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Monday, May 2, 2016

Basic Biittner: May Day

Monday, April 30, 2007

Tuesday is May Day, which made me wonder, do kids even do the "May basket thing" these days?

I remember exchanging little baskets of candy,etc. with my classmates in my early elementary school days, and I even got a couple in high school - one especially nice one from a friend who was very artistic. I'm trying to cut sweets out of my life right now, so I don't really want a May basket next week. But I would like to know if this is still a common practice - or has it gone the way of the dinosaur, like so many other things from "the old days?"

"May Day," is, of course, also an emergency code word, used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. Derived from the French m'aider, meaning "help me," i t is used to signal a life-threatening emergency, and is always repeated three times.

May Day also used to be a big holiday in the USSR, with parades of soldiers marching by reviewing stands, as I recall. I don't remember whether this was a holiday in all Communist countries, or just in the USSR - a country which no longer exists anymore, either - at least not as it was organized during its Communist days.

It seems like I'm getting to the age where I find myself thinking back to the "Good Old Days" more and more - and, yes, I know the good old days weren't always better than today. I mean, when we "Baby Boomers" were kids, we didn't have digital video and audio discs. We didn't even have cassettes or - may they rest in peace- 8 track tapes. Color television was a rarity, and not many shows were even presented in color.

Cell phones? Heck, push-button phones were rare. Nope, short-corded rotary dial phones were the thing. In the immortal words of Ernestine the operator, from TV's "Laugh-In," it was "one ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy..." But even THAT was a step forward from a few years earlier, when we actually DID have to go through the operator (Mabel, in our case) to place calls - even local calls. As I recall, my family's home phone number was 93. That's it - no 7-digit or 10-digit number. Just 93.

At least we town people didn't have to deal with "party lines," like the country folk. For you kids, party lines were kind of an early version of the conference call - though they were usually unscheduled, unplanned, and unwanted.

One thing that my children had trouble fathoming as they grew up was how seldom my family left town when I was a kid - at least for things like shopping. Our family was one of the fortunate ones who managed to be able to take a nice vacation every summer, though it was not always to a location far away from home.

For shopping, though, when we did make the rare trip out-of-town, it was an occasional trip to Storm Lake or Cherokee. Once a year (maybe), usually at Christmas time, we traveled all the way to Sioux City to shop. These days, of course, we don't give an impulsive trip to Sioux City a second thought. Of course, gas was 30 cents a gallon back in "the old days," so we had to be frugal. 30 cents! Of course, when there was a "gas war," it sometimes got down to 19 cents a gallon.

You know, the more I go on... could it be...no, it can't be! I'm beginning to sound like an "old fogey," like my parents, like...


Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner