Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by Trenchfriend, Dec 3, 2017.
I remember 15.8% interest rates on thirty year mortgages in 1982.
My highest mortgage rate was 16.5% sometime in 1982. I remember when they dropped to the incredibly low rate of 10.5% and I ran to the bank to lock it in for a 5 year term. Thought I had won the lottery! I remember a few years back talking with a group of guys about those days of incredibly high interest rates. We compared horror stories and I bought one of the guys his beer as he won the dubious achievement award for struggling through with a 21% mortgage. I am not sure even if I were to explain that scenario to a millennial if they would even begin to understand.
I’m not sure all major news organizations in the 1980’s were being duped. In part in retrospect, I can’t remember when mainstream news,meaning all news in the 1940’s and 50’s, wasn’t giving us the news that we were supposed to know. When I hear “fake news” now, I wonder where was everyone for the last century.
I remember the 1970’s inflationary times finally subsiding by the mid to late 1980’s. Unfortunately the $USD was decimated by then. No more new $2700 Ford Mavericks on the dealers lot or 25 cent Buds on tap at the local watering holes.
Your words perfectly fit what I was just thinking.
I think perhaps people divide up time, in a manner of speaking, based more on events in their own lives than on world events. Of course you can't do that for time before you were born, so you probably tend to see things they way they are conventionally divided, logically or not. In your own life, though, it seems like there comes a time when the major divisions happen less often. Then you look back and wonder where the time went. In my own life, one of the distinct periods was when lived in the townhouse, which was for seven years. We've lived in the same place since then, for about 30 years. And it doesn't seem like 30 years.
But one can also divide up your life story in different ways. I think about my working life, which isn't over yet. I worked such and such a place for almost 15 years, another place for, oh, about five years, and for the last 18 years, in yet another place. Mostly, though, I don't give those segments of time in my life a lot of thought. I think about what I'm going to have for dinner tonight more often.
US news outlets in the Era were actually quite unreliable, given that they were pretty much entirely under the thumb of the National Association of Manufacturers. When you listened to Lowell Thomas or Morgan Beatty giving the news on the radio you were hearing them give only that news that their sponsor, Sunoco, wanted given, and with the ideological twist that the company wanted it given. Sunoco was headed by J. Howard Pew, a high-ranking official of the NAM and the leading force on its propaganda arm, the National Industrial Information Committee. Certain other news broadcasters of the time, including Fulton Lewis Jr. and George Sokolsky, were actually *on the payroll* of the NIIC/NAM while they were posing as legitimate journalists.
This control got even tighter after the war. When Edward R. Murrow ventured into topics that the NAM did not want treated, and did so in a way that it didn't want those topics treated, his sponsor Alcoa, a member of the NAM, withdrew its support for his program and it disappeared from the regular schedule. The same thing had happened earlier to William L. Shirer, and for the same reasons, and there were plenty of other examples. By 1954, there wasn't a single network news broadcaster on the air who didn't fully adhere to the NAM line. Orthodoxy was rigidly and completely enforced. The move in the 1960s to completely separate network news divisions from control by sponsors came as a direct response to these abuses, but in the end was not entirely successful.
This sort of thing went on in print journalism as well, given how heavily dependent on print advertising newspapers were. A paper that got on the wrong side of the NAM saw contracts from big national advertisers like oil and tobacco companies suddenly disappear. When the unconventional New York tabloid PM opened in 1940 declaring it would accept no advertising at all, it was doing so as an effort to escape this relentless control -- but it was fighting a battle it couldn't win. The American press was a lot of things in the mid-20th Century, but it certainly wasn't "free."
That reminds me of something I won't mention but there are people who think "free" means "free," as in something that has no cost but in what I'm thinking of, it has to do with money. There is a big museum that used to be visible from where I sit, if I turn around, until they built a tall building that's in the way. Anyway, the museum is free but the parking is a little expensive.
But as far as the news goes, who's to say what we're supposed to know? Everyone has a bias, probably, including both reporting and news broadcasting. It gets complicated real fast. There's the question of stepping on someone's toes, the ones who are paying the bills. And there's also the question of ratings or circulation in the case of print media. It's no secret either that the owners of newspapers, especially, and smaller ones in particular, have their own biases. Sometimes they even print it as part of the masthead. To be honest, though, it's hard to see both sides of an issue. You'll never win an argument if you do, if that's what you're trying to do. After all, nobody's perfect.
