Today my father would have been 87. He was born before talking films, before women were given the right to vote (or about the same time), before the average American had a car, before electricity was common in the south, before The Great Depression, before the atom bomb.
There is an old bridge that crosses the Tennessee River and enters Decatur, Alabama, the town where I was born. I remember riding across it on our annual trip to see relatives and making note of the sign on the bridge, something about it being completed in 1925. I was amazed to hear my father talk about the day it was dedicated, and the whole town went down to the river on their horses and in their wagons. He was five years old and remembered it as a big day.
For as long as I can remember I have been enamored with old movies, and if I had any free time at all I would sit myself down in front of the TV and watch some flickering old film. My father could never understand it. "Why do you wanna watch some old movie--that thing is older than I am." I was always quick to point out that since it had sound, it was not older than he was. What a brat.
My father witnessed the invention and marketing of so many things throughout his years, but he never seemed to be too affected by them. No matter how technologically advanced the world around him became, he was most happy with a big slab of grilled steak, a jar of corn relish, and the album of hymns his brother had recorded turning on the hi-fi. Give him a good wad of chaw, his girls singing something he could tap his foot to, some butter pecan ice cream, and the rest of the world could go to hell.
A joke that amused him to no end: he was in a doctor's office, and the nurse asked him to spit out his gum. When he threw it in the trash can, he said, "That gum is going to heaven because I done chewed the hell out of it." Bah ha.