by John A. Bologna, Coastal Engineering President/CEO
I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, it’s my birthday, but that’s not it! On this day, 63 years ago, the USSR launched Sputnik 2 with a dog named Laika, who was the 1st animal in orbit. One month earlier, Sputnik 1 had made history as the first manmade object to launch in Earth Orbit. Sputnik 2 would go into orbit with the final stage of the rocket attached, launching Laika into space history as being the first animal into space. Sadly, she did not survive the flight, likely dying from heat, fear and oxygen deprivation after one or two orbits.
The year was 1957. Hank Aaron won the NL Most Valuable Player of the Year Award, the Dodgers made the big move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and Dr. Suess published his famous book "The Cat in the Hat". 1957 was also the peak year of the baby boom, with over 4.3 million babies born that year. I was one of those babies. I am a child of the space age and grew up thinking of being an astronaut. I remember watching John Glenn on television being launched into orbit and dreaming about being the first person on Mars. I remember growing up building model rockets with my brother and cousin and almost burning down the house when my cousin tried to ignite the "rocket" in the basement.
I have a vague memory of the Kennedy-Nixon election and the debate about who would be a better president. My family was Catholic and John Kennedy had the same first name as me, so of course he had my "vote". I was deeply saddened, as were all Americans, when we learned of his tragic death at hand of a deranged assassin in Nov, 1963. Although it had no bearing on my decision to move to Houston, the irony did not escape me when I came to find out the President made his famous speech about the moon mission at Rice University in Sept 1962, the very college I attended 15 years later. CSPAN recently aired the 1960 Kennedy - Nixon debates and I was astounded by the seriousness of the questions and the profundity in the answers given by both candidates; both of them fundamentally agreeing on the common goals for America, and only disagreeing on the means to get there. Saddened to witness the disruptions of this current election cycle and think how far has our country come?
I was raised by teachers and coaches that were part of the “greatest generation” . They were not democrats or republicans, they were Americans, and held common values of truth, justice and inalienable rights. They taught me the importance of hard work and responsibility, of honor and the dignity of each person, created in the image of God. I was taught to pursue, "the good, the true, and the beautiful" in all life’s endeavors.
Color television was relatively new in the 1960's, and there were only 3 channels. There was no internet, cell phones or computers for that matter. Kids learned long division by hand and how to use trig tables to figure out math problems. Grammar was taught in English and we learned History and Geography and not "Social Studies". Staticians tell us that the average family size shrunk from 3.67 in 1960 to 3.14 in 2019, but in the neighborhood I grew up in, it seemed like 4 or 5 kids per family was the norm. It did not take much to get enough kids together to have a sandlot game of football or baseball, even if the playing field was the street in front of our house. Most families only had one car and mothers that stayed at home to tend to the hearth.
My earliest memories are of my mother and the smells of her kitchen. To this day, I am instantly transported in time when the evocative aroma of Italian herbs and olive oil or fresh baked bread penetrates my nostrils. Who would know such simple reminders would conjure such pleasant memories transcendent of time and space.
Growing up and growing old, memories of family and friends. The world is changing fast with many technological advances and rapid fire media communication coming from all directions. One hardly has the time to reflect. The little village in Italy where my parents were born had no electricity or telephones and water had to be drawn from the well when they were children. How much have things changed from their childhood to mine, and from mine to the children of this generation? To the writing of books there is no end, but wisdom is proven true by her children.
Kennedy was right "The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds."
I read recently that happiness is found in the things you enjoyed doing as a child. Of all the things I liked to do, the most precious to me are the memories of my family and the simple times we shared together. Which leads me to a closing thought, one of JFK's favorite quotes From the Tales of the Ramayana, as told by Aubrey Menen:
"There are three things which are real: God, Human Folly and Laughter. The first two are beyond our comprehension so we must do what we can with the third."