There were relentless commercials on TV to sign up at Control Data Institute to learn to use computers. "for the jobs of the future." My roommate in college got a degree in programming. He manages a Wendy's in Canton, Ohio.
Also in college, the fallout from the Iranian Hostage Crisis continued. Arab-looking students were often seen chasing their books and papers down the streets and took a lot of abuse. Terrible business.
The 80s began for me with the hostage release, and ended when the radio station began to receive music on these weird new things called "compact discs."
When I worked in radio, 1982-1992, we all wore suits every day and carried pagers on our belts. I had several vintage suits that I wore threadbare then. They were just "old."
I had good mentors then in the form of great bosses and extraordinarily kind in-laws.
Like many other young guys from my neck of the woods, I bought clothes at Goodwill. There were racks, racks of suits and coats from the 30s and 40s. Even at Goodwill prices, I couldn't get much of it. Even if I had, none of it would fit me now.
I weighed 155 pounds at 6' 2" dripping wet in 1980 (and had since junior high school), and passed 200 pounds by 1990.
Music was better in the 70s. The 80s had great dance music.
Cars were still fairly unreliable. Assembly line workers took out their anger at management with sloppy work. I remember documentaries about that. You could still get a new car that was a "lemon." That seems truly rare today.
President Carter came to symbolize gasoline shortages, high interest, inflation, embarrassment abroad. It was rather unfair. True or not, Ronald Reagan gave the feeling, if not the reality, that things were better once he'd arrived on the scene. Much like Hoover-then-FDR.
And as Lizzie said, Dan Rather came off as "look here, I am a serious journalist and above you all." Much as he does now. In my memory, Sam Donaldson dominated news coverage as a "no B.S. here" guy. I'm surprised to find he is still kicking at 83, especially given his very public cancer scare. Peter Jennings was my favorite news presenter.
The Greatest Generation, that of my parents, was still just a bunch of hopelessly clueless people who prattled on and on about Life in the Great Depression and Dubya Dubya Two and Get a Haircut and The World Has Gone to Hell. The realization that they'd saved the world came later.
I always thought it was interesting that the hostages weren't released until, literally, a few minutes after Reagan took the oath of office, specifically to ensure that Carter would not be associated in the public memory with the release, even though it was his administration, not Reagan's, that was responsible for making it happen. Talk about stage managing an event.
I don't remember seeing a CD at any of the stations where I worked until well into the '90s. When I started music was still played on old QRK turntables directly from the 45 or LP, or from 10-inch library reels on a wall-mounted battery of ITC reel decks linked up by a tone-operated automation system. When these reels were rewound they'd go at a dangerously high rate of speed, and woe betide the poor soul who failed to lock the hubs -- the reel would spin right off the machine and fly across the room. If it hit you with those metal flanges, you'd get cut up bad.
We still had a 1930s era teletype machine hooked to UPI, and changing the ribbon was always an adventure. If you did it wrong, it would foul and jam the machine, causing a vicious tangle of type bars, chewed-up ribbon, and mangled paper, and you'd spend the rest of the morning standing there with a torn-up t-shirt and a can of naptha cleaning up the mess. Ah, happy days.
My opinion of Carter in all respects has continued to go up, but then, so has my opinion of all the others, including Reagan--after they left office. For those before Kennedy, I couldn't honestly have a realistic opinion. Under Carter, at least, we were never at war. The rest of the time, we could easily be characterized as a terrorist state not to be trusted. The Bay of Pigs is a good example of that. The only difference between us and someone who sets off a bomb on a street corner when there are people around is that we have airplanes to drop them from.
My wife went to Control Data Institute after she decided you couldn't earn enough teaching in a private school and jobs in public schools were unavailable. So she did that for a few years until we started having children. That coincided with her employers losing a major contract and closing down the department. Since then, however, she returned to teaching and finally retired this year. I'm still working.
I sometimes tire of hearing about the greatest generation. Those who went to Vietnam were never given any praise or thanks for going, yet they went anyway. I was in the army at the time and went to Germany instead, where there were more troops than there ever were in Vietnam. Betcha didn't know that. My son and son-in-law also went to Germany but both of them later deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. My father, on the other hand, spent a year in Germany as a P.O.W. Of people I know now who complain the most about the state of the nation and the world, none of them ever served in the armed forces.
