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Mack Williams: One year at a time

Mack Williams

“It was a ‘49, ’50, ’51, ’52, ’53, ’54, ’55, ‘56, ’57, ’58, ’59 automobile.” I’m not talking about vintage cars with special plates, seen in special parades and at Saint Paul’s Lutheran’s “Cruise ‘n’ Barbecue” to help someone with catastrophic illness (I remember John F. Kennedy’s statement about us being “God’s hands” in this life).

The above “numbered” quote comes from Johnny Cash’s popular song “One Piece at a Time,” about a GM worker who sort of “Frankenstein-monsters”(well, Halloween’s not far off) a complete car out of car parts which he sneaks out of the factory in his lunch pail over a number of years.

Many car parts would have to undergo severe “hacking up” to fit into a standard lunch pail over time. One of which is the “oil sender,” which I had replaced, not even as big as a fork (in a lunch pail). The plastic radiator overflow tank and windshield washer fluid tanks could possibly be sneaked out as “strangely reminiscent of something else” tea jugs. But Johnny’s character did mention using his brother’s trailer for the even bigger parts.

“Piecemeal over time” is my aim in today’s column.

In trying to get us “1969ers” fired up for the East Rowan 50th Class Reunion (which, as you read this, will have occurred yesterday evening) fellow classmate John Morgan posted just about all of the songs of that era, along with some class photos, TV shows, history, and funny artwork. I followed suit, posting some songs, history, toys, and a lot of TV and monster movie stuff from when we were all still in grade school.

In posting those toys and TV shows from our childhood, I suddenly realized we’re not limited to one decade. The East Rowan High School Class of 1969 “ idea” also represents everything happening to us graduates between our birth year (roughly 1951) and now.

After graduation, some stayed single, some got married, some had children (sounds like “This Little Piggy”), some got divorced, some became widows or widowers, some married again, or just decided to go back to being single (echoing Maurice Chevalier’s “Gigi”(1958) song, “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore”).

Our recently celebrating group represents “children of the 50s,” “teens of the 60s,” “ young adults of the 70s,” “ 30-50-somethings of the 80s to the 2000-oughts,” and “old men and women of the present” (but geologically speaking, we’re all just babes in the bassinet of time).

When I tire of hearing that “60 is the new 40” stuff, I think, “Oh well, that’s better than living in the Middle Ages, where often “60 was the new dead!”

That “1951 to whatever” on our tombstones will represent more than just a beginning and end — it will subtly imply everything we experienced during those years, major personal experiences, along with the impact of the major news headlines. Each of us only extends through a few pages of history, like those pages of the history books we flipped though as grade schoolers, such books published by “Holt, Rinehart and Winston,” “Harcourt, Brace and Co.,” and “Van Nostrand.”

Pieces of our souls, hearts, and minds are stuck to people, places, and ideas throughout our lives. My late wife Diane could tell if the spaghetti noodles were done cooking by throwing a noodle strand at the kitchen wall, and if it stuck, it was “done.”

But unlike that spaghetti noodle, we have thought ourselves seemingly “done” for a while, before becoming “cooked” further by time and more experiences, becoming what we cumulatively are today. I guess you could say each of us has been “Frankensteined together” out of different happenings down through our lives (just now, a horrible image appears in my mind of the Frankenstein monster wearing a 1970s leisure suit, super-plus size).

So you see, paraphrasing “Old Johnny:” “I’m a ‘51,’52,’53,’54’ —————— me,” all the way to ‘19, and hopefully a nice number of years beyond.

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