It began one night when a bunch of pals and I were talking to someone considerably younger about that old folks' favorite: politics.

One Pal got all sentimental and said he could recall, as if it were yesterday, the 1952 evening when Eisenhower first crushed Stevenson.

"Fifty-two? Hell, man, that was before my time," said the younger fellow, more than a little haughtily.

He added (snippily) that he had no patience with people who play the where-were-you-when-President-Kennedy-was-killed game.

His reason: He was taking a nap on Nov. 22, 1963.

In a crib, damn him.

So we fixed his wagon. We started The 1945 Club.

The only requirement for membership is to have been born in 1945. But as our parents well know, and knew, that is saying one heck of a lot.

In fact, The 1945 Club membership is in awe of its moms and dads.

To have brought children into the world while it was knee-deep in war, they must have been very optimistic, or very much in love, or very much in lust, or all of the above.

Our club meets about once a quarter. The agenda is strictly limited to nostalgia.

A few weeks ago, a member brought in a Betty Grable bare-thighs poster. It had hung in his father's locker during basic training. Take it from these increasingly middle-aged eyes: She rates with any 1979 centerfold.

Another member stunned the group by singing what he claimed was the chief 1945 DeSoto jingle.

But the biggest oh-wows erupted the day one member brought in his birth certificate. On the back, it had been stamped with: "Guard Your Child Against Polio By Washing Hands After Every Meal!"

Frivolous as club meetings often get, it has nevertheless dawned on us that, in some ways, our lives span more than 34 years of change.

For instance, we realize that we are the last generation of Americans who will remember what it's like not to have a TV set in the home.

That's right, children of Korea and Vietnam. We had to go out in the street or park and find a way to amuse ourselves. By ourselves.

Meanwhile, we are the last generation to whom the words "national pastime" automatically mean baseball.

Pro football in our day was played by a bunch of unknown thugs, not the well-televised, well-compensated thugs of today.

The 1945 Club has never elected officers, collected dues or done any of that organized stuff. But we have made a list of best stories.

Mr personal favorite concerns one member who was born early on the morning of 4/5/45.

Never one to miss an omen, his father made a beeline for the race track, where he bet most of the rent on the 4-5 daily double. Four-five it was, to the tune of more than $5,000.

"I never needed a psychiatrist to figure out why I was my father's favorite," this 45er noted.

My own birth story usually draws chuckles, too.

I showed up just a few weeks after President Roosevelt's death.

My father, a historian by training, wanted to name me Franklin Delano Levey.

My mother, a biologist by training objected, since she well knew that I was a unique collection of chemicals.

Look up at the top of the page if you are still wondering who won.

Where The 1945 Club will head in the '80s is a matter of conjecture. But I predict that it will not meet after 1984.

That year will contain enough trouble, if Orwell is to be believed. But for us, it will contain 39th birthdays.

When we realize which birthday lies immediately ahead, we'll probably all dye our hair, go our separate ways -- and start pretending we first showed up in glorious 1953.

I don't know when Larry L. Booda first showed up, but he is evidently as mystified by the modern world as my '45er cohorts and I.

What's got Booda up a tree is pushbutton phones.

In the old days, you dialed a number. Now, Booda wants to know if he is supposed to "push" a number or "button" it.

He also wants to know what those two buttons flanking 0-for-operator are supposed to accomplish.

One bears the tic-tac-toe grid. The other resembles an asterisk. But both will bring you the same gentleman -- and the same confusion.

Push either button (or botton it, if you prefer) and you get a recording of a guy who sounds as if he took three sleeping pills about 20 minutes before.

He tells you he's having "a problem" completing your call. Then he hints that it's your fault by suggesting that you check the number (what number?) and dial again (but I didn't dial in the first place!).

Booda is lucky. He's merely mystified. I find myself frustrated enough to be talking back to tape recordings. Help us, someone who knows what the two "unbuttons" are for.