What were you doing New Year’s Eve?

Country Roads

Here it is 2017 already. I hope you had a good New Year’s Eve and that your New Year is off to a great start.

The New Year. It’s nothing more than a “paper entry,” as they say in business, but the beginning of a new year often brings about memorable events.

My first memory of anything significant about a new year goes back 61 years. Though homework was not a common part of my second grade experience, I recall working on a school paper at home in January. Writing the date at the top of the paper I jotted “1955.” My mother corrected me, pointing out that we were in a new year and that I needed to write the year as 1956.

A year later, New Year’s Day of 1957 became an important day in our family’s history. That was the day my father purchased the family’s first television set.

While most of our friends and relatives already had TVs in their home, we did not. On January 1, 1957, an uncle offer to sell him a used table model TV. I held my breath while Dad considered the offer and let out a yelp when he said he’d take it.

That evening Dad set up the set and a makeshift antenna and we watched The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp starring Hugh O’Brien. Sixty years later I can still sing the chorus of the theme song: “Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave courageous and bold. Long live his fame and long life his glory and long may his story be told.”

The next New Year’s Day of note was 1960. In addition to the move into a new decade, my cousin Kenny spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at our house, along with my maternal grandparents and my college student Uncle Ron. Kenny is three years older than I am and was always a good Big Cousin. He taught me much of what a boy needs to know about, you know, stuff.

During the mid-60s high school classmate Helen hosted several New Year’s Eve parties at her family’s home. Her New Year’s Eve parties were fun and I was looking forward to the first of her parties after we had graduated from high school in 1966.

By now a college student, I was employed part time by the county seat radio station had worked the entire afternoon on New Year’s Eve. A few days earlier I had picked up a nasty head cold and was treating it with an over-the-counter remedy and regular swigs of elixir terpin hydrate. Banned by the FDA in the 1990s, terpin hydrate was commonly used 50 years ago as an expectorant and, by the on-air guys at the radio station, to smooth out a scratchy voice. Though not a prescription drug, the preparation contained a good amount of alcohol and you had to sign for it when purchasing it at the pharmacy.

Unfortunately, the cold remedy and the terpin hydrate did not mix well and, as a result, I experienced a New Year’s Eve potty at home.

Jump ahead to New Year’s Eve 1970… or maybe 1971. That’s a long time ago. My brother-in-law and I took our wives to Ames to a club which, unknown to us, had a topless go-go dancer that night. Our wives protested vehemently but finally agreed to stay for a couple of… uh… shall we say… performances. In later years my wife would get testy at the mere mention of that New Year’s Eve.

The next few decades brought about less memorable but still pleasant New Year’s Eves. By now we were living in Sioux City and whenever possible we traveled back to Hamilton County to spend the evening with a group of longtime friends. One year, after having moved to Creston in southwest Iowa, we stayed at the party until after midnight and then drove 2½ hours home. I felt like I was sitting at death’s door the next day so we never tried that again.

The most memorable New Year’s Eve of recent memory was that of Y2K. A lot of people got their shorts tied up in knots in fear of an impending apocalypse associated with the move into a new millennium.

This reminiscing reminds me that our annual trip around the sun seems to get shorter each year. “I’ve learned that life is like a roll of toilet paper,” observed Andy Rooney. “The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.”

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