So after I wrote my little post on Facebook bemoaning the temp and blaming Bob and Gaile for making the weathergods frown, then adding the little note about Benyamin, I started thinking about all the things he’s seen, the changes, the inventions, the times hes lived through over the past 100 years.
His name is Benjamin, but I’ve called him Benyamin ever since I saw Private Benjamin, so that’s at least how long I’ve known him. He was always one of the sharpest, cutest , most personable men I’ve met over my own long years. Short in stature, he barely comes up to my shoulder, but very tall in manners and bearing and personality. He never ignored anyone. Regardless how many people went to one of Gaile’s barbques or parties or dinners, Benyamin always took the time to sit and chat with every single person there. And not just about the weather. He showed genuine interest in what you did, what you thought, and if there was a lull in the conversation or an awkward pause, he filled it in with a joke or one of his bazillion recollections. I remember, back when Gaile and I first started making our own wine during the Noake Crescent years, inviting the guy who owned the wine store for dinner because we had all become friends–how could we not when we all tasted the wine as we bottled it, took cheese and crackers and snacks with us and turned the evening into a mini party. Anyway…I invited Ben that evening too because he was going to be on his own for some reason that I can’t recall now, so I told Gaile to bring him, of course, bring him.
Well, he arrived, dapper as always in a sportcoat and tie, dress shirt, and was politely introduced around, and for all of two minutes Ed the Winemonger thought he was going to have to endure a boring evening with “an old guy”. Hah. Within ten minutes Ed found out that Ben knew pretty much everything there was to know about Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, and Pickering, the four towns that fall into line one after another. He kept us all enthralled with stories of how each of the towns grew out of nothing. Oshawa was built up because of General Motors. Ajax was built up in WWII, and manufactured armaments…the streets north of Hwy 2 are all named after the crew members on the HMS Ajax, a destroyer in WWII. Story after story kept us all thinking, listening, talking, laughing until some ungody hour in the morning, and made for an evening that stands out in my mind even now.
Imagine being born in 1911, Edwardian England. The whole Upstairs Downstairs way of life.
He would have been a young boy in WWI, and where our kids listen to brain-numbing rap music and watch half naked, sweaty music videos, he would have been listening to war news over the radio and watching news reels about the Red Baron shooting down British fighters. He would have lived through the global pandemic that killed more people than both world wars.
As a teenager he would have lived through the Roaring 20’s. Prohibition. Burlesque. The Great Depression. Bonnie and Clyde. Elliot Ness.
He would have seen the silent movies become the Talkies…heard Al Jolsen on the radio, maybe even attended a show and seen him live. He would have marvelled over movies becoming full color and probably chuckled at the scandal over Rhett Butler saying “damn” on screen.
He would have lived through the dark days when Hitler was taking over Europe. He would have heard Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech live after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He would have been 30ish while the bombs were tearing France and London and Berlin apart, when the Gestapo was the terrorist organization of the day.
He would have seen income taxes brought in as a *temporary measure* to help pay off the war debts.
He would have ridden the high tide of the post war boom, when people were giddy with victory and invented such seemingly innocuous things like plastic credit cards, not realizing that pretty and convenient little rectangle would pretty much plunge the whole world into debt a few decades later. An expensive house was $10,000.00, and the government paid out bonuses for having children. 6 whole dollars a month for each child, which was enough to put groceries on the table for a couple of weeks. People had lots of children to celebrate world peace and prosperity and the population *boomed*.
He would have cringed, like most parents, the first time he heard the Beatles sing “She loves you ya ya ya” but like all parents he probably thought it was a passing phase. He might also have thought the War in Vietnam would be a quick two year policing excursion too. He would have shared the horror with the world watching the Zabruter tape over and over, and mourned over the image of little John John saluting his father’s casket as it rolled past. I was just coming of age during the whole hippie, make love not war era…flower children, granny dresses, long hair and reefers and I know what my parents thought of it all. Kind of a full cycle to what the parents of kids back in the roaring 20’s must have thought too: just a phase, get through it.
Yep, got through it, but the world changed again…drastically. Vietnam dragged on and another generation of good young men were lost.
A man landed on the moon.
A president was impeached for criminal activities.
An actor was elected to the top office in America.
An airplane was invented that broke the sound barrier on takeoff and crossed the Atlantic in three hours.
Computers were invented. Donkey kong was THE game…controlling little balls that bounced across a video screen..woo hoo! The internet came along, as did CNN and instant access to news around the world, everyone’s dirty little secrets weren’t secrets anymore, they were on TV and in the news.
I wonder what his thoughts were when the century turned over and we entered 2000.
I saw Ben just this past summer. He’s still as dapper as the first time I met him a quarter of a century ago. He walks a little slower and his memory is fading around the edges, but he still has a word and a smile for everyone. He got married two years ago to his scandalously younger girlfriend of 76, and he finally gave up his drivers license a couple of years ago too. At a hundred, I would expect other people to drive me around too *g*
The big birthday party is on Saturday and I’m honoured to have been invited…I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Too many sad things, sad losses have happened in my life in the past couple of years. Something as marvellous as this needs to be celebrated and cherished.