By Charlene Shields
Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."
Copyright ©2000 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Tammy Knox, editor, "The Carmi Times."
(Last week, excerpts from an article by former White Countian Jim Hanks ran in this space. The entire article was called "Recollections, Ruminations and Reflections at Seventy-Six" and first appeared in the Lafayette Journal and Courier as a part of a series entitled "Millennium Mosaic." Last week's article commented on the books by TV anchors Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings and their discussion of our generation.) Hanks continues:
Yet, if we "depression babies" try to take credit for the good, then let's also affirmatively accept blame for the bad. On balance, however, despite Saddam Hussein, despite Vietnam, despite the Holocaust, despite increases in the twin ogres of violence and illegal drugs, despite pockets of continuing numbing poverty especially in our large cities, and despite other regrettable conditions and events, such as the lunacy of the past year in Washington that diminished and demeaned the presidency, our generation deserves more than just a passing grade. After all, we parented the "Boomers" now leading humankind to unprecedented advances in medicine, technology and communication.
In the introduction to his treatise, Jennings comes closer to my personal conclusion as he describes this century as a stunning combination of "grand success and equally grand failure, of ideas both great and evil and of the great and evil men and women who sought to carry them out...progress and regress, hubris and humility... We all have reason to thank previous generations for the twin victories over fascism and communism; for the enormous strides toward conquering disease; for the moral awakening that cast light across the racist sins of society."
In recent months, Bess, my wife of more than 52 years (a good long run that prompted one wag to ask, "Think this marriage is going to last?"), and I have been sorting through the stacks of photographs and personal accumulations contained in boxes, on shelves, in files, as a prelude to "downsizing," seemingly the inevitability that accompanies aging.
But such retained debris perhaps reveals more than a verbal admission of what constitutes this life. Indulge me as I invite you for a ride down my personal memory trail with thoughts gleaned from this nostalgic trek through mountains of items shredder bound:
A school report card with the terse observation from an impatient teacher: "Talks too much." (Well, maybe not a bad trait for a future insurance man.)
*Many school yearbooks with a lot of "Dear Jim" notes; how little those youthful writers and recipient understood about what lay ahead.
*The yellowed program of a college play in which one Jim Hanks and Bess Townsend played husband and wife, a development reprised in real life in January 1947.
*Pads of carbon paper (was I one of those office Luddites who initially resisted copy machines and computers? Sobering question: Am I today becoming as useless as carbon paper?).
*The Scarsdale Medical 14-day diet--this one didn't work, either.
*Numerous State Farm memorabilia from our 35 years in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Indiana.
*Letters from my mother, who died at 94. The confession of every child: I wish I had written her more often.
*A little card quoting Galatians 6:9: "God has a due season for me."
(Concluded next week)
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