The "Greatest Generation" meme was invented by Tom Brokaw in the 1990s to sell a book. Members of that generation certainly never considered themselves to be any such thing. In the 80s, as Scott aptly suggested, they were your aging relatives who complained at Thanksgiving that the gravy was lumpy, and yelled at the TV whenever Bob Stanley came in to pitch. The idolatry didn't really begin until too few of them were left in the public eye to wave it off.
A far better book than Brokaw's was written in 1984 by Studs Terkel -- card carrying member of The FDR Generation, or "The Swing Generation" as William Manchester dubbed it. The book was called "The Good War: An Oral History of WWII," and it contains precisely no Yankee-Doodly-Do. Terkel was far too honest a writer to go in for that kind of hype. What it does do is give ordinary people in every walk of life their chance to tell the story of what they did in the war, either overseas or at home, in or out of uniform, and the one thing that really emerges from it is the utter diffidence with which they describe their experience. They did not want to be considered "heroes." All they wanted was to get the job done so they could get back to what they were doing before the war interrupted their lives, and I think that's a far better way to remember them.
I think that might be the big difference between them and the Vietnam generation. The Vietnam war just seemed to go on and on, especially when you realize that it started in the 1940s. For an American draftee, you went in, did your time and if you survived, as most did, you came home, even though it wasn't over, over there. However, in WWII, there was a kind of point system that provided some relief for those at the front, although I don't know how it worked and may not have applied to foot soldiers.
Andy Rooney also wrote about the war but his book was written from the standpoint of a war correspondent and was biographical. I haven't read his book, however (my wife does all my reading) but supposedly his experiences changed his opinion of war in general. It would be unlikely that a war would not have a deep and lasting impact on a person.
It goes without saying that war has a dark side. There's no darker place than the inside of a grave and many go who don't come back to talk about it. There are some who see glory in it, here speaking of all armies, until something terrible happens. Theodore Roosevelt was like that, thinking somehow that he was exempt from harm until one of his sons died during the war. We as humans can be funny about war. Old men in tailcoats and white goatees sit around a table and make up silly rules about what you can and can't do during a war, yet somehow never get around to saying that war itself should not be permitted, as if you could prevent it. It is as if "aggressive" war is all right and not a war crime, provided you win. I don't think people really understand why wars are fought. Nice sounding excuses cover up the real reasons. Bad things happen because enough people want them to happen.
The point system was supposed to award a given number of points for months in service, months overseas, time in combat, and number of dependents -- when you hit a set number of points for your specific branch of service, and speciality within that branch, they punched your ticket and sent you home. Theoretically.
In reality, this system was gamed and manipulated all over the place by officers and rear-echelon types, to the outrage of the common soldier. When millions of men were still in Europe months after surrender, organized protests broke out in which they demanded immediate demobilization. The media, thoroughly manipulated propaganda force that it was, dismissed these troops as "unruly mobs" of crybabies, and waved off their protests as the "Wanna Go Home Riots." Ahh, nothing's too good for Our Boys.
There was a cartoon showing two British soldiers talking to a German P.O.W. who was behind the wire. The German said "I'll be in Berlin before you are." One of the British soldiers said to the other, "I wonder how many points he has?"
Getting back to the 1980s, the mention of Studs Terkel reminded me of his book "Working" that came out in the early 1970s. If there is one thing about the 1980s, no matter how plastic and perhaps manufactured it was, there was an overall optimism that simply wasn't there since the early 1960s.
"The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades!"
My War is well worth the read. One of the things that I appreciated most in the book was his assessment of Patton: far more realistic than the hero worshipping pap written by Ladislas Farago that was the basis of the movie starring George C. Scott.
For whatever personal quirks Patton may have had, I believe he was one of our better generals. But he sure was aware of his public image and the value of publicity. It's surprising he wasn't a Marine.
Patton was not considered any kind of a hero by anyone who knew what he did during the Battle of the Anacostia Flats. And a lot of people in the mid-1940s had a long memory.
As for the optimism of the '80s, it depends on who you talked to. A lot of us heard a lot of talk about optimism, but it was more along the lines of people on TV telling us what we ought to be feeling rather than anything we were feeling ourselves. A year after the dawning of Morning In America -- no flies on the Boys From Marketing -- unemployment was over 10 percent, and it didn't get below the Carter-era low of 6 percent until well into 1987. The unemployment level for the entire 1981-1989 period averaged 7 and a half percent, which was second only to the Ford era of the mid-seventies as the highest average unemployment for a postwar presdidential administration.
Did not infer it applied to all news agencies all the time but agreeing with you that it is NOT a recent phenom.
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