I liked Ike, but I was supposed to root for Stevenson by
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Then: Waiting in the railway crossing shack with the gate keeper, hoping for a Boston & Maine diesel to come along.

Now: Wishing I could feel the earth shake as a steam locomotive rolled past with a full load of freight, throttle wide open to make the grade.


EdJFm9CfDkluU0YW3EhOaO5LRLj0qs-EXfhaMj251ScPOjvopsfDlUMeN_ETuQ6XSJ_7=s85Then: Watching my mom crank the phone to get Rozzie the operator on the line. Listening to them gossip while Rozzie sat at the switchboard plugging and unplugging callers. Watching my mom remember she had a call to make. We had a four-digit phone number.

Now: Suppressing the impulse to text while driving on the Interstate.


images-4Then: Listening to the Red Sox game on the radio.

Now: Dialing in Tantric Chants by Tibetan Buddhist Monks on Spotify.


cd_harvcrimson64Then: Sitting in Harvard’s men-only Lamont Library, Cliffies excluded, circa 1966, reading the Crimson as it reported that the presence of female students might distract the young gentlemen.

Now: Whaaat???

I was supposed to be rooting for Stevenson but Eisenhower had these cool ‘I Like Ike’ t-shirts.

images-1Now: Unable to watch the election news.

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Profile photo of Charles Degelman Charles Degelman
Writer, editor, and educator based in Los Angeles. He's also played a lot of music. Degelman teaches writing at California State University, Los Angeles. 

Degelman lives in the hills of Hollywood with his companion on the road of life, four cats, assorted dogs, and a coterie of communard brothers and sisters.

Visit Author's Website

Characterizations: been there, funny, right on!


  1. Susan says:

    We grew up across the highway from a major switchyard of the Great Northern Railroad. When the cars coupled and uncoupled, it would shake our house to the foundations. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t freaked out by my first ride on the NY subway as an adult.

  2. Ha, great, Susan! A great training ground for the IRT, etc and New York in general!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    So funny now to think the library didn’t allow women because they would distract you (they probably would, but who cared?). We held a mock election in my household. Stephenson won!

    • Thanks for that, Betsy. Freakish thing is, at that time, none of us Harvardians gave it much thought. That changed very rapidly after my graduation in 1967 when all hell began to break loose in the best possible form — feminism! And yes, women would have been distracting but who doesn’t need distraction? Besides, there’s this annoying concept called equal treatment. I think we’ve learned a little about that since the old days!

      My parents were very far left (blacklisted) and had a great gift for imparting their political values, principles, observations to their kids. I knew, as I know in every election, that Stevenson was the right guy, but all my friends had those t-shirts. There go values, principles… down the drain!

      • Betsy Pfau says:

        Blacklisted! I want to hear that story.

        Talk about female distraction: Orthodox Jewish women have to cut their hair after marriage and wear a wig; as long, lustrous hair is considered too distracting and tempting (I suppose married women aren’t supposed to look good for their husbands…they also don’t practice birth control. Orthodox Judaism is as extreme as is it gets).

        • Blacklisted. Yeah, I’ve written some about it, including a film script about a kid who wants to build a soap box racer the year the Rosenbergs were executed. And other stuff, short stories, references in novels.

          Re: Orthodox Jewish women…although those restraints you mention seem timeless, even the Hassid culture seems so grim now. When I was in high school and college and after, kids would come back from summers on kibbutzes in Israel full of socialist excitement and collective energy. Now, many return from Israel, cover themselves from head to toe, and line their ovens with tinfoil. I think Israel’s embattled situation has created some intense response, yes?

  4. John Zussman says:

    Great set of comparisons. I remember queuing up at Lamont to get one of the few reserve copies of required reading—which were due back in two hours. Do students even go to the library anymore? Nowadays I imagine a female student could walk by in the nude, and her male counterpart—intently swiping right and left on his phone and listening no doubt to Tantric chants on his headphones—might not even notice.

    • Suzy says:

      Fun comparisons, Charles. I don’t think I ever set foot in Lamont, even after women were allowed in. Hilles was much nicer. I was sad to learn that Hilles is no longer a library – maybe, as John suggests, because students don’t go to the library anyway.

      • Thanks, Suzy. Principles aside, perhaps you didn’t miss much re: Lamont. I’m sure it continued to carry the essence of young males, briefly described as the smell of unwashed socks.

        Students do use the library at my public university (Cal State LA) but many of them are there to use the computers. Library use has changed enormously since ‘way back then, winkwink. I assign prospecti and research papers as a final assignment in my writing courses and contend that they can find all they need to know online. Many of them are quite adept at online research and get better at it.

    • That was a great prompt, guys. Simple but evocative. And yes, in my experience at Cal State LA, the library is jammed. Many kids are there for the computer use but many are adept at researching online.

      But do kids read? Oh My God!!! Imagine how uninterested my television and film kids are in reading. It’s nearly impossible to get them to respond to any lengthy textbook-style narrative… OR read to the bottom of one-sheet prompts or emails! But they sure do know how to read texts, in the library and out. I recommend they watch “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” as an analogy to their text obsessions. They laugh and, ASAP, they’re back thumbing again.

  5. Suzy says:

    I’m surprised to hear that they had political t-shirts way back then. I remember buttons, of course, and songs, but I thought t-shirts were a more recent phenomenon.

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