I celebrated my birthday a few days ago. Not any birthday, mind you, but one of those milestones with a big, fat zero tacked onto the end of it.
I worked on my big day, and as I went about my business at The Bee, I paused to consider the state of things 60 years after my birth. It turned out to be a surprising and somewhat sobering pause, indeed.
The world today is in turmoil, with Iraq and other wars raging, a number of powder kegs just waiting to explode, and terrorist acts and assassinations on every continent. Politics are at a peak, led by a heated campaign for the presidency. Human rights abuses threaten millions around the world. Race and religion are flash points.
Traditional moral standards are being overturned by governmental action. Elected officials are arguing over fees and taxes. Gasoline is closing in on $4 a gallon. The economy is struggling, and people are losing their homes rather than buying them.
My goodness, things were so different back in 1948.
World War II was in the rearview mirror. The baby boom was just beginning. Gas was less than a quarter a gallon. A hamburger cost 15 cents at the McDonald brothers' just-opened drive-in. Jobs were plentiful, and the 40-cent-an-hour minimum wage was about to jump to 70 cents.
You could buy a good pair of shoes for 10 bucks or less, a luxurious new Cadillac sold for less than $3,000, and you could buy a new home, complete with a one-car garage, for about $5,000. A dime would get you a cup of coffee and a copy of The Modesto Bee and News-Herald, the leading source of news and information for the region.
Then again, maybe those "good old days" weren't quite as good or as different as we think.
Then as now, the world was in turmoil. The Cold War between the United States and Russia was under way, Congress voted to give military and economic aid to Turkey, Greece, China and other countries to resist communism, the draft was reinstated in response to crises in Europe and Asia, fighting broke out in the Middle East with the establishment of the modern nation of Israel, and the "father of India," Mohandas Gandhi, was assassinated.
Then as now, politics and a heated presidential campaign were in the headlines. In the end, Harry S. Truman defeated Thomas Dewey to win his first full term as president, and the Democrats regained control of both the House and Senate.
Then as now, race and religion were flash points. In actions that drew strong praise as well as heated criticism, the president ordered an end to segregation in America's armed forces and called for establishment of a federal civil rights commission. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools could not set aside time specifically for prayer.
Then as now, traditional moral standards were overturned by government action. A Nevada court ruled that prostitution was legal in Reno.
Then as now, elected officials were arguing over fees and taxes. The state Legislature was locked in a debate over taxes, although in 1948 the dispute was not over how much to raise them but whether to lower them. A big concern at the statehouse was whether there would be enough money to build much-needed roads and highways.
Then as now, the year of my birth had its share of floods, twisters, air crashes and assorted disasters and tragedies.
In the end, in many ways, the world is quite different from what it was in 1948. But in many other ways, things haven't changed much over the six decades since.
The things that create tensions, that fuel conflict, that shape our beliefs, that affect our pocketbooks, that unite us and divide us are, now as then, the things that we care about, and that we want and need to know about.
And, now as then, we at The Bee exist to give people news and information that is relevant, reliable, timely and useful. News that will help them make decisions in their daily lives and as they participate in our democratic process.
Granted, we cost more than a nickel these days. But at 50 cents on the street — and far less if you're a home subscriber — we're about the best bargain around when compared with what's happened to the cost of a cup of coffee, a hamburger, a gallon of gas, a Cadillac or, of course, a new house.
Each day we start from scratch, create a new and different product, package it with money-saving ads and coupons, wrap it up and personally deliver it to your home or business.
That's what the folks were doing at The Bee as I was cradled in my mother's arms in 1948. That's what I was doing on my birthday this week. That's what I plan on doing for more birthdays to come. And that's what those who follow me will be doing for many decades to come.
Now as then, our goal is to be the leading source of news and information for our region, both in print with The Bee and online with our ever-evolving modbee.com.
Vasché, editor and senior vice president, can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2356.