Rich Galen

My birthday is Thursday, December 21. My birthYEAR is 1946. Even I, with my oft-demonstrated lack of arithmetical capability, understand the significance of this birthday:

Sixty. The big six-zero. Six decades. Senior … Citizen.


When I was a kid, people who were sixty were … dead. Or close to it.

When I was young most cars were manual transmission - and it wasn't that cool. "Four on the Floor" meant "farm truck."

There was no cable or satellite television. Commercial television was brand new. Our first set was a Dumont which weighed about 27,000 tons with a screen only slightly larger than the one on my mp3 player which is in full color while the Dumont's was not.

Speaking of TV, in the early 50's the biggest show on television was Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. One of the biggest shows a half-century later is American Idol.

Plus ça change …

There were no satellites (Sputnik was still a decade away) and cable was something which stretched under the Atlantic ocean so you could book a call to England with an overseas operator who would ring you on your black, bakelite dial phone when a circuit became available.

There were no ZIP codes, no area codes and no cell phones. There was such a thing as the "penny postcard" and our home phone number was FL (for Floral Park) 2-8959.

When I was born I had to look forward to foreign military actions in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. So far.

My National Guard duty began when I was 20 years old - 40 years ago - after I was tossed out of Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 45750 for "failing to make significant progress toward a degree."

This was pre-pot, way-pre-cocaine and pre-sexual revolution. Father really DID know best. Ward and June Cleaver were role models. The most explicit photos we ever saw were the bra ads from Macy's in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

There was no such thing as a commercial jet airplane, the 737 of the era was the DC-3. At even the largest airports you could walk out onto the parking apron and meet an incoming plane separated, if at all, by a low chain link fence. With as many liquids, gels and aerosol sprays as you wanted.

The earliest commercial computer in my lifetime was the ENIAC which required huge amounts of electricity to power its 17,000 vacuum tubes, needed its own air conditioning system to control the heat they generated, and didn't have the computing capability of your Blackberry.

There was no such thing as a Walkman, much less an iPod. There was no such thing as a transistor (which was about two years away).

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at