40 years of progress

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2007

If you are older than 50 years old, these following words might be for you.

If you are older than 30 and you mock your older generation, these words might be for you.

If you still have your high school prom outfit in a closet and you can find it quickly, these words might not be for you.

If you haven’t yet picked out your prom outfit, go play video games. Come back in about 10 years.

A dear friend of mine turned 40 recently, and her most loyal friends did what others close to them do when someone reaches the majestic milestone. We made unmerciful fun of her.

She’s the “child” in our group, a tag-a-long. And no one can quite understand how she came to be part of our older group. She’s a younger sister to a brother not one of us knows. Or something like that.

Nevertheless, no one is sure what that all means except she’s an outcast. Yet she has somehow been accepted. But she’s still a kid.

Still, it gave us time to pause. Some 40 years ago. 1967.

From the best we can remember and what we’ve researched on the Internet, life 40 years ago included some tidbits:

Having to actually walk to a bus stop was common. Color televisions were not.

When you received mail, the flag on the mail box was raised, not as it is today.

Some neighborhoods were still served by milkmen.

Bottled water? Forget it.

Cars with automatic transmissions were still an oddity.

One of the year’s best-selling novels was written by William Styron, who died last year. Anyway, he was born in Newport News and graduated Duke in 1947. That year, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” a fictional recreation of the 1831 slave rebellion in Southampton County. One of Styron’s other novels is something called “Sophie’s Choice,” published two years later and then made into a movie of the same name.

Also in 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

In a monumental event, Dr. Christiaan N. Bernard and a team of South African surgeons performed the world’s first successful human heart transplant. The patient died 18 days later. It didn’t work out too well for the patient at the time, but my gosh, what a milestone.

Cost of a first-class stamp was 5 cents.

The median household income , in current dollars, was $7,143.

On the home front, the first microwave oven hit the consumer market, making “fast food” a staple in American kitchens.

The Beatles released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” forever changing the face of rock music.

Super Bowl I was played (The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10).

And our friend was born.

Paul McFarlane is the Editor of The Tidewater News. His e-mail is paul.mcfarlane@tidewaternews.com.