lived for two months. No cell phones back then so I was cut off from my family except for the one phone call I received from them while in France, letters that crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean and a visit from my father on his way to Africa to gather material for a new African studies program at the community college where he was a professor. I intended to stay for the school year, but tragedy struck my family, and I returned home in March of 1969, after the death of my father. I was contacted by telegram to call my grandfather in the Netherlands because he had bad news. I made the international phone call from an available phone at the post office.

 

 

 

Rebecca's telegram

 

 

 

 

I took a dislike to Elvis Presley as a five year old because my parents did not like him. Decades later though, I changed my mind. I recall my sister, seven years older than me, listening to the popular music of the fifties. The music of the fifties, sixties and seventies is still played today. I consider it “my music”.  I was there when the songs first aired! A steady stream of cars streamed past my town on their way to Woodstock, New York in August of 1969.  My brother-in-law and a friend talked of selling water to the festival goers. In retrospect, I am happy that I did not go. Recently, I heard how dreadful the conditions were!

I experienced the eras of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, McCarthy, McGovern, oops, delete those last two, Carter, Regan, Bush I, Clinton, Gore,        Bush II,  Cheney/Bush II right up to President Obama. The Vietnam war and the specter of being drafted hung over every boy my age in the late sixties and the early seventies. All those young men being drafted were unable to vote, the voting age being twenty-one.  The year I turned twenty-one, the twenty- sixth amendment changed the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen.

I typed college papers on my typewriter or hand printed them if my professor allowed it. I reluctantly received from my brother, my first calculator when I was thirty. I did not want to loose my basic arithmetic skills. I am never without a calculator now, if only to check my arithmetic. Computers were not common place until I was nearly in my late forties. I had no answering machine until I was about fifty. We had phone chains to convey important information. Cell phones were not ubiquitous in the US until I was in my fifties. I recall in the early 1990’s having my car break down with my two small children in the back seat. I had no cell phone. I got lucky when a tow truck  happened to drive by. He towed my car and gave us a lift.

To anyone reading this the 2000’s  are modern history, so I will stop here.  Most of my subsequent posts will not be nearly as long. I hope some of you enjoyed reading my first ever post. I would enjoy reading your comments. Thanks to Preeti and Riv for getting me started!

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About Rebecca

I am an out and about type of cyclist. I am a confident, friendly, assertive cyclist here on the streets of Boston where I have been riding bikes since 1973. I love riding my Dutch bicycle bought in Amsterdam in 2008 and my folder bicycle which has accompanied me on trips to Washington DC, New York City, a week-end on my son’s Maryland college campus, a visit to my sister in Saratoga Springs, NewYork, a visit to see my son, now living in Holland, Michigan and twenty days of cycling in the Netherlands. My husband and I are moving to the Netherlands in three years. We look forward to bicycling in the world’s best country for bicycles!
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6 Responses to Today I turned 63.

  1. Suzanne Kroll says:

    I enjoyed learning more about you. What small town did you live in? Growing up in Detroit was far less insulated. Did you want to go to boarding school, or was it not an option?
    When my friends were screaming in reaction to the Beatles I didn’t get it, although i did like their music. I’ve always wondered about that. Now I can ask you to explain it, haha! What was that about?
    Do you remember word processors? I had one between the typewriter and computer.
    I did not know you spent so much time in Paris! Do you speak French? I backpacked in Europe when I was 18 and had many adventures….would like to hear about yours sometime.

  2. Rebecca says:

    My reply to you started to turn into a length that was long enough to be a a posting. So I will just try to give short direct answers and write another post about growing up. I lived in three different towns the first nineteen years of my life. When I was six we moved from Port Washington, NY to Newburgh, New York and at eleven we moved again to Goshen, New York.
    I very much wanted to go to boarding school. My oldest sister did not go to a boarding school. My older sister went to a Quaker boarding school for one year before we moved to Goshen. She was not happy there. I went to boarding school for two years but I wanted more independence than I had there, so I came back to Goshen for my senior year of high school. It turned out to be propitious because my father died unexpectedly a year later. I am glad that I, as an older teen had that last year at home with him. My younger brother went for four years to a prep school in Connecticut and my youngest sister went to a small artsy craftsy school in New York State for eleventh through twelfth grades. My grandfather and scholarships paid for private schools for us.
    I lived in Detroit, by the way in Indian Village in 1978 – 1979. I attended the Waldorf Institute. Detroit was a bit surreal back then but I think the two experiences dovetailed nicely. I think Detroit has great potential to be a wonderful bicycling city.!

    At first I thought when you said you didn’t get it about screaming in reaction to the Beatles. that you are just younger than I am so it didn’t affect you in the same way but then you said your friends were screaming. Perhaps you are not susceptible to mass hysteria. I like to think I no longer am but I think it is something I need to remain vigilant about. I think when I saw the other girls screaming, I thought I should too. I wanted to be like the other girls.

    I do remember word processors but we didn’t have much money and I just figured that I could get along fine without one. I think that we got our first real computer when Ellis went out of business and Paul took half of his pension and we used that for various important stuff including a computer. Before that we had an old computer from Paul’s parents that had pirated softwear which would freeze up if you breathed in its directions. MIT students of his father had given paul’s father that computer. His parents wanted only Paul to handle the computer and blamed its problems on our kids. Hah! He is the person in our family who has the least computer skills now! Susannah was fifteen at the time and really wanted a computer. I wonder if I would have a computer now if I didn’t have kids. A friend from high school left the work force to care for her handicapped son in the early 90’s She doesn’t have a computer. It is such an integral part of life now. It would seem a hardship not to have one.

    My french was barely good enough to have a simple conversation. I am embarrassed to say that I was a lazy student and allowed French students to practice their English with me .I think my French is best understood by someone who speaks english! My own kids went to an excellent language camp in Minnesota, Susannah, for German, Brendan for French . Brendan would hear Paul and I speak to one another in French when we wanted to say something we did not want the kids to understand. So Brendan wanted to learn French to understand what we were saying. He now speaks very good French without much of an accent. He now knows I speak a deplorable French! Interestingly, Brendan did a month in France in the same town I lived in in France, in the French program of the French camp in Minnesota where he had spent five summers.

    I traveled in Europe the Summer after I graduated from Boston University in 1975 when I was 24. I would love to hear your stories of backpacking through Europe!

    I guess this wasn’t such a short response! Lol!

  3. preetirao says:

    Many happy returns of the day, Rebecca! I am so impressed to see your first blog post. Read the entire post and felt nostalgic. It reminded me of one of our long chat sessions! I miss Paul’s and your company. I would like to see more pics in your next post. You could maybe write about your recent bike tours in Netherlands……

    • Rebecca says:

      My next post will have lots of pictures. I am collecting them now. At some point I will write about my trip. More will be coming about growing up. I also have many topics to write about that are not about me.
      It was our great pleasure having you and Aman staying with us. Who would know those many years ago when Mannish rented a room from us, that it would lead to benefits that came years later! Thank you for taking the time in your last moments of moving to get me started. Getting started was the hardest part!

  4. Walter says:

    I remember the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. It was a big event at the time. Where were you when the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon? Did you see it on TV?

  5. Rebecca says:

    It seems pretty incredulous to me now, but I do not remember where I was at the time. Nor can I recall seeing it. One of the biggest events of my lifetime and I don’t even remember seeing it. I was working at Mack brothers that summer wrapping meat at a long table in a refrigerator warehouse. The contrast between the cold inside temperatures and the hot outdoors where we went for our fifteen minute break was drainning. It was an unpleasant, strict environment to work in. I probably stayed there for a few weeks at most.

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