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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Brokaw Goes Boom!

Tom Brokaw spoke at a luncheon in Memphis last week to promote his new book, Boom! Voices of the Sixties. In his last book, The Greatest Generation, Brokaw told stories of World War II, heroism, sacrifice and the social change that ensued. Boom is about the baby boomers who followed the end of WWII. He interviewed several current-day leaders, such as Presidents Clinton and Bush, who are boomers and devoted an entire section to the music of the sixties.

He said that never before has a period of music represented such innovation and endured for so long. In the 40s and 50s, there was no popular demand for the music from 20-40 years before. Today there’s at least one classic rock radio station in every city of any size.

The sixties were turbulent. It was probably the most dramatic era of social change ever. Brokaw said that the grown-up boomers may represent the only generation in which parents are cooler than their children.

Mike and I are proud baby boomers. As the huge group of us rolled like a tidal wave into our teens and started spending money, we became – and still are – prime marketing targets for all manner of products and services. For instance, have you ever seen the number of ads for (active) retirement communities as you do now? Boomers are retiring from the work force and aren’t sitting at home, gray-haired, waiting for the grandkids to visit. We’ve brought about change throughout our lives.

I entered East High School in the seventh grade and distinctly remember the crowd of us sitting in the auditorium for nearly a week while administrators and teachers scrambled to create new homeroom groupings, add classes and generally figure out where to put us. Guess they didn’t see us coming. It was that way throughout our junior and senior high experience.

When it came time to plan graduation, they called all the seniors into the auditorium for a meeting. East had a wonderful, large auditorium with a theater-style slope for good viewing, an orchestra pit, ample stage and spacious wings for all the things that go on back there. Every graduating class had received diplomas on that stage. That year – it was questionable.

All the other high schools in town held graduation downtown at the large Ellis Auditorium. They offered that option to us. The alternative would be to crowd bleacher-type seating onto the stage for a rather crowded event. The principal called for the vote and, almost unanimously, we chose to spring into adulthood from the stage that was filled with so many memories.

In doing so, we became the last seniors to graduate from East’s auditorium. The summer following graduation marked the tragic auto accident which claimed the life of Joel P. Snider, a silver-haired gentleman and our revered principal, who had been at the helm since East first opened nearly 20 years before.

It was the end of an era.


Scarlett said...

I stand corrected. When we graduated, the name of the big, downtown venue was Ellis Auditorium. Cook Convention Center came later. Apologies.

Willow Goldentree said...