Our Tuesday gathering was minus our guru Dennis Smith, a recently retired farmer on winter hiatus to Carolina and Florida, his truck pulling the home behind it.
The breakfast session regulars are Dick Yatzeck, a professor; Bob Most, a farmer, and this writer – all mostly emeritus.
Yatzeck, who taught Russian literature at Lawrence University, continues to lecture, including to a class taught by his daughter at the University of Chicago.
Most, who no longer has cattle, cash crops his farm bordering New London.
The writer is reliving his baptism in journalism, circa 1957-61, doing mostly sports for a weekly newspaper.
We are a demographic of retired – 80s, 70s and 60s, years not decades; and careers, although we have dabbled doing each other’s work.
The conversation this day focused on communication and societal changes comparing our lives growing up with today.
Bob, during the discussion, noted the transition in communication from verbal to technical – including both personal and societal.
There was an old jingo, “Let your fingers do the walking” promoting the yellow pages.
Today, we concluded, “Let your fingers do the talking” is more accurate, because verbal communication continues to decline as more forms of technology change us – especially interacting with each other.
Two people sitting together are often using their cell phone, barely uttering a word or even looking at the other person, texting or surfacing social media.
While many people our age embrace this form of communication, computers are a foreign language to us – excluding Russian.
Bob started a discussion on radios that were a source of news and entertainment before television.
Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club was a staple on their farm in Illinois, Bob said. The show aired coast-to-coast, 1933 to 1968, best described as an hour “to put a smile on your face to start the day.”
Yatzeck recalled sitting in the light of the floor model radio dial at the farm outside Milwaukee before moving to the city. His memory of programs has dimmed, forgetting details and names.
“This guy ran a bar for an owner never heard on the radio,” he said, referring to Duffy’s Tavern, that aired 1941-51, featuring creator/writer Ed Gardner as Archie, the bartender, who spoke to Duffy by phone.
This brief interlude interrupted a serious discussion on the state of the nation, societal issues and future of the current generation and millennial.
We do a lot of retrospects of our lives as we get older.
There was more hope – by our parents, older people and ourselves – that we would be better off than our parents when we were venturing out on our own.
Time magnifies how the older generation views the current generation as it dims memories of our youth.
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, was a mainstay on early television, earning two Emmy for “most outstanding TV personality” on his Life is Worth Living program that aired 1951-57. It was a weekly half hour examination of social and world issues.
Virtually all issues and concerns Sheen dissected remain relevant two generations later. People and times change, the issues concerning society don’t.
Our discussion turned to great expectations of today’s youth to start life with all the amenities they grew up with.
During our lifetime greater emphasis was placed on discretional spending as incomes grew and basics – housing, food and other essentials – required a smaller percentage of our money.
Each generation accumulated bigger homes, more than one vehicle, bigger and more expensive toys and enjoyed freedom to travel and entertainment.
Dick said his dad farmed with horses and the first family car was a gift from an older brother who had been in service.
“You drive by any school parking lot and it is full of student cars, many better than what their parents drive,” he said.
We had similar aspirations and expectations, but like those before us, experienced hard lessons of responsibility and managing our money and time.
Hard lessons are part of getting old.
We are better reliving yesteryear than remembering the last hour or even a few minutes.
That happened following the meeting, where we concluded our discussion was good column fodder.
While outlining this column it was difficult to remember individual conversations and details.
Bob could not recall details a few days later when asked to recall them.