Saying grace before the barbeque dinner at the New Mexico Fair. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

When I was a young man, from 15 to college graduate at 22, I generally kept my mouth shut in the company of my elders. Much of it was just good manners, which, I note, is in short supply these days.

My father was an engineer, but never graduated college, interrupted by the War…(it was in all the papers), then, having returned from the War, was sent off to an Engineering School operated by International Harvester in Chicago, lasting only a few months, then returning home to Kentucky to serve as an apprentice-mine engineer for a few years before he could be certified. That was not uncommon in the late 40’s. When he retired in the 1970s, he had been certified the rank of Mine Engineer, Civil Engineer, and the most prestigious rank, Professional Engineer. While I was in law school he was offered a spot in Who’s Who and turned it down out of embarrassment because he didn’t want his colleagues to know he never received a college degree.

His father, my grandfather, who I’ve mentioned often, was self-taught, but one of the best read men I’ve ever known. A wise man, and a teacher of sorts. Every story he told had a lesson. He was a coal-miner, but rose to Chief Foreman. He was raised on an East Tennessee farm, selling his share of the farm and taking a job in the coal mines in 1918, which was unheard of then, giving up property for a job, but it paid twice what his brothers were bringing in off their little limestone acres of land.

After he retired he bought a place in central Florida. It was from him I learned the family history, and the term “the shoulders we stand on.” Our family had come into Virginia in the 1600’s and his branch of the family had moved into the Powell Valley in the early 1700’s. Most had fought in the Civil War (he said both sides) but their farms were too small to own slaves.

He died in 1970, and I last saw him on my honeymoon in 1968. We spent a lot of time together, since over those years he came back in the summers to avoid Florida heat, and to watch me play Little League, and essentially tell me things he thought I needed to know. He told of how life was on a small farm, and all my Dad’s wartime experiences in North Africa and Sicily, since he would never talk about them to his sons. He told me why.

And of course there was the passing show of American history that every teenager was interested in those days; the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, Lindbergh’s solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1927, World War I. Before he died he even saw a man walk on the moon. Think about it. In one lifetime. We had Elvis and the Beatles so weren’t much interested in the Big Bands of World War II. And we hated Communism and the Nazis.

For very good reasons, it turns out.

But of all those stories Grandad told me what he remembered most was the building of Panama Canal, that took 10 years, up to 1917, just before he left home and took that job in the coal mines. “Why the Canal?” I thought, when so many more sexy historical events were going on? I guess it was the engineering of it all, since he’d straw-bossed the digging of as many miles underground over 30 years in those mountains.

Over those years I don’t recall him mentioning one single political figure, from Teddy to Franklin Delano to Eisenhower, who was president most of those years, and who’d won World War II. And although times were tough during the Depression, the mines kept on working. Everyone kept their jobs because everyone needed coal.

Popular culture? Music? I never saw a record player in his house, but grandmother played a helluva honkey-tonk on their upright. I guess they had a radio, but I could never saw them doing the Lindy Hop or any other Swing dance. I learned that from American Bandstand.

Grandad taught me a lot of things, especially about how to think; ask questions and solve problems. His library in his bedroom when I visited hims several times in Florida all the way up til he died, 2 years after my honeymoon visit, was always the same: a Bible, Tarbell’s Commentary, Pliny the Elder, plus other books on early Church history…plus a loaded Army Colt .45, a set of brass knucks and a leather blackjack. What a great cubby hole to kick back and speak of many things.

Consider this: from an unattributed source.

A young man asked his grandfather: “Grandpa, how did you live in the past without technology:
Without computers
Without Internet connection
No drama and drama
No T.Vs
Without air conditioners
Without cars
No cell phone? “
Grandpa answered:
“As your generation lives today:
There are no prayers
There is no compassion
There is no respect
No real education
There is no personality
There is no shame at all
There is no modesty
There is no honesty
We, the people born between the years 1940-1980, were the blessed ones…
Our lives are a living proof.
👉While playing and riding a bike, we have never worn a helmet.
Before school then we played until dusk; never watched television.
We played with real friends, not virtual friends
If we were thirsty, we would drink tap water, not mineral water
👉We never waivered because we shared the same cup of juice with four friends.
We never gained weight by eating plates of pasta every day.
👉 Nothing happened to our feet despite roaming barefoot.
We have never used food supplements to stay healthy.
We used to make our own toys and play with them.
Our parents were not rich. They gave love .. Not the stuff.
We never had a cell phone, DVD, game console, Xbox, video game, PC, internet, chat,
…but we had true friends.
Saying grace before the barbeque dinner at the New Mexico Fair. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940.
We visited our friends without being invited and shared and enjoyed the food with them.
Parents lived nearby to take advantage of family time.
Children aiming sticks as guns, lined up against a brick building. Washington, D.C.(?), between 1941 and 1942.
We may have had black and white photos, but you can find colorful memories in these photos.
👉 We are unique and the most understanding generation, because we are the last generation that listened to their parents…
And we are also the first ones who were forced to listen to their children.
We are a limited edition!
Take advantage of us. Learn from us.
We are a treasure destined to disappear.
A photo review of the shoulders we all stand on. A lot natural law locked in these photos, as well as American Exceptionalism.
If you’re a modern smart ass, these are likely some of your forebears, only they wouldn’t claim you if they knew.


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