Bricks and Boomers

I'm a boomer. A nice demographic niche that is about to bankrupt social security. Really, why not? When we were kids, we were bankrupting the school systems. The label is not the important thing. Importance evolves from events; what we have to do to keep the system going. It leaves its marks on us. Understanding boomers requires a sense of what it was like to be a kid when there were kids everywhere. Classrooms without empty chairs or a corner to put another one in.

I was just starting school when our family moved to a new house. I mean a new house. One more house in one more new subdivision under construction in the years after WWII. We were among the first to live in the neighborhood and the street was not even paved when we moved in. The front yard had sod that slid when you stepped on it. The mud in the street seemed awfully deep to someone of my stature. WOW! A boy and mud! What could be better?

It seems like the day after we moved in that Hurricane Hazel blasted through northern Virginia. The NOAA reported that National Airport (now Reagan Airport) had sustained winds of 78 mph and a recorded gust of 98 mph, so my mother's near panic was probably more realistic than my idea of playing in the mud past my knees. She told me I had to get into the house as soon as the wind and rain started. The morning saw me making numerous trips in and out with more mud than she ever wanted to see indoors, I'm sure.


Just life in the mushrooming suburbs? Incredible growth? Here's how much growth. My mother still lives in the same house, yet in the six years I was in elementary school, I attended class in 5 different buildings. Boomers? Yes there were a lot of us and the strain of finding enough classrooms must have kept local politicians very busy.

Living in a construction project was interesting though. I spent days just watching the crews build the houses in the neighborhood. I guess I must have become something of nuisance, because one of the brick crews took it on themselves to make sure I did not get hurt. One bricklayer became my guardian, I think because I had so much fun with his name. I always started laughing when people greeted him, "Hi, Tide". Perfect for the post Hazel high water.

Like most construction areas, there were snack trucks that would roll through periodically. Since this was long before plastic bottles, the crews were purchasing soft drinks in glass bottles that had a two cent deposit. After the crews left for the day, my friends and I would gather up the bottles and return them as a nice source of income. Tide saw what we were doing and set me to collecting the bottles while the brick crew was working. When the truck arrived, I could count on a cold drink and a Zagnut (Tides favorite and quickly mine as well) candy bar. I could not really say what was going on his mind. It might be that he was just trying to keep a kid from getting hurt. Maybe I meant something else to him. I do know that I spent most mornings with the bricklayers mixing mortar and riding in trucks before heading off to half day (there were not enough rooms for kids to go all day) kindergarten in the afternoon.

Years later, when I was in high school, my mother says that Tide knocked on the door out of the blue. She did not recognize him of course, but after he introduced himself, he said he just wanted to know how I was doing. She was stunned. I guess she did not realize how much time I spent with that brick crew or how careful that man must have been to keep me from getting into mischief.

That's what it was like to be a little boomer. Life was simpler. I was just one of many kids who were lucky enough to have a guardian angel with a canvas bag of tools and a pick up truck. You can trust a man like that, a craftsman who knows his work is about people.

The map is from the NOAA and shows the path Hazel took into my life and across the US into Canada. This storm was responsible for nearly 100 deaths in the Toronto area.

Lee McGavin
Leander, TX 2009

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