Intrigued by the roundness of the new year now a mere 21 days old, I spent an afternoon with my new laptop googling and with my old brain recollecting various round milestones on tap to be observed, even celebrated, as 2020 rolls along. I am passing along a few of the anniversaries I find personally or generally interesting.
I suppose the invention of the Band-Aid one hundred years ago seems trivial, but I find the details fascinating. The wife of a newly-married employee of Johnson & Johnson was accident prone in the kitchen; thus, her husband created the forerunner of our modern bandages so that his mate could dress her own injuries. In that same category is the jungle gym, created by a lawyer who wanted children to experience the monkeybar benefits of climbing for exercise.
Far more important to sports aficionados, I assume, is the 100th anniversary of the NFL. After years of trying to compete with the more popular college game, representatives of several regional pro teams met in Canton, Ohio, to establish the first successful professional football league, with Jim Thorpe at the helm. I have never been much of a football fan, but I grew up hearing player names – Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Y.A. Tittle – and team names – the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings – emanating from the TV on Sunday afternoons. By the way, the first Super Bowl was played a few months before I graduated from high school in 1966.
And Tennessee’s 100 years-ago ratification added the 19th amendment to the Constitution: The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Suffragettes had toiled mightily for many years prior, with parades and picketing and prison time, for political equality. Every citizen of our country should be grateful for their success in winning the right to vote for women. The debate centering on another cause they championed so long ago – equal pay for equal work – continues.
What I will most celebrate this year, however, will be my father’s 100th birthday. Until he left us seven years ago, he lived a life that was not easy but certainly honorable. He lived humbly and honestly, worked hard, served his country, led and supported his family. He was a man among men, and my siblings and I continue to consider ourselves more than fortunate to call him our father.
Round milestones continued to occur with the first World Cup soccer tournament ninety years ago. Both the 40-hour workweek and the first peacetime draft became law eighty years ago in 1940. The first credit card (made of cardboard) and the first Peanuts cartoon appeared seventy years ago, while To Kill a Mockingbird has graced bookstores and library shelves for sixty years now.
It is in this year, however, that 50-year observances will abound. I have already offered to head up the memory book for Otterbein’s Class of 1970 – it is, after all, the 50th anniversary of our graduation. Beyond our ivy-covered walls where we were putting the finishing touches on our degrees, young people everywhere participated in the first Earth Day and 18-year-olds became America’s newest voters. However, nationwide student unrest led to campus protests and the deaths of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Knox Schroeder, remembered 50 years later at the May 4th Memorial on Kent State’s campus.
That 50-year benchmark continued with a myriad of firsts: my driver’s license, my first car, my first apartment, my first grown-up job with a salary, my first classroom filled the first of an entire career’s worth of teenaged students. It was a glorious time, it was a stressful time – and it all happened fifty years ago.
But time marches on, as time is wont to do. Forty years ago we cheered the “miracle on ice” in Lake Placid, wondered “Who shot J.R.?”, and found Ted Turner’s brainchild of a 24-hour cable news channel on our TV screens in the form of CNN. And can it be thirty years since NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope, West and East Germany reunited, Homer Simpson and crew showed up for regular broadcasts on Fox, and www became part of our national vocabulary with the first web page of the World Wide Web?
The turn of the century burst onto the scene – and our calendars – a seemingly distant twenty years ago. That milestone began amidst Y2K uncertainty and ended in political uncertainty when hanging chads, vote recounts, and Supreme Court rulings eventually gave George Bush the Presidency over Al Gore.
It is, however, a ten-year milestone that has had a most profound effect on me personally. In June of 2010 I closed my classroom door for the final time and stepped into retirement. On balance, I am a happy retiree who is relieved to be finished with the accumulative weariness caused by the politicization of education but who also misses terribly all the highs and lows that accompanied the daily interaction with teenagers in the pursuit of learning.
And now I find myself counting UP to my next round milestone – Birthday # 80! As I spend most of this new decade dealing with mixed feelings about that inevitability, I am certain of one truism: milestones, round or not, will continue to accumulate – and I plan to continue counting them!