My brothers and sisters have come forward with a vengeance. Not since VE Day has 1945 been so storied and so celebrated. We stand before you -- those of us who can still get out of a chair, anyway -- to say that we may be 40, but as the old saw says, life has just begun.
All this hullaballoo began a few weeks back when Levey asked in the public prints for new members of The 45er Club.
This is a group whose members must meet two qualifications: they must have been born in 1945, and they must admit it. Meetings consist of heading for someplace that serves strong drink and talking about Captain Video, Bill Haley and the Comets and other weighty subjects.
This year, however, all talk has centered on The Big Four-Oh. In an effort to blunt some of the sting, I columnized about the club, and appealed to readers born in 1945 to write in and confess. Therapy for 22 cents a pop isn't the most common thing in the world, after all.
Well, I'm still waiting for the Postal Service to thank me for personally reversing its deficit. More than 1,500 45ers dropped me a line. They are urban and rural, male and female, married and single. The one thing they all are is wonderfully wise about our generation, our times and our Big, Big Birthday. Some samples:
Janet Ziffer of Columbia says she feels her age whenever the subject of baseball comes up, because she saw Hank Aaron hit home run 7 and home run 15, not home run 715.
Jan Kochansky of Adelphi spent the last year saying, "I'm as old as Jack Benny." Several younger listeners replied, "Who?"
Joan Auth of Waldorf is no stay-at-home at 40. "I drive a forklift, the company truck and run complicated machinery," she writes. "This year, I started college. Boo-hiss on the young life. Give me middle age, where you're old enough to know better but still have fun."
Bob Oakley of Rockville wrote in October that he was "approaching the big 4-0 in early November. My way of dealing with the milestone has been to work toward another. I'm training for my first marathon, the Marine Corps, three days before my birthday." I just rechecked the obits from Marathon Week. Happily, I think Bob is still with us.
Being a 45er is only part of Pam Bone's claim to fame. She has a birthday that neither she nor anyone else can ever forget: Dec. 3, 1945, otherwise known as 1-2-3-4-5.
Les Blazey of Rockville is upset with his arrival date, however. "Don't complain," he wrote, after I told the world I had been born on 6/2/45. "You had five months of '85 to enjoy. I had two weeks. I was born 1/14/45."
Anna Gurewitz of Rockville had even less to enjoy. She was our Earliest Arrival, having put in an appearance on Jan. 1, 1945, right here in good,old Washington, D.C.
On the other end of The Year That Was are Barbara F. Miller and Martin J. Kady. Barbara writes from Cairo, where she's in the Foreign Service, that the bell will toll for her at 11:46 p.m. on Dec. 31. "There will be so many other bells tolling and horns tooting and glasses clinking that I hope not to notice," she says. Marty, another 12/31/45er, says he has spent nearly 40 years calling himself "Daddy's postwar tax deduction."
Speaking of drowning your sorrows in an overseas assignment, John U. Burgan has done exactly that, too. "A year ago," writes John, "while working as an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I was offered the chance to spend one year on assignment with the Organization of American States in the Bahamas. I am therefore spending my 40th year in Nassau instead of D.C. Life does begin at 40!" You could hate a guy like this if he weren't your clubmate, couldn't you?
Eyesight woes were mentioned by several 45ers. Patricia J. Brenza and Karen F. Dunn joined the 45er Club with a neatly typewritten letter. But they confide that "we finally had a 22-year-old proofread it!" And Bob Edsall of Cheswick, Pa., said he finds "many newspaper columns difficult to read." In the case of my 45er Club announcement column, however, "I can see exactly what you're talking about," Bob wrote.
Pat Jennings of Alexandria captured the spirit of '45 with this suggestion: Why not throw a big party for ourselves? "We could knock back an icy cold one and listen to Bob Dylan," she proposes. Sounds better to me than Dylan's voice ever did, Pat. Howzabout a biggie in 1990, when the 45ers are 45?
Joan Oday of Rockville (12/7/45) said she was sending "just a quick note, so I can begin my afternoon nap." But her query is worth pondering: Are we baby boomers or not? I'd say sleep tight, Joan, with the knowledge that we aren't. The boom came in 1947, which only proves what we 45ers have always known: We were ahead of our time.
Nancy Larson of Alexandria had the sort of experience this past August that 45ers thought they'd left behind forever. The checkout clerk at the local Giant asked her for proof of age before selling Nancy beer. "Made my year!" Nancy says.
Three beauts from Rich Urbont of Columbia (2/21/45). For his birthday, his wife bought him a set of Maryland vanity tags. They read: 39 4EVR. After thanking her profusely, Rich asked his wife if she'll still love him when he gets old and bald. She said she does. Finally, Rich says two things started happening to him when he hit 40. First, he lost his memory, and second . . . ."I can't remember the other one."
Connie Blum, a 45er from Naples, Fla., had an unusual solution to the turning-40 blues. On New Year's Eve, she married a member of the 27er Club, Bob Blum. "There are times when I have a hard time keeping up with him," says Connie.
Gretchen S. Brainerd of Falls Church (10/16/45) had these eloquent thoughts: "Complaining ain't my game. I'm one of those who thinks getting older is getting better. Those aches and pains? They just show we've all learned to feel more, both emotionally and physically, and more accurately, in every joint and with every teardrop. Maybe when we really get old it will just be one great ball of pain -- but such perception!"
He signed his letter, "Michael G. Moore, Senior Citizen," and here's why: "I have spent the last six years trying to recapture my youth by playing on six softball teams and one volleyball team . . . .I was up at bat the other day and mentioned to the umpire that I needed to hit the ball far, because I had just turned 40. He laughed and said that he had also turned 40 in the last month. He suggested that I should try to become an umpire in the near future." Cruel!
And then, there are children . . . .Evy Sheehan of Clifton, Va., says her 21-year-old daughter "makes me feel old without even trying." Mary Lou Hobbs of Columbia says her 12-year-old and 15-year-old "seem so old for me to be the mother." But some of our kids can boost, not crush, our spirits. Dick Stanton of Charlottesville, for instance. He nominated his mother, Barbara, of Gulph Mills, Pa., for club membership, just so she could see her name in the paper. Happy to oblige, Son and Mom.
Naturally, I've saved the most hopeful news for last. It comes from Carol Compton of Indian Head. She reports that Tom Selleck, the TV heartthrob, is one of us.
Hey, 45ers, if Tom still looks that good, we must, too. Here's to a Very Good Year! CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL
I have a huge file drawer here that I'd just love to stuff with checks. Won't you contribute to our annual drive on behalf of the city's premier pediatric hospital? As I always say, it's not the only charity I know. But it is the most deserving.
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.