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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

60 Years of Memories: As The Years Turn

ON THE SQUARE
Memories of 60 Years In Butler
By James Ring
December 27 , 2020

 
Now that 2021 is here (and welcome it is, for sure) I suppose we’ll have to change our brag line to “more than 60 years in Butler.” It was actually the fall of 1960 when I began to work full-time on our already venerable Square. So, I didn’t have long to wait to celebrate a New Years in Butler.
 
I don’t recall any wild parties or big merry-making associated with the turning of the calendar over the decades, dating from 1961. I’m sure the Country Club members feted the New Year at the clubhouse and there was probably a dance or two being held, events that were well above my station at the time.
 
 Nor was watching “the ball drop” in New York’s Times Square on TV a thing back then; in 1960, we Midwesterners didn’t pay much attention to events out on the East Coast. Our black-and-white televisions were just beginning to receive 24-hour programming so there may have been some live shows emanating on New Year’s Eve, before returning to the overnight “test pattern” that filled the screen in the wee hours. I hung out with friends most December 31st evenings, as teenagers are wont to do, discussing the looming Draft and the education deferments that might keep us out of the service.
 
 On New Year’s Day, our family usually tuned in to the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California, hoping to catch a glimpse of our relatives who would be basking in the sunshine along the parade route. We would get a letter later, asking if we had seen them. Long-distance phone calls were expensive, reserved for extra-important occasions. In our case, they had to be pre-arranged so we could go over to a wealthier relative’s house, since our humble abode didn’t have a phone.
 
Other traditions from my upbringing was the necessity of eating black-eyed peas  on New Year’s Day. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the soy-bean appearing legumes, but one got used to them after a while. Drinking a proper toast to the incoming year might have been done in coffee, as a sobering counter to the revelry of New Year’s Eve.
 
One reason I didn’t stay up very late celebrating the annual change during my working years was because my employer expected everyone to be at work bright and early on the 1st, helping take inventory of his retail establishment’s stock of goods.  The business was closed, of course, but the full crew had to be on duty behind the locked doors, writing up quantities of every item on the shelves. This is required for tax computation; one compares the year’s ending inventory of goods to the figure tallied at the beginning of the year. If inventory has shrank, it is counted as goods sold, and if the inventory has grown, the business has increased in net worth.
 
The biggest New Year’s of them all was, of course, the turn of the Millennium of January 1, 2000. It was termed “Y2K” back then and was widely regarded as a date when calamities were going to ensue because all computers were going to have their programming lock up and shut down. Panic buying was widespread, as everyone knew food wasn’t going to be available and gasoline was to be in short supply. I still have my Y2K gas barrel out back, which I had filled with can and funnel in preparation for the dreaded day.
 
Absolutely nothing happened on the stroke of midnight and on the morning of 1/1/2000 the world went on as usual. We then had to eat stale food and burn up our stashed gasoline, feeling foolish for taking survivalist action. The Covid disruption of 2020 has been nothing compared to Y2K. But, we’re glad to see this year’s scythe-wielding Father Time giving way to 2021’s diapered kid in a top hat. Here’s to hoping he can put us back on a path to improving opportunities.