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GROWING UP IN LOUISA -- OUT WITH THE OLD!

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

By saying ‘out with the old, I am not advocating a general cleansing of old things. After all, I might qualify to be thrown out. That could have a profound effect on my happiness and health, and there’s an off-chance that someone might prefer to tolerate my character yet another year. Rather, it is the time we reflect over the salient events in our lives that arose in this ‘worn-out’ year and a time to refocus on making the next twelve months better than ever. That’s a resolve worth having and is common in our society. It is by the grace of God we can turn the pages of the past and purpose to do better in the future.

During my school years in Louisa the year-end seemed more about a simple change in the calendar. In fact, the first time I even heard about New Year’s celebrations, I asked my mom what that was about. Like any good parent she took a moment to explain that each year had twelve months. The party was to say good-by to the old year and to look forward to the new. January, my birth month, was the first month of the brand-new year, and December was the last. As of that moment I was a well-informed person, whatever age I may have been.

I have no doubt that kids who had school papers to turn in, and the many adults that were to fill out a check, or some other document, it took a month or two to break the habit of using the old-year designation. “Rats!” they would cry out, as they realized they had to start over. Back in the day it was fountain pens that were most unforgiving. Whiteout hadn’t been invented and nothing was digital except those small appendages at the ends of our hands. Mistakes meant it had to be done over.

I think it was either in late November or early, December when I annually helped pass out new calendars from the back of a pickup truck with a printed ad for Young’s Funeral Home. Thinking ahead, they had the new-year all clearly spelled out to remind folks of the date change. I would knock on doors, shove a new calendar into their hands and run back to catch the truck. Many of my friends, including Jimmy Young, I’m sure, worked all day in Louisa, High Bottom, and then part of another day in Fort Gay. In a way, I felt I was doing my part to bring the new-year to town.

In prior years, I have reminded readers of this column of the annual celebrations I happened to hear about, but as a kid, never really saw or attended. I could hear fireworks, but often that was from my bed. It was only in later years that I was allowed to stay up until midnight. I didn’t know much about the ‘big city’ celebrations, either, since TV was slow getting to my house. I guess it was the very late forties, or early fifties, when I first saw the fancy, lighted ball drop at the crowded Times Square building. I would discover over time that this location on Broadway was the focus of many different celebrations besides annual year-end gatherings. All I can say is that it must be more about the tradition and being able to say, ‘we were there.’ While I’ve been to the site, it has never been on the big night, nor do I ever intend to be there, at that time.

I guess Times Square has come to represent American celebrations. I remember that we saw crowds dancing in the streets at the end of WWII. We all saw the picture of a sailor bending the girl over backwards with a celebratory kiss. For some reason, I had the impression he didn’t even know the girl, but he planted a ‘big one,’ right there on the lips. Wow! Times Square surely must have been a ‘fun’ place, but it rang a little hollow to me. I guess I’m a fuddy-duddy. It was years later when I made several visits to Broadway at Times Square. I returned a couple of times and have seen the recent changes that greatly improved the neighborhood. When I first went, it was a rather shady area with adult entertainment. Now it is well-lit with huge TV screens advertising the latest products, plays in the surrounding theaters, or even the evening news.

As I’ve gotten older these kinds of celebrations are less important to me. Seeing them on TV is fine should I be forced by circumstance to stay up that late. Frankly, hearing the fireworks from bed is more attractive for these old bones. Symbolic moments that promise a bright new year are for the optimist, but I’ve seen enough in my lifetime to be unqualified to register as one of those. I’d like to think the world would learn from its past and improve, but forgive me for doubting.

Part of getting older is the acceptance that we tend to fall apart more each year. Even in our little town with its ‘turn-of-the-century’ (that other century) buildings and homes, many sag, or lean just a little. As with close friends, I note that several of the buildings I remember are missing. Some have been replaced, and other lots stand empty. Others have lost their usefulness, but continue to try to remain useful by adding yet another coat of paint. As with humans, makeup can do wonders. Ask Hollywood.

It is time for the newer generations to take up the gauntlet, fix what’s broken, and maybe create some new ‘state of the art’ traditions. Unfortunately, the gathering of revelers in one place nowadays is dangerous. It makes little sense to join the crowds given the number of crazies in this world. I don’t agree that not attending is giving in to terrorism. I think that using our brains and finding new outlets may be a safer, wiser choice. I figure that the old tradition can go out with the old year and new traditions can be created for happier, and safer times in the coming days. I don’t know what the new traditions will be, but millennials are known for their ability to think outside the box. Heck, we could even draw a new box, or do away with boxes altogether.

Times Square Times Square

Meanwhile, we can party as we will, remembering the perennial hope that better days may yet be ahead. Most people have their own special memories of certain Christmas holiday seasons that always ended about this time, right along with the old year. For you, it might be setting off fireworks, or the ringing of bells, perhaps a toast to fellow revelers, or maybe a romantic moment with that special someone. I hope this article helps you bring back the good times for a visit.

Before allowing yourself to drift off into those thoughts, I want to sign off with wishes for the best of New Years for you and for yours. Stay safe, my friends, and happy memories. 

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Comments  

-2 #1 Bernard 2018-01-02 16:02
Good article Mike. Yep, I also remember passing out the new calendars, one year was O.J. Moore's grocery, another was Bradley's Market & in my teens it was Hile Fyffe's service station. Then it was clean out the basement, getting rid of the JUNK as my mom would call it. But Mom, it was treasurers to us. Ha. Ha. Next came the garage, another treasure cove for my and my brothers, but none the less it was clean up time. John Stevens always got a hauling job from mother about this time of year.
You're right, as we grow older the dropping of the ball in Times Square is really not so important to us and maybe, just maybe the younger generation will come up with a new tradition that will be equally as important to them as the dropping of the ball has been to us. Oh well, another year has passed and I am so thankful to be here in 2018, and I've said it many times this past year and looking forward to saying it a lot of times during 2018, "THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES" dear friend, keep them coming.
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