Observing US:
A column about America,
by Marylaine Block
originally published by
Fox News Online, 1998-2000

#8, July 29, 1998


by Marylaine Block

Have you noticed that reporters have been treating us to a lot of 50 year retrospectives lately, with 50th anniversaries of D-Day, Hiroshima, Israel, the Berlin airlift, and such?

Now, I would not deny that the things they are memorializing are important events. But the reporters are missing some events, important and otherwise, that have affected our day-to-day lives just as much, if not more.

They missed the 50th anniversary of the GI Bill, which, by sending a third of all our veterans to college, and giving them mortgages, lifted an extraordinary number of families into the middle class. Reporters pretty much forgot the 50th anniversary of Truman's Presidential order forbidding racial discrimination in the armed forces, the first serious government advancement of civil rights in over a century. They missed the 100th anniversary of Marie Curie's discovery of radioactivity.

They've also blown their chance at celebrating the 50th anniversary of aluminum foil (1947)- and who among us can cook without it? They've missed the 100th anniversary of the zipper (1893), the dishwasher (1886), and the brown paper bag (1883).

But they are not too late to honor the 50th anniversary of tupperware (1948), which turned those disgusting green leftovers in our refrigerators into disgusting green leftovers in neat plastic containers, and gave us the tupperware party as both social event and marketing technique.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of velcro, which is singlehandedly responsible for all those children who don't know how to lace up a pair of sneakers.

Sports writers, at least, should certainly take note of the fact that 1998 is the 25th anniversary of the designated hitter rule. We must never abandon this rule, whose social utility lies in giving men from all walks of life a topic for an always-lively conversation, and a common bond among those who see it as the beginning of the end of western civilization.

To help reporters avoid such regrettable lapses in the future, let me supply a list of some important forthcoming anniversaries.

In what remains of 1998, we should be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Kinsey Report, which turned nosiness into a national sport.

In 1999, we can celebrate the 50th anniversary of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," Orwell's 1984, the first television soap opera, and Northwestern's win in the Rose Bowl. (Yes, I did graduate from Northwestern.)

We can also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first speeding ticket, and the first aspirin.

In the year 2000 we can celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American League and the first college of chiropractic medicine, and the publication of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It will also mark the 50th anniversary of the first tranquilizer.

Two major institutions will soon be celebrating their 50th anniversaries: television, and rock 'n' roll, though it's a little hard to decide which years to commemorate. Do we celebrate the year television broadcasting began in America (1946), or the year TV ad revenues exceeded radio's (1952), or the year the number of TV sets skyrocketed from 1.5 million to 15 million (1951)?

But we do have to honor television's anniversary, whenever we decide it is, for few things have shaped our lives as much. It united us in laughing at Lucy and mourning a murdered president. It showed us an ugly bloody war in our living rooms, making us permanently queasy about military enterprises. It's given us common jokes and stories, and imaginary realities that for many, like the trekkies, are realer than their own lives.

Let's say for the sake of argument (and there will be plenty) that rock and roll was born in 1954 when Bill Haley released "Rock around the Clock" and Elvis recorded "That's All Right, Mama". We need to commemorate it, because rock is the music we've lived our lives to ever since, the music on our radios when we fell in love, the music we rebelled against adults with, the music advertisers now use when they're trying to sell us false teeth and adult diapers.

When journalists want an anniversary story, remember, the Salk vaccine (1954), the pill (1960), the microwave (1952), and the Barbie doll have changed our lives just as much as bombs and treaties.

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