Saturday, January 27, 2007

Vetustior humo

That's “Older than Dirt” in Latin.

A good friend of mine for many years just emailed me a “History Exam,” a questionaire about the past. My score is: “You are older than dirt!”

I remembered that in the 1940s:
Automobile headlight dimmer switches were located on the floor board, to the left of the clutch – The top of Royal Crown Cola bottles had holes in it to be used to sprinkle clothes before ironing them – Due to rationing during WW II women painted their legs with a “seam” up the back – Roller skates were attached to your shoes with a clamp and tightened with a skate key – A Duck and Cover Drill was hiding under your desk in school and covering your head with your arms during an A-bomb drill – That “ammunition” was the last word in the song title “Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition” – That the Inkspots sang “Cabdriver” and Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco.

There are several versions of the test making the rounds. If you remember Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water – Candy cigarettes – Coffee shops with tableside jukeboxes – Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers – Party lines – Newsreels before the movie – 45 rpm records – S&H Green Stamps – Metal ice trays with lever – Drive-ins – then you are old.

Instead of being viewed as elders with wisdom to impart to those who are younger, I sometimes get the feeling that in our society being old means being beyond redemption. Having no value. No purpose. We are over the hill and out to pasture. Long in the tooth and older than dirt. Those older persons who are still contributing to society are considered exceptions rather than the rule.

John Mc Cain, who celebrated his 70th birthday in August 2006 recently described himself as “older than dirt but not too old to be president.” Seventy seems to be the age at which we achieve this dubious honor of being older than dirt. Most of the people I know who are my age and older are still living active lives and making valid contributions to the communities in which they live. We have not yet reached our expiration date!

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