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It’s All Relative

By Janice Lane Palko

Back in February, a friend sent a group text to me and some of the other girls I went to high school with saying, “Hey, want to go to an Oldie’s Dance? My church is having one in March. If you want, I can get the tickets.”

That sounded like fun, but one thought came to mind: Who are the oldies now?

In 1973, the hit movie American Graffiti debuted. I was in eighth grade then, and the movie not only introduced us to a grown-up Opie (Ron Howard), Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams, Suzanne Sommers and Harrison Ford, but it also introduced a new generation of teens to what the world and music was like before The Beatles, hippies, and the Vietnam War.

By the time I hit my freshman year of high school in 1974, American Graffiti had become so popular that it led to the debut of the hit show Happy Days, which debuted that year and revived classic early Rock and Roll songs that my mom and dad knew like Blueberry Hill, Rock Around the Clock, and At the Hop. Oldies became so fashionable back then that a few times throughout the school year, the dance at North Catholic, where I would often go, would be deemed a Sock Hop Oldies Dance, transforming attire from bell bottoms, Earth shoes, and girls with long, parted down the middle hairstyles to rolled up jeans or poodle skirts, saddle oxfords and ponytails to dance to music that came out before any of us were born.

I texted her back. “Sounds like fun, but one question: Are we the oldies now?”

She texted back a laughing emoji. “You’re the third person to ask me that!”

This dance at least was still calling the Oldies the music from the Rock and Roll era of the 1950s and early 60s.

But I’ve recently noticed a shift in perspective. I’m seeing on social media and hearing people in their late 40s and early 50s talking about the 1980s with nostalgia, as how that decade was the “best time ever.”

Really? Only a few years ago, most people were talking about what a great time the 70s were. What happened? Where did the longing for those times go? I mean we had the British Invasion in music, The Rolling Stones, super groups, muscle cars, The City of Champions. In truth, we also had stagflation, war, and race riots.

The 80s had prosperity, designer jeans, and Punk rock, but it also had the Iran hostage crisis, AIDS, and The Challenger explosion. I believe that in a few more years, we’re going to be hearing people longing for the glory days of the 90s.

It seems that as time goes on, each new generation looks back longingly to the time when they were young, putting a gloss over the bad times and accentuating the good times. That’s OK; it’s only natural.

I’m fine with the 70s generation becoming the Oldies. Time moves on. So, when it becomes time for my generation to replace the 50s and 60s as the Oldies Dance, I’m ready. After all, I still have my mood ring—it’s been sitting in my jewelry box since 1976 waiting for just such a time.


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