"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Hometowners" come back for the holidays

'Tis the season to forget people's names. Holidaytime means many Morris natives are back to visit. You might see them at holiday-themed events.
Those of us who are still Morris residents have our memory tested. Boomer-age natives come back to Motown to spend precious time with family. There were so many of us. The high school only included grades 10 through 12 because there wasn't room for any more. The sophomores were the young ones who could get picked on a little.
This time of year, you can be at church and notice old acquaintances who you might not have seen in a long time. They'll befriend you and assume you can place them. Their cheery chit-chat is welcome, especially so if you can actually remember who they are.
The gap in time is getting rather wide for us boomers. Many of us have acquired additional pounds around the middle. Hair may have receded.
I was befriended by an old female peer at the Senior Citizens Christmas Bazaar. In this case, I couldn't place her even when she told me her first name. I didn't know her real well in high school, so I might be excused. But there was a tinge of awkwardness. I have gotten to know her mother well through the years.
Actually there are numerous parents of my old peers who I didn't know at all when I was in high school, but with whom I have gotten close in the years since. It's beneficial for young people to get to know middle-aged adults. Most of these parents were faceless to me when I was young, and that's a shame.
I have seen other commentary on the web, like on Minnpost, suggesting young people would benefit having more exposure to adults, rather than being around each other all the time. Since when does anyone think kids mature at an acceptable rate when stuck among themselves? I would argue quite the opposite happens.
Boomers try to erase their memory about this. We were engaged in so much ridiculous and self-destructive behavior. The drinking age got lowered - that certainly didn't help. Our environment was more cynical. We all knew the nation had been hurt badly by the Viet Nam War. We were stung by economic inflation.
To get a taste of those times, watch any of the "Smokey and the Bandit" movies, movies that mocked authority figures and portrayed certain kinds of lawbreaking as cute. I remember reading an op-ed that expressed anger about Jackie Gleason, a very talented man, even accepting the role of sheriff in those movies.
The Clint Eastwood movie "Bronco Billy" had a sheriff character in the same mold - a narrow, pathetic, pot-bellied man who sought to abuse a Viet Nam War draft dodger. We have since elected draft dodgers to high office in America. Under Jimmy Carter we passed amnesty for those who had literally fled America to avoid war obligations. I once interviewed a principal of Cyrus High School, initials S.B., who told me his whole story about this. He went to Australia.
Us boomers had too much time on our hands. We were so teeming in numbers. But the activities available to us were far less. Ironic and sad. Organized girls sports were just getting started. It would be some time before girls could feel fully in the mainstream with their athletic pursuits.
The first girls basketball teams were challenged just mastering the fundamentals. I remember a referee, now deceased, saying "You have to call traveling every time. You have to, otherwise they'll never learn."
Hockey! Hockey took much longer to get into the mainstream. We of course needed an indoor arena. Prior to that, hockey could never get off the ground as a full-fledged sports option. Oh, it was organized, but it kept a "sandlot" quality until finally the Lee Center was built. Now we all take it for granted.
As someone who covered hockey for the media at the less-formal level, I do not take it for granted.
When I was in high school, there was still an expectation that girls would gravitate to "home ec." I don't hear the term "home ec" anymore. I remember interviewing a girl in Hancock who had gotten elected to a high office in FHA (Future Homemakers of America).
Oh my God, Morris didn't have an FFA chapter when I was in high school! Can you imagine that? Today it's one of the most visible school programs. It maybe gets more community support than any other MAHS program. But when I was in high school, nada. There were more farm families scattered around the area then, in the age before consolidation and "efficiencies" took over.
We grew up in a time with none of the electronic gadgets that are ubiquitous today. How did we get by? Somehow we did. And, we all learned to get along or at least co-exist with each other, even though we realized that many in our midst - maybe even me - had special challenges which today would get special attention, as with "behavior meds" or "alternative school."
We had to get along
Boomers grew up when kids were more or less thrown together and expected to progress together. Yes, it was with fits and starts. Bullying existed and society didn't really fight it. Parents didn't expect perfection from their kids. Seat belts were totally optional.
Neanderthal times? I really don't think so.
I hope I can keep remembering the names of my old boomer peers, as they "come back home" for the Christmas holidays of 2013. If I falter, just help me out a little. 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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