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Shell Shocked: The beat goes on

By Staff | Jun 7, 2017

As I get older I’m beginning to realize I’m thinking old and not young. I engage in conversations about ailing livers, rickety knees, bad backs and nighttime trips to the john.

When I encounter the younger generation I hear about new apps, tweets, hard rock groups, flat bellies and workplace benefits.

Where did I go wrong? Why can I only carry on conversations with other old geezers like me and not with youngsters born in the latter part of the last century?

Why don’t they know who Al Jolson, Milton Berle, Hank Aaron, Ed Sullivan, Gary Cooper, Walter Cronkite and Edward Everett Horton are? And why don’t I know who the Punksters, Triple Threat, Roy’s Rockets, Dead End, Raucus Rowdies and Matilda’s Huns are?

Why am I not conversant in computerese language? Every young person I know seems to have the vocabulary of a nuclear scientist. Even my rudimentary skills in Facebook and LinkedIn don’t qualify me as an expert in Gen X communications.

Is this the fate of aging? A disconnect with people whose age I once was? When I was 20 years old I was a counselor at a sleep away summer camp. The kids were about 10 years old. At that time, those kids obeyed my commands and did what they were told to do. Today those same kids are my contemporaries. A 10-year difference in age at this stage of the game means nothing.

I haven’t come across any kids who used to be in my bunk. I would love to find out how life treated them. They would all be grandfathers by now and their 10-year-old grandchildren are getting ready for their own sleep-away camp experience this summer. And the beat goes on.

I spent four summers in a camp as a substitute counselor, a live-in counselor and a group head. As a group head I supervised seven bunks which meant I was in charge of seven counselors and about 50 kids.

Every morning I would yell “Revelie-rise and shine” into a bullhorn and the sleepy counselors and kids lined up outside their bunks. If I didn’t like the way they lined up I would order them to return to their bunks and start the process all over again.

I would then read them the day’s activities schedule and march them off to breakfast. This was the start of my executive training. It was a thrill for me to supervise seven counselors and evaluate their performances.

I was in my early 20s then. The kids didn’t have cell phones or communicate with each other by texting. They actually spoke to one another and wrote each other letters during the winter months. When was the last time you wrote a personal letter to anyone?

Many books contain the letters of historic figures. Is this an art form now lost forever because no one writes letters anymore? Will future biographies now include a collection of emails? Somehow we seem to be missing something.

But remember, aging isn’t for sissies. You get used to what you’re used to. Not too many of us become computer experts at this stage in our lives. My dad was used to a black and white TV set. We got him a color TV set for his birthday. He didn’t want it. He asked us to return it. I just couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to embrace the latest technology.

Now I can.

-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.